How traditionally organized Sunday Schools can take advantage of Workshop Rotation Model practices, philosophies, and creativity.
In a sentence, here are the Workshop Rotation Model's strengths that traditional models can borrow from: extra-creative lesson plans for "major" stories that are repeated for several weeks in a row with a different approach each week.
Traditional Weaknesses ⇒ Creative Opportunities
Traditional curriculums change the story every week. This treats all stories as equal, even though most pastors and teachers would agree that some stories are more "major" and some rather "minor" -- especially when it comes to kids. For example: Moses > Gideon. Prodigal Son > Priscilla and Aquila. (I still remember the Sunday I visited a church where they announced, "this week the kids are studying Moses, next week Joshua."
As every teacher already knows, most published curriculums are uneven. They will have a good lesson followed by a weak one, or a good quarter followed by a weaker one. This is due to publishing practices and human nature. Even the best curriculums are subject to "teacher fatigue" when they grow tired of the same old approaches and format.
Church educators and committees have long tried to "spice things up" with off-curriculum lessons and special events. (Though Rotation folks would ask, "why not make the regular lessons special?) This is often in response to flagging enthusiasm and a recognition that the curriculum isn't so great all the time.
Once you "hold these truths as self-evident," it opens up possibilities of making a change in the teacher schedule -- weeding out the weak lessons and replacing them with better ones that complement and follow up on the stronger ones. This is something many teachers already do without permission. In the best case scenario their supplements are great. In the worst, they are play days.
Naming our problems and attempting to solve them is what gave rise to the Rotation Model. Change begins with honesty. And while "going full rotation" isn't the answer for many churches, employing some Rotation Model practices can help.
Here are some specific Rotation-inspired adaptations to traditional curriculum that MANY of our members are already using.
1. SWAP WEAK for STRONG LESSONS
Traditional Sunday School curriculums change to a new story or passage every week. Of those 52 lessons, many are simply weak. Rotation programs spend 3 to 5 weeks per story on average to gain depth but do so with extra creative lessons to excite and enhance learning and retention.
Adapt: Every month, pick out the one or two "WEAK" lesson plans in your traditional curriculum and SKIP them. Now add a lesson from Rotation.org that complements the two lessons you are keeping from your curriculum. ("Weak" = lesser or obscure passages or poorly realized lesson plans.)
2. REPLACE WEAK ACTIVITIES
Traditional curriculums tend to use THE SAME sedentary and "less than creative" techniques each week (crafts, worksheets). Rotation programs use a different creative approach each week, so we have lots of creative ideas in our Lesson Forums for major Bible stories.
Adapt: Identify ahead of time the weak activities in otherwise good lesson plans, and then scan Rotation.org for better activities that fit that lesson.
Adapt: Pick two classes a month to supplement your existing lesson plan with something more creative from Rotation.org.
- You might even ask a creative volunteer to be the person to prep that special lesson and come lead it alongside the regular teacher.
This is the #1 reason people come to our site for -- a better activity than their curriculum has given them.
3. SCHEDULE SPECIAL "ROTATION-STYLE" MONTHS or UNITS
Traditional programs tend to have "special lesson" times of the year where they move away from the staid curriculum. Due to the challenges of attendance and teacher changes, Spring and Summer can be a good time to schedule Rotation-style approaches.
Adapt: Pick a four week period (or two) every year where "everybody rotates" through a series of creative multi-week lessons on a MAJOR Bible story drawn from Rotation.org. Assign teachers to lead each the special lessons -- repeating it each week for a different class. (This rotating of kids is familiar to you from VBS and is what puts the "rotation" in Rotation Model). While you're at it, recruit new teachers to help you do these special rotations. This will not only gives your regular teachers a break, but your kids and their parents something exciting to look forward to.
Adapt: Pick two or three weeks during the summer for a series of special Sunday School lessons about one great Bible story -- cherry-picking the lessons from Rotation.org (which many of our members do).
Did you know that our Writing Team Lesson Sets can function like Vacation Bible School or special Summer curriculum, ...and that many of the Team's workshops can be adapted into intergenerational events? It's true!
4. CREATE A SPECIAL "WORKSHOP-INSPIRED" ROOM or LEARNING SPACE
Adapt: Designate a special room or space that classes are invited to come into per a schedule. This "workshop" is staffed by a special volunteer who has developed a terrific lesson on a subject or story you have deemed to be important. The teacher who brings their class into this space acts as an assistant. The teacher who leads the lesson makes it better with each passing week as they adapt it for different ages.
This can be done on a regular basis, or a few times a year.
Kids love having a special Sunday and place to go to. In Rotation we call these special rooms "workshops" and they are decorated around either the theme of the story or the learning approach (a theater or art room or game space. An Exodus village or seaside with the Savior). This decor is part of what makes Rotation learning attractive to kids.
Learn more about Workshop Rotation Model principles and ideas.