“F: Methods of Teaching,” Teaching, No Greater Call: A Resource Guide for Gospel Teaching (1999), 157–84
“F,” Teaching, No Greater Call, 157–84
See “Work Sheets,” pages 183–84.
Little children enjoy poems and songs with simple actions. These poems and songs are often referred to as activity verses. You can use activity verses to help children learn gospel principles. You can also use them to help children feel welcome at the beginning of class, get ready to pray, or prepare to participate in a lesson.
It is helpful to have several activity verses ready to use whenever you see a need to change the pace of a lesson or include the children in an activity.
Ideas for activity verses and songs are included in the Children’s Songbook, some Primary lesson manuals, and some issues of the Friend. You can create your own activity verses by adding simple actions to poems and songs.
The following activity verse could be used to teach children to be thankful for God’s creations. It is taken from the Primary song “The World Is So Big” (Children’s Songbook, 235).
The world is so big and, oh, so round,
[form a large circle with arms]
And in it God’s creations are found;
Stars shining brightly through all the night,
[straighten and wiggle fingers]
Sun in the day so warm and so bright.
[form a large circle with arms]
The world is so big and, oh, so round.
God loves us all; our blessings abound.
[grasp arms and hug self]
Before teaching an activity verse, memorize the words and movements yourself. To teach an activity verse:
Say the words and show the actions to the children. Go slowly, and exaggerate the actions. This will help the children understand the words and actions.
Invite the children to do the activity verse with you.
If the children enjoy the activity verse, repeat it. If they become restless, shorten it. If the activity verse is long, you may want to help the children do the actions while you say the words by yourself.
You may occasionally want to use pictures to help present activity verses. Pictures from the Gospel Art Picture Kit, Church-produced lesson manuals, and Church magazines may be helpful. You may want to consider using a Primary Visual Aids Cutouts set (available through the Church Materials Catalog).
Some children may not participate in the activity verse but will enjoy watching others do the actions. They will join in when they are ready.
As a gospel teacher, one of your most important goals should be to help others apply gospel principles in everyday situations. Application techniques can help learners discover the blessings that come when we live the gospel.
Below are some methods that can help those you teach live the principles you have taught. These and many other methods are described in this section of the book.
Discuss situations similar to those the learners might experience. Use role plays, panel discussions, buzz sessions, games, work sheets, case studies, or brainstorming to discuss how to make correct choices in those situations.
Prepare specific application questions to discuss with the class.
Share a personal experience about how living a gospel principle has blessed your life. Invite those you teach to briefly share their own experiences.
Encourage those you teach to set one or more goals that can help them live the principle you have taught. For example, in a lesson about prayer, you might encourage them to set a goal that will help them pray in a more meaningful way. You might ask them to share their feelings the next week.
Share scripture passages that testify of the principle. Have those you teach share their favorite scriptures or scripture stories.
Ask the learners to think of a song that helps them remember the principle. Suggest songs they might use.
Encourage those you teach to share the message of the lesson with their families. For example, they might share an activity, song, work sheet, or scripture used in class. Have them discuss with their families how they can apply the principle.
Have those you teach write a scripture, quotation, poem, or part of a song on a piece of paper that they can take home and have as a reminder of the lesson.
Have children draw a picture of themselves living the principle.
Help them memorize an article of faith that relates to the principle. With children, relate the principle to one of the items in “My Gospel Standards,” on the back of the My Achievement Days booklet.
A month in advance, assign a few learners to study a specific lesson and apply it in their lives. When you teach the lesson, have the assigned persons report on their experiences.
Attention activities can be used to create interest and to help learners focus their attention on the subject of the lesson. They should be brief and lead directly into the lesson. They are most often used at the beginning of lessons, but they can also be used to capture learners’ attention during lessons and to make a transition from one part of a lesson to another. Many lessons in Church-produced lesson manuals include suggestions for attention activities.
You may occasionally use Church-produced videocassettes and audio recordings to help teach gospel principles. Some materials are designed to be used with specific lessons in specific courses of study. Others may be used with a variety of lessons. Refer to the current Church Materials Catalog for a list of available Church-produced audiovisual materials.
In Church settings it is often against copyright laws to use audiovisual materials that are not owned by the Church. For guidelines on copyright laws, see Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2: Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders, pages 322–23.
Watch or listen to the presentation before using it in class. Make sure that it reinforces or supports the lesson.
Prepare the presentation so that it will begin in the right place when you need it in the lesson. Generally, you should use only short segments; audiovisual presentations should not consume the entire lesson time.
Set up the equipment before class starts. Ensure that it works properly. Also ensure that all learners will be able to hear the presentation and see it from their seats.
When you use the presentation as part of the lesson, ensure that it is a teaching tool rather than entertainment. For example, you could encourage learners to look for specific principles or situations during a video presentation. Or you could have them summarize the message of an audio recording after it is over.
In a brainstorming activity, the teacher presents a question or situation and gives learners a short amount of time to freely suggest solutions or ideas.
You might use brainstorming to address a need in your family, quorum, or class. For example, you could have learners organize a service project, suggest ways to invite less-active members to an activity, or share ideas for improving home teaching efforts.
You may also use brainstorming to stimulate ideas on a specific topic in a lesson. For example, you could ask those you teach to spend a few minutes listing blessings they have received through the priesthood or things they can do to be good examples as Church members.
Explain what it means to brainstorm. Tell those you teach that you will give them a short amount of time to contribute ideas. Ensure that they understand that you will not criticize or make fun of their ideas, and help them understand that they should not criticize or make fun of each other’s ideas. Because of the nature of brainstorming, you may need to remind them to be reverent in their actions and suggestions.
Present a specific question or situation. Make sure learners know how much time they have to make suggestions.
Allow learners to contribute their ideas. If they are reluctant to begin brainstorming, you may need to get them started by suggesting a few ideas yourself. Look for ways to include individuals who seem hesitant to participate.
As learners offer suggestions, list the suggestions on the chalkboard or a piece of paper or have someone else list them.
When the time is up, discuss the suggestions learners have given. Invite them to refine their ideas and talk about how they relate to the lesson. If the purpose of the activity was to decide on a certain action to take, such as a service project or a plan to invite less-active members to an activity, help them select one of the suggestions. Then help them make plans to follow that suggestion.
If they share ideas that are sincere but that represent false doctrine, take time during the lesson to kindly correct those ideas.
Buzz sessions are activities in which learners are divided into small discussion groups. The groups talk about assigned topics and then share their ideas with the others. You can use buzz sessions to give a large number of people the opportunity to participate in a lesson. Individuals who are usually hesitant to participate might share ideas in small groups that they would not express in front of the entire group. This will help them see that their ideas are important to others.
At times, the groups may share their ideas by making posters or charts or drawing pictures. For example, you might ask them to draw different parts of the same scripture account or things for which they are thankful.
In a lesson about preparing to serve full-time missions, an elders quorum instructor could divide quorum members into five groups and have each group prepare to report on one of the following questions:
What can young men do to prepare to serve full-time missions?
What can fathers do to help their sons prepare to serve full-time missions?
What can home teachers do to help boys and young men prepare to serve full-time missions?
What can Aaronic Priesthood advisers do to help young men prepare to serve full-time missions?
What can adults do to prepare themselves to serve full-time missions?
You can use this same pattern to develop other topics for buzz sessions.
The following steps show how to conduct a buzz session. As you plan to conduct a buzz session, consider how long each of these steps will take. Ensure that the process will not consume too much lesson time.
Divide the class into groups of at least three people. (Or you may want to simply ask each learner to turn to the person sitting next to him or her for a quick discussion. If you choose this approach, you will need to adapt steps 2 through 6.)
Choose a leader for each group, or let the groups choose their leaders. Also assign a recorder for each group. Give each recorder a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. The recorders list their groups’ responses during the discussion. The leaders keep the discussions going and later report the groups’ ideas to the class. (If you conduct the kind of buzz session in which the groups draw pictures, give each group the materials they need, such as paper, pencils, and crayons.)
Assign each group a topic that relates to the lesson. You may ask all the groups to discuss the same topic, or you may assign each group a different topic. It may be helpful to give each group a piece of paper with a topic written on it.
Give the groups a set amount of time to discuss their topics. Make sure they stay on task. Alert them one or two minutes before they are to finish.
Invite each group leader to present the ideas generated from the group’s discussion. (If all the groups have discussed the same topic, have the group leaders take turns sharing one idea. Otherwise, the first groups may share many ideas, leaving other groups with little to share.)
Summarize the presentations, making sure that the topic has been discussed sufficiently. Ensure that learners understand how their discussions relate to the gospel principles you are teaching.
Case studies are true-to-life situations that prompt learners to ponder or discuss what they could do in similar situations. They can help show how gospel principles apply in everyday life. You might use case studies to encourage discussion, emphasize the main principle of a lesson, or conclude a lesson.
Case studies may be based on factual stories or realistic fictional situations. If you use a case study that is based on a true story, you may want to share the outcome of the story at some point in the lesson.
Following are four examples of case studies with discussion questions.
You have been playing all morning with some friends in your neighborhood and have been having lots of fun. A girl who is visiting the family across the street comes outside and looks like she wants to play with you.
