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In the midst of church youth-group class, directing your teen students can feel like a lost cause. This age group is filled with energy, and they are easily distracted by each other. But, the benefits of providing stimulating class activities outweigh the oftentimes taxing challenges. Creating and directing positive class activities for your junior-high youth group will create an atmosphere where students can learn while building meaningful relationships.
Icebreakers are games that help students get to know each other and feel more comfortable in a group setting. Some icebreakers involve brief introductions, sharing interesting facts about other students and movement around the room. A simple icebreaker is called Name Backwards. Ask students to introduce themselves by saying their name backwards. So Mary would introduce herself as Yram. This simple exercise provides lots of laughter and maybe even some fun nicknames.
Junior-high students have tons of energy and will seize any opportunity to run, jump or climb with enthusiasm. That is why high-energy games can be key to keeping this crowd engaged. High-energy games require space — a large room, gym or outdoor field. Always keep in mind that with any group of kids, there will be different levels of athleticism. You will need to choose games that are appropriate for all levels. So, for example, instead of playing a traditional soccer game, have students play soccer while walking like a crab. This will keep the kids laughing. Another fun, high-energy game, to be played outdoors, is volleyball. Instead of using a traditional volleyball, though, use water balloons. So, with these games, winning is not your priority. Instead, your goal is to engage the group and to foster connections between the kids.
Team-building games help junior-high students develop confidence and a sense of belonging within a group. A favorite team-building exercise is called the Human Pyramid. It is what it sounds like — in this activity, students use each other to build a human pyramid. The activity requires trust, creativity and enthusiasm. If you are concerned about safety and you want to avoid such physical activities, consider an exercise that deals with communication only. Have students organize the activity of your choice without any form of verbal communication. They must complete the activity without using any words, which means they must rely on each other; not just on their words. This exercise teaches students to really pay attention to their classmates. It also teaches them to work together to accomplish a task that may seem nearly impossible without the use of words.
Activities to Reinforce the Lesson
Junior-high students do well with active learning, so if the leader is teaching a lesson to the youth group, it is a good idea to accompany the lesson with a related activity. For example, if the lesson is about trust, leading the students in a line, blindfolded, will reinforce the topic. The students must learn to trust the person in front of them as they hold onto their shoulder. These types of activities don’t necessarily have to be physically active. Simply giving the students time for directed discussions following the lesson will reinforce the learning. Art projects, drama presentations, songs or mock game shows can also nurture creativity and enhance learning in a group atmosphere.
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