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A few years ago we posted a poll question asking Rotation folks the following question:

"Do you include Jr. Highs in your Rotation Model?"

46% said "YES"

In the next post after this one, you can read some of the "comments" left in the survey.

Here's a summary of the subject of Jr. Highs in Rotation:

Over the years, many have discussed older children and young teens "in Rotation." Below is a summary of "what works" and what the challenges are.

Some churches have had success involving 7th and 8th graders in Rotation. Youth like creative learning, and enjoy changing rooms and teachers. But there are challenges (aren't there always with this age group?)

Keys to success include:

1. Making sure your teachers don't treat the Jr. Highs like little kids.  It has been suggested that in some churches it's a good idea to have a special teacher assigned to rotate with the Jr. Highs, to facilitate and nurture.

2. Adapting the lessons and activities so that they are "sophisticated" enough for young teens and respect their feelings about personal space, contact, and being judged by peers.

3. Young teens raised with the Workshop Model find it easier to STAY with workshops as Jr. Highs, than do Jr. Highs who are brand new to the Workshop Rotation Model. It's recommended that you "grow into" having Jr. Highs as part of your rotation.

4. Sometime workshops can/should be skipped by the Jr. High group and plan something different from them. Depends on the workshop and activity for that story rotation. You know your kids and their chemistry.

5. Make sure your workshop designs/decor are not too "young."  5th graders tolerate "cute" because they are used to seeing it in elementary school.  Jr. Highs tend to want to feel 'older'.  

6. Plan special topics and discussion. Young teens have developmental and spiritual needs that young children don't.  These special topics/needs can be planned to take place IN PLACE OF certain workshops, or in place of an entire four or five week rotation.

7. Some Rotation churches report using their "youth room" as one of their "workshops" that they rotate into. The use of the youthroom in your schedule of workshops can signal that you have a special speaker, activity, or discussion that's going to take place there.

Last edited by Luanne Payne
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We stop with 5th grade because another staff person is responsible for 6th-12th grade. Many parents -- and even 6th plus graders -- have wanted to keep going with rotation, though.

Neil responded: That's pretty typical, and a lot of youth ministry people don't want anything to do with "children's" programming and "lesson activities" -- which is a crying shame. I've met one too many leaders of youth who think their ability to "talk to kids" is the only way to teach.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen
Thanks for this question! We started rotations this year, and our 5th and 6th graders are together in class, but once our kids hit 7th/8th grade (which is a separate class) their attendence really drops. It's the one area that we haven't been succesful in this year. This is always a tough class for us. Is there a section on the exchange where this issue is being talked about, or does anyone else have some good ideas for hooking this older age group?
Thanks! Shannan
We include middleschoolers and want to keep doing so. Our kids this age still seem to want to come and participate in ss programming. Would definitely say we need help in accessing approp. age workshop variations for them. Would love to see or pinpoint more resources/suppport in this area.
We have two separate rotations. Both have 3 classes.
1st rotation - Toddlers (2-3, Kindergarten (4-5) & Primary (6-8)
2nd rotation - Juniors (9-11), Youth (12-14)& Teens (15-18)
Originally posted by Ken Wezeman:
How many of you include Junior High or Middle School (grades 6-8, 7-8, 7-9, or 6-9, depending on your school district or country) in your Workshop Rotation Model Sunday School? Feel free to make any comments in reply to this poll.