What should you do?
It is late December, and Brother and Sister Jones are looking at their month’s finances. They realize that they cannot pay all their bills if they pay tithing.
If you were in the position of Brother and Sister Jones, what would you do?
You have been planning for months to go to the temple with the other young men and women in the ward to perform baptisms for the dead. A friend who is not a member of the Church invites you to a party that same evening. You say that you can’t go to the party, and your friend asks you what you will be doing that evening.
How would you respond?
A friend has invited you to go to a movie that you know is inappropriate.
What could you do to decline the invitation?
Some lessons in Church-produced manuals contain stories that could be used as case studies. However, at times you may want to create case studies on your own. To create a case study on your own, follow these steps:
Keep in mind the principles you are preparing to teach. Then think of situations that relate to those principles and that apply to the age-group you teach.
Prepare to present the situations realistically and in a way that will prompt thought and discussion (see “Conducting Discussions,” pages 63–65; “Teaching with Questions,” pages 68–70; “Stories,” pages 179–82).
Consider what you can say or do to reinforce the principles after the discussion.
The chalkboard is one of the simplest, most readily available teaching tools. You can use the chalkboard to:
Emphasize key facts or ideas and help learners remember them.
Acknowledge learners’ ideas by writing them down.
Guide discussions by writing questions and listing learners’ responses. For example:
Clarify concepts or stories by illustrating them in a simple way. For example:
Make outlines or lists to help learners follow a discussion.
List assignments or scriptures related to the current lesson or the next lesson.
The following guidelines can help you use the chalkboard as an effective teaching tool. These guidelines also apply to your use of overhead projectors and white boards.
Plan and practice what you will write, deciding how you will organize the information or drawings. Practice drawing any illustrations you will use.
If you plan to use an outline, a list, or an illustration on the chalkboard, you may want to do this before class and then cover it with paper, revealing it during the lesson at the appropriate time.
Write clearly and large enough for all to see, making sure the material is well spaced, orderly, and easy to read. Write only key words or phrases.
Use simple stick figures and shapes to illustrate stories or concepts. If you keep the figures and shapes simple, you will prevent them from becoming the main focus of the lesson.
Hold the interest of those you teach by talking while you write.
Avoid spending long periods of time at the chalkboard. This may cause learners to lose interest in the lesson.
Do not apologize for your spelling, handwriting, or lack of artistic ability. Apologizing will only draw attention to that particular aspect of your writing or drawing. If you are uncomfortable at the chalkboard, ask someone to help.
Occasionally ask someone to write on the chalkboard for you so you can maintain eye contact with learners. Make sure the person helping you understands what you want him or her to write and where he or she should write it on the chalkboard.
In a choral reading, a group reads scripture passages, poetry, or prose together. A choral reading can be done in class or performed for an audience.
You can use this method to present scripture accounts, stories, poems, and other information. You can also use it as part of a special program for holidays or special events.
Theme: Articles of Faith
Procedure: Have learners review the Articles of Faith and then repeat them back to you as a group.
Select material that supports the lesson topic. Appropriate materials may be found in the scriptures, Church-produced manuals, Church magazines, and the Children’s Songbook.
If you will be performing the choral reading for an audience, have the group practice reading the material so they learn to speak together. Make sure they speak clearly and use pauses and changes in the volume and speed of their voice to relay the meaning of the message. During the performance, lead them so they repeat their parts together.
It is often difficult to teach the intangible aspects of the gospel—principles such as faith, repentance, love, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, remission of sins, and redemption. Elder Boyd K. Packer said:
“In teaching the gospel, we do not re-create the material world around us; we deal with the intangible world within us, and there is a big difference. None of the ordinary tools are available to us. To convey to a youngster the idea of a cat is much simpler than to convey the idea of faith; faith is very difficult to describe.
“For instance, how big is faith? We soon learn that size is not helpful. Only vaguely can we talk to a youngster who knows nothing about faith by talking about an amount, such as much faith, or little faith. We can’t tell him what color it is. We can’t tell him what shape it is. We can’t tell him what texture it is.”
Then Elder Packer shared a teaching tool that we can use to teach about intangible principles: “Tie the invisible idea … to some tangible object the student already knows about and then build from that knowledge” (Teach Ye Diligently, rev. ed. , 31–32).
You can use comparisons and object lessons to help learners understand intangible principles. Together with the use of stories and personal testimony, these methods give you an excellent set of tools for teaching the eternal realities that we cannot perceive with our senses.
As you use comparisons and object lessons, remember that they should always reinforce the lesson purpose and that they should not detract from the gospel principles you are teaching.
The Savior often referred to familiar earthly objects or experiences to help His listeners understand spiritual principles. He spoke of Himself as “the bread of life” (John 6:35) and “the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14). He taught His followers to seek out the lost sheep (see Matthew 10:5–8) and to feed His lambs (see John 21:15–17). The Lord compared the kingdom of heaven to a treasure, a pearl, and a fishing net (see Matthew 13:44–48). He likened faith to a mustard seed (see Matthew 17:20). He said that people are known by their fruits (see Matthew 7:15–20). In His lessons, a narrow gate became the way of eternal life (see Matthew 7:13–14) and His disciples became fishers of men (see Matthew 4:18–19). He spoke of gathering His people as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings (see Matthew 23:37).
With practice and imagination, you can find gospel applications in familiar objects. For example, prayer can be compared to a radio, a patriarchal blessing can be compared to the Liahona, and hope can be likened to sunshine breaking through clouds. You might see lessons in the experiences you have at work, in routine household chores, or in your associations with other people (see “Looking for Lessons Everywhere,” pages 22–23).
Elder Packer suggested a formula for finding comparisons:
As shown below, this formula could be used to teach about repentance. The intangible principle of repentance becomes clearer as we compare it to something simple and familiar. Elder Packer taught:
“Take the subject repentance.
“ Repentance is like
“What commonplace thing familiar to everyone could be likened to repentance? Suppose we use soap.
“ Repentance is like soap” (see Teach Ye Diligently, 36–37; see also page 34).
Following is a list of other comparisons you might use as you teach the gospel:
Scripture study is like a feast.
Children are like treasures.
Faith is like a shield.
The scriptures are like a life raft in troubled waters.
Sin is like quicksand.
Like comparisons, object lessons relate intangible principles to familiar physical things. However, in an object lesson, you use actual objects rather than just talk about them. For example, to help learners understand the cleansing effect of repentance, a teacher could display a bar of soap and even use it to wash dirt from his or her hands.
The following examples further illustrate how to use object lessons:
To show that ordinances and covenants are inseparable, display a coin. Then ask which side of the coin is more important. (Neither side is more important.) Ask learners if they can separate the sides of the coin. Then explain that ordinances and covenants are inseparable, just as the two sides of a coin are inseparable. Also point out that ordinances and covenants are necessary for admission into God’s presence, just as coins are sometimes needed for admission to events.
To emphasize that each individual is important, have learners assemble a simple puzzle from which you have removed a piece. When they ask about the missing piece, give it to them. Ask them why the missing piece is important. Then explain that each piece of the puzzle is like a family member or class member. Each person is important.
To illustrate the importance of the gospel, display a map. Ask why we use maps. Then compare the map to the gospel. Explain that like a map, the gospel of Jesus Christ guides us. It helps us stay on the path that leads to eternal life with our Heavenly Father.
To teach about nourishing the word of God after it has been planted in our hearts (see Alma 32:28–43), draw pictures of two plants—one that is healthy and has moist, rich soil and one that is unhealthy and has dry, poor soil.
Comparisons and object lessons can be used in many ways, but they are especially helpful when you need to:
Gain the attention of those you teach. You can use comparisons and object lessons to quickly create interest, focus the attention of learners, and introduce a subject or principle of a lesson.
Provide a framework for a lesson. You might occasionally build an entire lesson around a comparison or object lesson.
Conclude, summarize, and encourage. After teaching a gospel principle, you can use a comparison or object lesson to summarize what has been discussed and to motivate those you teach to make worthwhile changes in their lives.
Sometimes you may feel that the best way to teach a certain principle or skill is to demonstrate it. Demonstrations can be used to teach such skills as conducting songs and hymns, administering first aid, baking bread, tying a knot, using family history materials, or performing a priesthood ordinance. After you do a demonstration, the learners can then be given the opportunity to try the technique.
If you invite someone else to demonstrate a technique or skill, be sure to offer your assistance as he or she prepares.
To prepare a demonstration, follow these steps:
If you are doing the demonstration, practice it. Ensure that it will accomplish its objectives and that you will be able to present it in the time available. Also make sure it is appropriate for those you teach so they will not become frustrated trying the new skill.
Review any necessary materials and equipment. Make sure objects are large enough to be seen or that you can describe them if they are small. If you have asked someone else to do the demonstration and you do not expect that person to supply the needed materials and equipment, ask him or her to prepare a list of the necessary items for you to obtain. If you expect the learners to duplicate the process taught in the demonstration, have all the necessary equipment and materials ready for them to use. A review sheet might be provided for each person you teach. Any measurements or ingredients should be mentioned on the sheet and during the demonstration.
