Lesson 6: Create a Learning Atmosphere: Part 1

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“Lesson 6: Create a Learning Atmosphere: Part 1,” Teaching, No Greater Call: A Resource Guide for Gospel Teaching (1999), 213–18

“Lesson 6,” Teaching, No Greater Call, 213–18

Lesson 6

Create a Learning Atmosphere

Part 1


To help class members understand how teachers and learners can work together to create an atmosphere of gospel learning.

Note to the Teacher

In lesson 5, class members discussed the individual’s responsibility to be diligent in learning the gospel. This week’s lesson focuses on a responsibility that teachers and learners share: creating a learning atmosphere. It will help class members apply gospel principles in their efforts to prevent distractions in the classroom and help solve discipline problems that may already exist.

With this lesson as a foundation, class members will be prepared to suggest solutions to specific problems. This will be done as part of lesson 7.


  1. Prayerfully study the scripture passages in this lesson. Seek to apply them to the purpose of the lesson.

  2. Become familiar with the stories in the lesson. Practice reading them in a way that will keep class members’ interest.

  3. Bring the following items to class:

    1. A large piece of paper (or several smaller pieces of paper).

    2. Three marking pencils.

  4. Study the section of this book titled “Create a Learning Atmosphere” (pages 75–87).

Suggested Lesson Development

The School of the Prophets provides an example of how to create an atmosphere of gospel learning.


Share the following statement:

“In the early days of this dispensation the Lord commanded the brethren to ‘teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.’ They were to learn all things pertaining to the gospel and the kingdom of God that it was expedient for them to know, as also things pertaining to the arts and sciences, and to kingdoms, and nations. They were to ‘seek learning, even by study and also by faith,’ and were to build a holy sanctuary or temple in Kirtland, which among other things was to be ‘a house of learning.’ (D. & C. 88:74–81, 118–122.)

“As part of the then existing arrangement to fulfil these commands, the Lord directed the setting up of the school of the prophets (D. & C. 88:122, 127–141)” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 679).

Explain that the purpose of the school of the prophets was “to prepare selected members of the priesthood to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world” (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 69; or Ensign, May 1983, 53). By revelation, the Lord taught the members of the school how to conduct themselves. Three elements of His instructions can help families and Church classes establish a learning atmosphere.


Write the following list on the chalkboard:

  1. Everyone contributes.

  2. There is a bond of friendship in the gospel that unites all who are present.

  3. Each individual is attentive and ready to focus on the contributions of others.


Have class members turn to Doctrine and Covenants 88:122–23, 125. Explain that the three elements that you have written on the chalkboard are taught in this scripture passage. Have class members read the passage aloud. As they read, ask them to look for commandments from the Lord that can help us maintain these three elements of a learning atmosphere.

Emphasize that when people come together to learn the gospel, each person has something worthwhile to contribute. Each can be prompted by the Spirit to share insights and experiences that will edify the others. All who are present should listen to one another so that “all may be edified of all” (D&C 88:122).

Teachers and learners share the responsibility to create an atmosphere of gospel learning.

Teacher Presentation and Scripture

Point out that the first five lessons in this course included discussions about teachers’ responsibilities. One lesson, lesson 5, also included discussion about individuals’ responsibility to learn the gospel for themselves. Today’s lesson focuses on a responsibility that is shared by both teachers and learners: the responsibility to create an atmosphere in which we can successfully learn the gospel together. To fulfill this responsibility, teachers and learners must help one another and be unified in purpose.

Explain that Alma spoke of this unity when he taught the people who had been baptized in the waters of Mormon. Have a class member read Mosiah 18:18–22.


Share the following story, related by a woman who was concerned about the Sunday School class she attended. Ask class members to listen for ways in which the learners and the teacher in the story worked together to help create a learning atmosphere.

“In our new ward my husband and I discovered that the Gospel Doctrine class wasn’t very effective. As the teacher talked, some class members read their scriptures; others just kept their heads down. I could tell that this bothered the teacher. Once he even asked, ‘Is anybody listening?’