Even though we include the 6th and 7th grades it takes more planning for the 7th grade especially to keep them interested. Many times make a lesson plan just for them to keep them nvolved before their 8th grade confirrmaiton study year.
We just started using the rotation model in January 2004 and offer it for 1st-8th grades. We have a combined 6-7th grade class and our 8th grade class is also the class going through confirmation (which means they are required to attend SS each week). Our cooking/science class is probably the most popular with the age group, music the least popular. Our 6th/7th graders happen to be super competitive, so Jeopardy is always a hit with them. I am still challenged with each unit to come up ideas that will keep their interest, but luckily I have some great SS teachers who are teachers in their "real lives" and they like to offer suggestions to the curriculum I present to make it a little more challenging for this age group.
We continue to include Toddlers through and including grades 6,7,7 ("Middlers"--middle school in most of our school districts). We have faced many opportunities for adaptations as you can imagine with this broad a range of age groups. We are so encouraged by both ends of the spectrum for age groups because all involved are benefitting from the program and are having fun, even though it may not be "cool" to let others know that "Sunday School" (called BLAST at our church) is fun.
We include everyone from Kindergarten up (including a few High Schoolers) in our rotation in multi-aged groups. Our situation is a bit different than most because we are a mission (although all of us should consider that our focus, I think). We have 25-40 attending on a Sunday and divide it never into more than 3 groups (that's all the teachers and all the space we have). The multi-age format is much more like real life than a bunch of same aged kids together, although it does mean some lessons are more perfect for one end of the spectrum than the other. We try to have enough variety through the rotation that everyone has their style enough times to really get the message. Blessings as you develop your program. Sharon
We started doing rotation in August of 2003. We began with including the Jr. High. They seemed to enjoy the change although they felt some of the material seemed a bit below them. We then decided to give them the oportunity to teach one or two of the stations in the rotation and to then talk about their experiences.
I could use any information and lesson plans on teaching the 7th 8th grade kids for confirmation. We are in our 5th year of Rotation and the kids moving into confirmation need to have hands on...but we need it to be a bit more than regular rotation...It is a real challenge keeping this age group interested.
I would guess that we are of an average sized congregation. We do not include 7th, 8th, or 9th grade students in our workshops. We are very new to this rotation thing (we are coming to the close of our first year of Rotation Workshops). Our workshops end at the 6th grade level. Incidently, we do not include our Pre-School children in rotations, however, our Pre-School teachers does teach them on the same topic as the K-6 grades. She sometimes will take some of the information or activities that are used in our other workshops (Drama & Theater, Games & Activities, Cooking & Kitchen, Arts & Crafts, and Story Room) and will try to incorporate them for the Pre-Schoolers so that the material is at their age levels (ages 2-4). Sometimes this has been rather difficult, and other times it has been an easier task for her. We keep our Pre-School children in the same room each week and do not "rotate" them. We just rotate some of the material. One week they may do an arts / craft, another week they may do something similar to the kitchen. For our Jonah rotation, our Pre-Schoolers made Peanut Butter Sandwiches, then took Whale shaped cookie cutters and cut the "Whale Sandwich" out of the white part of the bread, leaving the crusts to break up and serve to the birds. our Pre-Schoolers don't do the Drama / Theater things because they have a hard enough time trying to learn the songs and memory verses that go along with each topic. It is our goal to try to have the children perform / sing songs during church at the end or close of each 5 week rotation.

We have talked about including our 7th and 8th grade students in rotations, but we have a more difficult time recruiting teachers and have determined that our 7th and 8th grade students need to be instructed more in the preparation for 9th grade. Our 9th grade students really choose not to be a part of our Sunday School - and are thus being instructed toward Confirmation instead. I think that if there was a curriculum out there to be used for 7th and 8th grades, that would be helpful. I do think it would be great if we could find some Pre-School aged (2-4) curriculum for that age level - as trying to fill an hour with not much of anything for their age can be trying.

I am so new at this position (I just took over the Superintendent / Youth Activities Director position as of January 2004 - so am still trying to learn the Rotation Workshop things.) I was not aware that there was a curriculum out there for any Rotations. I've tried to help my teachers by pulling information of the Internet as much as I could. I don't even know where to begin for setting up the Rotation Schedule for the fall / Winter / Spring classes for 2004-2005. I may be misguided, but curriculum to me means - books! Are there workbooks or something on that order out there for the Rotation Curriculum or is it just the lessons that are posted under the Ideas & Exchange? I will take any help I can find that makes my job and my teachers jobs easier.

