Dilla Dawson: I asked everyone what they love about our Sunday School class, and then asked our teacher, Julie, to give her perspective on what we all shared. The best feature? We start with our quiz questions—and everyone participates.
Dana: We “have to” write our own quiz question, so we can’t just glance at the lesson in the car on the way. We have to be prepared and write a good question that’s going to trip up Ron, Bruce, and Randy—you know, some of the “smarter” people in the class—or at least the ones who think they are!
Ron: What do you mean? I get one hundred percent on every quiz! Of course, we get to grade our own papers. . . .
Randy: I like asking questions about history and customs. So many things can be overlooked or that we might not have known about. It makes me dig deeper.
Dianna: For me, it’s a way to get into the Bible!
Bruce: There’s peer pressure to prepare. I don’t want to sit here acting like I haven’t done my homework.
Kathleen: Honestly, I’m also not one to prepare. Yeah, I hit panic mode to at least know what we’ll be talking about because everyone else knows the lesson and has prepared for it.
Julie (teacher): I’m a huge believer in systematic Bible learning, but I’ve observed that truly getting everyone engaged in the Bible early on Sunday morning isn’t easy. So we start every class time with a quiz, but I don’t write it. Everyone has the opportunity to ask one question, including me. We have two rules. First, your question has to relate to the lesson we’re studying in some way. For example:
Bible facts: How many different animals were mentioned in today’s reading? Bonus: What were they?
Geography: If I went to Babylon today, what country would I be in?
Historical research: Did the Exodus happen before or after the pyramids were built?
Current events: What event in the news recently is tied to what we’re studying?
The second rule is: You must know the answer to your own question. Here’s how it works. After we share God sightings (what God is up to in our lives), we take the quiz. I call on each person by name to ask if they have a quiz question. I call on everyone every week even if they rarely ask a question. That’s one way to build accountability! Of course, people can pass, but students feel a lot of peer pressure to ask a question, even if it’s a simple detail from the reading or Bible notes. People write down their answers, including me. It’s important for teachers to model what we want everyone to do. Then we go around the group again, rereading our questions and answering them. We have fun interaction as people share their answers. We never share our scores. It’s not about getting all the right answers. It’s about inspiring everyone to engage in learning before they get to class. I leave it up to the Holy Spirit to start to draw their attention to what’s important for them. We get to interact and learn from each other, not just from the teacher.
Dana: Our teacher sets the bar pretty high. It’s not going to be a class where someone is reading from a lesson book.
Bruce: I’ve been in classes where the teacher rambles on. Sometimes the class gets an opportunity to give input. More often they don’t. If the teacher wants everyone to prepare, then they need to engage the class.
Abra: Yeah! In other Sunday School classes I’ve been in, students talk to the teacher and the teacher talks back. Here we talk to each other and to the teacher. We’re in an equal setting. We have time for others to talk. We respond to each other. Our teacher is more of a facilitator, a collaborator. It’s more of a teamwork aspect, and we’re all learning together.
Julie: When I think about a successful learning conversation, I visualize a star. Everyone in the room is one of the points and the lines of conversation connecting all of us crisscross the group. The conversation doesn’t always bounce back to me. That’s how I know I’m doing a good job of engaging learning, rather than lecturing. My goal is to talk about half of the time during which I’ll be asking questions and interacting with others’ responses. Also, we sit so everyone can see each other, not people looking at just me. It’s a lot harder to interact if everyone is sitting in rows facing me. I call on people to pull them into the conversation sometimes, but I always make sure the question won’t embarrass them. This also helps to prevent one person from dominating the conversation. We make sure everyone feels accepted and safe to share.
Kathleen: Our teacher lets us blurt out thoughts without raising our hand. We’re allowed to say something, and our teacher doesn’t say, “No, you’re wrong.” She might say, “That’s interesting.” Facial expressions are something to keep in mind, too! She doesn’t show her shock at someone’s answer. She appreciates people’s contributions.
Dana: Yeah, she might say, “Okay, I haven’t considered that.” The interaction makes it worth our time to look ahead and be prepared.
Abra: The questions show she has an interest in us and what’s going on in our lives. And everyone’s respectful, so everyone feels safe to share.
Julie: These are fun observations! I want everyone to be able to contribute to the learning conversation, from a new believer to those of us who have been in Sunday School for fifty years. I do get to practice my passive look sometimes! I rarely correct publicly unless someone is way off base, but I control that with the kind of questions I ask the group. I ask a lot of interactive questions to get us talking, questions that will get unique responses. For example, if we’re talking about Joseph, I might ask, “What’s a dream you have that hasn’t been fulfilled yet?” For Job, “What’s the hardest challenge you’ve faced?” You can learn a lot about your students by the questions you ask. I don’t ask questions that let students show off how well they know the Bible or intimidate others. Students can use the quiz if they want to ask each other those kinds of questions. I rarely ask questions that have right answers or could let others mislead the group. For example, I wouldn’t ask, “Do you think the gifts of the Spirit are for the Church today? Why or why not?” I reserve non-negotiable doctrine and important lesson points, or “must knows” for my teaching time. We grow together!
Jeannie: I like the teaching; just how the teacher mixes it up and keeps it interesting. I learn a lot.
Larry: I feel challenged in a deeper walk. Challenged to do better.
Ronnie: Julie’s the best Sunday School teacher I’ve ever had!