I.Introduction: Presentation of the rationale behind church schools, justification and Biblical mandates for maintaining a small church school. II.Maintaining Standards: Presentation and discussion of the importance of maintaining high standards for church school, even for a limited number of students. III.Setting up Classes: Ideas for setting up the physical structure, recruiting teachers, publicity, classroom atmosphere and management in the smaller church school/church .
IV.Available Resources: Presentation, exhibition and sharing of resources available to use with curriculum. V.Selecting Materials: Ideas for available curriculum which seem most suitable for use with a multi-level classroom situation.Sharing of ideas, and materials to examine.
VI.Adjusting Curriculum: Participants will take a unit of curriculum, and working in groups, brainstorm as to how the unit can be adjusted to be used for a group with a 3 year age range, using ideas given in this workshop.They will develop ideas for adjustment of presentation, worksheets, additional activities on age level, etc.The finished product will allow for presentation of the same material within the same class, adjusted for each age group present.
I.Introduction Why do we have church schools at all?Can’t kids learn at the feet of their parents?Today- not really.Many, if not most, have no extended families, and many have two working parents, who barely have time to see they are fed and clothed. Of course, all parents are not equipped to teach the factual information, although of course they are the chief modelers of the faith.Therefore, a very practical reason for church schools.
Certainly we have church schools because of Christ’s command: go ye and preach the gospel.”As church school people, we do not think of ourselves as “preachers,” but in a way we are.Jesus was a preacher and also a rabbi, which of course in Hebrew means “teacher.”Although we do not bring the gospel to the masses, we do bring it to our children- on a level they can understand.This is why, to me, church school is mandatory, not optional only if all conditions are optimal.We must be there for our children, whether they number in the hundreds, or can be counted on one hand.Therefore it amazes me when people tell me their parish does not have a church school, since there are not “enough” children.My question for them always is, how will you ever have “enough” children, if you offer no church school?A responsible parent will probably not want to attend a parish where none is offered, and we can’t wait for the numbers before putting something in place that will serve the needs of present and future children.Congratulations to those of you here who have seen this and acted.
II. Maintaining Standards I want first of all to commend those out there again who have set up a church school even when your numbers are modest.I think there is one danger in so doing however; we may feel we have to offer a more streamlined program: perhaps fewer activities, no field trips, or a shorter school year.Somehow it does not seem “worth” the tremendous energy some of these things take.But, nothing is further from reality.When you are few, it is more difficult to maintain a strong identity, a presence in the parish.Thus, I think those of us with smaller church schools must do even more to build a quality program, and to have as full a program as possible.
III. Practical Steps What needs to happen in order to run a church school in a smaller parish?The smaller church school has special problems and needs of its own, which large churches often do not have.For example, a smaller church may not actually have separate rooms for church school, and church school may have to be held in the parish hall, outbuildings, or, as a last resort, in the sanctuary.This means of course, that one must be very resourceful in deciding how that space can become “yours” for that hour or so.Scheduling may also have to be extremely creative in order for a variety of events to happen within a small limited space.
Also, it’s likely there will be no budget line, or at least a very slim one.Again, creativity is a must, and the church school director needs to think about who in the parish or community might donate supplies, perhaps what other parishes might have extra or older curriculum they are not using, and even what civic groups or commercial establishments might donate items.Often, people are more generous that one expects, if the needs are clearly stated.
Putting on programs or pageants can be difficult too for reason of space, but also because most scripts are written with the idea that there will be many children to find parts for.Consider other types of productions, perhaps one with no spoken parts, but only a narrator, whereby if there are not enough children for the parts, cardboard characters could fill in.Better yet, write your own!With a thin basic story line, it is relatively easy to create characters around it that will just accommodate the children you have.Parents after all,come largely to see their children in action, not really for the quality of the performance, although that is, of course, hoped for.
Obtaining staff can be a problem too.Because there are fewer parishoners, there is less choice when it comes to selecting teachers and staff.It is essential first of all to have a good church school director (preferably not the priest), and to have good teachers as well.Every volunteer will not make a good teacher or helper- this is why I suggest you use an actual application for prospective teachers- it makes it easier to exclude someone who you feel won’t be right for the program without hurting their feelings.Far better for you to search out people you think would be good, even if they haven’t volunteered.They may have been holding back out of shyness, or from some past negative experience- it is up to you to encourage them to try, assuring them you will give lots of assistance, training and mentoring until they are comfortable.The concept of team teaching sometimes works well with individuals like this, although I don’t generally encourage it, unless you are sure the “team” will really function like one.
Selecting curriculum may be the biggest challenge of the small parish.First of all, there may be no budget for this.This is when you search the nooks and crannies of your church for old material, or reach out to other parishes in hopes they may have some extra or unused materials they would be willing to donate.There may also be help from the central churchwith this under certain circumstances.For example, if a parish is a mission parish of the Antiochian Archdiocese, it can get church school materials for free for a period of time!