“Soon we learned that a number of people in the ward attended the Gospel Principles class instead of Gospel Doctrine. We heard that the teacher of that class was excellent. We attended the class and found it to be lively, insightful, and rewarding. But walking home from Church one day, we confided to each other that we both felt that what we were doing wasn’t quite right. We needed to support our bishop by supporting the teacher he had called to teach us. So we began talking about what we could do to enrich the Gospel Doctrine class. We realized that we had placed all the responsibility for a good class experience on the teacher, as if we were daring him to get our attention and hold our interest.

“We prayed for guidance during the week and went to the Gospel Doctrine class on Sunday with a different spirit. A few minutes into the lesson, my husband asked a question, and the teacher invited other class members to offer answers. A good discussion ensued, to which several class members contributed. Later in the lesson, the teacher made a point that wasn’t clear to me, so I asked him to help me understand. He responded by pointing out a scripture that I had never noticed before. Then a sister told a story that reinforced his point, and another class member offered another scripture. We felt the influence of the Spirit in that classroom. The teacher became more relaxed. I could see him gain strength and confidence from our simple gestures of interest and participation. The lesson concluded with a prayer of gratitude and a resounding ‘Amen’ from the class.

“Since that day most class members have been participating with great interest. Our teacher seems energized by their enthusiasm, and he often expresses gratitude for the support he feels. Sunday School keeps getting better and better.”

Group Discussions

Divide the class into three groups. Give each group a marking pencil and a large piece of paper (or several smaller pieces of paper). Ask each group to choose one person to be a scribe. Then assign each group one of the following questions:

  1. What are some things teachers and learners can do to encourage everyone to contribute?

  2. What are some things teachers and learners can do to develop friendships among themselves?

  3. What are some things teachers and learners can do to help everyone be attentive and listen to one another?

Inform the groups that they will have three minutes to discuss their questions. As they do so, they should consider their own experiences and the story that you have just shared with them. The scribe in each group will write the group’s ideas on the large piece of paper. Then he or she will display the list for everyone else to see.

After two or three minutes have passed, have them display their lists. Briefly review the ideas in the lists. Encourage class members to write these ideas in their notebooks.

If class members do not include the following suggestions in their lists, you may want to mention them:

  1. What are some things teachers and learners can do to encourage everyone to contribute?

    1. Teachers and learners should apply the principles they discuss.

    2. Where possible—such as in Melchizedek Priesthood, Relief Society, and Gospel Doctrine classes—learners should read the lesson material before coming to class.

    3. Learners should contribute willingly to discussions. They should raise their hands to help the teacher know that they are ready to ask questions or share comments.

    4. Individual learners should be careful not to dominate discussions.

    5. Learners should complete assignments diligently.

  2. What are some things teachers and learners can do to develop friendships among themselves?

    1. Teachers and learners should be aware of each other’s abilities and needs.

    2. They should support one another in class and outside of class.

    3. As appropriate, they should verbally express their concern and love for one another.

  3. What are some things teachers and learners can do to help everyone be attentive and listen to one another?

    1. Teachers and learners should listen carefully and respectfully to each other.

    2. Teachers and learners should arrive on time.

    3. They should remain alert and focused on the lesson.

    4. Learners should ask appropriate questions when they do not understand what is being taught.

    5. Where possible, learners should be present throughout the lesson.

Teachers help learners understand and fulfill their responsibility to create a learning atmosphere.

Stories and Discussion

Explain that you are going to share two stories. Ask class members to think about how the teachers in these stories helped others contribute to a learning atmosphere. Then share the following story told by President Thomas S. Monson:

“One winter day, I thought back to an experience from my boyhood. I was just eleven. Our Primary president, Melissa, was an older and loving gray-haired lady. One day at Primary, Melissa asked me to stay behind and visit with her. There the two of us sat in the otherwise-empty chapel. She placed her arm about my shoulder and began to cry.

“Surprised, I asked her why she was crying.

“She replied, ‘I don’t seem to be able to encourage the [boys] to be reverent during the opening exercises of Primary. Would you be willing to help me, Tommy?’

“I promised Melissa that I would. Strangely to me, but not to Melissa, that ended any problem of reverence in that Primary. She had gone to the source of the problem—me” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 82–83; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 69).

  • In this story, what did the Primary president do to help create a learning atmosphere? (She helped young Tommy Monson understand and fulfill his responsibility.)

  • After hearing this story, are there any suggestions that you would like to add to lists you have made? (You may also want to suggest that class members add these suggestions to the lists in their notebooks.)

