How easy it is for us to deliver a lecture – whether we want our children to learn something morally, spiritually, practically or academically – but regardless of the topic a lecture is not the best delivery for learning for our children. We need to speak to them in a language that they connect with – and for most children that will be interactive, concrete and applicable.
I talk a lot with my children – and there is the one main difference between a lecture and a conversation: A lecture will talk to my children (their only role is to listen) as opposed to a conversation – where I talk with my children and their role is to listen, to think and to contribute or respond. A conversation doesn’t mean we relinquish our authority but it is more relational.
Recently I reflected on different styles of Bible studies – you have fill in the blanks type of question and answers and then you have a discussion style study. What makes the difference? As I reflected on this I found that these differences are the same guidelines that direct me in having a conversation with my children, or rather, in having conversations with my children where they learn something!
3 Steps to Making Conversation an Effective Teaching Tool:
- Know your goal
- Ask questions
- Go with the flow
We need to know what it is we want to teach our children. So often we go on and on and on jumping from one aspect to another leaving our children in our wake having no idea what we keep talking about. Keep it simple sweetheart – the KISS principle – is a good thing to remember!
We then need to ask our children questions. This is more than comprehension questions, though for them to understand is a good thing, but we need to guide them to be thinking about what we have said, to make connections, to make applications for their own life.
The thing is though once we’ve asked the question we have to be prepared to go wherever the children take us! This is the scary bit, but we don’t have to lose control of the conversation just because the children head down a rabbit trail. There are two types of rabbit trails – those on track, just with a different twist, or perspective than we would have thought of, or secondly, a rabbit trail that goes some place entirely different. If we have a specific goal then we need to think quickly and make sure we stay within the bounds of the goal we have. If our children go someplace else then it is up to us to decide – do we go there now, or do we go there another time. There is nothing wrong with keeping our children on track with the topic at hand, but if we don’t come back to that rabbit trail then we will eventually squash their inquisitiveness and their willingness to participate.
This last point is really the key difference between a fill in the blanks type of study and a discussion study. A good discussion leader will know their stuff but will also be willing to learn new things (because they may not know the answer to a question, or they may not know the content for the topics that come up). A lecture is defined, the lecturer knows what he wants to say and there is no more to say on the matter. A discussion leader never knows what is around the corner.
Are we prepared to let our children interact with the things we want to teach them, to ask us questions and to find applications together? It is much easier to deliver a lecture and be done with it, but the learning will be so much shallower.