It may be helpful to have others who understand the technique assist while the learners practice the skill that has been demonstrated. If so, speak with these people in advance.
Arrange the classroom so everyone can see and hear.
If necessary, make arrangements to clean the area after the demonstration.
To present a demonstration, follow these steps:
Explain. Help learners understand the purpose of the demonstration and the reasons for the procedures. Also help them see how the technique, process, or skill will be useful to them.
Demonstrate. Show how to use the technique, process, or skill. This should provide an example, or model, for learners to follow.
Practice. Allow learners to practice the procedure. During the practice phase, you should observe, teach, and help when necessary. Be patient, understanding, positive, and encouraging.
To see an example of using a demonstration to teach a principle, see page 168.
Dioramas are small scenes in which figures are displayed. Simple dioramas and figures can make stories memorable and interesting for children.
You may want to ask those you teach to help make dioramas and figures during class or to bring figures to use with dioramas that you have already made.
1 cup salt
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 cups water
Food coloring (optional)
Mix the salt and flour. In another bowl, mix the oil, water, and, if desired, food coloring. Then mix the oil and water into the flour and salt mixture. Knead the mixture into a dough. Put the dough into an airtight container to keep it soft.
Dioramas made of boxes and plates may be used for more than one story.
See “Conducting Discussions,” pages 63–65.
In a dramatization, people act out a story. Those you teach can gain a greater understanding of gospel principles by dramatizing accounts from the scriptures, Church history, or Church magazines.
There are different types of dramatizations. For example, you may:
Read an account (or have someone else read the account) while participants act it out silently.
Relate an account and then have participants act it out with or without words. Little children often enjoy acting out a story several times, playing the roles of different people each time.
Prepare scripts in advance for participants to read in class.
Have some participants silently act out a familiar story and then have the others guess which story has been dramatized.
Interview someone as if he or she is a person from the scriptures or Church history. For example, you could ask someone to play the part of Shem, one of Noah’s sons. You could ask the person playing Shem to tell you about Noah’s preaching, the flood, the ark, and the day that Noah and his family were able to walk on the land again. (If you plan to conduct such an “interview,” you should talk to the assigned person in advance, telling him or her about the questions you will ask.)
Regardless of how dramatizations are conducted, they should relate clearly to the lesson. They should help learners remember gospel principles. They should communicate messages that are simple and direct. They should not detract from the sacredness of scriptural or historical events.
Simple costumes such as robes and hats can make dramatizations more interesting, especially for children. You may also find it helpful to use name tags to identify the people being portrayed by the participants.
Some learners may be reluctant to play the parts of people in the scriptures or Church history. You may be able to find ways for these learners to participate in dramatizations. For example, some little children may be more comfortable pretending to be animals. They may also enjoy making sound effects such as the sound of the wind or running feet. If some do not want to participate, do not pressure them to do so.
To conduct a dramatization:
Ask for volunteers to be in the dramatization. Assign them their roles.
Help the participants understand the story they are going to dramatize and the people they are going to portray.
During the dramatization, help the participants with their roles as necessary. They may need you to prompt them during the dramatization. If you are teaching little children, you may want to ask questions to prompt them, such as “What will you do next?” or “Now what will you say?”
Dramatizations should not take the entire lesson time. Be sure to leave enough time at the end of the dramatization to ask participants what they have learned. Help them relate the message of the dramatization to the lesson and to their own lives.
“God the Father and the Holy Ghost are not to be portrayed in meetings, dramas, or musicals.
“If the Savior is portrayed, it must be done with the utmost reverence and dignity. Only people of wholesome personal character should be considered for the part. Only scriptures spoken by the Savior should be spoken by the person who portrays Him. The person who portrays the Savior should not sing or dance.
“At the end of the performance, the person should not wear the costume in the foyer or elsewhere. He should change immediately into street clothes.
“The Savior should not be portrayed by children in dramatization except in a nativity scene” (Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2: Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders , 279).
You may want to ask a narrator to read words spoken by the Savior from the scriptures.
One way to help learners understand gospel principles is to have them draw pictures. Drawing allows them to explore and express their understanding and feelings of gospel stories and principles being discussed.
Have learners draw pictures that relate to the theme of the lesson. For example, you could have them draw pictures about their homes, their families, a holiday, tithing, or preparing to go to the temple.
Have learners make a mural or time line that relates to the lesson. Have them work together on one long piece of paper.
Tell a story. Then have learners draw pictures that express their feelings about the story.
After telling a story, ask each person to draw a picture about a specific part of the story. Have learners use their pictures to retell the story. You could connect the pictures and show them in a roller box (see “Roller Boxes,” pages 178–79).
Sing or play a recording of a hymn or Primary song. Have those you teach draw pictures showing what they think about or how they feel when they hear that hymn or song.
When you have people draw as part of a lesson, ensure that the activity relates to the principles you are teaching. However, do not allow the activity to become the focus of the lesson. Keep the project simple so learners can complete it in a short amount of time. Make sure you have all the necessary materials ready.
As learners draw, encourage them to use their imagination. Try not to make children feel that they have to draw a picture in a certain way. As they draw, praise them equally for their efforts. If you have a question about what someone is drawing, do not ask, “What are you drawing?” Instead, simply say, “Tell me about your picture.”
Occasionally, you may use coloring pages from the Friend. When you have children color pictures of the Savior, remind them to be respectful and reverent.
When it is time to continue with the lesson, you may want to ask those you teach to tell each other about their pictures. Ask them how the pictures relate to the lesson. Invite them to share their feelings about what they have drawn. It is sometimes helpful to display the pictures during the rest of the lesson.
If you are teaching a Church class, encourage class members to show their pictures to their families. This will help them remember what they have learned. It will also give parents an opportunity to discuss gospel principles with their children.
Imagine explaining scripture marking to people who have never seen anyone mark the scriptures. They would have a hard time understanding if you tried to explain it using words only. But they would probably have no trouble at all if you showed them examples of marked pages in your scriptures. Imagine explaining tithing to children who do not understand the meaning of the term one-tenth. They would understand tithing more clearly if you showed them an example, spreading 10 coins on a table and putting one of them in a tithing envelope.
As a gospel teacher, you may often face the challenge of helping others understand something that they have not understood very well before. One way to accomplish this is to use examples. It is important to state principles and explain how to apply them, but your teaching will usually be more effective when you also give examples.
You should give examples often during lessons to help ensure that learners understand what you are teaching. On page 73 of this book, there is a story of a teacher who should have used an example in a Primary lesson on revelation. He carefully presented the lesson, using a variety of effective methods. Toward the end of the lesson, the teacher asked a review question: “Who has the authority to receive revelation for the Church?” All the children raised their hands. They all knew the answer: the President of the Church. But the teacher then discovered, almost accidentally, that the students did not know what he meant by the word revelation. If he had given a few simple examples early in the lesson, such as a personal experience in which he was guided by the Holy Ghost or the account of the Lord speaking to Joseph Smith in the First Vision, it would have made all the difference.
There are many ways to present examples. What is most important is that you use examples that will help learners clearly understand what you are teaching. Following are some ideas.
If you are discussing a concept that is unfamiliar to those you teach, you can use specific, familiar examples to help them understand. For instance, if you are talking about priesthood ordinances, you might say, “Baptism, the sacrament, and marriage in the temple for eternity are examples of priesthood ordinances.” If you make reference to prophets, you could say, “Adam, Abraham, and Moses were prophets in ancient times. Some examples of prophets in the latter days are Joseph Smith, David O. McKay, Ezra Taft Benson, and Gordon B. Hinckley.”
This may be difficult with intangible concepts, such as faith, remission of sins, or redemption. It is often better to teach such concepts with stories, comparisons, or object lessons (see “Comparisons and Object Lessons,” pages 163–64).
Often the best way to teach a skill is to demonstrate how it is done. For example:
To help others learn how to prepare a lesson, share an outline of a lesson you have prepared.
Instead of simply telling others about the study helps available in their scriptures and giving an explanation of how to use them, have them open their scriptures to the Topical Guide, the Bible Dictionary, the footnotes, and other helps. Then show how to use them.
Some principles can be demonstrated. The following story shows how a Primary teacher demonstrated the principle of sharing:
“The teacher of a group of three-year-old Primary children spoke briefly about sharing and then told two short stories about children who shared. She then laid newspapers on the floor and gave each child a ball of clay. She observed that her ball of clay was much smaller than anyone else’s and invited each child, one by one, to share with her. At first the children were reluctant, but when they saw her willingness to share with them, they began to enjoy sharing—not only with their teacher, but with each other. The lesson allowed the children not only to define the concept of sharing, but also to experience the feelings that are part of learning to share” (Janelle Lysenko, “Tools for Teaching Tots,” Ensign, Mar. 1987, 71).
Some principles, such as faith, love, loyalty, and repentance, cannot be demonstrated because they refer to spiritual realities that we cannot see. But with stories you can share examples of people living these principles. For instance, you could use the story of Joseph in Egypt fleeing from Potiphar’s wife to teach about integrity. You could teach about loyalty by telling the story of John Taylor and Willard Richards, who voluntarily risked their lives to stay in Carthage Jail with the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. You can also share your own personal experiences. Fictional stories, including parables, can provide examples of how to live gospel principles. (For guidelines and suggestions on using stories, see “Stories,” pages 179–82.)
