Sitting still to answer questions is really hard for active kids. So I’m collecting ideas for jumpstarting conversations and disguising discussions. Here are a few that have worked for me.
Insert an acrostic
A couple weeks ago the opening step of the session involved discussing the qualities of a good friend. Instead, we create a double acrostic of the word friend. Each person received a notecard with FRIEND printed vertically on both sides. On the front they used words associated with being a good friend: Fun, reliable, interesting, encouraging… on the back they did the opposite: Fake, revolting, irritating, etc. The lists were quite impressive, especially on the frenemy side which included words like, “farty” that the preteens just couldn’t resist. Sharing our answers got us talking about what we really look for in a friend.
Bring a bell
After the story there are always a few questions to discuss. Rather than waiting for kids to reply, I’ve started inviting two students to step up to the table and each place a hand on the table and the other behind their back. I’ll ask the question and the first person to ring the bell has the chance to answer it first. Then, everyone else is welcome to chime in after. The student who didn’t answer stays up as another person comes forward. Some of my kids love that little bit of competition, and the suspense of waiting for the bell; others don’t come up at all, but prefer to contribute an answer from their seat. The caution of course, is that you have to manage the room so that competitive energy doesn’t take over! The first time I did this I used a coffee mug with a spoon inside—the kids grabbed the spoon and jiggled it to make the ringing noise. It worked great, but one of the kids has a real tap-on-the-top service bell that she was eager to bring in for the game.
Discuss as you do
This is the classic Sunday school method, but its value can’t be understated. Sometimes I’ll pass out art supplies or clay and ask kids to create their favorite portion of a story as we talk about what they see in that story. Kids, I’ve found, are eager to talk and reflect they just need to do it in an active way. I look for a way to combine steps in a lesson so the discussion can come out naturally as we work on something together.
What has worked for you to help draw out discussion and keep kids engaged?