Terri B. -
First United Church of Christ, Belleville, Wis.
We stop at 6th grade and wouldn't want 7th to be included in same rotation. But I think it would be great to use the format for their own class and use the centers for their OWN rotation since they meet at a different time than younger kid's Sunday School.

We have experimented with some rotational aspects this year with our middle-schoolers (6th, 7th and 8th). The 6th graders, who are comming out of our elementary rotation program love it. The older kids did not have rotation sunday school in the elementary years. They had a harder time adjusting.

We have about 25 regular attenders. We have tried breaking the group up into 3 grade levels, 2 mixed ages groups, with certain personalities intentionally split up, and one large group, rotating through workshops week by week. We haven't fully decided which system works best for us, but we are limited by space and teachers. Once the older kids got on board with the idea, it became easier to keep them all together. Before behavior problems prevented this. That says something about how they like rotation.

We have tried middle school age curriculum from Firelight, with mixed results. Special thanks to Kirk of Kildaire who so generously publishes their curriculum on their web site. It always goes over well.

Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm
We started using workshop rotation fall, 2003 with 1st thru 8th grades. We group 1st/2nd, 3rd/4th, 5th/6th, & 7th/8th. Next year, partyly because of a huge group of kindergarteners coming up, we will have 1st, 2nd/3rd, 4th/5th, & 6th-8th. We like the idea of having all the middle schoolers together. (Altho having 5th/6th together helped bridge the 5th graders coming up, and helped the 6th graders in their transition to mdsl.)
We have a 4-week confirmation/class 101 for youth in 6th-12th grades (whenever they feel ready to make that commitment) that we offer 2-3 times per year.
We were worried about doing middle schoolers, but found they truly love all the hands on. There have been a few workshops where we've really had to update the curriculum to work w/ them (we used Potter's Workshop Curriculum), but for the most part it has been fine and the kids love it.
Forgot to mention. I really think the clincher to success is to have shepherds for each group that are commited to building relationships with the kids in their group! They have helped the kids in their relationships w/ each other along w/ becoming very close to the kids themselves. You can teach the best lessons in the world, but if kids don't have a loving relationship w/ anyone there-they won't return.
6th Graders help "mentor"

We do 2 grades together, K-6. Since we had 2 5th grades classes, we put K & 6th together. Some 6th graders will like the rotation but they are there for "mentors" to the Kindergartners, especially good if the lesson suddenly seems childish to the 6th graders.

Our 7th & 8th graders are in Confirmation class, so there is no way they would be a regular part of rotation.

Susan Johnson
St. Luke Lutheran, Portland, OR
I have tried a few different things with the 6th - 9th graders. They drift away. I would love to have rotation lessons in keeping with the other children's themes but keep this newly emerging "youth" group to stick together with a team of leaders. It would realy help to have some lessons specifically designed for this age, i.e., The birth narrative through Isaiah's eyes or the Creation Story.
We do our Rotation a bit different. It is intergenerational. so the Jr High and Sr.High are included with the adults or as helpers with the younger children. This was our first year doing this concept. The review was positive in nature in that the adults loved learning together and were even surprised a bit that they liked the concept. But the games, food and hands on activinties were enjoyed very much by ALL ages. Kim
Yes, we have both ends of the age spectrum. We are in our 1st year & are including age 3yr-K, 1/2 gr, 3/4 gr, 5/6 gr & 7/8 gr in our groupings. Youngest love it; oldest find opening 'boring' & we are challenged to keep JrHi(actually 3-5 7th graders) interested. They like to help plan & organize games for younger classes. Usually like art; computer depends on software - plan to give month of June just in computer lab for them. Loved to do Christmas program which they videotaped in classes. Would like to see lesson plans developed for them.
We are in our second year of rotation and our original plan was to continue through 6th grade and then kids move into a youth program. The problem is that what youth program we have is abysmal, the 7th grade and up kids that we have that are basically unchurched and really like and are learning from the current program. Thus we are leary about moving them into a program that needs serious help.