Flannel boards are portable boards on which figures are displayed, usually to tell a story. This teaching tool works well with children. If you use a flannel board, you may want to invite learners to help you put the figures on it. After using a flannel board to tell a story, you may want to allow the children to use the figures to retell the story.
To make a flannel board:
Cut a piece of heavy cardboard, thin plywood, or similar material.
Cut a solid-colored piece of flannel, felt, brushed nylon knit, or rough burlap large enough to overlap two inches on each side of the board.
With the outside of the fabric facing down, place the board in the center of the fabric. Wrap the edges of the fabric around the sides of the board, and secure the edges to the back of the board.
To create your own flannel-board figures:
Draw a picture, or trace and color a picture from a Church magazine, manual, or other resource.
Cut out the picture.
Glue or tape the picture to heavier paper.
Attach a piece of flannel or a piece of sandpaper or other rough material to the back of the heavy paper. This will help the figure stick to the flannel board.
Pictures of people, animals, and objects can be ordered through the Church Materials Catalog. In the catalog they are called visual aids cutouts.
Games give variety to lessons and allow learners to interact with each other. You can find ideas for games in Church-produced lesson manuals, Church magazines, and the Family Home Evening Resource Book.
As you select games to use in lessons, ensure that they:
Reinforce the gospel principles you teach.
Are appropriate for the setting in which you teach.
Are appropriate for the age of those you teach and the size of the group.
Are easy to understand.
Take only a small portion of the lesson. In some instances, a game may require a large portion of the lesson, but these instances are the exception, not the rule.
Do not encourage competition. You should avoid giving rewards to people who “win.”
Give all learners the opportunity to participate and feel successful. You should praise learners equally for their good efforts.
In this game, learners find sets of two cards with related information or pictures. Consider the following example, which could be used in a Primary class:
Obtain 12 pieces of paper of equal size that are large enough for everyone to see. On half of the papers, attach or draw pictures that relate to the lesson. On the other half, write descriptions of the pictures. On the sides that do not contain pictures or descriptions, number the papers 1 through 12. At the appropriate time in the lesson, lay the papers on the floor, with the numbered sides facing up, or tape them to a poster board. They do not have to be in numerical order.
To play the game, have each person take a turn choosing two pieces of paper. Turn the papers over to see if they contain a picture and its corresponding information. If they match, remove them from the others. If they do not match, put them back in place, with the numbered side facing up, and allow the next person to choose two pieces of paper. After all the pictures and descriptions have been matched, discuss how they relate to the lesson.
You may want to use one of the following variations to this game:
Write half of a scripture verse on one piece of paper and the rest of the verse on another. Or write part of a scripture phrase on one paper and the rest on another. For example, some pairs could be “Restoration of” and “the gospel”; “Lehi’s vision” and “of the tree of life”; and “iron” and “rod.”
Write the number of each article of faith on 13 different pieces of paper. On 13 corresponding papers, write key words from each article.
In this game, the teacher gives a series of clues to help learners identify a certain person, place, object, scripture story, or principle. You may use this game to introduce a lesson or emphasize part of a lesson.
To play the game, give clues to help those you teach identify a person or object that relates to the lesson. Give one clue at a time, giving learners an opportunity after each clue to identify the person or object. Start with general clues. Make the clues more specific until someone guesses correctly. For example, the following clues could be used to help learners identify the prophet Moses:
I am an Old Testament prophet.
I spoke with God face to face.
I was raised by an Egyptian princess.
My spokesman was a man named Aaron.
I led the children of Israel out of captivity.
You may want to use one of the following variations to this game:
Divide the class into partners. Give a word to one person in each partnership. The person who knows the word then gives one-word clues to help his or her partner guess the word. For example, if the person is given the word baptism, he or she could give clues such as water, font, or immerse. If the person is given the word Noah, he or she could give clues such as flood, animals, ark, dove, or rainbow.
Give one person a word. Have the others guess the word by asking up to 20 questions. The questions must be answered yes or no.
Have one person draw a picture to represent a certain subject, person, or story. Have the others guess what the picture represents.
On individual pieces of paper, write questions that will help learners review what they have learned at the end of a lesson. Put the pieces of paper into a jar or other container.
To review the lesson, toss a beanbag or other soft object to someone and have him or her draw a question from the container and answer it. Then have that person toss the beanbag to someone else, who will also draw a question from the container and answer it.
In a board game, players advance game pieces from the starting point to the finish by answering questions and following instructions on prepared game cards. A board game, such as in the example on the next page, can be made out of a heavy board or could be drawn on a chalkboard. Coins or other small objects can be used as game pieces if you use a board. If you use a chalkboard, use the chalk to signal the advancement of the learners. The game cards should teach or review gospel principles. For example, you might prepare cards with the following statements:
Your little brother brings home a toy that belongs to his friend John. He says, “John has lots of toys. He won’t miss this one.” You explain that since the toy belongs to John, it must be returned. You go with your brother to return the toy to his friend. Because this is the honest thing to do, move ahead six spaces.
You have not studied for a certain test in school. During the test, you copy from the person who sits by you. Because this is not honest, move back three spaces.
To play the game, place the game cards face down. Then have the participants take turns selecting a card, reading the statement, and advancing their game pieces according to the statement.
Occasionally you may want to invite a guest to speak to those you teach as part of a lesson. For example, an Aaronic Priesthood adviser could invite a returned missionary to talk to the young men about how they can prepare for missionary service.
You must ask your bishop for approval before inviting a guest speaker who is not a member of the ward (see Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2: Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders , 325). When you have received your bishop’s approval, follow these steps:
Invite the guest speaker in advance. Let him or her know about the subject of the lesson, the age-group of the people in the class, what you feel that class members should learn from the presentation, and the amount of time he or she should take. Give the speaker a copy of the lesson from the manual.
If you are preparing to ask the guest questions, prepare a list of the questions you will ask. Give a copy of the questions to the guest.
Introduce the guest before he or she speaks in class.
It is sometimes best to simply explain specific principles or historical events rather than conduct a discussion or other learning activity. Lecturing can be very effective if it is done at appropriate times, such as when you cover large amounts of material quickly, present information that is new to those you teach, or summarize a lesson.
Lecturing is generally more effective with older learners than with very young learners, who may have difficulty sitting quietly when they are required to listen without doing anything else. However, even for adults, a lecture can become tiresome if it is not delivered well. The following guidelines can help you give effective lectures:
Familiarize yourself with the lesson so you will not need to read the material word for word. This will help you maintain eye contact with learners.
Use some visuals, such as pictures, posters, charts, maps, chalkboards, or overhead transparencies. These materials increase interest and encourage attention.
Relate the lecture to daily situations so that learners can apply the principles in their lives.
Use language that learners understand.
Vary the pitch and tone of your voice to create variety and emphasize important points.
Whenever possible, permit questions and discussion on the topic you are explaining. Even though a lecture enables you to cover more material than could be completed otherwise, most lessons should allow learners to participate in some way.
We should “liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning” (1 Nephi 19:23). To liken the scriptures means to see how scripture accounts are similar to circumstances today and to show how the principles they teach are relevant in our lives. For example, in a lesson about standing up for the truth, you could liken the story of Abinadi in the court of King Noah to those you teach (see Mosiah 11–17). To teach about our spiritual blindness and the Savior’s power to heal us and give us greater spiritual vision, you could liken the story of Christ healing the blind man (see John 9).
You will use this method most effectively when you give family members or class members an opportunity to ponder what they read. For example, after teaching about Joseph Smith’s response when he was nearly overcome by the adversary in the Sacred Grove (see Joseph Smith—History 1:15–16), you could ask learners to recall and even write down an experience in which they were tried and tested. Then you could invite them to think about why it is important in times of trial to exert “all [our] powers to call upon God” (verse 16).
To help family members and class members see that the scriptures are relevant, you should teach in ways that connect the experiences of the prophets and people of the past to the experiences of individuals today. As you prepare each lesson, ask yourself how the principle (or story or event) is like something family members or class members have experienced in their own lives. For example, if you are teaching a lesson that includes a discussion of the Ten Commandments, you might wonder how to teach about the commandment against making and worshiping graven images (see Exodus 20:4–5). Most members of the Church have had little experience with the worship of graven images. However, there are many other things that people sometimes “worship.” As you teach, you might liken the ancient commandment in Exodus 20:4–5 to something more familiar: modern society’s worship of money, athleticism, pleasure, or popularity.
Almost every story in the scriptures can be likened to our lives. Consider the following story about a teacher who likened a scripture account to those she taught:
One ward was experiencing problems with Primary teachers providing treats every week during class. The treats detracted from the Spirit and focused the children’s attention away from the lessons. The Primary president asked the ward teacher improvement coordinator to present a sharing time that would address the problem.
The teacher improvement coordinator pondered ways to present the ideas to both the teachers and the children. None of the approaches seemed to be quite right. Then as she reflected again on her assignment one morning, she was reminded of the account of Christ feeding the 5,000, which her family had recently read together. She remembered that after Jesus fed the multitude, there were people who followed Him because they wanted to be given food, not because they wanted to hear the gospel (see John 6:26–27).
