Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sunday School Memoirs: Play-Doh

Thus continues my series of Sunday school memoirs. Today I talk about Play-Doh.

Never Use Play-Doh During the Lesson
In our particular classroom, there exist a number of jars of Play-Doh. I have found that Play-Doh can be good or bad. Good if you use it as a reward for Sunday school pupils who behave fairly well. Bad if you're a bad teacher and could not think of a craft and decide to have the students use it to mold into the subject matter at hand as you discuss it. I don't remember which lesson I tried to what I just described, so I'll use the feeding-of-5000 as a hypothetical example.

Have the kids take out the Play-Doh and teach them about Jesus multiplying the fish and loaves. Start out with the kids making two fish and five little loaves of bread. Then have them break those up and make a lot more. On paper, this might seem like a good illustration. In practice, the Play-Doh exerts a powerful distractive effect on young minds. The Play-Doh beckons to the child: "Mash, me, smash me, rip me into multiple pieces! Roll pieces of me into a ball! Make pancakes out of me! But most important of all, pay attention to me and not Mr. JunkMale!" So. I have learned that Play-Doh during the lesson is a bad idea for 4 and 5 year olds.

Let's go off on a non-Play-Doh related tangent and talk about craft ideas for the feeding of 5000 (or 4000). I really wish I'd thought to bake a loaf of bread and bring it in. Seems like it would've made the lesson a bit more "real" to them. Another thing which I only realized after-the-fact was that I should've brought in goldfish crackers for the fish! It would've been very easy to say that we only had two goldfish to feed the entire class, but then give each of them plenty of goldfish to go around (and have many extra left over at the end). If anyone is ever in search of a good Sunday school illustration, there you go.

Yeah, I'm a bad teacher. I attempted sugary bribes one Sunday. One of the moms (the homeschooling one...actually there are two now, but she's the "original" one) graciously gave me some Trader Joe's lollipops. (We'd discussed proper bribing materials the previous Sunday...she doesn't just give me lollipops out of the blue.) Personally, I didn't notice much of a difference in the class's behavior, but maybe it's just because I did it once, or maybe it's because I'm a man and I don't see behavioral patterns as well as a woman can. The problem with being health-conscious and bribing your kids with sugary treats is that I can't just stop at Publix on the way to church (what with aspartame, saccharin, and food coloring). No, I'd have to drive 30 minutes to Trader Joe's, and that's if I even remember to go beforehand.

So I just resorted to non-food bribes such as Play-Doh time and stickers, the latter of which the girls are typically much more interested. Almost without fail, my students were good enough to always get their bribe.

Do you have any experience with Sunday school bribes or Play-Doh? I'd like to hear.

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  • Smockity Frocks

    I usually put the special treat (Play Doh, suckers, etc.) in plain view and mention several times, "I hope we have time for our special treat, but first I need every one's attention so I can tell the story." [wait for silence while carressing the suckers]"I hope we don't run out of time while I am waiting for you to listen..."

  • Sherry

    Bribes have surely worked for our class. Last rotation, I taught the 1st & 2nd graders. When we had a movie night, or even when we had a lesson & then fun & games afterwards & a snack, we always made it clear that if they could not obey the teacher, they would have to sit out the fun part (usually for 5-10 minutes). It was always so hard to see a couple of them sitting it out, but their behavior was much improved the next time. We also give feedback to the parents, good or bad, & that seems to help too. We also teach with 2 or more teachers, & I think that helps as we back each other up (similar to a husband & wife backing each other up). Much more effective that way in my opinion.