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Different Classroom Settings

 The Multi-Age classroom

 Multi-age classrooms are undoubtedly a challenge, but they can also be a wonderfully rewarding and effective environment to sow the seeds of Christianity.

 For decades the educational community has shunned the multi-age classroom in favor of the industrialized segregation per ages and abilities. In recent year, however, multi-age environments have been brought back to life, and now even hailed as more effective and more efficient.

In fact, many parents now seek out a multi-age classroom for their children knowing that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

The Sunday school experience is no different.  It is also, many times, the absolute necessity as smaller community churches are utilizing limited meeting spaces, are catering to small but varied ages of students, or are lacking volunteers.

Foundations believes that a multi-age classroom can be as effective as a traditional classroom, and has intentionally designed their program to work in either setting.

However, to a new teacher there are questions and concerns that might arise. For example, how do you structure the class when you have four toddlers one week and three five-year olds the next?  What if you have children younger than two in your classroom? What do you do when the children are not interested in the stories because they are too young?

All of these questions are valid. The biggest challenge of a multi-age classroom is the various ages and ability levels. Placing children from infancy to six years in a single classroom may seem outlandish, but it is actually beneficial for all ages.

Five and six year olds are starting to understand the value of helping others and often act as “big buddies” to the toddlers in the room. They can help with snack, cutting out crafts, and act as leaders. This added responsibility creates a sense of meaning and helps them developmentally to mature and grow.

Three and four year olds are in the middle, enjoying the attention of the older children, yet learning to share toys with the younger ones. Here too they have an opportunity to be the “big kid” and show how much they have learned.  Developmentally this enables the threes and fours to understand the difference between young toddler behavior and what is expected at their age.

The twos and younger relish the attention and example of the older children around them. For infants and toddlers who do not have older siblings, this environment is a treasure trove of learning! They eagerly try to behave and do everything the older children do.

Collectively this environment provides opportunities for everyone to have a special role.

Perhaps the biggest question in a multi-age classroom pertains to the reading of the stories.

When circle time arrives, everyone helps clean up. At this time the older kids are often asked to be in charge of a special segment (for example, Connor is in charge of the cars, Dane is in charge of the track.) Everyone helps, but the older children are the leaders.

When the room is in order, everyone (even the smallest child) is brought to circle. The very little ones are placed next to older children who will help them, or placed on the laps of adults.

We sing the song, (and extra if desired) say the verse together, pray, and read the story. The sum total of circle time rarely exceeds ten minutes (the attention span of any child under five) and most children are in rapt attention.

Sometimes a wiggly toddler will stand or walk away, this is perfectly acceptable after some gentle coaxing to stay.  We remind the older students that they are just little boys and girls and it is o.k. for them to leave the circle.

Meanwhile the singing and reading continues.

A note about the stories: they are short and to the point with lively pictures and words. Very rarely is a Foundations story longer than 7 pages.  Most of the stories can be read in less than three to four minutes, allowing even the youngest child to sit and digest the contents.

This is a valid and enjoyable exercise for the young child. Listening to stories helps in the development of language as well as future reading.  Most children, even the youngest, love to hear the stories read to them, even if they don’t understand the contents directly.

When it is time for craft, all of the mid and older children understand and eagerly flock to the already prepared table. We allow them the time and space to do the craft alone. Most of the crafts are simple and quick, relating completely to the story. Therefore it doesn’t take long for them to finish and move on.

At that point we will individually ask the youngest students if they want to do craft, then help them considerably in the process.

Many Sunday school teachers feel guilty if a child elects not to do a craft. At any age this can occur.

Foundations philosophy is that each child is an individual with different talents and desires. We do not force any child to do a craft if they choose not to take part. Furthermore, we will not finish, fix, or produce the craft for them.  Parents can electively take home the craft parts and pieces, but it is better to be honest and let the children choose.

Most parents were not surprised when we informed them that their child did not want to do a craft, it is often the personality of the child or the daily mood that dictates their desire to create a craft, and that is perfectly acceptable.

Other children do the craft, and then extend it. They do more than one, or make up their own craft. All of these are valid options, as long as the division of supplies is accounted for.  In some cases over eager crafters need to wait until all of the children have had the opportunity to finish.

The Traditional Classroom: 

All this conversation about multi-age classrooms doesn’t diminish the importance of single age/grade classrooms in larger churches. Because smaller numbers of students is ideal, the goal would be to clump like ages in bigger facilities. This is perfectly acceptable and quite normal.

With the more difficult issues of catering to such a varied age groups gone, the single age classroom can explore the stories, questions, and crafts in a deeper fashion.

Furthermore, the Foundations curriculum can be modified to fit the specific age of the class. For example, in a toddler class the toddler version of the story is read, the crafts are prepared ahead of time and extremely simple, and the more emphasis is placed on singing and playing.

Conversely, in an older class the craft is extended, deeper questions are posed and more time is spent understanding how the story relates to the individual child.

Foundations is ideal under any circumstance, whether multi-age, single age, or a combination of all classrooms. It works because of its simplicity, repetition, and connectedness to parents.


Crafts: A Quick Sketch

Crafts are an inevitable piece of the Sunday school experience, however in traditional curriculums they are used as filler, entertainment, or to impress the curious parent.

The Foundations curriculum uses crafts for two simple reasons: to reinforce the story that was read, and to provide a talking point for parents and teachers. Foundations projects are not meant to impress, in fact, they error on the side of simplicity.

It is the belief that children should not be “performing” their knowledge base or skills, but they should be exploring the ideas presented to gain further knowledge. That premise drives the creation of all Foundations’ crafts.

Most crafts are taken directly from the pages of the stories. For example, in the month of Easter, week 2, the story is “He Has Risen.”  This tells the story of Mary going to Jesus’ tomb and finding him missing. The stone had been rolled away. The corresponding craft is this exact picture, with the angels inside the tomb and the rock rolling away (using a dowel attaching a rock to the picture.)

The craft, therefore, reinforces the story of Mary’s experience, providing a retelling (by the child) of the story in their words, and creating a talking point to the parent about what was learned.  During the process of making the craft, the teacher can discuss further the details of the story and what the child has learned.

It is hoped, then, that the picture is taken home and used throughout the week in conjunction with the story. The Parent and child can discuss the picture, the story, and the child’s feelings about what they have learned.

In this way, the lessons gained are not confined to the four-minute story time presentation during Sunday school, but are expanded to the craft experience, the pick-up moment with the parent, the home lessons, and future discussions about the topic.

The first week a month craft is to create the verse in a placard/ picture format. This exercise creates a prop for parents to display and use for the month. It can be approached in an identical manner every month (that of providing the verse and a box full of decorations to design the sign) or it can be individually created. It is essential, however, that this be the first activity of the month.

Finally, the crafts found in the Foundations curriculum were created for multiple ages of children. Younger children should be given proper guidance and not be provided small parts or pieces, as they could be a choking hazard.

Older children should be challenged to expand the craft to their abilities, perhaps writing additional information or adding additional information to the craft.  In some cases the craft directions provide additional or alternative activities, but it should be noted that it is the teacher who is ultimately in charge of the classroom and should supervise the children appropriately, modifying crafts where necessary.

This is the basic craft supply list that is needed to use our craft activities each week.  In other words, if you had these on hand, you would be set for the year.






Popsicle sticks

Colored Construction Paper

White Construction Paper




Cotton Balls

Hole Punch

Tissue Paper (various colors)



Small paper bags


Felt Pens (optional)

Box of Decorations: Buttons, noodles, stickers, pom-poms, beads, sparkles, etc.