No matter which inclusive format you select to use for your program, consistent instructional strategies are important to understand as you minister to those with special challenges, embracing the knowledge that all individuals can learn. Some learn at different rates, levels, or in different ways but everyone can learn. Understanding how those in your program learn best and making sure your instructional strategies are focused on that type of instruction will foster optimal learning with positive spiritual formation outcomes that is a key component to on-going success.
Most learners have primary and secondary optimal learning tendencies and therefore can benefit from a concept or topic being taught in more than one way. Taking this approach will also provide reinforcement and exposure to new ways of learning and promote conceptual growth that will build over time. Understanding how people learn will also assist you in making strong program selections for curriculum. However, when looking at curriculum, it is not necessary to reach for a special needs curriculum or a costly curriculum. Once you understand the instructional strategies, you can take a scripture or any Bible lesson outline and create a meaningful program to fit your challenges in ministry.
4 Learning Strategies
There are four learning strategies children’s ministers can use to teach all kids, not just children with special needs: visual, auditory, reading, and kinesthetic. When you take a concept or topic and present it in all four formats, each child’s style is covered. Using all four learning styles often allows many special needs to be met in a larger group through minor modifications to your program curriculum. This is a good method of instruction to be utilized in a small church setting where you may not have as many supports available for staffing. An effective way to utilize this method is through instructional stations that promote the corporate worship experience at the conclusion of the topic or concept taught. Many curriculums are written under these strategies or at least in a format that would make it easy to use in all four strategies for instruction that supports a framework for success with different ability levels in the same group.
Differentiated strategies promote instruction and support a framework for building on the learning styles of participants while supporting opportunities for different levels of abilities and talents to be utilized. The processing, constructing, and building of the topics are taken into account as part of the topic or concept presentation which is appealing for different optimal learning through God given talents. As a basic method of ensuring what is learned, how it is learned and evaluating through understanding demonstrated by the learner that is built upon individual ability, interest and preferred mode of learning is the strength of these strategies. This promotes and fosters growth in developing ministry for each participant as it allows them to share the story through cooperation and application with others. If your program calls for separate age levels that come together at the conclusion of ministry for joint worship, this strategy would be one to look at for optimal success with full inclusion.
Multiple Intelligence Strategies
Multiple intelligence strategies are instructional strategies that build on and support the idea that people are intelligent in different ways: nature smart, music smart, number/reasoning smart, life smart, and people smart, movement /kinesthetic smart, word smart or intra-personal smart, rather than just the IQ of cognition. If this is a starting point for instruction, then you are appealing to the God-given intelligence of the individual and thus are more relevant in instruction and assisting them to see their role in the ministry of communicating the story and bringing learning to their comfortable learning arrangement. While this type of instruction is very positive and outcome oriented for success, it takes a creative teacher who spends time planning with the team to connect the topic and concepts to all of these components within the defined timeframe for instruction. However, this strategy is very popular in keeping variety and diversified staff teams engaged in your program and great success has been realized in churches using it.
Most all of the noted religious publishers of curriculum give you the needed elements to put their curriculum into all of these strategies for instruction, even if that publisher does not necessarily support one overall strategy. Of course, there are many models that will combine these strategies in various models to find what will work best given the special challenges and talents your participants have. In your planning you’ll also need to identify the level of staff creativity from your support teams before team assignments are made for optimal success to be realized. Again, there are no one-size-fits all or even most, but the Holy Spirit will guide you to become relevant in your instructional strategies and equip those called to this ministry for His glory, which is our desired success.