Our problem is the youth that were here before we started WoRM. Frankly, I'm not sure they'd participate no matter what we'd do, or who would teach them.

What works okay for 7th and 8th grade is probably not going to work in a few years when these kids are older and in highschool, so we are looking for some way of adding onto the current program. We have looked to Faith Inkubators for help with confirmation and are very excited to be using that program this fall for that, although that doesn't entirely solve our connundrum of what to do during the education hour Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.

Our Rotation Sunday School includes Pre-school through 6 grade. Pre-school class has a designated room, "Lukes Little Angles" and that is where we do the lesson and some activities. Some days they may go to the arts and crafts area, kitchen, or movie. I adapt materials to suit them. They have one teacher who is with them all the time, plus helpers. Sometimes we will do an activity with the older rotations.
We do not include 7th and 8th grades. They are in confirmation and therefore they are "required" to attend a one hour class on Wednesday evenings and one hour of Sunday School in order to complete the confirmation material. This is done during the winter (during school months). For the most part the kids miss at least 50% of the time. Few show up for Sunday mornings. I don't feel they get much of anything out of the classes. I would like to see a curriculum designed for them. They are bored with sitting in class like they do all day at school. If we could include a mix of hands on "fun" learning material as well as tradition they might enjoy it more and learn more from it.
Our rotation model includes grades K-8. Before including our 7-8 graders, we asked them if they would like to "test" this new way of Sunday school. We asked them to give us a 3 month trial period and if they were not benefitting from it, they could return back to the old format. What we found is after 3 months doing the rotation style, they did not want to stop. They said they loved it and were learning much more than they had learned before. I had one 8th grader say she was able to witness to a Jewish friend about the Holy Spirit and the Trinity because we spent a month on this topic. She added that she would not have been able to explain this to her friend had she not spent a whole month learning about it. She reports that her friend is very close to make a commitment with Jesus Christ. Isn't that what we are all after. Praise God.

Helpful hints that we found worked for us: I give our teachers much lattitude with the materials they use. Each teacher is given 2-4 options to teach from. So in the drama room, our teachers can have 2-4 plays/puppet shows/interview styles to choose from. Our teachers know what works best for each age group. When writing the material, I give material that is suitable for younger children and a different spin for older youth.

Our rotation tried to include 6-8th graders and that lasted about a year and a half. They did NOT like it and wanted to be in the youth Sunday school class. Even some of the 5th graders thought the lessons were too childish (gotta love that age group). We tried modifying the lessons but they still didn't seem to like it that much. So now the age groupings include the 6th graders, but the 7th & 8th are now in the youth class.

A reply saved here: 

Interesting. Our pre-teens and early teens like our workshops. Perhaps it is the curric you were using? Or weren't modifying enough for older kids.

Another reply:

I've got a group of kids we ask every year what they think about doing workshops. Their only complaint is when we have to broadly grade them with younger kids. 7th & 8th graders don't often enjoy being around 5th graders.

Another reply:

My early teens will turn their noses up at art projects that are too simplistic. But they love games workshop, theater, computer lab.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Adding this new observation about Teens and Rotation:

A LOT of the Drama and Video Workshop lesson plans in the “new and improved” Writing Team lesson sets are =easily adaptable= for Jr High classes, even H.S. 

How do I know this? Because I helped edit all of them (2015-2017) and wrote many of them, ...and I’ve taught 6th-8th graders more than any other age group. 

Many of those WT lessons use YouTube videos, (good) Christian music videos. Quite a few include cellphone use and tricks  

A creative teacher of teens could cherry-pick from Writing Team lessons til the 2nd Coming.

WT lesson menu:

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

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