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Hey, friends. Welcome to Mr. Mark’s Classroom. I want to continue this conversation about how we’re going to guide our classrooms. I was observing on Wednesday, and I saw Ms. Cathy. She was like, “Boys and girls. Boys and girls.” I was like, “Come on, Cathy. Use your big voice, your outside voice. We can’t hear you. The kids are really talking on top of each other trying to be heard, and they’re having such a good time getting togetherand it’s not that … I mean, they’re really great third graders. They really weren’t trying to be bad or to do the wrong thing. They were just kind of in their own world doing their own thing, but she wasn’t getting their attention. She needed something called a “call and response. Boys and girls need to hear what your expectations are. And if they’re not looking at you, they’re not hearing you. 

call and response is something like, “If you can hear my voice, clap once. If you can hear my voice, clap twice. Now, I used to work at a school for the deaf, so I learned to clap pretty loud because the students were deaf. So anyway, you may have to work on your clapping so that way you can be heard. But, boys or girls, when they hear that, that gets their attention.  

And even if a child’s not looking at you, you call their name and get them to look at you and say their name, “Durbin, look at Mr. Mark. Look at the teacher.” Because if they’re not looking at you, they can’t hear you. They’re in their own world. They’re doing their own thing. And that would be true of preschool all the way to preteen. It doesn’t matter. Boys and girls need to be looking at you to get instruction. And if you’re a parent, you might just remember that at home, too. If you’re just yelling from another room, you’re probably not being heard. You’re going to need eye contact so that they can follow the instructions that you’re trying to say. You want to communicate your instructions well, and you’ve got to get their attention. 

You might have different ways. Different calls and responses. Let’s see. Let’s just test you out. If I were to say, “To infinity” What would you say? And beyond. You know that. What if I said, “Knock, knock”? Then you’d say, “Who’s there?” Right. Let’s see. What about this one? Jesus loves me this I know…” You’d say “For the Bible tells me so. It’s a great call and response. There are hundreds, if not thousands of calls and responses.  

I want to challenge you to come up with one that you’re going to use over, and over, and over. That call and response the children will know is your cue right there in your classroom – that you need their attention. It could be that they’re all working on something beautifully, everybody’s working, but the volume has just gotten a little bit higher than it should be. That’s okay. You just use your call and response. Get their attention. When they look at you, then you would easily say, “Boys and girls, you’re working so well but the volume is too loud. I need you to all take it down. Continue working now.” and they can go back to work. That’s absolutely a great idea. Getting their attention to give instructions is always going to be a win, but you can’t do it with your little library voice. Boys and girls. You’re going to have to really speak up or you’re going to have to use a clap or something like that. 

Boys and girls need to know what you expect, and I want to challenge you not to expect too much. Sometimes I see parents as well as teachers, they put together an activity that is just… Well, it’s too hard or it’s just too much to try to accomplish, so be careful that you’re guiding them through a process of things. We’re not just assigning work for an hour and let them at it. We’re going to work through it with them. We’re instructing them in these Bible activities and the learning as we’re moving through it. So be sure that you’re not expecting too much out of them.  

I heard of someone who was teaching first grade recently and they’re like, “I just can’t believe it. Their writing is just so slow and whatever.” I was like, “Yeah, because they’ve only been on the earth for five years. Please, give them a chance.” I mean, you got to join them where they’re at and work with them.  

Another thing I would say is explain your activities before you give them the supplies, the resources. If you are handing out stuff and you’re trying to say what to do, they can’t hear you because they got to play with all that stuff you’re handing out…That’s so cool. We’ve got to fight over the colors.” Please, save yourself the misery. Explain what you’re going to do and how it’s going to happen. 

Here’s a really good tip I have used with fourth graders. I’ve used three different tables, and I have a table captain at each. If boys and girls are going to come in and immediately begin, I can say, “The instructions are there. The table captain needs to read the instructions. You may begin. Start.” I’ve given the expectation of what to do.  

