Topics v. Skills
It’s been interesting going from private school to public school. I taught in a private school for 14 years. You’d think I would know how to teach in a public school. Nope! That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I spent four years learning the curriculum of public schools. I’ve been analyzing for four years now what is the biblical worldview of lesson planning. I have decided that when you have a biblical worldview of lesson planning, there’s a difference between topics and skills.
You see, in private school, we talked about what topics we wanted our students to know. In public school, it’s all about teaching specific skills. One example is to determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details. Another example is to recognize that in a multi-digit number, a digit in one place represents 10 times as much as it represents in the place to its right and 1/10 of what it represents in the place to its left.
This is a totally different approach than private school, but as a Christian teacher in a public school with a biblical worldview, how can I integrate what I believe to be true about what I should teach. Teaching grade-level skills is great. Teaching topics is also great, but which one do I focus on in my lesson plan? You might also be wondering how do I integrate my Christian worldview in my lesson plans? I don’t want to and shouldn’t have to compromise my own values and professional training as a teacher.
A Biblical Perspective for Public Schools
So, one of the things I try to do as a Christian teacher in the public school is to decide in advance, what the truth is behind the skill. If I want my student to determine the main idea, I ask myself, “of what?” Of what do I want my students to determine the main idea? I’ve been given the curriculum. It’s filled with stories I could use. Additionally, they come with vocabulary, lesson assignments, and much more. It’s a complete curriculum, but how complex does our teaching need to be?
I have a master’s degree in education with an emphasis on curriculum design. I should know, but what I tried to do those first four years with my lesson plans was impossible. No matter which way I looked at it, I could never cover or teach all the skills the school was expecting me to teach. My training was from a Christian perspective. That’s actually all I know. In other words, it’s what I’m an expert at, but it didn’t work in public school. The more I learned about how the school uses curriculum, the more I saw biblical principles, not skills.
I look at this situation of lesson planning and see truth everywhere. There are some lies but mostly truth. The challenge I have as a Christian teacher is how to emphasize or highlight the truth. The truth is transcendent. It’s why I teach. It’s what students should know and understand about the skill. Public school teachers in general can’t argue with that.
Teaching Truth in Public School from a Biblical Worldview
Teaching truth in a public school from a biblical worldview is much different for me now. I know exactly how to teach the skills but emphasize the truth or biblical principles. Consequently, when I do my lesson plan, I plan units of study as outlined in the school’s pacing guide but what I emphasize is truth and biblical principles without ever using the Bible. It’s my worldview. I teach according to my worldview.
Questions about Biblical Worldview Lesson Planning
Now, you might be thinking, what does a lesson plan actually look like from a biblical worldview? How is it different on paper and what does it look like in the class?
Answers about Biblical Worldview Lesson Planning
When I lesson plan from a Christian perspective, I definitely need to know what chapters and lessons I want to teach. All good lesson plans will have that. The Christian perspective on that part of the lesson planning is the principle of order. There is a time for everything. Lessons from a curriculum don’t always have to go together. They can be taught in a sequence that makes sense, is logical, and guards against confusion. The other aspect of lesson planning is teaching truth. In my lesson plans, I know what the focus should be. I know that the skill is just a vehicle or conduit for truth.
Examples of Biblical Worldview Lessons: Reading
So, let’s say I’m teaching the skill of determining the main idea. I teach how to find the main idea using key details, but then I find texts that have a main idea that I want to focus on. If there’s a story in the curriculum that is blasé or void of the meaning of life or contrary to biblical principles, I find something that has a main idea that is meaningful and moral. The school doesn’t tell me exactly which stories to teach for teaching the main idea so I have the ability to choose whatever story I want. They recommend I use the curriculum but I don’t have to.
Now that’s just one example of one aspect of my lesson planning. You might be thinking, “What do you do to teach biblical principles in math?” I definitely teach the math skills as they are listed but the difference for me as a Christian teacher is how I teach those math skills.