That Sunday, the teacher improvement coordinator related this story. She used the story to teach the true reason for coming to Primary: to give and receive spiritual food.
Another way to help others liken the scriptures to themselves is to ask them to insert themselves into the scriptural text. For example, if someone places himself or herself in James 1:5–6, the teaching on prayer becomes as applicable to him or her as it was to Joseph Smith:
“If [I] lack wisdom, let [me] ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given [me]. But let [me] ask in faith, nothing wavering.”
Many times we can liken the scriptures to our lives by asking, “What did the prophet who recorded this account want us to learn from it? Why did he include these particular details?” When we ask these questions about the story of Enos, for example, we can discover applications to our own experiences with prayer. We can learn that praying sometimes takes much effort and that Heavenly Father answers our prayers. We can also learn that parents influence their children, even though it may take many years for the children to follow their parents’ teachings.
As we liken the scriptures to ourselves and help others do the same, we will be able to see the power of the word of God in every aspect of our lives.
You can find maps in the Latter-day Saint editions of the scriptures, Church-produced lesson manuals, Church magazines, and the meetinghouse library.
You may use maps in lessons by:
Having learners locate cities that are mentioned in the accounts you study in the scriptures and Church history.
Drawing simple maps on the chalkboard.
Locating areas of interest, such as countries where full-time missionaries are serving or cities where temples are located.
When we memorize scriptures, quotations, hymns, and Primary songs, they can be a source of comfort, guidance, and inspiration for us. As we recall them, they can help us feel the influence of the Holy Ghost wherever we may be.
Memorizing requires deliberate, concentrated effort. You can teach others helpful memorization techniques. You can also suggest inspiring material for them to memorize.
The following ideas can be useful in helping learners memorize. As you consider these ideas, remember that those you teach will remember material longer if it is meaningful to them. Be sure they understand the meaning of the words they are memorizing.
You might write the following letters on the chalkboard to help learners memorize the second article of faith:
W B T M W B P F T O S A N F A T
Point to the letters as you repeat each corresponding word.
Following are a few examples of how you could use this technique:
Have everyone repeat short phrases together, one phrase at a time. For example, to memorize Proverbs 3:5–6, the learners could repeat the following portions of the passage: (1) “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart;” (2) “and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (3) “In all thy ways acknowledge him,” (4) “and he shall direct thy paths.”
Divide learners into groups. Give each group one of the phrases. As you point to each group, have them repeat their phrase. Occasionally you could have group members repeat the phrase silently in their minds rather than speak the words out loud. As the learners hear the phrases over and over, they will soon be able to repeat all the phrases in the proper order.
Repeat the words phrase by phrase, stopping to let the learners say the next phrase.
Prepare a written copy of the words, and cut the phrases into wordstrips. After saying the verse several times, display the wordstrips out of order. Have the learners put the scrambled wordstrips in order.
Have learners read the material several times. Gradually erase or cover more and more words until the learners have memorized the material.
You can use music to help learners memorize. For example, you could teach the books of the scriptures or the Articles of Faith from the Children’s Songbook, pages 114–17, 119, 122–33. This can even be an interesting method for teaching adults and youth.
It is important to practice the material we memorize. As you determine how to practice, consider the length of the material to be memorized. A short scripture could be learned all at once. A new song might be taught one line at a time. A part for a special program might take several practice periods. Review the material periodically with those you teach. Encourage individuals to practice on their own.
The First Presidency said:
“Inspirational music is an essential part of our church meetings. The hymns invite the Spirit of the Lord, create a feeling of reverence, unify us as members, and provide a way for us to offer praises to the Lord.
“Some of the greatest sermons are preached by the singing of hymns. Hymns move us to repentance and good works, build testimony and faith, comfort the weary, console the mourning, and inspire us to endure to the end” (Hymns, ix).
Hymns offer us great inspiration and comfort throughout our lives when we can memorize them and then recall them in times of need.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks encouraged all Church members to use hymns more often to strengthen themselves and others:
“I wonder if we are making enough use of this heaven-sent resource in our meetings, in our classes, and in our homes. …
“We need to make more use of our hymns to put us in tune with the Spirit of the Lord, to unify us, and to help us teach and learn our doctrine. We need to make better use of our hymns in missionary teaching, in gospel classes, in quorum meetings, in home evenings, and in home teaching visits” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 10, 13; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 10, 12).
You can use music in a variety of ways to enhance your lessons and invite the Spirit. Following are a few examples.
Most hymns can help you teach gospel principles or review principles you have already discussed.
When using a song to teach a principle, you might ask the learners questions to help them reflect on the message of the song or to encourage a discussion. For example, before having learners sing “Keep the Commandments” (Hymns, no. 303; Children’s Songbook, 146–47), you might ask, “Why do you think we feel safety and peace when we obey the commandments?” You might use “I Lived in Heaven” (Children’s Songbook, 4) to teach children about the plan of salvation. You could use “How Firm a Foundation” (Hymns, no. 85) to help those you teach understand that the Savior helps us face adversity. To teach about the comfort that we can receive at the death of a loved one, you could use “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” (Hymns, no. 129).
After teaching a gospel principle, you might ask those you teach, “What hymn could help us remember this principle?” Then sing one of the hymns they suggest. With children you might sing a song and then ask them how the song applies to the lesson. You could then invite them to sing the song with you.
Each hymn in the Church hymnbook is accompanied by scriptural references, which are indexed (see Hymns, pages 410–14). Most songs in the Children’s Songbook also have scriptural references. You might refer to these references to find songs that would work well with a particular lesson. For instance, if you were teaching John 13:34–35, you might have learners sing “Love One Another” (Hymns, no. 308; Children’s Songbook, 136), one of the hymns that corresponds to these verses.
As learners sing hymns and other Church songs, the Spirit can bear witness to them of the truthfulness of the principles being taught. There are some songs whose very words are an expression of testimony, so that in singing them people can bear their testimonies together. Such songs include “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” (Hymns, no. 136); “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns, no. 301; Children’s Songbook, 2–3); “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” (Hymns, no. 19); and “Did Jesus Really Live Again?” (Children’s Songbook, 64).
President Gordon B. Hinckley explained how music strengthened his testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith:
“Many years ago when at the age of twelve I was ordained a deacon, my father, who was president of our stake, took me to my first stake priesthood meeting. … Together these men lifted their strong voices, some with the accents of the European lands from which they had come as converts, all singing these words with a great spirit of conviction and testimony:
“Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation,
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.
[“Praise to the Man,” Hymns, no. 27]
“They were singing of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and as they did so there came into my heart a great surge of love for and belief in the mighty Prophet of this dispensation. In my childhood I had been taught much of him in meetings and classes in our ward as well as in our home; but my experience in that stake priesthood meeting was different. I knew then, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God” (“Praise to the Man,” Ensign, Aug. 1983, 2).
At a lesson’s conclusion, a hymn or song can summarize the principle taught and convey a motivating message. For example, at the conclusion of a lesson on keeping the commandments, you might have learners sing “Choose the Right” (Hymns, no. 239); “Keep the Commandments” (Hymns, no. 303; Children’s Songbook, 146–47); “Dare to Do Right” (Children’s Songbook, 158); or “Nephi’s Courage” (Children’s Songbook, 120–21).
You and your family might sing hymns and other songs in family home evenings, family councils, and other gatherings to cultivate reverent feelings and enhance family gospel study. In a classroom setting, you might play recorded music or have someone play the piano as learners enter the classroom. This will help create a reverent atmosphere and prepare learners for the lesson.
Other ways you might cultivate reverence include playing music softly while you read a story or while children draw pictures about the lesson. Or you might have someone sing a song such as “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus” (Children’s Songbook, 57) while learners view pictures of scripture stories.
When selecting music for a lesson, refer to the indexes in Hymns and the Children’s Songbook for hymns and songs that relate to the lesson topic. Audiocassette and compact disc recordings of music in Hymns or the Children’s Songbook and of other Church music are listed in the Church Materials Catalog.
Make sure that any music you use that is not in Church-produced materials keeps with Church standards (see the “Music” section of the Church Handbook of Instructions). The ward music chairman or music director can help you select and prepare appropriate music.
If you plan to sing or lead a hymn or song, make sure you know the words well enough that you can pay attention to those you teach rather than to the hymnbook or songbook.
Review the sections “Using the Hymnbook” in Hymns (pages 379–86) and “Using the Songbook” in the Children’s Songbook (pages 300–304). Learn the basic beat patterns for songs. Also consider the following suggestions:
When leading a hymn or song, you may want to use your hands to indicate the pitch and the tempo, or speed, of the song. To indicate the pitch, hold your hand in a horizontal position, and while singing the words, move your hand up to indicate higher pitches and down to indicate lower pitches. As you do this, move your hand either slow or fast to indicate the correct tempo. You can also draw the pattern of a song on the chalkboard. For example, the melody pattern of the beginning of “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns, no. 301; Children’s Songbook, 2–3) would look something like this:
Instead of using the beat pattern to conduct a song, consider using simple hand motions that reflect the words in the song.
