Introduction to “Child Sensitive Teaching”

The sign on the wall beside the Sunday school classroom said,

“Teachers are invited guests.
Parents are the real teachers.”

Whether you are the parent or the classroom teacher, the challenge remains the same:  How do we guide our children into a strong and lasting relationship with God our Father, with His Son, Jesus, and with His Holy Spirit?  The question is all about communication.  How can we communicate most effectively?

Teaching is not just dispensing information, it’s touching lives.  It’s not just managing a classroom or a household, it’s uncovering the path to life.  It’s throwing open the doors to God’s kingdom and saying, “Have you met my Father?  Have you met His Son?  Let me introduce you and then, let’s both get to know Him better.”

When it comes to communication, there are many factors for a teacher to think about: curricula, methods, materials, facilities, schedule, co-workers, classroom management techniques.  All of these are important and are covered in this book.  But nothing is as important as the child and your relationship with him or her.  Your relationship with the child will affect all the other factors and will determine the effectiveness of your communication.

So while Child-Sensitive Teaching focuses on understanding the child and his needs, it also deals with preparing your heart and mind to communicate with children.  It also suggests practical methods and techniques to support your communication skills.

I pray that God will go far beyond these black words on white pages.  I pray that God will guide you deeper into relationship with Him and bring to your mind ways to communicate His heart to the specific children you work with each week.  I pray that Child-Sensitive Teaching will be a springboard for your own God-given vision and creativity.

–From Child Sensitive Teaching. Copyright © Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

The Paper Cross

(By request, I am providing this creative storytelling device. It is found in my book 100 Ways to Teach Your Child about GodEnjoy! -Karyn)

TELL this story using a piece of plain white paper.

THERE was once wealthy man who had everything he could want. But he also had something he didn’t want. He had an empty feeling inside. So he thought about what could make him happy. He decided that if he bought a sailboat, he’d be happy.

Fold one of the top corners down, making a diagonal fold that looks like a sail. (The top of the page should line up with one side of the page.) So he bought a boat and went sailing. And he was really happy. For a little while. The empty feeling came back. He thought and thought and finally decided that if he had a new house, he’d be happy.

Fold the other top corner down to make a pointed roof. So he bought a new house. It was on a hillside. He could watch the sun set from his window. And he was really happy. For a little while. The empty feeling came back. He thought, ‘Staying at home is not good for me. I need to travel.’ So he bought an airplane.

Fold the figure in half vertically, turn it so that the fold is at the bottom, and fold down the top sections to make wings. He flew all around the world and saw so many wonderful things! He was really happy! For a little while. The empty feeling came back. He thought, “Flying around is for the birds. I need to do something unique. Something most people never get to do. I’ll take a rocket ship into space!”

Tear the wings off the airplane and open the center fold so that it looks like a rocket ship. So he took a rocket ship into outer space and saw the world very small below. He was very happy. For a while. The empty feeling came back. He looked and looked, and he finally found that there was only one thing that would make him happy.

Unfold the figure to see a cross. And how long did it last? Forever!
(Adapted from an unknown source)

Featured Folder: “God Made Animals”

What a wonderful variety of animals God made for us to enjoy! Huge elephants, tiny catepillars. Animals that snort or growl, chirp or bark, buzz or mew. Animals that fly or crawl, tunnel or swim, leap or creep. They are the other living creatures that inhabit the earth that God made for us.

Theme Scripture: “God made the . . . animals.” Genesis 1:25 (ICB) Help the children remember this verse by asking them to act like lions when they say it. Then say it again, acting like monkeys. Ask them to say it again, acting like frogs. Continue as long as they are interested.

Unit Goals: By the end of this unit, the child should:
• Know that God made animals.
• Feel thankful and joyful.
• Thank God for making animals.

Bible Stories
• Creation (Genesis 1:20-25) Focus: God Made Animals.
• Adam Names the Animals (Genesis 2:18-20) Focus: God made animals and let God name them.
• God Talks to Job (Job 38:1-3; 39; 42:1-3) Focus: God made animals.
• Solomon Knows About Animals (I Kings 4:26-34; 10:22-29) Focus: We can learn about the animals God made.