Now, if your children aren’t good with that, don’t go there. That’s expecting too much. You may want to let them sit at their tables and have over by you all of the supplies in one little tub for that table and you’ll say, “Here’s what we’re going to do. This is how it works, and you’ve got this much time. It should look like this.” Then you’ll say, “Table captain, come and get your table’s supplies.” They come and get it, go over there, and they begin. That may work very well.  

So, you think about how you can guide that every time and don’t give out the resources whenever you’re not even explaining it yet or while you’re explaining it. You’ll really get a better feel for how successful that is the first time you do that. I’ve even had stuff at the tables and I had them all line up along the wall. I explained everything, and then I said, “Now go to your table and begin,” and they were ready. It makes a big difference when they know what your expectations are and when your expectations are not too much.  

So, maybe you’ve been giving out the resources. You’ve got them engaged. Oh, one last challenge. Try to find the time to know more about the child’s world. A couple of ways you could do this. One is you can send a friend request to the child’s parents to be friends with them on Facebook or any social media. That would be cool because you could kind of follow along, which is really cool because you’re able to see them and go, “I saw that you won your game. It was your last game. Good job. It was a great team picture. Your mom was so proud of you.” Just that you knew that– is a big deal. So that’s a simple way, an easy way to do that. Parents will often even post pictures like it’s their birthday or any other recitals and things like that. It’s nice to be able to comment on those things.  

Now, the other thing that I would say is maybe when you’re sitting down with the kids and you’re doing activities, why don’t you ask questions? Where did you move here from? What’s your favorite thing? Your favorite sport? Do you have a game that you like to play? (Because you have some boys who like a lot of video games.) What is your favorite toy at home? What’s your pet’s name? Just start naming all that and then share about you. My pet’s name is Ruthie, and we love her. She’s about 11 years old. Sometimes I even take my picture and show them because, of course I have a picture of Ruthie in my office. I often talk about her whenever I am explaining how to lead a child to Christ or working with a child through salvation decision.  

So, they want to be a part of your world. They want to know about you as well, so share that kind of thing. If someone said they’re allergic to something and you are too, why wouldn’t you mention that? Because they’re not the only person in the world with those types of things.  

And matter of fact, you may have some children who are going… who have been children of divorce and that’s a unique thing. You know what? My parents were married and until death did them part, so I didn’t know that experience. My wife as well. So we just didn’t know that experience, but it turns out that I have a granddaughter who knows that because her mom and dad have divorced. So, I can even say, “Well, my granddaughter, she’s also your age, and she knows what it’s like to have a mom live in one house and a dad live at another place and visit.” It really connects your heart. They’re not alone.  

And getting to know them, be in their world, there are ways that you can do that, but you have to ask questions and you have to engage them because you want to build that relationship. The more that they see that you’re in that relationship with them, the more they want to please you, the more they want to be with you. So, that’s going to make for a great teacher, building relationships. It’s the three Rs, relationship, relationship, relationship. 

I hope that this podcast will help today as you’re getting ready for a new Sunday, a new Wednesday, or time with the children that are going to be in your class. I think if you’ll just put these things into practice not expecting too much, but letting the children know what you expect in the activities, giving your instructions whenever, before you give out the resources, and then work at building those relationships even while you’re sitting down enjoying the activities in your class. That’ll be great. Well, I hope this podcast has helped. You can check out more on iTunes or even our YouTube channel. Leave us a rating. That’s hugeOther people will find us as well, and that’d be great. I hope that you’ll use this incredible ministry that you have to lead children to Christ. Your life is a gift in ministry, so go and make it count. 


Related posts: Classroom Management Part One


The Time Saver Idea Notebook is filled with 150 ideas to use in childhood ministry. This is a great resource for leaders and teachers needing quick ideas. Topics include: Ideas for teaching preschoolers & children, reaching parents, leadership tips, general helps and lots of holiday ideas. The notebook gives permission to copy for local church and classroom use. 


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