Tips for Teaching with Software
from Neil MacQueen, Sunday Software
Click the “print as PDF” icon in the right column to save/print this article for your teachers. Every month I put teaching tips like these in my free email newsletter. You may also be interested in my free Teacher Training Pamphlet.
Here are my TOP THREE COMPUTER LAB LESSON PLANNING TIPS:
One lesson plan approach does not fit all programs. Some software take longer than others. Your length of time in the software will also depend on the age of your students, and how much class time you have. How much and how long you use the software is also affected by WHEN in the lesson plan you’ll use the software. Some programs are used before the Bible study to introduce it, or the software IS the Bible study and nearly the complete lesson plan, and sometimes the software is what you use AFTER the Bible study. See my details on this below. Our free teaching guides will also help.
At the beginning of class, write on the board “What’s Happening in the Lesson Today”and “Questions for the Day” for all to see. This gives your kids a sense of direction, and primes your teaching assistants.
When introducing the lesson, teach the “First Subject” of every lesson, which is, “why should we care about this?” This “buy-in” is important, and tells your students what’s going to be important to take-away from your class. See my details below about how to do this.
TIP : Preview your software so you will know how it will fit in your class time, and what kind of lesson plan you need to wrap around it.
KNOW Your Time Constraints
Bums me out when someone emails saying, “we didn’t get through the software because we only had 20 minutes on the computer!” Would you try to squeeze a 35 minute ART project into a 20 minute time slot? No. Would you skip through the meat of a video because you had to shave 10 minutes from the video? No.
Build your lesson plan around the software. Know how long something will take, what you may need to skip, what you may need to show the kids how to do, and how your age range will affect the amount of time it takes you to use the software. Again, our free teaching guides will be indispensable to you.
KNOW where your software “fits” into the lesson.
This seems obvious, but some of the lesson plans I’ve seen IGNORE how the software is designed. Some programs offer a complete onscreen Bible study, with the story, questions, even reflection. So you would not want to spend 15 minutes reading and yakking before you get into the software, and then run out of time just as you’re getting to the end of the game. KNOW THY SOFTWARE. Our teaching guides should help.
Basically, there are 3 types of programs: Some software programs are more suited AS your study, or for use AFTER your study, and/or for use BEFORE your study. Here are details about all 3 types…
Type 1: Some software programs are primarily designed to be used AS your full onscreen Bible study.
They will introduce the Bible story and provide the notes & questions, quizzes & reflections within the software, and you the teacher will go along WITH THEM.
Abraham & Sarah, Ten Commandments, and Elijah & Jonah CD are good examples of those “as the study” types of programs. Also, Good Sam, Prodigal Son, and Faith Through the Roof CDs. In many ways, these programs are written and designed like complete lesson plans, -and just need YOU to facilitate them. The teacher starts the lesson with some preliminary remarks then DIVES INTO the software with the kids to begin Bible study.
Type 2: Some software programs are designed to be used AFTER your traditional Bible study.
Let’s Talk CD, Kid Pix CD, Bible Crosswords CD, and Cal & Marty’s Scripture Memory Game CD are good examples of that type of “after the study” software. They are the “activity” after the formal study. (Not sure which programs are which type? Read their descriptions, or ask Neil.)
Type 3: Some software is sometimes used BEFORE or to INTRODUCE the Bible Study.
These programs include HolyLand 3d CD, gathering the kids around Walking in Their Sandals Bible Atlas CD for some preliminary “look see” into the story, a map, or Bible pictures you’ve downloaded to INTRODUCE a story or concept or location. Websites and web images are sometimes introduced this way by the teacher.
Other times, I will use PART of one of our Bible story CDs to introduce the story, …cherry-picking out an animation or map. Teachers who project our software onto the wall for a larger group will often do this. They’ll introduce using some media, dive into the Bible, then move on in the software to a game or reflection piece.
Write out each step in the lesson
Write out Questions for the Day
Summarize the Bible verse
List the software and include software navigational tips, do’s & don’ts
This simple act of writing it out at the beginning of each lesson will:
Organize YOUR thoughts at the start of the class
Put the STUDENTS at-ease about “what are we going to do?”
Bring your HELPERS up to speed and give them something to refer to
Traditionally, the teacher has a cribsheet or manual in front of them which gives THEM a sense of structure and direction. The students need the same thing! They will get anxious when they don’t knowing what’s coming up, or what’s expected of them. Lacking expectations or a sense of direction, some students will try to get in the driver’s seat. This is especially true in the computer lab where they can’t wait to get to the computers!
For non-readers, I’ll still write out things on the board, often using simple words and pictures to the same effect.
Such a simple thing! …and such a powerful way to introduce a lesson.
The first subject of every lesson is
WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT THIS STORY?
Underneath this is the question, “WHY AM I HERE?”
And, “Do I want to participate?”
(Many students would rather be somewhere else.)
This is similar to the “Life Application Step” found in most lessons, but I do NOT leave it to the END of class to address it. I put it right up front. I discuss reasons WHY they should care to be engaged. I first got interested in teaching with computers because it instantly and dramatically answered the question: “Do I want to?” with an emphatic “yes!” The rest is all in how we make the most of this wonderful opportunity.
Too many teachers and lesson plans wait until the end to ‘reveal’ the point of the lesson. I tell my students AT THE BEGINNING what I hope they will find.
YOU are the Bible they read, right? And you are supposed to share your faith, right? Begin your lesson by telling them a story from your own life about how the truth of this passage has spoken to you.
My book, Teaching with Computers in Christian Education, also has a TON of lab-set-up advice and advice for teachers.
The book includes:
- why computers belong in Christian Education
- the best advice and tested advice about getting started
- the keys to success
- the mistakes to avoid
- lab set-up diagrams, issues and suggestions
- hardware recommendations and technical tips
- teacher recruitment tips (what kind of person to look for)
- teacher training helps
- software recommendations
- lesson schedule examples and lesson plan examples
- strategies for stretching your software budget
- seasonal ideas, and special room decor
- special chapters on using computers with Preschoolers and Middle Schoolers
- a theological & educational rationale for teaching with computers in C.E.
- lots of computer lab photos!
- Plus….The last three pages are our reproducible Teacher Training Pamphlet.. This great handout explains, encourages, and gives examples. It’s full of great tips.
Order: Teaching with Computers in Christian Education
(See price on order form)
SPECIAL FEATURE: This book is Spiral Bound so you can lay it flat on a copier to copy pages out of it. I encourage you to make copies of important pages and pass them around to introduce the idea of computers in CE and to Train your teachers.