Use a Variety of Teaching Methods

“Use a Variety of Teaching Methods,” Teaching Guidebook (2001), 9–12

There are many things you can do to make your lesson presentations interesting and to help class members learn gospel truths. Some suggestions follow:

Use Stories and Examples

Stories and examples awaken and hold people’s interest and show how gospel principles apply in daily life.

You will find excellent stories in the scriptures and in your teacher’s manual. Before your lesson, study each story you plan to use. Practice telling it using your own words. Your class will listen more closely if you tell the story in your words, rather than read it. Also, younger children enjoy acting out stories.

One Primary teacher always started her lesson with a story from the scriptures. For example, when her lesson was on kindness, she told about the good Samaritan. The children could picture in their minds the man who had been robbed and the men who looked away and hurried past. They were impressed with the kindness and dignity of the Samaritan who cared for the wounded man. The children looked forward to these stories. The teacher learned to use her voice and expressions to keep the attention of her class. The class members became more familiar with and interested in the scriptures.

Use Pictures and Objects

The Savior often used simple objects as He taught. He used wheat, sand, rocks, and other familiar things to help the people understand what He was teaching. For example, He likened the kingdom of God to a treasure so great that a man would sell all he had to obtain it (see Matthew 13:44).

primary class

Look around you. What ordinary objects can you use to help class members better understand gospel principles?

You may want to use simple drawings and pictures to illustrate gospel principles. Show a picture from the Gospel Art Picture Kit as you tell a scripture story. Draw simple pictures on the chalkboard or a piece of paper to make a story more interesting.

One teacher was giving a lesson based on Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares. The class members lived in a farming area, so the teacher knew they would understand that the young wheat plants could be destroyed by removing the weeds too soon. He prepared a small bundle of wheat stalks mingled with weeds. He displayed this bundle throughout the lesson.

Another teacher encouraged class members to think of something they could compare to repentance. One class member suggested that repentance is like soap, in that it can cleanse us from our sins.

Use Music

Music is an excellent way to invite the Spirit of the Lord into your lessons. Music helps us express feelings that may be hard to express through the spoken word.

Church hymns teach many gospel principles and can be used in almost any lesson. You can invite an individual, a group, or the entire family or class to sing a hymn that is related to the lesson. You also could read the words of a hymn aloud while someone plays the accompaniment. Or you could play a recording of a hymn.

One teacher prepared a lesson on service. She selected a hymn that supported the main idea. During the lesson, she invited one sister to read the words of this hymn as another softly hummed the tune. She asked the class to quietly ponder the words as they were read. This music helped the class members feel more strongly about the importance of service.

Ask Questions That Invite Careful Thought and Create Discussion

Asking the right questions will encourage thoughtful learning and discussion in your lesson. Questions and discussions are helpful in many ways. They help class members remain attentive during a lesson. You can find out if the class members understand the lesson. Class members can teach each other as they answer and discuss questions. They can learn how to apply gospel principles in their own lives.

As you prepare lessons, decide what questions you will ask. The following suggestions may help you.

  • Ask questions that help the class members think about the gospel principle and how it applies in their lives. Thought-provoking questions often begin with “why?” or “how?” You should generally avoid questions that can be answered with only “yes” or “no” or any other one-word answers.

    For example, in teaching a lesson about centering our lives on the Savior, you might ask questions like the following:

    “What does it mean to build on the rock of Christ?”

    “What foundations other than the rock of Christ do people sometimes build their lives on?”

    “How have you been blessed as you have built your life on the rock of Christ?”

  • Ask questions that encourage class members to share personal ideas and experiences. For example:

    “Why does the Lord command us to pray always?”

    “How has He answered your prayers?”

  • Ask questions that help class members apply gospel principles in their lives. For example:

    “How can we better prepare ourselves to receive answers to our prayers?”

    “How can you come to know that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world?”

    “How can you strengthen your testimony that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God?”

If someone asks you a question that you cannot answer, ask the class members to help you answer it, or tell the person that you will find the answer for next time.

Do not be concerned if class members are silent for a few seconds after you ask a question. They usually need time to think of responses. However, if they don’t seem to understand the question, you may need to rephrase it. When asking someone a question, it is helpful to call him or her by name first and then ask the question.

Finally, be careful not to end a good discussion prematurely in an attempt to cover all the material you have prepared. What matters most is that members feel the influence of the Spirit, increase their understanding of the gospel, learn to apply gospel principles in their lives, and strengthen their commitment to live the gospel.

Invite Special Guests

You may occasionally want to invite a special guest to come to your class. You can ask a worthy Church member to give a report, share a story, or bear testimony. Let this person know in advance how much time he or she should take. Get approval from your bishop or branch president before inviting a guest who lives outside of your ward or branch.

One elders quorum president invited another member to come and tell the elders about ways to make their home teaching messages interesting to the children they visited. The elders not only gained a new understanding of why children need to participate during home teaching visits, but they also received many suggestions on how to help children participate.

Use Activities

Simple activities that relate to the lesson can help class members, especially children and youth, learn gospel principles. Such activities should be appropriate for gospel learning. Many Church-produced lesson manuals include suggestions for activities.