Ask the ward music director for assistance if you feel you need additional help learning how to conduct music.
Most children enjoy participating in musical activities. The appealing rhythms of music help children remember what they sing and the messages of the words. Music can increase children’s understanding of gospel principles and strengthen their testimonies. You can also use music to greet children, prepare them for prayer, focus their attention on a lesson, or calm them after an activity. Music can change the pace of a lesson and allow children to use their extra energy.
Many lessons suggest songs that reinforce the principle being taught. Refer to the index of the Children’s Songbook for other appropriate songs.
You do not need to be a skilled musician to use music in your teaching. If you are well prepared and you enjoy singing, the children will enjoy and learn from the music you use. Following are a few suggestions to help you use music to teach children. For additional suggestions, see Children’s Songbook, pages 300–304, and the videocassette How to Teach a Song to Children.
The following example shows how a teacher could use the song “I Love to See the Temple” (Children’s Songbook, 95) to teach about temples:
I know a beautiful song about temples. As we sing this song, listen carefully to find out what we do when we go to the temple.
Did you discover why we go to the temple? (Answers may include that we go to the temple to feel the influence of the Holy Ghost, to listen, to pray, to make covenants with Heavenly Father, and to be sealed as families.)
Now let’s sing the song again. This time, listen to discover whose house the temple is.
Did you discover whom the temple belongs to? (It is the house of God.)
Continue with similar questions until you have emphasized the parts of the song that will help the children understand its message.
You can use music and narratives together to tell a story or share a gospel message that relates to a lesson. This method is sometimes referred to as a sing-a-story. During this activity, most of the story or message is expressed through songs that the family members or class members sing. Brief narratives connect the songs to one another.
You can also combine music and narratives to prepare holiday programs or other presentations.
The following combination of music and narratives could be used in a lesson about gratitude:
Narrative: God loves His children very much. One way the Lord showed His love for us was by creating the earth for us. Psalm 136 instructs us to show gratitude to the Lord for His creation of the earth:
“O give thanks to the Lord of lords. …
“To him who alone doeth great wonders. …
“To him that by wisdom made the heavens. …
“To him that stretched out the earth above the waters. …
“To him that made great lights. …
“The sun to rule by day: …
“The moon and stars to rule by night” (verses 3–9).
Hymn: “For the Beauty of the Earth” (Hymns, no. 92)
Narrative: The earth that the Lord created for us provides abundantly for all our needs. We should praise God for the “harvest” of blessings we reap.
Hymn: “Come, Ye Thankful People” (Hymns, no. 94)
Narrative: We should also extend our deepest gratitude to the Lord for His Atonement, which can cleanse us of sin and give us eternal life. As we express thanks for His sacrifice, we more fully realize its power. This realization is overwhelming and humbling.
Hymn: “I Stand All Amazed” (Hymns, no. 193)
Narrative: The Lord expects us to share our blessings—to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the sick and afflicted, and teach those searching for truth. As we do these things, we show our most sincere gratitude to Him for the blessings He has given us.
Hymn: “Because I Have Been Given Much” (Hymns, no. 219)
Refer to the topical index in the hymnbook and the Children’s Songbook for a list of songs with similar themes that could be used for this activity. Use songs that are familiar to those you teach.
If a piano will be used, work closely with the pianist to prepare the songs, or have the person leading the songs work with him or her. Make sure the pianist knows when to begin playing each song.
Keep the narratives between the songs simple. They can be scriptures, brief stories, poems, personal experiences, or quotations. When using this activity with children, you may ask them questions and have the children answer them as part of the narrative. This will help the children understand the gospel message you are teaching.
As appropriate, use pictures to help learners visualize the story or gospel message being presented. You may allow children to hold the pictures during the presentation.
See “Comparisons and Object Lessons,” pages 163–64.
Overhead projectors, which are available in some meetinghouse libraries, are machines that magnify and project images onto a screen or wall. They can be used as an alternative to the chalkboard. This is especially helpful if a class is too large for everyone to see the chalkboard. If your meetinghouse library has an overhead projector, ask your meetinghouse librarian how to use it.
A panel discussion consists of a group of two or more class members—or invited guests with specialized knowledge or experience—who are assigned a topic to discuss. A panel discussion is guided by a moderator, usually the teacher.
You can use panel discussions to present information or to discuss how to live a gospel principle or solve a problem. Panel discussions give class members an opportunity to express their thoughts on a wide variety of subjects. When you ask class members to present new material or to discuss problems of interest to the group, they will become more actively engaged in learning.
Select a topic that is appropriate to the lesson and the age of class members. Prepare questions about this topic that you can ask panel members.
In advance, choose panel members who feel comfortable answering questions in front of a group. Limit the number of panelists to between three and five. A panel of more than five may take up too much time, and individual panelists may not have sufficient opportunity to comment on topics. If you want to invite visitors with specialized knowledge or experience, remember that the bishop’s approval is required before guest speakers may participate (see Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2: Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders , 325).
Help the panel members prepare for the discussion. Consider the following suggestions:
Help them understand what the discussion involves and what their responsibilities are, including any study or other preparation they should do. Also give them information on the age and needs of class members, the kind of presentation you would like to have, and the length of time they will be given to present their material.
Help them obtain the information they need for their part in the discussion.
If the panel will present new information or ideas, assign each panel member one aspect of the topic at least one week in advance so that he or she can prepare for the discussion. You may want to give panel members references from scriptures, lesson manuals, or other sources.
If the panel members will focus on a problem, meet with them before the discussion and give them a list of questions to be discussed. Allow each person to choose two or three questions to which he or she would like to respond.
Just before the presentation, give the panel members a few minutes to exchange ideas among themselves about the topics they will discuss.
Arrange the room so panelists can be seen and heard.
When it is time for the panel discussion, introduce the panel members and the topic they will discuss.
As you or another assigned moderator guides the discussion and asks questions, be sure to give each panel member adequate time to respond. Much of the success of a panel discussion depends on the moderator. This person sets the spiritual tone for the presentation and guides the discussion by keeping the remarks focused on the topic or problem, picking up a lagging discussion, and helping all panel members participate in the discussion.
Allow class members to ask questions of the panelists.
After the discussion, summarize the points that have been shared.
Teachers may use paper stand-up figures to help tell a story or illustrate a principle in a lesson.
Fold a piece of heavy paper in half.
With the folded side on top, draw the figure on the paper. Be sure to extend the top of the image to the fold. You may then have family members or class members color and decorate the figure.
Cut out the figure, making sure you do not cut along the fold where the image is extended.
Pictures are valuable tools for strengthening the main idea of a lesson and helping learners remain attentive. You can find pictures for gospel teaching in the meetinghouse library, the Gospel Art Picture Kit, Church-produced lesson manuals, and Church magazines.
You may display pictures in various ways. For example, you may:
Place them on the tray of the chalkboard, on an easel, or on a chair.
Have individuals hold them.
Hold them yourself.
Do not use tape to attach pictures to chalkboards or painted walls.
Pictures can be an important part of telling a story. For example, you might help children review a story by asking them to place several pictures in sequence and then having each child tell part of the story.
Use pictures creatively. For example, you could display a picture of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus. Then you could say, “When Jesus lived on the earth, He set the example for us to follow. He knew that our Heavenly Father had commanded everyone to be baptized.” Then you could ask the following questions:
What is taking place in this picture?
What did Jesus say is the right way to be baptized?
Who baptized Jesus?
Why did Jesus ask John to baptize Him?
Why did Jesus and John go into the river?
Why is it important for us to follow Jesus’ example and be baptized as He was?
After discussing these questions, you could summarize learners’ answers and relate them to the main idea of the lesson.
Remember that artists take some liberties when they create pictures. Therefore, not all elements within a picture should be taken literally. Rely on the account in the scriptures for the background and setting of an event.
Puppets can be used to dramatize parts of a lesson or story, welcome children to class, give instructions, sing songs, help with role playing, ask questions, or help children remain attentive.
See “Teaching with Questions,” pages 68–70.
In a readers’ theater, participants use a script to tell a story. A readers’ theater can be done in class or performed for an audience.
You can use this method to present scripture accounts, stories, poems, and other information. You can also use it as part of a special program for holidays or special events.
Story: Abinadi, King Noah, and Alma
Procedure: Explain that God sent a prophet named Abinadi to warn King Noah’s people to repent of their sins. Then have learners read the words of King Noah, his wicked priests, Abinadi, Alma, and the Nephites in Mosiah 17:1–19 and Mosiah 18:1, 7–11, 17, 30. Also have someone act as narrator, reading the story line between the statements of the people in the account.
Select material that supports the lesson topic. Appropriate materials may be found in the scriptures, Church-produced manuals, and Church magazines.
Divide the material into parts. Assign the parts to the participants. Give each participant the part of a character or narrator. Make sure the participants have enough time to study their parts and that they understand their roles.
If you will be performing the readers’ theater for an audience, have participants practice reading the material. Make sure they speak clearly and use pauses and changes in the volume and speed of their voices to relay the meaning of the message.
In a recitation, participants repeat material, which is usually memorized. A recitation can be done in class or performed for an audience.
You can use this method to present scripture accounts, stories, poems, and other information. You can also use it as part of a special program for holidays or special events.
