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This coming school year, I am thrilled to be returning to the church school classroom! I haven’t taught Sunday church school since having my youngest two children, so I’m pretty giddy about teaching again. I’ll be teaching 3rd and 4th grade at our parish and have been instructed to use the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese curriculum and plan to supplement our book, where needed and beneficial.

I’ve created an outline (which is most assuredly subject to change, but I don’t plan to do so unless needed) and have shared it below for anyone who is also teaching 3rd/4th grade this year or are teaching along the same topics as myself – which are predominantly: our patron saints, major feast days, the Divine Liturgy, and the Bible.

My intent and hope is to post my weekly lesson plans to share with anyone else who is interested in them. While the main content on the Divine Liturgy and the Bible are going to be geared towards a general 3rd and 4th grade level, the project I’m doing in relation to the major feast days and patron saints can be adapted to a wide range of ages and grades.

My goals for this year:

  • Use Sunday School (teaching/learning) as a bridge between worship (attendance at services) and home (praxis)
  • Engage parents by hanging posters, handouts, and children’s work in the hallway outside of our classroom
  • Learn about our patron saints as well as the saints listed in our 4th grade book (the 3rd grade book was used last year)
  • Learn about the major feast days through the icons on our church’s ceiling (Can we read and understand the icons in our parish? Let’s learn about them!)
  • Learn about the Divine Liturgy
  • Learn about the Bible (which goes hand-in-hand with understanding the Divine Liturgy)
  • Provide instruction and opportunities for students to teach their parents about praxis (How and when do we celebrate namedays? How do we prepare for major feast days at home? When and how do we pray at home? What does fasting look like at home?)

My 2017-2018 Sunday School Outline for 3rd/4th Grade:

How do I create an outline for the year for my Sunday School classroom?

1. Are you being provided with a book, list of goals, or topic for the year to use for your class?

If yes, use these as a guide when planning your year. What can you do to supplement the resources provided to you? Are there Orthodox children’s books that compliment the topic? How well do you know the topics you will be teaching this year? Where can you learn more about them?

If not, ask your Sunday School coordinator or your parish priest for some guidance. Do they have any input for topics you should teach this year? How much do you know about this topic(s)? Where can you learn more about them? (Books, podcasts, websites such as: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, Orthodox Church in America, Antiochian Archdiocese, or ROCOR.

For example, I was instructed to use the 4th grade textbook from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. You can see a list of objectives for these textbooks here. This is a great starting point for planning your year.

2. Make a list of the topics you want to cover this year.

For example, the main topics I plan to cover this year are going to be – the Divine Liturgy, the Bible, major feast days, and patron saints. There will be other topics covered as well but they will be connected to those main topics.

3. What are your goals for the year?

For example, how can I make my students’ time in my class (teaching/learning) a bridge that connects worship (attendance at services) and praxis (living their faith every day of their lives)? I plan to use the walls outside of my classroom where parents naturally wait for their children with children’s work, notes, and handouts.

How can you utilize the walls outside of your classroom where parents wait for their children? If you don’t have wall space outside of your classroom or if it is not a natural pathway or gathering spot for parents, where can you display your students’ work as well as information about what you are teaching? It is critical to engage the parents and bridge what the children learn in the classroom and bring it into their homes!

What do you want your students to know at the end of the year? How are you going to know that you completed your goals? (Are you going to have each child keep a portfolio of their work to bring home at the end of the year? Are you going to ask questions and look for sufficient understanding of the topic? Are you going to have them complete a project?)

4. How much do you know about these topics? 

The more you know about the topic, the easier it will be to plan your lessons. Learn as much as possible about each topic through online searches, Orthodox books, attending classes at your parish, scheduling a time to talk to your parish priest, or by listening to podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio.

“You can teach only that which you have made your own, and this means that there is always the danger that your personal mistaken judgment or insufficient knowledge will be reflected in your teaching.” (pg 19)

– Sophie Koulomzin, Our Church and Our Children

5. How are you going to teach these topics? What methods and resources are you going to use?

The Divine Liturgy is a teaching service. We are engaged and participating in worship through all five of our senses. There are many different ways people process information – and we do not all process information in the same way! It is important to engage our students with as many of their senses as possible in every lesson. Not every child learns well in a linguistic manner (primarily written word). In the same respect, not every child learns optimally through a hands-on project. It’s important to find that balance between linguistic-auditory learning preferences (textbooks, worksheets, read aloud stories without pictures) and visual-spatial learning preferences (coloring and hands-on crafts especially without written instructions).

How can you practically include multiple learning styles in a lesson?

  • If you’re reading a story out-loud to your students, be sure to show photos or pictures that go along with the narration – regardless of their age. 
  • If you are doing a craft that day (and your students can read), then include written step-by-step instructions
  • If you’re learning about the parables in the Bible, how can you include a hands-on or visual approach to learning the parables? Could you have children plant seeds in buckets with different soil conditions as presented in the Parable of the Sower?
  • If you are learning about saints, how can you help students have a concept of when these saints lived? (A timeline) How can you help them visualize where they lived? (A world map) How can you help them remember the story of the saint? (Teach them how to read the icon of that saint)