Review Matters—Make it Fun!
“WWJD—What Would Jesus Do?” Dad said this so often when I was a kid that I thought he made it up. (Imagine how proud I was when my dad’s original saying began appearing on pencils, mugs, t-shirts, and sequined denim Bible covers!) I now suspect this phrase may not have originated with my father, but I still think it’s a good question for Christians to ask regularly.
I frequently ask myself “WWJD?” as I plan the best way to teach, correct, and encourage the kids I teach regularly. I’ve learned a lot about teaching from observing the life and ministry of Jesus, the most epic teacher the world has ever seen. Right now, I want to focus on just one of many lessons I’ve learned from the master teacher—the importance of review.
When you read the Gospels, you’ll find that Jesus often repeated the same teaching over and over and asked questions so His followers (and enemies) could verbalize what they understood or didn’t understand about Him. Jesus knew that review is an important part of effective teaching. It reinforces learning, corrects misunderstanding, and helps you get to know your students. WWJD? Jesus would teach well and review often. Be like Jesus!
So how do you review effectively with hyper kids who likely consumed bowls of sugary marshmallow infused cereal for breakfast? (If your answer included written essays or standardized testing, I’m curious to hear how that’s working out for you.) My favorite method of reviewing with children is review games!
A review game is simply a fun game where kids do fun things after answering a question related to what you have taught.
For example, you can ask a question related to your lesson that day. When a child answers it correctly, he can try to throw a soft ball or stuffed animal through a hula hoop to win points for his team. It’s easy!
At the end of this article, you’ll find some great review games that have been carefully tested and approved by kids in my own Sunday school class—I’m even going to throw in a FREE download of one of my favorite review games! But I’m putting it at the very end of the article so you’ll have to read all the way through to get your free download.
If you want to quickly get to the game ideas feel free to skip ahead, but if you’re curious to learn about the cheesy acronym I put together to help you START playing review games effectively, then stay right where you are.
It’s time to START the game!
Study the game yourself—
Make sure you know how to play it and have everything you need before you start. I encourage my volunteers to practice saying the instructions out loud and pretending to play a round of the game by themselves before they try to play it with kids. You want to be able to focus on the kids during this review time instead of re-reading the rules or searching for needed materials. “Excuse me, pastor, do you happen to have a spare hula hoop I could borrow?”
Tell them how to play—
Explain the rules before you play, so the children know how the game works. Do you need to divide them into teams, form single file lines, or move to a different part of the room? Think through this ahead of time and give clear instructions. Show them what you expect them to do. I also tell the kids that I will not call on them to participate unless they are obeying all of our class rules—this helps keep the class under control.
Ask the right questions—
Remember, this is teaching time. Ask questions that help you see how well the children understood what was taught. Comprehending truth is more important than remembering facts. For instance, you could just ask, “Who died on the cross?” but asking, “Why did Jesus die on the cross?” will give you much more insight into a child’s level of understanding. I find it helpful to write the questions down ahead of time, that way I can plan effective questions.
Ask questions that help you see how well the children understood what was taught. Comprehending truth is more important than remembering facts.
Respond to answers effectively—
When a child gives you an incomplete or incorrect answer, it’s a great teachable moment! For example, read how a genius teacher can build on a child’s answer to briefly share the Gospel.
Genius Teacher: What did Jesus do to take the punishment for our sin?
Hypothetical Kid: He was nailed to a cross!
Genius Teacher: That’s right, Zach! He was separated from God for us when He allowed people to nail Him to a cross. He gave His blood and died on that cross to take the punishment for your sin and then, He came alive again! Jesus is alive!
The teacher used the incomplete answer as a teachable moment. But that’s not all—this genius teacher is just warming up! Observe how he restates a correct answer to further reinforce the teaching and to ensure everyone in the class could hear it.
Genius Teacher: What was today’s memory verse?
Hypothetical Kid: “Believe…..um….in the Lord…wait, I know this one, uhhhh…Believe in the Lord…..uh…and you’ll be saved.”
Genius Teacher: “Great job! Acts 16:31 says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Let’s all say it together while Nate comes up here to toss the ball through the hoop!”
But that’s nothing compared to what’s next! Save your applause until after the genius teacher uses a wrong answer to lovingly correct a child’s misunderstanding.
Genius Teacher: “How can you be saved from sin?”
Hypothetical Kid: “You have to be really good.”
Genius Teacher: “The Bible says, ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ This means none of us can be good enough to get to God on our own. But Jesus made the way for us to be saved from sin. Do you remember what He did?”
Hypothetical Kid: “He died.”
Genius Teacher: “That’s right, and what happened the third day after He died?”
Hypothetical Kid: “He came back to life.”
Genius Teacher: “Yes! He did that to pay for your sin because He knew you could never be good enough to save yourself from it. That’s why believing in Jesus is the only way to be saved from sin.”
Bravo! Did you notice the teacher not only corrected the misunderstanding but also helped the child get to a correct answer? Now I totally understand that you don’t always have time to wax eloquent after each question. But please pay attention and look for teachable moments amidst the children’s answers. If you do this right, the kids won’t even realize you’re still teaching them!
Tell them who won—
This should be the easy part, but I can get so caught up in cheering and playing the game I forget to keep track of the score. I solve this by choosing another teacher or older child to be scorekeeper before I start the game. Just make sure it’s done fairly—kids can detect unfairness up to a mile away in murky water on a moonless night.
Most kids love playing games, and it can be a great way to review what you have taught them. The Lord Jesus modeled review as an important part of effective teaching. Of course, Jesus didn’t use hula hoops or give points for correct answers, but He did take the time to ask the right questions and respond to answers effectively. Review games are simply tools you can use to put these critical elements of effective review into practice. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to START planning and preparing the review game for your next class. Review matters—make it fun!
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