Theme: The Ten Commandments
Procedure: On the Sunday before a lesson about keeping the commandments, give each person a copy of the song “The Commandments” (Children’s Songbook, 112–13). Assign each of them a line from the song to memorize. During the next lesson, have each person recite his or her part in turn.
Select material that supports the lesson topic. Appropriate materials may be found in the scriptures, Church-produced manuals, Church magazines, and the Children’s Songbook.
Divide the material into parts, and assign the parts to the participants. Give each participant the part of a character or narrator. Make sure the participants understand their parts and that they have enough time to study them.
If you will be performing the recitation for an audience, have participants practice reading the material. Make sure they speak clearly and use pauses and changes in the volume and speed of their voices to relay the meaning of the message.
In role playing, participants act out a situation or problem that occurs in everyday life. Role playing helps people apply gospel principles to real-life situations as they find solutions to problems, consider the consequences of different choices, and come to understand other people’s points of view. Role playing can be used to introduce or summarize a lesson or to stimulate discussion about a principle in the lesson.
Note: A role play is not the same as a case study. In a case study, learners discuss a situation or problem. In a role play, participants act out how people might behave in a certain situation.
A child has promised his parents that he will help clean the house. As he is getting ready to work, some friends come over and ask him to play. They want him to go with them now and do his work later. Role-play what he should say to his parents and what he should say to his friends.
A group of friends are walking down the street. They find a wallet with some money in it, but they do not know whose it is. Each of the friends wants to do something different with the wallet. Role-play what they should do.
Prepare those you teach for role playing by briefly explaining the problem or situation. Give them enough information so they will be able to act out their roles thoughtfully. Emphasize that they are to play a role and not act as themselves.
Select the participants or ask for volunteers. Indicate who will play each specific part. Arrange for as many participants as possible, since allowing several people to role-play a situation often tends to be more successful than having just one person act out what might happen. (Role playing could be repeated to help more people participate and to discover other solutions.)
Give the participants a few minutes to plan what they are going to do.
To involve all those present, invite those not participating to watch carefully.
After role playing, discuss and evaluate what happened by asking questions such as “How did you feel about the problem?” or “Could this happen in real life?” or “How does this exercise help you know what to do if this really happens?” Allow those you teach to determine ways to solve similar problems in their own lives. Discuss various solutions.
Participation in role playing should be voluntary. Do not force anyone to participate.
Role-play real-life situations that relate to the lesson and that are important to those you teach.
People relate better to role plays of situations they have experienced personally. However, exercise caution in selecting situations to role-play. While it is important that the problems should be as real and significant as possible, no participants should be placed in a position where they might be acting out their own life.
As the teacher, be sensitive to the learners’ feelings and attitudes. Accept mistakes, and teach them to appreciate each other’s points of view. Do not permit criticism of the participants.
Simple props such as hats or name tags may add interest to role playing, especially if you teach children.
As shown below, a roller box is a container used to display pictures that have been joined together on a roll. This teaching tool provides a fun way for children to view illustrations, especially if they have drawn the illustrations themselves.
Roller boxes can be used to show different aspects of a gospel principle, such as different ways to keep the Sabbath day holy. They also can be used to show a story from the scriptures or Church history.
Cut an opening in the side of a large box or carton. The opening should allow one picture to be displayed at a time.
Cut two sticks about six inches longer than the width of the box. You might use broom handles or paper-towel tubes.
Cut two holes for the sticks on each side of the box, as shown in the illustration on page 178.
Push the sticks through the holes.
Give each child a piece of paper and pencils or crayons. Have each child draw a different aspect of a gospel principle or a different segment of a story. When the pictures are drawn, tape the ends of the pictures together in the proper sequence so they form a single roll. Or you may have the children draw on different sections of one long piece of paper.
Attach the ends of the roll to the sticks.
Children can use small boxes, pencils, and long strips of paper to make their own roller boxes.
See pages 58–59.
See “Memorization,” pages 171–72.
See page 56.
See pages 56–58.
See “Teaching from the Scriptures,” pages 54–59.
See “Music with Narratives (Sing-a-Story),” pages 174–75.
Stations are places where different teachers conduct learning activities. Learners divide into equal groups and rotate between the stations. In each station a person leads a learning activity and remains in that area to give the same information or demonstration to each group that comes to the station.
You or the leader of each station should keep track of the time to ensure that the groups spend the same amount of time in each learning activity. You may want to play music to indicate when it is time for the groups to rotate to the next station. Allow time to summarize the experience with the entire class.
Display items that pertain to a certain topic, and have people explain the items. For example, you might have stations for home production and food storage, water storage, fuel supplies, and emergency kits.
Have teachers at different stations discuss aspects of family relationships, such as the role of parents, discipline, or communication.
Have someone at each station portray a different person from the scriptures. Have each person discuss how the person he or she portrays is an example of someone who faithfully lives the gospel.
Have stations with simple crafts, games, or activities of pioneer children.
Everyone likes good stories. Stories enrich lessons and capture the interest of learners as few other teaching methods can. Stories can be used to answer questions, introduce or reinforce principles, or summarize lessons. They can be especially effective to clarify and teach gospel principles by giving examples of righteous living, reaching all listeners on their own level of understanding.
When stories are used well, they engage learners’ values and emotions. They can help learners apply gospel principles as they share in great scriptural events, moments of decision, hardships and struggles, and the blessings of living the gospel of Jesus Christ. They make principles easier to understand and remember. They show in vivid and inspiring ways how gospel principles can be applied in our lives. For example, to teach about faith, you might share Alma’s explanation that if we have faith we “hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:21). But you would make your teaching more complete if you also told a story in which someone exercises great faith, such as the story of David going forth to battle Goliath (see 1 Samuel 17:20–50, particularly verses 1 Samuel 17:26, 32–37, 45–47).
The Savior is the Master Teacher and the example we should follow in all our gospel teaching. He frequently used stories in His teaching. His parables are excellent examples of using stories to teach. For example, a lawyer asked Him, “Who is my neighbour?” He answered by telling a story about a man who was beaten and robbed as he traveled from Jerusalem to Jericho. Two men passed by the wounded man, but a third, a Samaritan, stopped and took care of him (see Luke 10:29–35). When Jesus finished the parable, He asked the lawyer, “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” The man answered, “He that shewed mercy on him.” Then Jesus responded, “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:36–37).
When selecting a story, ask yourself the questions listed below to make sure the story is appropriate and effective. These questions and others are found in “Choosing Appropriate Methods” (page 91) and “Choosing Effective Methods” (page 92).
Will the story invite the Spirit?
Does the story match the sacredness of what I am teaching?
Will the story edify and strengthen those I teach?
Will it help learners better understand the principle being taught?
Will it make wise use of lesson time?
You can use stories from your own experience. You can also use stories about others, such as stories from the scriptures, from the lives of Church leaders, and from the lives of others you know or have read about. For certain purposes, you may want to use stories that are fictional, such as parables or folktales.
Relating personal experiences can have a powerful influence in helping others live gospel principles. When you tell about what you have experienced yourself, you act as a living witness of gospel truths. If you speak truthfully and with pure intent, the Spirit will confirm the truth of your message in the hearts of those you teach. The personal experiences of those you teach can also have a powerful influence for good.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught, “Perhaps the perfect pattern in presenting faith-promoting stories is to teach what is found in the scriptures and then to put a seal of living reality upon it by telling a similar … thing that has happened in our dispensation and to our people and—most ideally—to us as individuals” (“The How and Why of Faith-promoting Stories,” New Era, July 1978, 5).
In relating personal experiences, you and those you teach should remember the following cautions:
Do not speak of sacred things unless you are prompted by the Spirit. The Lord said, “Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit” (D&C 63:64).
Avoid sensationalism, which means saying something in order to produce a startling effect. Also avoid trying to produce strong emotions in the people you teach.
Do not embellish your experiences for any reason.
Do not tell of experiences in order to draw attention to yourself.
Do not talk about past sins or transgressions.
The scriptures and Church history are filled with stories about men, women, and children who have applied gospel principles in their lives. For example, you could teach about prayer by telling the story of Enos pleading with the Lord for himself, his people, and his enemies. You could also teach about prayer by using the story of Joseph Smith’s supplication in the Sacred Grove. And there are many instructive, moving stories from the lives of faithful Latter-day Saints today that you could share. When sharing stories about others, remember the following guidelines:
As with personal experiences, be sure you are acting in accordance with the Spirit. Avoid sensationalism, and do not embellish the stories you share.
Make sure you tell the stories accurately. Do not share stories about others that may not be true or that may have elements that are not true. Before sharing a story, go to the source to confirm that what you say is factual.
If a story has not been printed or shared publicly, obtain permission from the person whose story it is before you tell it.
There is a place for fictional stories in gospel teaching. You can learn how to use fictional stories by studying how the Savior used parables in His teaching. He spoke of a wise man who built his house on a rock and a foolish man who built his house on the sand (see Matthew 7:24–27), of a woman who swept her house to find the coin she had lost (see Luke 15:8–10), and of a prodigal son who squandered his inheritance but was welcomed home by his father (see Luke 15:11–32). If we are receptive to the Spirit, we can learn great truths from these parables and the many others that the Savior taught.