Example of Biblical Worldview Lessons: Math
When I look at the math curriculum they have a lot of worksheets and a lot of activities that help students learn. On the contrary, I spend more time on practicing the skill according to the method that I have been taught long ago during teacher training. The reason I do that is because the curriculum format doesn’t always work for every class. We all know that. Besides, using a new curriculum can take several years to master someone else’s methods.
Find a method that works for your class and use it. Using a curriculum to the “T” is not a biblical idea. We are not robots to follow what someone else says. They might have a lot of wisdom, but we should go into it thinking for ourselves. I know that’s not terribly specific but it is my challenge to you as a Christian teacher in a public school. It’s an idea, something to think about, and a starting place.
Example of Biblical Worldview Lessons: Social Studies
Social studies is the most interesting subject I plan for. In our school, we don’t have a formal social studies curriculum. This subject is not a tested subject in terms of standardized tests. It’s a perfect opportunity to teach our students biblical principles of social studies from an American, patriotic perspective.
Why use an American, patriotic perspective? Using an American, patriotic perspective in teaching social studies, is the perfect opportunity to help students understand America’s form of government and the principles that make it a great nation.
In today’s world, so many people don’t teach social studies or want to emphasize cultures and sociology. As a Christian teacher I think it would be more important to teach early American history so that students grow up understanding the truth about this nation that they are being educated in. Students should know topics that are important.
There are nationally recognized social studies skills and standards, but students aren’t learning topics that have to do with truth that matters in life. We have the perfect opportunity to teach truth that matters. No matter what grade I am teaching I make sure and make time to teach four main topics of social studies (see below). Since we don’t teach social studies a lot, I want to make the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time.
1) the Pledge of Allegiance and the geography of America, which would be a whole other topic about how to teach that from a biblical worldview,
2) The pilgrims, which were the first colonists to establish typical principles and Christian self government,
3) George Washington and the American revolution, which is a great time to emphasize character as it relates to The service of others, and last but not least,
4) the US Constitution, which students need to know in order to live as a citizen or resident of this nation.
That’s where the teaching of topics comes into play as a Christian teacher. If students don’t have a proper understanding of the history of early America, our nation will fall.
There will be more specific information about principled lessons in the coming weeks and days. You can also find resources on my teacher pay teachers website.
Encyclopedia of Bible Truths for School Subjects
When I plan my lessons, I am mindful of all the truths I could teach. There’s a wonderful resource I have used entitled “Encyclopedia of Bible Truths for School Subjects.” It’s got so many ideas of truths we could incorporate.
There are a lot of references to God and I would advise you not to use those explicitly unless you are referring to history and someone’s faith, but you can most certainly use the ones that are generic non-spiritual truths. There are over 30 subjects listed from your core subjects to ancillary subjects like art, music, and PE. One of my favorites is about life science, more specifically, zoology.
One of them states, “Our knowledge of the origin of life comes from God alone.” One way you as a Christian teacher can say to your students in science class is that there are two views of the beginning of life. The first view is that man came from or was formed from the dust of the earth, according to the Bible.
The second view is that man came from animals. You can give the main points of each and tell students to decide for themselves. You’re not telling them what to believe, but you are equipping them with the knowledge that there is more than one view. I actually learned this exact truth in 7th grade in the public school in 1984.
Another truth in this book is plants, animals, and man were created with a specific purpose. If you’re studying a frog, teach students the purpose frogs have on earth. Teach them what they do, why they do it, and how it benefits the world.
My top favorite truth to teach in science as a Christian teacher in the public schools is “Man has the ability and responsibility to rule over the animals.” First, this teaches students that they don’t have to be afraid of animals. They can be cautious but not afraid. Secondly, students need to take care of animals. Everybody loves that. They should study animals, and plants also, deeply. They should observe and note all the details to appreciate their beauty and discover how to take care of them.
This book on biblical truth has tons of bible verses to support the truths, but you don’t need them to teach the truth. Search for these truths and apply them in your class as you see fit. When it comes to integrating a biblical worldview in your lesson planning, look for truth in what you’re already doing or find one lesson you already have and ask God to show you the truths He wants you to teach.