There’s a lesson we can learn from video game designers. They deliberately make even complicated games easy to engage in. This is called onboarding. They recognize that the most important time in any activity is the very beginning if your goal is to promote engagement.
We know this from parties, too. Think about it: how do you feel about getting a half-hearted invitation to something versus a carefully delivered, sincere invitation? The more care spent in inviting you, the more you are likely to feel that it is worth attending, that your presence really is desired and valuable.
Teachers should spend quality time preparing how to get learners ready to learn in classes, even (perhaps especially) in church classes.
We should vary the methods for how we onboard students to our lessons.
How it Works
In pedagogy (the science of teaching), this is called an “anticipatory set.” It’s the part that builds anticipation, and, thus, interest.
It is a time for the teacher of a gospel-focused lesson to invite the Spirit, as well as the mind of the learner.
Virtually anything can be used as an anticipatory set. Keep your eyes open for things that you see in your everyday life that can be adapted for class.
You must make sure that the connection to the topic is clear. It should feel smooth, not disjointed. Having a list of ideas in your toolbox is helpful!
Ideas for Luring Learners to Learn
- Play a short version of a game like charades, Password, Taboo, Pictionary, etc.
- Show a piece of art or architecture and make a comparison or observation
- Have a guest share a story (or conduct any one of these ideas)
- Display a powerful quote, with or without an accompanying image
- Use senses of smell or sound
- Show a clip of a video
- Tell a story (make sure to disclose if it is fiction)
- Share an item from a news story
- Have a mystery box or item or sound
- Use an object or prop
- Draw a picture or have class members draw a picture
- Ask class members to agree or disagree with a series of statements
- Do a simple magic trick
- Show a comic
- Play a reveal game, slowly uncovering sections of a quote or image
- Show a picture and have the class think of captions
- Do a scripture scavenger hunt (“Find a verse that talks about…” or “What is the third word in the first sentence of the Bible Dictionary entry for ….”)
- Recite a scripture in unison
- Tell a riddle
- Give a case study and have the class share suggestions
- Have class complete a short, small task or questionnaire/survey
- Delve into a vocabulary word from the lesson
- Share statistics or have students make predictions
- Memorize a short scripture or quote
- Share an object lesson (We have a Pinterest board with links to them here).
Additionally, many of the teaching techniques for lessons can be used for anticipatory sets, so look through that list for ideas.
A few things don’t work well. The most important things to avoid are apologies (“I didn’t really prepare a lesson…” or “I don’t actually know much about this…” or “I don’t know why they are having me teach this…”) and using the same method every lesson, even if it’s a good one.
Remember: classes are like mirrors. They reflect the teacher’s attitude and energy. Give to them what you would like from them.
Have ideas that work well for you? Please share!
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