Updated: May 25
If you are involved in organized ministry, either at a church or in a parachurch organization, there is always the possibility that a new student will join your group in the middle of your program. Is this a problem? Will new students feel singled out or left behind if they join other students that have already been learning through the classical model? When a new student joins into an existing classical classroom, it's true that they will lack the culture and content that the class has been cultivating, but there are some easy tools and tricks a classical instructor can use to help new students get up to speed and into the fold.
New Students in the Equip Phase
In the Equip (Grammar) Phase, classical methods automatically acculturate new students. While new kids won't know any of the memory tools such as songs, maps, or loci, group recitation of material that the class has already learned doesn't single out new students in the least. In fact, group recitation allows new students to join in and learn without having anyone pay particular attention to their lack of experience. Incredibly, reviewing content doesn't harm the experienced students that you already have: new students can feel free learning the content of new grammar while veterans continue to improve the knowledge they already have.
I'm very sensitive in my classes toward our new kids, so I always make it a point to say before any review song that we sing together in our 4-6 year-old class, "If you don't know the words, that's okay! Watch me and try to follow the actions! Then, as you get better and better, you can eventually get good at doing the words" The same sensitivity for new students can be brought to bear with any memory technique and any age group. "Let's review the loci we've developed in the past to learn this material," is just as legitimate, and review of memory methods only equips new students while strengthening veterans.
New Students in the Empower Phase
To incorporate new students in the Empower Phase, a little forethought and preparation are helpful. New students to your classroom may or may not have familiarity with the parts of the Bible that your class has already studied, and may not have any context for Exploration discussions or Exercise activities in class. However, context can be provided simply by making available to the class printed, factual material that your conversation or activity will be based on, either on individual pages or prewritten on a whiteboard or bulletin board.
If you will be working with content that the students need to know from the Equip Phase, provide that content to the class in written form and then quickly review it with the class prior to your subsequent activity. New students will have been exposed to the grammar and will be allowed easy access to it for the discussion. The additional reminder of the memorized content for your veteran students won't hurt them in the least - it can only reinforce the memorization of the material!
If you will be discussing a specific Scriptural passage, print out the passage and hand it out, teaching or reminding all of the students how to mark key words as you read (see page 131 in the Appendices in your Bible Quest book for information on Key-Wording). A new student may only mark a few words, but asking the class to share what important words they chose and why allows for a new student to contribute without revealing how many words they chose in relation to the rest of the class. This simple exercise also provides a little depth that the student can use in later discussion.
If you will be teaching (or reviewing) a specific Exercise, think through the step-by-step process any student would need to know to accomplish the task and put it where everyone can see it. Not only are new students well-served with an easy, bit-by-bit understanding of the task, but your whole class will benefit from having a ready-made tool that they can quickly refer to when needed.
New Students in the Expedition Phase
New students that join in with your Expedition class can benefit from any of the strategies for the Equip and Empower Phases as they gain familiarity with the Biblical content, but when it comes to doing their first Expedition, an easier project would be in order. Consider having new Expeditionists begin by helping fellow students produce an Expedition. Then, when they have some experience, ask them to present someone else's presentation. As new students wrestle with how to present the material, they will encounter ideas that may prompt them to ask questions ("How would they have said that?" "What did they mean by that?"), or provide fodder for the mentor to use to pose questions to a new student. Some examples of great, existing presentations that a student could present include:
Sermons in the Bible (you can't go wrong emulating Jesus!) such as the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 or Steven's defense in Acts 7
Sermons or speeches from great theologians or church leaders in the past
Papers or articles from theologians or missionaries
New Expedition students that present solid, existing content will benefit from blessings of imitation while gaining confidence in their presentation skills since they won't have to struggle to come up with what to say in the first place.
If a new student joins a classical model classroom, they need not feel singled out or left behind. Caring teachers can go the extra mile by considering new students as they prepare for their classroom time: make it your ambition to give new students the tools that they need without highlighting their lack of knowledge. Though a new kid in class will likely be unfamiliar with classical methods, they can be included and acculturated in a loving, learning environment that furthers the mastery of the whole classroom.