News Articles

Vary teaching-learning styles, Sunday school teachers urged

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–To be effective, Sunday school teachers should “get out of their routines” when leading classes, Sherrill Boone told senior adults attending a seminar at a Senior Adult Chautauqua, Oct. 23-27 at Ridgecrest, a LifeWay Conference Center in North Carolina.

Boone, an adult Sunday school teacher at Kernnan Boulevard Baptist Church, Ponte Verde, Fla., said teachers can “get in a rut. They say [the class] will not want to try something new, but if you teach the same way all the time, you’re not being a very good teacher.”

Besides, she said, people have different learning styles and therefore don’t take in and retain information in the same ways.

“That’s why you need to vary your teaching methods.”

Boone defined eight learning styles and listed ways people who fall into each category learn best:

— Relational. These people are highly social, make friends easily and are good talkers. They recognize how others feel and are drawn to activities that involve other people. “These are the people in your class who relate to how others feel; they are encouragers,” Boone said.

Relational people learn best in small groups, with personal sharing or testimony, through discussion, dialog, role play, question and answer, skits, brainstorming, videos, illustrations and problem-solving work that depends on working with others. A biblical character who was relational was Barnabas, Boone said.

— Reflective. Reflective learners understand who they are and how they feel. They may prefer to work alone and they seek ways of self-expression. They are comfortable with solitude. Reflective people learn best through lecture, question and answer, discussion, worksheets and study guides, open-ended sentences, creative writing, listening to music or listen guides.

“Mary, the mother of Jesus was a reflective person,” Boone said. “The Bible tells us, ‘She pondered these things in her heart.'”

— Physical. Some characteristics of physical learners are that they are active, often well coordinated and like to act out stories they hear. They like mission projects, sports and drama activities. “You can’t just sit these people down; they like to be involved,” Boone said.

The best ways to teach physical learners is by engaging them in art activities, arranging the room in different ways, providing various activities, such as games, singing with motions, Bible simulation, role play and skits. Ezekiel and Jeremiah were physical learners, Boone said.

— Musical. Musical learners are often good listeners; they are more sensitive to rhythm and pitch. They like to write songs and music. “You might have music playing in class for these people or use words from songs or hymns,” she said. “David was a musical person.”

Using recordings, cassette tapes and singing helps musical learners. Find hymns that reflect the focus of the lesson; compare words of hymns to Scripture; listen to recorded music with an assignment in mind; or involve them in musical presentations.

— Verbal. This type of learners enjoy giving speeches; they like debates, stories, poems and word games. They like the use of words – reading, writing and listening. They may have a large vocabulary. Boone cited King Solomon as a biblical example of a verbal learner.

She said verbal persons learn best through lecture, question and answer, brainstorming, worksheets, paraphrase of Scripture, listening teams, personal sharing, oral reading, storytelling, debate, interview, singing, monologue, dialog, skit and games.

— Logical/mathematical. These people like to solve problems. They see patterns in the world and can reason through problems. They rely heavily on analogies; they like working with abstractions, like puzzles and games. The apostle Paul, Boone said, is a good example from the Bible of a logical learner.

They learn best through lecture, worksheets, outlines, word studies, statistics, debate, inductive questions and questions that help discern relationships between objects.

— Visual. Visual learners can see with their imaginations; they understand space and distance concepts and relate well with TV, visuals and representations of reality. John, author of the Gospel of John and Revelation, was a visual person, she said.

Visual learners benefit from videos, movies, posters, charts, maps, paintings, object lessons, watching drama, art activities and questions that ask, “What if?”

— Natural or world. These are people who can identify elements of nature well, may relate well to creative stories, like to explore the natural world and seek beauty in God’s creation.

They learn best through collecting or displaying items from nature, through nature walks, by sorting, classifying, observing items from nature, by reflecting the creation and the Creator, and through planting and cultivating. David was also a natural/world learner, Boone said, “and the Psalms is a good example of that.”

“People can have combinations of these learning styles,” she said. “But you see why, with so many different styles of learning, Sunday school teachers should vary their teaching techniques to try to hit somebody every Sunday. You need to know your people so the lessons can be more meaningful.”

About 700 senior adults attended the Chautauqua sponsored by the adult discipleship department of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

    About the Author

  • Terri Lackey