Lots of Styles: Teaching to Engage a Variety of Learning Styles by Looking to the Master Teacher—

This may be obvious, but everyone learns. And we all learn in a lot of different ways. If you studied education in the 1990s and early 2000s, you most likely learned about the three main learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Later, they added read/write as a learning style. “Back in the day” we learned that each student had one primary way of learning all material. However, further research suggests that this model is not entirely correct. It turns out, we don’t fit into such neat little boxes. Surprise! People are much more complex than that. It turns out that our brains have different preferences for learning different things, and different people learn those different things different ways from one another. Get it? There are a whole lot of differences going on!

So, what does all of this have to do with teaching a Bible lesson to elementary or preschool kiddos? Well, we want our children to understand the Word of God and to be able to apply it to their lives; therefore, we want to present material using as many modalities as we can to make us more effective as teachers. However, you don’t need to take my word for it! Let’s take a look at Jesus, the Master Teacher, and see how He taught.

Do you remember the time the Pharisees sent their disciples to trip Jesus up?  “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” Jesus didn’t answer them directly. Instead, He asked them to show Him a coin. Right away He gets them involved; they are looking for a coin! They bring Him a denarius, and Jesus asks them a question: “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” Now the men looked at the coin, or perhaps they didn’t look at it because the image was so familiar to them. Caesar’s image was on it.  Finally, Jesus answered the original question with strong words. “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:16-21). Do you see how He engaged them kinesthetically, visually, and auditorily?

Think about the parable of the sower. As Jesus spoke about the sower casting his seed, the people could almost feel the weight of the seed hanging in a bag from their shoulders and the easy rhythm of swinging their hands back and forth, gently flinging the seed into the fields. As they listened to His voice describe the scene, they could see in their minds’ eyes the sprouts pushing up.

Perhaps the sweetest way Jesus teaches us today is through the Sacraments. We see, hear, taste, and touch the elements of the Lord’s Supper. We hear the vows of new believers, see them kneel down, and they feel the water roll down their heads.

When Jesus taught, He engaged all the senses of those listening. We can do that too! As we teach a lesson, we can invite the children to provide sound effects, draw a picture, or act out the scene. We can hold up pictures and have the children describe what they see. We can ask good questions. With every lesson, try to engage children with some type of movement, sight, and sound. After all, everyone learns, and we all learn in a lot of different ways.

Lisa Updike, Director of Children’s Ministries at Covenant Presbyterian in Harrisonburg, VA, has been in love with Jesus since she was a little girl and has always been passionate about sharing the gospel with others. She has extensive ministry experience which includes homeschooling, teaching in Christian Schools, working as a learning disabilities therapist, leading children’s choirs, and spearheading children’s programs in several churches over the last 30 years. Lisa and Kevin have 4 children (3 through adoption).