As the Bible Dictionary explains, parables are comparisons. They teach spiritual truths by comparing them to material things or situations (see Bible Dictionary, “Parables,” 740–41). This is true of all fictional stories that appropriately teach gospel principles. Stories can make gospel principles plain to the understanding, vivid to the imagination, and memorable. For suggestions on using comparisons to teach gospel truths, see “Comparisons and Object Lessons,” pages 163–64.
As you prepare to use fictional stories, remember the following guidelines:
Make sure that those you teach understand that the stories are not true.
As with other kinds of stories, make sure that fictional stories are appropriate, tasteful, and in accordance with the Spirit.
The Friend and New Era magazines often contain fictional stories that can be used to supplement and enrich lessons. For examples of the effective use of stories in gospel teaching, study general conference talks.
Have a reason for telling a story. Do not use a story merely to entertain those you teach. Connect the story with a gospel principle that is part of the lesson’s main idea or objective.
If a story is not factual, explain that to the class.
Select uplifting stories from your life, the scriptures, Church magazines and manuals, Church history, and the lives of General Authorities. In sharing stories from your life, avoid telling about past misdeeds or sins.
Remember to use stories that are appropriate for the age-group you are teaching.
Before sharing a story with those you teach, read it thoughtfully several times to become familiar with it. As you do this, determine whether or not you will tell the story in your own words. Stories that are filled with expressive dialogue and descriptions may be more effective if they are read.
Determine how much time you will have to tell the story. If the story needs to be shortened, include only those characters and events that are necessary for the story to be easy to follow.
If you are telling a story in your own words, outline on paper or in your mind the sequence of events in the story. Practice telling the story out loud in your own words. Use words and descriptions that add interest and color.
Plan how you will help listeners visualize the story in their minds. You can create interest in the story by using pictures or other visual materials such as drawings on the chalkboard or objects that relate to the story. For example, before telling the story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, you could show a picture of Moroni hiding the gold plates in the Hill Cumorah. You could ask questions such as “What is happening in this picture?” or “Why is Moroni doing this?”
Begin the story in an interesting way, using words that produce a vivid picture of the characters and setting. For example, to introduce the account of the Savior calming the storm, you could read from the scriptures: “And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves” (Matthew 8:24).
Enjoy telling the story. Tell it in a natural tone of voice, with interest and conviction.
After telling the story, discuss with learners how the principle taught in the story applies in their lives.
Keep in mind the ages of the children, adapting the story to their attention span and understanding.
Plan ways to involve the children in the story. For example, you could have them hold pictures or repeat phrases.
Before you tell the story, explain words in the story that the children might not understand. This will help you tell the story without interruption.
If you read from a book with pictures, stop frequently to show the children the pictures of the story. Display the pictures long enough for everyone to see them before you proceed with the story.
If the children make comments or ask questions, give simple, concise answers. Then continue with the story.
Young children enjoy having stories repeated. If you are repeating a story, start it and then ask, “What happened next?” You could toss a beanbag or soft toy to one child and ask him or her to say one thing about the story. That child would then toss the beanbag to another child, and so on, until the story is finished.
Put various passages from a scripture account together. Assign different learners to read the scriptures in sequence.
Children may enjoy sitting on the floor in front of you as you tell a story.
Children may enjoy dramatizing a story after they have heard it.
We learn through all our senses. In formal teaching settings we tend to rely heavily on the spoken word. But teachers who desire to increase learners’ ability to understand and learn will also use visuals. Most people will learn better and remember longer when you present ideas by using pictures, maps, word groupings, or other visuals rather than merely speaking.
The following examples show some things you can accomplish with visuals.
A Relief Society teacher wanted to help the sisters better understand how Romans 5:3–4 shows the relationship between tribulations and hope. She drew a simple diagram:
She then asked the sisters to discuss how tribulation brings patience, inviting them to give specific examples from their own lives. As the sisters continued through the simple diagram, they discovered how tribulation, patience, experience, and hope were significant in their individual lives.
A Sunday School class was studying the story of the road to Emmaus (see Luke 24:1–35). The teacher used a map in the scriptures to help the class members understand the distance between Jerusalem and Emmaus. He then showed them a map of their own city with a similar distance between two places familiar to the learners. This helped the learners understand approximately how long it would take to walk that distance, helping them to better appreciate what occurred in the conversation between the disciples and Jesus.
One teacher used a chalkboard to illustrate Doctrine and Covenants 84:88 to a class of missionaries. He wanted the missionaries to feel that the Lord’s influence could encircle them. He illustrated each phrase from the scripture as follows:
This simple arrangement of the words of the scripture verse allowed the missionaries to feel the protective promise of the Lord in a profound way. An interesting discussion followed as the learners were invited to discuss their fears concerning missionary work and their confidence in the Lord’s promise to help them.
Visuals can help those you teach understand the sequence of certain events. For example, time lines can help learners understand the sequence of events as they study such subjects as the ministry of Jesus, the missionary travels of Paul, or early Church history.
When learners visualize scriptural sequences, they can often understand principles more clearly. Most Church members have been taught the plan of happiness visually. Picturing a diagram of premortal life, earth life, life after death, judgment, and the three kingdoms of glory is useful in helping us understand the sequence of the plan.
Visuals can increase learners’ understanding of intangible principles. For example, you could represent the mediating power of Christ’s Atonement with the following illustration:
A lesson about helping the poor and needy might be enhanced by using the picture Christ and the Rich Young Ruler. In this picture, the Savior points the young man toward people in need as He says, “Go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me” (Mark 10:21). This picture can help learners remember to give service to those in need.
See “Chalkboards,” pages 162–63.
Work sheets provide written activities that help learners assess their understanding of a gospel principle, learn new information, or review key concepts. You can prepare a work sheet in order to introduce, emphasize, or review important parts of a lesson. A work sheet can also provide a reminder of a lesson for those you teach to take home and share with their families.
You can use a work sheet to help people assess how a gospel principle is currently part of their lives and discover areas in which they can improve. Use a work sheet like the following at the beginning of a lesson. Explain that if anyone answers no to any of the questions, the lesson will help him or her understand how to better live the principle and will suggest one or two ways to improve.
Do I listen with respect to others’ opinions?
Do I always speak positively about others?
Do I treat my family members with love?
Am I honest in my work?
Am I a good sport?
Do I keep my language clean and pure?
Is my appearance neat and clean?
Do I keep the commandments?
Do I read the scriptures regularly?
Am I cheerful about helping others?
Do I watch only wholesome movies and television programs?
Do I read only uplifting books or magazines?
Am I unselfish with my time and talents?
Am I dependable?
List various names of prophets in one column and list what they are noted for in another column. Have learners match the prophets with the events, as shown below.
Led 2,000 young warriors
Abridged the Book of Mormon
Led his family out of Jerusalem
Hid the gold plates at Cumorah
Obtained the brass plates from Laban
You can have learners match items from any number of gospel subjects. For example, they could match the Articles of Faith with the correct numbers, or they could match priesthood duties with the correct priesthood offices.
Prepare a work sheet that lists several historical facts or parts of a scripture story. Have learners number them in the proper order. For example:
Christ visited the Nephites. (3)
Mormon died. (4)
Lehi left Jerusalem. (2)
The Jaredite civilization flourished. (1)
Joseph Smith received the gold plates. (5)
Provide sentences with some words missing. Have learners fill in the blanks with the correct words. Provide the answers in a key in scrambled order. For example:
“If any of lack , let him of God, that to all liberally, and not; and it be him” (James 1:5).
Answers: upbraideth, you, given, men, shall, wisdom, giveth, ask
You can use work sheets to review and apply material from current and previous lessons. Select several scriptures that relate to gospel topics recently studied. Review the scriptures with those you teach, ensuring that they understand them. Then write the scripture references on the chalkboard. Present a short case study (see “Case Studies,” pages 161–62). Ask those you teach to select at least one of the scriptures and apply it to the case study. Give each person a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Have learners write the passage or passages they select, what those passages teach, and how they apply to the case study.
Scrambles can be used in different ways. For example:
Scramble letters in words. Have learners unscramble them to spell the words. The following work sheet contains scrambled words associated with skills that missionaries need:
Scramble words and have learners unscramble them to complete a phrase, a scripture, a song title, or an article of faith. For example:
together be forever can families (“Families can be together forever” [Hymns, no. 300; Children’s Songbook, 188].)
go the I which commanded will and Lord the hath things do (“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded” [1 Nephi 3:7].)
Information and ideas from lesson manuals and Church magazines can be adapted into interesting work sheets.
Work sheets should be suitable for the age of the learners. They should instruct and be enjoyable. They should not be too difficult.
Learners can work individually, or the class can be divided into small groups, with each group contributing to a work sheet. The information from a work sheet could be written on the chalkboard, and the class could complete it together.
Have enough pencils or pens for all the learners.
Work sheets should not take a long time. However, you should allow enough time for class members to complete them.
After giving everyone a certain amount of time to finish a work sheet, review the answers.
Help everyone feel successful in completing a work sheet. Help anyone who seems to be having difficulty.