If you go with the old, donated curriculum option, there are pitfalls.One of your hand-outs lists a number of areas that one should touch upon once or more within a 3-5 year period.If you use a similar guideline, you will not find yourself teaching only New Testament for five years straight, or nothing but church history.This is also why it is important for teachers to have an actual curriculum, and not “wing it.”I was in a parish once where a teacher’s favorite topics were the Great Flood, and the End Times.Unfortunately, she did not take kindly to suggestions that she expand her topics, and therefore, her students (whom she had for a number of years) ended up with a very narrow view of Orthodoxy, and Christianity in general.By using such a guideline and sticking to it, it is possible to actually use a hodge-podge of different books, publishers and materials and still have good basic coverage of a variety of topics we want our children familiar with.Also, do not reject out of hand older materials.Although it will probably be less colorful that newer items, the important thing is that there is some meat there.What does it teach.The church school director can then step in and correct some of the inadequacies in activities, worksheets, projects, etc., which older curriculums seem to have less of.Today, these things are a must for keeping students’ attention.
IV. Selecting Materials
We have discussed this a bit, but it is an important enough topic to go into further.Perhaps the greatest factor in what you choose is how easily it can be converted into lessons which can be used by your teachers for the children you have, where you may have three or four (or more) grades in one class.Don’t be fooled, however, it will still be work on someone's part, preferably the church school director, who sees the bigger picture
Secondly, how does the curriculum fit into your 3 or 5 year plan.If it doesn’t, think again.While studying comparative religions may be interesting and fun, we shouldn’t do this instead of using material that will actually cover the basics of Bible, church history, sacraments, the Saints, etc.Another factor is whether it is something that can be converted into two or more levels, so that the whole church school is dealing with the same general topic at once, making it easier to do projects and programs. Also,look at the time you estimate it would take to present the lessons of the curriculum.There is a big difference if you only have a half hour, as compared to an hour and a half.Be sure what you select with actually fill up your scheduled time- if it doesn’t, and you still want to use it, be prepared to spend a lot of time creating worksheets and study questions.You may not wish to or be able to do this.Likewise, be sure you will have enough time to complete the lessons, given your schedule.Lessons usually give an indication of how long they will normally take to teach.
Lastly, obviously, a big factor is what is available.Can you get other copies, or must you spend a fortune in zeroxing.Are the books still being printed so that you can order more if needed.What is available for free, and what must be paid for.Keep in mind also, that if you get curriculum which is not consumable, it can be used year after year, thereby saving money down the road.All of these factors are something to consider seriously when selecting what your teachers will use.
When you have a small church school, it is probably unavoidable that you will spend some time (perhaps considerable) in tailoring the materials to your particular program and students.
Firstly, how many students do you have, and in what levels.How many teachers/classes do you anticipate having?Available space may greatly affect this answer.How many levels must you have in each class?I suggest while making this decision you look at prospective numbers of class size in each situation also.I would not suggest having fewer than three students in one class, nor in arranging things so that you have more than a three year age spread in a class.It becomes very difficult to function if the difference is greater- some will know all the answers, and others will not have a clue.Not a very effective experience for any.
Then, take a look at the goals and objectives of the lessons.Are they too abstract for littler ones?Are they too simple for older children?Can you fix this?Then, terminology.Look at a number of ways you can say the same thing, so that all present understand.This is part of your planning time- don’t try and wing it on Sunday morning.How can activities and worksheets be re-designed to work with other ages as well?
Think about how the material you have can be adjusted for use by a wider age range.Try to incorporate some of the ideas I have given you, and of course, share with each other the vast knowledge you all have as seasoned teachers.
The Three or Four Year Plan* Areas to Be Covered:Old Testament
New Testament Church History Sacraments Church Music ChurchTeachings (theology) Church Practice (how we do it)
How? Each of these general categories will probably be touched upon each year.Decide which topics you wish to center on during a certain year, and take the material you wish to use and “tweak it” for each age level.
For example, with the Sacraments, you may wish to cover them in this way:
Year 1:Baptism, Chrismation and Holy Communion Year 2:Confession and Anointing Year 3:Marriage and the Priesthood
Then in year one, you will teach Baptism and Holy Communion to all, just on different levels.Same for teaching lives of Saints, or any other topic.
*This plan is a must if you are designing your own curriculum, but can be very useful too, even if you are using actual textbooks.Your 45 minutes or hour should not consist only of using the textbook, but of supplementary material- films, games, maps, lives of the Saints, stories, etc.
Ten Points for Maintaining High Standards in the Smaller Church School
1. Class should meet every Sunday for the full ___minutes. (classes should meet for at least 35 weeks per year and a minimum of 45 minutes.
