Tough Topics

How Do You Know What They Know?

-Stephen Nogueras

In this changing world, it’s hard to know what a child’s level of understanding is. Most of us didn’t grow up with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in which school children today are immersed. Common Core can be a great tool for children’s ministry!

Children’s workers need to know what pace the children are learning and adapt their lessons accordingly. Robin Smorenberg, an innovative educator, stated, “We all learn in a different way, at a different pace, and as a teacher, it is practically impossible to cater to everyone’s learning needs.” Sometimes children are asked to do things that are way beyond their cognitive ability. Whether that’s reading, reciting, or answering higher level questions, these children can get overwhelmed by the pressure.

I recall observing a children’s worker teaching a group of 5- to 10-year-old kids. She had asked a child to read a portion of Scripture to the group, but he didn’t know how to read. As a result, instead of reading, he just sat there, his face getting redder as the other kids stared at him. Although some children learn to read at an early age, never assume that every child has.

Often children are put under pressure to say or do something when they don’t know how. Common Core has children learning at a specific pace, and if you don’t familiarize yourself with it, you will be less likely to make this mistake. Another way to avoid that is to talk to the children and get to know where they are at in their learning. Ask questions like “What did you learn about this week?” or “What is the biggest thing you learned about this week?”

While doing this, recognize that the child isn’t on the same level of understanding as you. He won’t know all of the big words you do, and you’ll often have to define words for him. Don’t make the child feel ashamed or embarrassed for not knowing certain words or how to read. Be compassionate and ready to guide the child to comprehension. This will not only help you learn more about the child and his education, but it will also add to the child’s appreciation for you and what you’re teaching.

Familiarizing yourself with Common Core Standards for your state will help you understand where the children in your life are at in their education and prepare you to teach them on a level that they can grasp. Get started by visiting the official CCSS website and selecting your state.

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