Why atmosphere is important in the classroom

I read this blog post from the Washington Post this morning entitled Smart design + school = health. The final quote stood out to me:

“We really focused on what kids need. What I see in that space are kids gravitating to that atmosphere because they know it’s for them, about them. Everything is tailored to their needs.”-Dina Sorensen, project designer, VMDO Architects

Too often, when an architect or designer plans classrooms, they design for best use of space at the best price. What if we designed classrooms so they didn’t feel like an institution? What if we considered the return on investment if the classroom actually helped learning?

When it comes to church classrooms, this is especially important. No child wants to come to a place where it looks like a plain, boring institution. We like restaurants that have some atmosphere and kids like a place just for them that has a little atmosphere too.

I see churches do this all the time with Vacation Bible school. They go all out to make a week special for the children. It is especially good for a church to consider how to make their place welcoming to kids throughout the year.

We gravitate towards restaurants with a nice atmosphere. Churches need to consider how much atmosphere their children’s area has.

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Complementing a child goes a long way

Cartoon of a teacher saying to a student, "This is a great story. You should copyright it!"
(c) kevin@kevinspear.com

Cartoon of a happy teacher and student. The teacher says, “This is a great story. You should copyright it.”

It breaks my heart when I hear about an author who almost didn’t take up his craft because an English teacher once told her that she was a terrible writer. But it is inspiring to hear of those who heard that discouragement, yet overcame it and are authors today.

It is a shame when discouragement comes out of our mouths. I am as guilty as anyone else of spewing criticism to others. Unfortunately, it is too easy to do that in this world.

But a complement goes a long way. My fourth grade teacher encouraged me to consider drawing when complemented my part in a poster. I didn’t think of myself as an artist until that moment.

Be sure to give a sincere complement to a child when you have a chance. You never know how it will change his life.

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Do your kids struggle with memorizing something?

Cartoon of a boy with a mechanical thinking cap on his head


Cartoon of a boy with an industrial-looking cap on his head. He says to a a woman, “Thanks to my thinking cap, I’m going to win this year’s memory verse challenge!”

We are always looking for an easy way to do something. It’s usually the way innovation happens. We are always looking for ways to make something easier. We want to buy the latest gadget to make something in our lives easier.

Do your kids struggle with memorizing something like a Bible verse, the presidents of the United States or prepositions? Instead of finding a steampunk-inspired thinking cap, have your kids try these tips.

  • Get some index cards and have kids make their own flash cards. The very act to making the cards will help with memory. You can get creative and use images as well as words. This works with visual as well as kinetic learners. If a child speaks it while he or she writes it, it also helps auditory learners.
  • Kids can walk or use hand motions to help them memorize. It helps kids who learn kinetically to move as they learn. It also helps emphasize important passages.
  • Make a song out of it. Auditory learners may grasp something when it it put to music or a rap.
  • Be an example. Find something you want to memorize and try these techniques. You may find something that works for you also works with your child.

Even though we live in an age where we can search the Internet for a fact, memorization is still an important skill. Encourage kids to memorize facts and passages.

I drew this cartoon for Kidzmatter Magazine.

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Trouble on the Ceiling

Cartoon of a boy on a ceiling

Cartoon of one boy staring at another boy who is upside down. The boy on the ceiling says, “Today in class, I got in trouble for doing this.”

Kids can get in trouble for the most interesting things. There have been times when outwardly I’ve said, “Stop that!” but inwardly, I was thinking, “That’s amazing! I would’ve never thought of that!” Kudos to kids and their creativity!

Cartoon: Using Auto-Tune

Cartoon of a girl asking her teacher why doesn't he use auto-tune


Cartoon of a girl asking her teacher, “I heard you singing during worship. Why don’t you use Auto-Tune?

A similar incident happened to me once. A girl came up to me after I taught her class. She had helped me in worship. She informed me I made a better teacher than a singer. So I thanked her. What else could I do?

Sometimes in children’s ministry, you have to wear different hats. I used to fret about whether I was a good singer or a teacher. At least now I know I’m a better teacher than a singer. The only question remaining is, how bad of a singer am I?

Don’t answer that. I’ll let the kids critique me instead.

I drew this cartoon for K! Magazine.