2. Classes should have and follow a real Orthodox curriculum, even if this is self-designed
3. No story telling or favorite topics should get in the way of the day's material.
4. Use only experienced, “trained” teachers, or have those who are not team teach with someone more experienced.
5. Make sure all teachers have ongoing training and regular meetings together with the church school director.
6. Run the church school professionally, using:
a. application forms for volunteers/teachers
b. Student "registration day."
c. church school announcements in bulletins, newsletters, posters, web site and sent home with students
d. keep attendance, and recognize good attendancee. Have programs and pageants just as you would in a larger church school!
7. Involve the parish: a. have an open house and programs to which all are invited b. have a supply drive, soliciting donations of pencils, crayons and other church school supplies c.have a display once or twice a year in a central place, showing student’s work, art projects, and the curriculum you use d. ask the priest to talk up church church school just before it opens, and have him recognize the teachers in some way
8.Place is important.Make sure each class has: a quiet place in which to meet, good lighting, enough tables and chairs, a whiteboard/chalkboard, and wastebasket, as well as a supply container which includes pencils, pens, pencil sharpener, crayons, paste, paper, colored paper, tape, scissors and glue sticks.
9.Have a high standard for student behavior.Students should be reasonably attentive and respectful of the teacher and others.If a student is out of control, he should not be in the class with others who are trying to learn.Call Mom or Dad!
10. Last but certainly not least, include prayer in the package.Pray about your class and lesson before hand, pray with your students in class, and model for them how to pray for themselves and (especially) others. Remember, high standards foster a good learning environment where your students can learn about their faith, and see examples of how to live an Orthodox life.Even though you will probably not see many instant rewards, what you say and do can have profound effect on your students later.You are helping foster the future Orthodox Christian laity, deacons, priests, church school directors, choir directors, etc.What an awesome thing that is, and what an important position you hold!
When you have a small church school, it is probably unavoidable that you will spend some time (perhaps considerable) in tailoring the materials to your particular program and students.
Firstly, how many students do you have, and in what levels.How many teachers/classes do you anticipate having?Available space may greatly affect this answer.How many levels must you have in each class?I suggest while making this decision you look at prospective numbers of class size in each situation also.I would not suggest having fewer than three students in one class, nor in arranging things so that you have more than a three year age spread in a class.It becomes very difficult to function if the difference is greater- some will know all the answers, and others will not have a clue.Not a very worth-while experience for any.
Then, take a look at the goals and objectives of the lessons.Are they too abstract for littler ones?Are they too simple for older children?Can you fix this?Then, terminology.Look at a number of ways you can say the same thing, so that all present understand.This is part of your planning time- don’t try and wing it on Sunday morning.How can activities and worksheets be re-designed to work with other ages as well? Use the worksheet provided below to help you do this.
Adjusting Curriculum to Meet Age Level Needs
Curriculum Title: ________________________________ Original Level: ______________
Level/s to be adjusted to: ______________
1.What is the main theme of this unit?
2.How would you re-word this to fit the new age level/s?
3. Look at the teacher prompts and lesson questions.Which are concrete (suitable for smaller children), and which are abstract?
How can you change them?
4. What extra materials can you use to teach this unit to the new age level?
5.Look at the extra activities/worksheets/art projects.How do these fit with the new age level?How can you change them to work better?Or what new materials/activities can you think of that will work for your new level(use the back of the paper)?
6.How will you conclude this lesson (what comments/activities will tie it all together?
7.What assessment tools will you use(how will you be able to tell that the child has learned what you wanted him to in the lesson)?
(You would use this sheet for every lesson you are adjusting. Believe me, it will be worth it in the end!)
BUILDING YOUR CRAFT CLOSET/ROOM
If you have not paid much attention to your craft program, here are some ideas for what a well prepared program should look like as far as having supplies goes. Naturally, if you have more than a closet in which to store things, you can add to this! Glues: Elmer's Tacky Glue (brand name) Cool Glue gun and glue sticks Modge Podge (brand name) rulers yardstick tape measure pens gold pens (fine tip) pencils magic markers- colored and black, narrow and wide tip colored pencils crayons 3 x 5 cards paper clips paper punches- one and three hole Papers: construction paper lined paper plain white paper card stock- all colors paper plates and cups craft paint paint tins newspaper plastic drop cloths to cover ta bles paper towels and rags spray polyuruthane- fast drying Tape: stickey masking double sided foam tape Brushes: small round with pointed tip 1/2" flat 1" flat scissors- regular paper rubber bands paper cutter
Optional But Useful: rubber stamps and ink pads tissue paper scissors with fancy blades wooden plaques icon prints ( from bulletin covers, etc.) stencils and stencil brushes felt squares- assorted colors dowels- 1/4" and 1/2" several white bed sheets (can be old) sidewalk chalk light box small laminator (available on sale for about $20) laminator sheets
By now you are thinking, too expensive! Here's how to build your closet cheaply or for free- put an insert in the bulletin (or better yet, have kids hand out fliers to every parish member) which lists the materials you need, and ask each person to donate just one of them to your program. You will be surprised at how many supplies you will get!