We are nearly at the beginning of a new Church year once again. This is a good time for Sunday Church School teachers to take a moment to look at the Sunday Church School classroom and see if there are any improvements that can be made to the way in which the classroom is organized. Those of us in the northern hemisphere whose parishes have taken the summer off from Sunday Church School may have a little more time in our schedules right now to do so. Regardless of which part of the world you live in or what season it is, take a moment to tour your classroom, evaluate it, and see what can be done to better organize the room so that you can more effectively serve your students.
Walk into the classroom and look around, and consider the following:
1. Look at the students’ sitting space in the classroom. Is there an inviting working space with a place to sit down for the children? Since the children have just come from (or will be going to) Divine Liturgy where they were/will be standing, it is important that they be able to sit comfortably in the classroom if they want to, and/or it works with what you are doing together as a class. If you do not yet have comfortable seating, consider purchasing a rug, large floor pillows, or even making hand-cushioned crates for seating in your gathering area. Perhaps the classroom already has a table with chairs, or desks, or comfortable mats for them to sit on. If it does, and that is what works best for your students, then you are in good shape!
2. Look at the focus area of the classroom. Is there a whiteboard or chalkboard? This is often the focal point of the classroom, since many times we write questions, illustrate points, or have students write answers on a board like this. The board is a quick way to easily show the whole class something at the same time. If the room does not yet have a whiteboard or chalkboard, purchase one. You could also paint part of the wall with chalkboard paint and write on that space.
3. Look around at the walls/partitions that surround your room. Are you effectively using the display space in your room? Sunday Church School rooms do not need to look glamorous or elaborate, but a little thoughtful decoration will go a long way to enhance the learning environment.
Consider including the following on your classroom wall:
- a calendar – This can highlight the Church year, remind your class when the parish has special services, display students’ birthdays or name days, and/or be a place to commemorate the saints
- a bulletin board (or more than one) – This can be a display that goes up at the beginning of the year and stays all year (ie: self-portraits labeled “Our Sunday Church School Class Family”); a bulletin board that changes to illustrate what you are studying; an interactive learning center featuring activities for children to work at if they arrive early or finish something else before everyone else does; etc. The possibilities are endless.
- a display area for student artwork/papers – This could be as simple as taping or pinning up their work right onto the wall; it could be bulletin board strips with pins to hold the work; it could consist of clothespins hung on a line on the wall; or it could be made of empty frames hung on the wall where the students’ work can be inserted.
4. Turn your attention to the supplies that you use during class. Is there an easy way to access and store these items? Perhaps there is a closet, cabinet, cart, or set of drawers in which you can keep supplies. If you do not yet have any storage space, find or create some. Then look at the supplies themselves, and consider how they are being stored in that space. Are they easy to access and put away? Is there a better way they could be stored that will make them easier for students to use and/or put it away?
5. Before you leave your Sunday Church School room, look at the room as a whole. Does it look inviting? If not, consider what could be done to make the room feel more friendly. Does your classroom communicate to all who enter it that the learning that happens in Sunday Church School is important enough to warrant a welcoming classroom? If not, how can you improve?
Do not feel discouraged if your tour of your Sunday Church School classroom generated a long list of things you ought to change. Instead of being overwhelmed, look at the list as an opportunity! Think about ways to enhance the Sunday Church School experience for your students by making their environment more conducive to learning. Then prioritize your “to-do” list and get started. Do a little at a time until you’ve improved all that you can. Organizing your students’ study area (and thereby minimizing distractions from the environment) can go a long way to keeping the focus on the reason your class meets together every Sunday: to learn more about God and His Church!
Here are links to websites that can give you ideas of how to better organize your classroom:
This link shows how to use inexpensive plastic bins for organizing your classroom, demonstrates the use of plastic crates with stuffed fabric “tops” for stools; etc: http://tupelohoneycaro.blogspot.com/2012/01/my-classroom.html
Purchase a “let the little children come unto me” oval rug featuring a colorful world map surrounded by international children: http://www.cmresourceco.com/Let_the_Children_Come_Rug_p/joy-1513.htm
If seeing other classrooms inspires you with ideas, check out this page of pictures of many different classrooms. The bottom of the page includes links to online classroom setup planners, as well: http://www.theschoolsupplyaddict.com/room-setup.html
See what one teacher did with her Sunday School classroom here: http://www.myprimaryparadise.com/2015/05/22/sunday-school-room-make-over/
Here is one storage idea that features using fabric bins in metal cubbies: http://lisatilmon.blogspot.com/2012/04/organization-of-classroom-supplies.html
Find a list of brilliant DIY ideas for organizing a classroom on a very low budget here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/money-saving-diys-for-the-classroom#.niBEy1oO9
Consider painting a wall or door with chalkboard paint for prayer requests, scriptures, etc. as demonstrated here: http://sohldesign.blogspot.com/2010/09/new-kind-of-chalkboard.html
Find a variety of great ideas for Sunday Church School classroom renovation/organization here: http://childrensministry.com/articles/inexpensive-classroom-makeover-ideas/
Here’s a blog about important things to keep in mind when organizing a Sunday Church School classroom that will include special needs students: https://specialneedsministry.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/organizing-the-special-needs-classroom-physical-environment/
If you choose to set up your classroom with learning centers in addition to or instead of traditional lecture and response classtime, here are some ideas: http://www.sunday-school-center.com/support-files/tt101-sunday-school-learning-centers.pdf