Whether it’s your first year teaching Sabbath School or you have taught for decades, chances are you have discovered that some members may enjoy your class, while others feel that it is extremely boring!
The differences in opinion about your class may reflect the class members’ learning styles. You may be teaching only in the way that you learn best—your own learning style. Consequently, your teaching style will meet only the needs of Sabbath School members who have the same or similar learning style.
In order to reach all of the members of your class, you must discover their learning styles and teach accordingly. If you observe your members closely, you will begin to identify the learning style of every member in your class. I will share some clues.
According to research done by Thomas Armstrong and Carolyn Ostrander, there are at least seven types of learning styles.
I’ve adapted the labels bodily-kinesthetic; interpersonal; intrapersonal; logical-mathematical; natural-physical world; visual-spatial, and verbal-linguistic.
Let’s explore these terms:
1. The bodily-kinesthetic learners often express themselves through the use of facial and hand gestures. They never seem to be able to sit through your entire class and always seem to need to visit other classes during the Sabbath School hour. Maintaining a lively class and having these members stand when they make comments are ways to hold their attention.
2. The interpersonal learners think by getting ideas or approval of their ideas from others. They often ask, “What do you think, Teacher?” or “I would like to know what So-and-so has to say about Wednesday’s lesson.”
Interpersonal learners express love leading, organizing, and working with others. Some ways to meet the learning needs of interpersonal learners are to have these members teach different sections of the lesson, act as class secretary, or organize class outreach programs.
3. The intrapersonal learners are the quiet and shy members of your class. They are the ones who may have the answer to a question but choose not to share it, even when you call on them. They may stop attending your class if you call on them frequently.
You can meet the learning needs of the intrapersonal members in your class by privately thanking them each week for coming to your class. You could also give the class handouts to complete independently for the upcoming Sabbath’s lesson and review the answers during the class, with each member checking their own responses.
4. The logical-mathematical learners are motivated by reasoning. Because of their logical reasoning abilities, you may sometimes believe that these members are rude or disrespectful and are just trying to give you a hard time. They are the members who always want to know “Why?” They love to ask tough theological questions that make absolutely no sense to the rest of your class.
You can address the needs of logical-mathematical learners by providing and eliciting from other class members thought-provoking questions. Also give problem-solving situations.
5. The natural-physical world learners enjoy being outside. They love to use things in nature as examples when making comments in class.
Holding classes on the church lawn or having Sabbath School at a local park will bring a great deal of joy to these members.
6. The visual-spatial learners enjoy images and pictures. To make your class most enjoyable for them, use teaching aids: drawings, maps, posters, charts, artwork, overhead projector, slide presentations, etc.
7. The verbal linguistic learners are probably the easiest to please. These are the members who always seem to be paying attention, hanging on to your every word. They seen to always know the answer and willingly participate in any class discussion. They think in words. They enjoy having you tell stories or give them Scripture texts to read.
It is possible to meet the needs of all the learning styles in your Sabbath School class. Be unpredictable. Vary your teaching style from week to week. Be creative. Use class activities that address a variety of learning styles. Your class members will look forward to coming to Sabbath School. Their interest will be obvious.
- 1. What learning style best describes you? Explain.
- 2. As a Sabbath School teacher, what specific learning styles do you think will give you the greatest challenge and why?
- 3. What steps will you take to address the different learning styles of the members in your Sabbath School class?
Robert J. Walker
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists