“Third and fourth graders are like sponges—eager to soak up whatever you have to teach them,” says Andrea Chamberlain, an editorial assistant for Regular Baptist Press. But she also admits that teaching middlers can be both exciting and exhausting. “By considering developmental characteristics of this age group and applying what you know to your teaching, your time with middlers will be rewarding for you and your students,” Andrea says.
Recognizing the specific needs of third and fourth grade students, Regular Baptist Press has developed a new two-year cycle of Sunday School materials that present “the whole counsel of God” using current teaching techniques, newly designed art, and activities that carefully consider the learning abilities of this age group.
Alex Bauman, editorial director of curriculum for Regular Baptist Press, points out important differences between the way first and third grade students learn in the classroom. Alex should know. In addition to his experience as a Sunday School teacher, pastor, and editor, his son Trent is in the third grade, and his son Grant is in the first grade. “Trent is reading through The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien right now, but a child entering the first grade isn’t much past their Dick and Jane reading phase.”
“In addition to the tremendous difference in their reading skills, third graders can sit and listen to longer lessons and understand harder Bible concepts,” Alex says.
Developing a new middler curriculum was a big step for Regular Baptist Press. When the first RBP curriculum rolled off the press in the fall of 1952, it was designed for “junior” students in grades four through six. The next year we added a “primary” level for grades one through three-—and these groupings were unchanged until the new middler curriculum was released last year. Now the curriculum is divided into classes for 2s and 3s, preprimary, primary (grades one and two), middler (grades three and four), and junior (grades five and six). Regular Baptist Press also has Sunday School materials for junior high, high school, and adults.
These changes allow us to focus on Bible survey during the middler years. While studying each book of the Bible, students collect pages for their Old Testament Suitcase—full of hands-on activities that review the previous week’s lesson (see the Old Testament tabernacle shown on page 36). “It’s a kid friendly way to teach the Bible,” says Alex.
“It’s really hard to review the entire Bible in two years,” admits Linda Piepenbrink, editor for the middler curriculum. “Because we can’t cover everything, we’ve chosen to focus on signature Bible stories that teach spiritual principles for today. We’ve coordinated these lessons with the rest of the children’s curriculum to give children a broad overview of the entire Bible.”
Sunday School students do not learn in a vacuum. By the time they reach the third and fourth grades, students have studied history in school and are learning to connect world events to the content of the Bible. The middler curriculum includes new classroom visuals that allow teachers and students to construct a Bible timeline on classroom walls—one that relates world history to Bible events that happened at the same time.
As middlers learn more about the world around them, they are able to begin serving in the church and in their communities. The new curriculum is written with this in mind, including suggestions for ministry activities.
Most importantly, the editorial team at Regular Baptist Press believes that third and fourth grade students are capable of understanding what the Bible says about sin, their own guilt, and the inevitability of their own death. As a result, the middler curriculum has a strong salvation emphasis, presenting the gospel of Christ as the only solution to humanity’s sin.
A new take-home paper is an important part of the program. Throughout the week, students complete a five-day devotional in the Truth Travelers paper they were given at the end of the previous week’s Sunday School lesson. These devotionals are carefully planned to cover the text and topics of the next week’s lesson.
This emphasis paves the way for changes in the junior curriculum. By moving the Bible survey into the middler years (it was previously taught in the junior curriculum), the new junior curriculum now features a sequence of lessons that systematically develop spiritual maturity and teach theological concepts.
Interested in learning more about the middler age group? Read Andrea Chamberlain’s article “Knowing Your Middlers” at www.BaptistBulletin.org.