One of the most effective learning strategies is discussion. It gets people interacting with the material, asking questions about the material, and hearing multiple opinions. We often forget that academic discussion needs to be structured and facilitated. Most adults have experienced discussion as a teacher/facilitator talking and asking questions while a few outspoken students respond. This is not effective discussion. What you want is to have students discuss while you listen, observe, and consider next steps. Here is another way to get more out of your discussion. Again, the success of these strategies is dependent on the size and age of your class. Some of these are great for adults too, but they're not used to them. They're not used to discussion. I LOVE doing this activity in Youth Bible class and it can go on for weeks!!
Bring Your Catechism
Have students sit in groups of 3 or 4 and have each group choose a name (or just give them a number, but kids, you know, they like to name their groups). They are going to respond to some questions that a non-believer might ask. Have the questions prepared in advance and have them in a can or jar or hat that you can pull them out of randomly. Give each group one question that they will ask another group. In their final response, each group is required to have at least 2 Bible verses to support their response. They may discover that the questions and answers in the back of the catechism are very helpful.
Round 1: Each group receives a question and spends time coming up with a good answer. It MUST be in their own words and have 2 supporting Bible verses.
Some questions might be:
- Why doesn't the church down the street baptize babies?
- Why are babies baptized if they haven't sinned yet?
- If God is love, what's wrong with being gay?
- Why doesn't God like gay people?
- Why doesn't your church have women pastors?
- Why can't my friends go to communion with me?
- If we're all saved then why do we need to follow the commandments?
- Why do Catholics confess to a priest and we don't?
- If God knows everything, why do we have to confess our sins at all?
- Why should I pray?
Give 5-10 minutes for students to come up with an answer for their question.
Round 2: After each group gives their answer, let the other groups add points or ideas to their answer.
Round 3: Let each group pick a different question and answer it based on what they learned.