Confirm not Conform with small classes

This is the first year I've had a CnC class with just a couple of kids in it. Most times we've had 10 or even 20 kids, but this year for a variety of reasons we have 2. Boys. And it's really different. But I know there are a lot of groups out there with just a few kids so here are some techniques I use to get the most out of a minimal group.

First of all, I am making sure I'm better prepared to lead the class because I can't read from the curriculum as much as I can when there's a class full of people. In order to stay connected with these two boys, I need to know what I'm planning to do and what I'm doing right now. It's the same for the kids. When they're in a big group, they can space out and then come back when they're ready. With a small group where they are always getting attention, they can't. They're always on, just as the teacher is.

That doesn't mean I'm more in control of the class. In fact, with a smaller class I give a lot more of the ownership of the class to the kids. Instead of using the closing tradition that's in the curriculum, because there's only two guys, I let them make up their own closing prayer tradition. It's a prayer that involves Gangnam Style ending with a Tebow pose. I don't think we'll be using it for the iConfirm service, but for them, it's perfect.

One of the things that's great about such a small group is you don't have the same classroom management issues that you do with a larger group. You can get goofy and it doesn't derail the whole class. We were working on the Gospel According To You exercise and they were having trouble focusing. Rather than doubling down on getting them to focus, I told them to go run a couple of laps around the church. When they came back, they were better able to focus and write their gospel. Plus, I think, running around gave them some time to think about what it is they wanted to do.

With a small group, it's easier to get goofy, run laps, talk while you're playing or doing other things. You can also eat together and it's not going to take forever to do the set up and clean up, and talking over a meal can get the conversation going.

On the other hand, one thing that's hard about having a small group of kids is that it's much lower energy and there's going to be a temptation to try to create the energy. It's important that we adults not talk too much to fill up the dead space. It's going to be particularly hard when the mentors come because the adults are going to outnumber the youth 2 to 1, so it's going to be really important to pay attention to who's saying what and how often. 

In our particular group, we've got one boy who talks a lot, and one who's really quiet. For one of the continuum exercises where we ask them where they stand on a scale of "Strongly agree" to "strongly disagree," one of the questions was "I participate a lot of class," and they were not only on other ends of the spectrum, one had left the building. When I asked the quiet one about why he doesn't participate in class, he said, "Why should I? They don't really care what I have to say." That's the kind of thing we're encountering, so it's really important, even in a small group, to find ways to encourage the ones who don't normally participate.

One other suggestion is for the retreat: because it stands on its own, encourage the kids to invite a friend to come along. It makes it more fun for the kids, and you might get other kids interested in what you're doing.

The main thing to know is that a small class is not a bad thing. In fact, it's a real advantage in a lot of ways. Most of our kids are used to being in big classrooms, being overlooked a lot of the time. In a small class like this, they are thriving because they can express their opinions. 

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