Art Activities:
-Paper Plate Fish
-Lollipop Giraffe
-Thumbprint birds
-Animal Prints

Science Activities:
-Animal Discovery
-Whose Ears?
-Animal Tracks
-Fast and Slow

-Animal Crackers
-Animal Cookies
-Cracker Duck

Music & Movement:
-Zoo Walk
-Monkeys at the Zoo
-The Keeper at the Zoo

-The Memory Game
-Duck, Duck, Goose
-Two by Two

This folder is designed to give you the ideas you need to teach a unit about the animals Glod made. Mix and match the activities you want with the stories suggested, and enjoy!

BUY PDF DOWNLOAD of “God Made the Animals” $2.99
(sold as downloads only, print not available) Your purchase includes permission to reproduce the pages for ministry purposes at a single location, not for distribution to non-purchasers.

LEARN MORE about the Bible Learning Series

DOWNLOAD the Scope and Sequence for the whole series

Like a dandelion . . .

Like a dandelion, the child…

  • is full of potential
  • is carried by the winds that influence his life
  • can be rooted and grounded in the soil of love
  • digs deeply into what nourishes him
  • grows quickly and steadily toward what enlightens him
  • can be tenacious, holding onto life with all he’s got
  • can wither if he’s uprooted, or if the soil does not provide nutrients
  • can be resilient, bouncing back from hardship
  • can grow to spread seeds of himself–his ideas–near and far
  • must bloom to become all he’s meant to be
  • sometimes looks like a weed, but is really a flower


“Children need roots to grow and wings to fly. The dandelion has both.”

© Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

Ten Tips for Ages 8 through 11

Here are 10 things to keep in mind when teaching ages eight through eleven:

1. They want to be busy doing productive things. They enjoy projects. They learn best by touching and doing and seeing visual aids. Plan your lessons to include lots of activities.

2. They like to show their skills and abilities and want to feel like a valued member of the group. Delegate tasks to them when possible. Trust them to get the job done.

3. They are becoming spiritually sensitive and are beginning to see their need for God. Plan your content to address this need.

4. They want to see how God is real and how he relates to everyday life. They want to hear adults’ testimonies about how God is working in their lives, and they want to tell about what God is doing in their own lives. Invite adults to come in and share. Provide times for the children to share, too.

5. They continue to understand the flow of time. Even if your curriculum is topically oriented, explain the historical context of the Biblical passages used.

6. They easily feel inferior if they are put down or if they feel incapable. Use encouraging words as you coach them. Choose classroom activities that are age-appropriate.

7. They have a growing understanding of symbolism. They are increasingly able to understand deeper dimensions of faith, like lordship, stewardship and peacemaking.

8. They are able to sit still longer, but are still inclined to wiggle. Trust that they are listening even if they are not sitting still.

9. They are concerned about what’s fair and just and are more consistent about discerning right from wrong. Listen to them when they want to express their observations about justice in current events or in their personal lives. Be careful not to “correct” them, but accept their observations at face value. Honor their assessments.

10. They memorize more easily. Age nine is often called the “Golden Age of Memory”. These are the perfect years to ramp up the memory work. For scripture memory ideas see my Sword Fighting book.

May God bless your relationships with the 8 through 11 year olds in your life!

Happy teaching!



Originally posted 5/8/14

© Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

photo courtesy of

Seven Tips for Teaching Seven-Year-Olds

In my last post I talked about teaching six year olds. By the time those children turn seven they have changed a lot. Equipped with insights about this new stage you can continue to teach them with confidence and effectiveness. So let’s look at some basics about sevens:

1. Seven-year-olds understand the flow of time more accurately.
The second grader’s concept of historical events continues to develop into a more accurate understanding. A chronological overview of the New Testament, continuing from a first grade overview of the Old Testament, helps second graders see that the Bible is not simply a collection of stories told like Aesop’s fables, but is one whole meaningful story in itself.

