Anna felt good about the effect her teaching ministry was having in the lives of the senior high girls. It was the last Sunday of the quarter—the lesson she usually began by saying “Let’s review.” She worked through her list of carefully prepared questions to let the girls tell what they had learned.
The session began with Anna’s own version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” She had a bag full of different prizes that would be awarded, depending on how far each girl went in her list of questions. After reviewing, the class shared cold drinks as each listened to the girls share how they had been able to apply some of the lessons learned in recent weeks. Anna looked at the review as a test of her own teaching effectiveness and as an opportunity to show the girls how much they had learned.
BENEFITS OF A REVIEW
Measuring your students’ progress is one of several benefits associated with the review. Your dreams for your students involve more than just their attending class. Review lets you know what your students are really learning.
You can also use a review to motivate learning. One teacher of primary-aged children routinely began teaching his class by opening a bag of red licorice and chewing on one piece as he taught the story. The children knew that at the end of the story there would be questions—and a long piece of red licorice for every child who could answer the questions. Not only were the children motivated to learn, but also when one child became disruptive, others quieted him, so they could hear the story and get the licorice.
Review also helps you evaluate how well you are teaching. We all need periodic evaluation. In fact, as a teacher, someday you will be evaluated by God (see Jas. 3:1–2).
Review can help you in two ways. First, you can identify the strengths of your teaching, upon which you can build (see 1 Thess. 5:21). Second, you can identify problem areas that need to be addressed as you seek to become a better teacher.
CONTENT OF A REVIEW
When you review, begin by asking questions related to basic knowledge and comprehension. Part of what you do each week in Sunday School is to communicate the contents of the Bible. How well are your students learning the Bible? Include a few questions each week about previous lessons to see if the contents of the Bible are being learned.
When it comes to Sunday School, simply growing in knowledge is not enough (see 1 Cor. 13:2). You also want to review your students’ attitudes, values and character. As you look at your class over a period of several months, what changes do you see in the attitude and character of various class members? This is not something you can determine by using a list of true-or-false questions. Spend time with your students outside of class to talk about changes in their lives—a great way to review.
A REVIEW OF A LESSON IS NOT AN EVALUATION OF WHAT YOUR STUDENTS HAVE LEARNED AS MUCH AS IT IS AN EVALUATION OF HOW WELL YOU HAVE TAUGHT.
You also want to review choices, conduct and habits. Your goal in teaching is to achieve behavioral change. As your students learn the Bible, the Holy Spirit can use your lessons to change each student to be more like Jesus. While Anna listened to her high school girls talk about decisions they were making in school, she could see how her lessons were being applied in their lives. Personal conversation is the best type of review.
When testing your teaching, take care to choose your questions wisely. Your choices should be based on the following criteria:
- what you want them to learn
- age level (i.e., their competence)
- what changes you expect in their life
Look at these three factors carefully.
SOURCES FOR REVIEW
You may want to begin your review by looking at a statistics review. As a Sunday School teacher, you may keep attendance and record other information about your students in a roll book. Unfortunately, these records are often ignored after the data have been collected. A review may reveal such things as attendance patterns, punctuality, lesson preparation and outreach. You could keep track of your own special emphasis, such as a memory verse contest or bringing new members.
Informal feedback is a second source of review. Sometimes, others will notice behavioral changes in the lives of your students and share their observations with you. This provides you with an indication of discernible change taking place in those students. Sometimes this feedback may come from students thanking you for helping them through a specific issue raised in the lesson.
Questions are the most common form of review. When you ask questions, your students may not even realize you are evaluating them. Also try beginning a class session with the words “Let’s review” followed by several questions about the previous week’s lesson.
Some students do not test well. You may have some who are learning, but if put on the spot in front of others, they just can’t remember. To get around this, you may want to build your review into a game. As your students focus on playing the game, answering a question becomes secondary.
Written tests can also be used to review. An adult Sunday School class might review by using a personality-profile test. Some teachers use a spiritual-gift inventory to help class members identify their spiritual gifts as a review for lessons on giftedness.
You can also review through projects. The more involved your students become in the class, the better they will learn the important lessons you are trying to teach.
When you review, be careful about forming conclusions on the basis of a single question. Everyone has a bad day, and there could be various reasons why a student couldn’t answer one or more questions. Look for a pattern of results over several kinds of review before making hard conclusions about your teaching or how well your students are learning.
FREQUENCY OF REVIEW
So how often should you review? That’s a tough question only you can answer. Generally speaking, the more often you review, the less stressful the process becomes. Some teachers do a bit of review every week. Others set aside one Sunday every two or three months to review.
Evaluating your teaching is a lot like maintaining your lawn. You cut the grass as often as it needs cutting. You test your teaching as often as it needs testing. Periodic testing of your teaching ministry will be an important part of your personal growth plan as a teacher.
Elmer L. Towns, What Every Sunday School Teacher Should Know (Ventura, CA: Regal; Gospel Light, 2001), 134–140.