Multigrade Instruction in a Religion Class: A Reflective Entry on How an LDS Institute Class Is Held

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So, I’m the teacher of a religion class. For more than half a decade, I thought I had it all under control. But I don’t think control is a proper term that teachers should even use. Through our readings since Module 1 till the third, I had many realizations that I know would help improve the way that I facilitate a class.

I would like to divide my eJournal entry in three sections according to the Module 3 essentials –

  • Planning a Multigrade Lesson
  • Classroom Management
  • Assessment and Evaluation

Planning a Multigrade Lesson

Lesson planning, to me back in the day, means sitting down, reading the lesson, and plotting a way to present it to the class. Now, the preparation means creating a learning environment that’s conducive to gaining wisdom; mixing various teaching methods and discovering along the way which ones actually work in one’s class; even understanding the psyche of each of the students.

There is no particular classroom setup that is considered perfect for every lesson or class. Prepping the classroom begins with the teacher’s vision on how to best organize the space insomuch that the learners can freely move and activities held. The arrangement for chairs and tables are flexible.

In my recent classes (I hold my religion class weekly), we’ve been moving around a lot and the students feel more energized because of this.

My lesson preparation also includes the organization of groups and activities. Groupings are done differently each time. One time, the students simply count-off from 1-4; at times, they are grouped according to sex; and oftentimes, they are grouped according to their skills (with each skill or intelligence amply represented in each group). As to the assessment of my students’ intelligence and skills, I had them fill out a survey form a few semesters ago wherein they simply tick-off the things that they are most interested in from the list. I also make it a point to visit my students prior to the beginning of each semester so that I get to talk to their parents and see how they are doing in their homes.

As to the roles that are assigned to each of the group members, the more participative students can be assigned as leaders while the more reserved ones ask to be assigned as collaborators since they are more comfortable in having someone else lead them.

I tried assigning the more shy ones as leaders in our past lessons but it only proved to eat more of our time as they ended up twitching and feeling uncomfortable as they reported in front of the entire class. Thinking that they needed to take baby steps, I decided to assign them as leaders during buzz sessions. This approach proved to be more successful as the less participative students tried to lead their own groups but only a selected number of students have seen them lead. The pressures of presenting their point in front of the whole class are still too much for them.

Again, baby steps, when I go around and see them becoming more expressive, then I’ll give them another shot at classroom-wide leadership.

With regard to planning my timetable, I observed that it is, indeed, helpful that a reporter or two help out in a section of the lesson. Also, some of the more active students are assigned to help some of their less active classmates (those who are enrolled but are not regularly attending their weekly class) in their Scripture reading and in answering their student manuals.

I am not normally comfortable with delegation since I like to do things my way but as I progress, I realized a whole new meaning for the saying, no man is an island. My teaching load became easier as I relaxed and tried to share the responsibilities. Peer tutoring came as a huge help as did leadership roles assigned to some of the students.

The class presidency (composed of the class president, first and second counselors, and a secretary) has helped me a lot in facilitating many of our class activities.

Classroom Management

Classroom management is fundamental in holding successful classes – it has a critical role in the learning process. One of my key roles as a teacher/facilitator is to create as much impact on my students’ learning achievements. Of course, a poorly-managed classroom will only create chaos in students’ minds rather than evoke learning.

In simpler terms, I would like to summarize my ways of classroom management – acceptable behaviors are rewarded. As I already shared in our discussion for the third module, I am blessed to have a class that does not show bad behaviors. It helps that it is a religion class, also, that they are already young adults and there are even some who are older adults who sit in so everyone’s showing their best Christian behaviors. The farthest that I’ve gone is to put a finger to my lips to quiet someone.

At the beginning of each semester, the whole class convenes and the students share their expectations on three things – the lessons, the teacher and their classmates. They come up with their own rules where class interruption, disrespect and other such proof of unruliness are unwelcome.

As their teacher, I also make it a point to communicate what I expect of them. This semester, some of our repeated rules are (as shared on our discussion forum) –

A.      Respect self, your classmates, the teacher and the learning environment.
B.       Put cell phones and other gadgets on silent mode.
C.      Raise your hand when asking a question or when answering one.
D.      Make efficient use of time by staying on your tasks.
E.       Open your minds to new learning.
F.       Bring your Scriptures, notebook and pen in every class.

Recognition and Rewards

  1. Recognition of most behaved student during the end of the semester. Special gifts are usually given away such as religious DVDs and music CDs, books, etc.
  2. Tickets that they can bank and eventually use to claim small tokens such as potato chips, a packet of candies, etc.

Assessment and Evaluation

The curriculum for our Institute classes requires an end-of-semester essay for each of the enrolled students. We call this the Elevate Learning Experience activity. The students are given nine questions but they are only required to answer at least three. Those who are inspired to answer more than three questions are also welcome to submit their lengthier essays.

Elevate Learning Experience asks them to answer basic theological questions such as – which miracles of Jesus Christ in the New Testament influenced your faith the most? They are then asked to quote additional scriptural verses that would support their answers, explain how the religious principle can be applied in their day-to-day lives.

A Certificate of Completion is given to students who completed 75% of their attendance; answered 75% of their student manual; read 100% of the scriptural blocks; and submitted the Elevate Learning Experience essay.

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