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Measuring Kids' Spiritual Growth

Christine Yount

Education without assessment is like spitting in the wind.

You pour so much energy into planning for kids' spiritual growth, but how can you be sure you're accomplishing all your lofty goals? First, you have to know your goal. Then you have to gauge whether you've accomplished that goal. Education without assessment is like spitting in the wind.

How can we ever know if we're really hitting our target?

Once a lesson or unit is completed, use these assessment methods to actually measure whether kids are "getting it."

1. Observations-Set up an experience where you can see the lesson objective accomplished in kids' lives. For example, if your objective is good sportsmanship, play a game of balloon volleyball after the lesson. Observe kids' sportsmanship.
2. Verbal Responses-Ask kids directly. If you've just studied forgiveness, ask them to tell about one person they've forgiven during your study.
3. Written Records-Have kids keep a prayer journal of letters to God. Review their work at the end of each unit to see how they're applying all they've learned. Or kids can create a send-home newspaper about the things they've learned.
4. Drawings-Have kids sketch a Bible story they've learned about, create a mural, or draw a cartoon strip. If you're dealing with a specific character quality, kids could draw how that character quality would look in different settings. Have kids use sidewalk chalk to illustrate their application of a lesson.
5. Projects-A lesson on giving? Have kids work together to create a project where they give to needy people. Give them plenty of decision-making authority.
6. Self-Evaluation Tools-At the beginning of the year, give kids a rating scale for a dozen faith-related items. For example, an item could be "On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate my faith in God as..."
Kids can rate themselves at the beginning and end of the year. Then they can evaluate how they've grown, what contributed to their growth, and areas where they can continue to grow.
7. Portfolios-Keep files in the classroom of the kids' work to show what they've been learning in class. Send the files home quarterly and have parents review their child's progress, sign a form, and return the portfolio to the church. Have kids write notes periodically in their portfolios to explain why they've chosen to save the work they have and how they've experienced growth in their faith.
8. Teacher-Student Conferences-Take a kid out for a Coke and ask three or four basic questions such as, "What's something you've learned this quarter in our class that's really made a difference in your life?" or "What's one thing that you've been able to apply from a Bible lesson we've done?"
9. Parent-Teacher-Student Conferences-At the beginning of a year, have the teacher explain the curriculum, the objectives, and the classroom management plan for the parent and child. Then have the parent and child explain things they'd like to see the child learn and grow in during the year. At the year-end conference, review these notes to affirm and celebrate all the growth that's occurred.
10. Small-Group Conferences-Have groups of kids assess their growth together. Give them three or four guiding questions for evaluation such as, "How well did we accomplish the objective? What contributed to our success? What hard things did we have to overcome? What would we do differently next time?"
11. Journals-Have each child keep an ongoing journal. Divide the pages into two sections: "What I've Learned" and "Future Goals." Have kids keep track of what they're learning and goals they're reaching.
12. Class Scrapbooks-Take photos of kids in action. Have kids actually put together a scrapbook and comment on the things they've done and the ways they've applied God's Word to their lives. Have children share their class scrapbook with visitors.
13. Faith History Projects-In booklets, have kids chronicle their faith history through photos, dates of important events, letters from people who've watched them grow spiritually, and their written observations. Have kids specifically note the things they've learned in class this year.
14. Video Projects-Have kids create videos that integrate the objective of the lesson or unit. Perhaps kids could adapt a parable into modern-day situations. Or children could videotape themselves performing a rap song that incorporates what they've learned.
15. Audio Projects-Interview each child at the beginning of the year with a list of 10 questions that'll reflect the things they should learn this year, such as "What is prayer?" Then use the same tape and list of questions for each child to record their answers at the end of the year. Have kids listen to and comment on the differences.
16. Living Bible Museums-At the end of a unit or several units, have kids create museum exhibits. They can dress as characters they've studied, create environments for Bible stories, or design interactive exhibits such as what a plague of frogs would've felt like. Wandering tour guides can be Bible characters who act out and speak in character. Invite other classes to the museum.
17. Story Boxes-Have each child fill a box with items that a Bible character may have had or used. Have children bring their boxes to class and have other kids guess who each character is.
18. Dramatic Presentations-Let the kids decide what kind of presentation they'd like to do-pantomime, musical, or one-act play. Then have them work together to create their drama and present it to parents. Encourage children to incorporate the things they've learned.
19. Living Bible Verses-Give kids a list of Bible verses that they need to "live out" outside of class. Once they've lived a verse, have each child and his or her parent sign a form detailing how the verse was applied.
20. Individualized Educational Programs (IEP's)-Use an IEP with each child. On a sheet of paper, list the areas of need a child has, your plans to help that child grow in those areas, and how you'll know if you've accomplished each objective. Keep children's IEPs in a file folder. Regularly pray over each child's IEP and evaluate the progress.
21. Teacher for a Day-After a unit, have children work in teams to develop a lesson on the topic for younger children. Then have them present their lesson plan to you and ultimately teach the lesson to a younger class.
22. Music-Have kids create a song that'd encourage others to learn the same things they have. Children can put the words to a familiar tune. Arrange for children to teach their song to the entire congregation-or at least to the children's church.
23. Show and Tell-Have children bring an object from home that illustrates the lesson's objective. For example, if children have learned about their importance in the body of Christ, have them bring something that shows where they might fit in the body of Christ. One child may bring a blanket to illustrate that she can provide warmth and caring to others.
24. Role Plays-After a unit, present scenarios that require the application of the lesson's content. Then have children work together to role play solutions to the problem. For example, if your lesson's content was on Christ-like communication, present several situations that require good communication and have kids work it out.
25. Sculpting-Have kids use different media to create sculptures that illustrate what they'll do to apply a lesson's objective to their lives. Kids can sculpt clay, aluminum foil, pipe cleaners, or paper.

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