2. Seven-year-olds are curious and want to discover.  They like codes.
Because of their inner desire to discover, try to include an element of discovery in each storytelling session, some sort of code, or puzzle. The children will listen to the story to discover the meaning of the codes.

3. Seven-year-olds need structure and rely on teachers.
Take time to plan and structure your sessions. Teachers play a key role in drawing children into activities as well as in guiding conversation toward an understanding of the theme of the session.

4. Seven-year-olds like to review.
Include brief reviews of previous lessons at the beginning and end of each session.  Create these yourself, or choose a curriculum that includes a review element.

5. Seven-year-olds like to be read to.
Sevens tend to be good listeners. It is a great age to read to them from the Bible, and other materials relevant to the lessons.

6.  Seven-year-olds often like to work by themselves or with a partner, but not often with a large group.
Sevens are more self-conscious so large-group activities may not be as interesting as working solo. Although they are hard workers, they can be moody and intense.

7. Most sevens write more clearly than they did when they were six.  
However, seven year olds still find it difficult to copy material from a white board.  And some, especially boys, don’t enjoy writing at all.  So it is a good idea to keep writing activities to a minimum.

Let me add more more general point about sixes and sevens: their emerging ability to comprehend the flow of time can be a huge advantage in teaching them the Bible chronologically. By giving children a broad look at biblical events in the order in which they happened, it sets the stage for future study of the Bible in its traditional out-of-sequence order. It is important for children to see the Bible as a whole story so that when they learn the books of the Bible and study the traditionally ordered Bible, they can know, for example, how the events of Jesus’ life fit together and how Paul sent letters to different churches and people as he traveled. They will begin to see how Jesus was and is at the center of God’s plan for bringing the world back to Himself.

Happy teaching,


6 Tips for Teaching Six-Year-Olds

Understanding the developmental characteristics of children at different ages is an important component of effective teaching. Here are six things to keep in mind about 6 year olds:

1. Six year-olds are beginning to understand the flow of time.
Sixes have a newly developing awareness that events progress from beginning to middle to end.  It is the perfect age to begin teaching the Bible in chronological order. Giving them a chronological overview of the Old Testament helps first graders understand that the Bible is not simply a collection of stories told like Aesop’s fables, but is one whole meaningful story in itself.

2. Six year-olds can distinguish between fantasy and reality.
Unlike preschool children who confuse fantasy and reality, six year olds can separate what’s real and what’s pretend.  While they still enjoy pretend stories, they enjoy real-life themes as well.  They are fascinated by the amazing and miraculous.  You can take advantage of this interest by emphasizing the amazing and miraculous real-life attributes and deeds of God as told in the Bible.

3.  Six year-olds want to have friends and to be active and productive.
Six year olds need to continue to have a variety of hands-on experiences to help them learn and remember.  They enjoy games and artistic expression. You can incorporate groups, activities, and productivity so that first-graders can take an active part in discovering biblical truths.

4.  Six year-olds have limited writing and reading abilities.
Boys of this age usually have more difficulty with writing than girls.  So make sure any reading is simple, and is either optional or done as a group so that children who have difficulty reading do not have to feel embarrassed.

5. Six year-olds like surprises.
Because six year olds enjoy being surprised, try to incorporate an element of surprise in each storytelling session.  Let the children take turns discovering the surprise element and then listen for how it applies to the story.

6.  Six year-olds are imaginative, curious, and enthusiastic.
They tend to be busy and noisy, and their enthusiasm often finds its way into competition.  Six year olds may be more interested in the process of an activity than in the finished product.  This often translates into speed and sloppiness.  Six year olds are usually in a hurry.  When planning lessons it helps to have a large variety of activites to accomodate the needs and interests of your sixes.

Whether you teach in home, church or school, this tips will help you be more effective in communicating with six year-olds. Happy teaching!




© Karyn Henley. All rights reserved