Story and Discussion

Indicate that you will now share a story about a teacher in the Young Women organization:

“Come with me into a classroom of 12- and 13-year-old young women. Listen as you hear the learners discover doctrine. Notice the experience the teacher provides for the learners so that they can connect the doctrine to the reality of their lives. Feel the accompanying witness of the Spirit:

“Our teacher moves her chair closer into the semicircle of five girls. ‘We have a guest waiting outside,’ she begins. ‘It is Sister Jonas. She has agreed to show us her tiny baby and tell us how she feels about being a new mother. As you watch this new little baby, would you also notice his mother—how she treats the baby, what she does, what she says. We’ll talk about her visit after she leaves.’

“Sister Jonas comes in, spends seven or eight minutes talking about her baby and answering questions. The girls thank her, and she leaves the classroom.

“‘The baby was darling, wasn’t he?’ our teacher responds to the delighted hum of the class. ‘But what did you notice about the mother?’

“A minute of silence and then a response: ‘Well, she was happy.’ Another: ‘She kind of rocked back and forth the whole time she was holding him.’ A few more responses, and then Katie slowly begins, ‘She—ummm—she talked really quietly.’

“‘Could you say more about that?’ the teacher coaxes.

“‘Well, her voice reminds me of my mother’s voice when she called from the hospital to tell us we had a new baby sister last year.’

“The teacher, turning to the other girls: ‘What do you think? Did anyone else notice her voice?’

“The girls become more thoughtful and begin to reply with words like ‘reverence,’ ‘heaven,’ ‘love.’

“The teacher: ‘I think I understand. I believe those words come to our minds because we are recognizing a great gift from our Heavenly Father. He loves us and trusts us so much that He is willing to share His creative powers with us. We feel such gratitude and reverence for this trust. Motherhood is a divine role.’

“After this clear statement of doctrine and testimony, our teacher moves on to an activity where the girls identify qualities their own mothers exhibit that show an understanding of the divinity of motherhood. ‘Could each of you prepare for motherhood right now by practicing one of these very virtues—maybe being more patient, kinder, or more positive this week?’

“Each girl talks about her choice. Our teacher bears personal testimony. The closing prayer is offered” (Virginia H. Pearce, in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 14–15; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 13).

  • In this story, what did the teacher do to help create a learning atmosphere? (Answers may include that she invited a guest to share a personal experience, asked insightful questions, listened attentively, responded to class members’ comments with follow-up questions, taught the doctrine, and helped the young women apply the doctrine in their lives.) What did the class members do? (Answers may include that they listened and participated thoughtfully.)

  • How might the atmosphere of learning developed in this classroom help prevent future difficulties?

  • After hearing this story, are there any suggestions that you would like to add to the lists you have made? (You may also want to suggest that class members add these suggestions to the lists in their notebooks.)

When we help learners become engaged in creating a learning atmosphere, we are teaching them to be followers of Jesus Christ.

Teacher Presentation

Point out that the stories that you have shared show some ways to both prevent problems and solve them. Have class members turn to the section of this book titled “Create a Learning Atmosphere,” beginning on page 75. Point out that pages 76–83 discuss creating a learning atmosphere and preventing disruptions and that pages 84–87 give specific suggestions on how to deal with disruptions if they occur. Explain that whether we seek to prevent problems or solve them, our goal should be the same: to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to help learners understand and fulfill the responsibility that they share to create a learning atmosphere.

This goal is the key to discipline in the classroom. As we keep the goal in mind, we are not merely correcting behavior or keeping the classroom quiet. Instead, we are teaching others to be followers of Jesus Christ.

Sometimes teachers think that they are failing if they cannot quickly find a way to create an atmosphere of gospel learning. However, such an atmosphere is seldom created quickly. People develop one step at a time—line upon line and precept upon precept (see 2 Nephi 28:30). Constant effort is required. The key is to work faithfully, diligently, and patiently, always being guided by true principles.



Bear testimony as prompted by the Spirit.


Inform class members that next week’s lesson will focus on a number of specific things that teachers can do to prevent distractions and solve discipline problems. Ask them to think of a situation that can detract from a learning atmosphere and to think of a possible solution. The solution should be specific and practical. They should write about both the situation and the solution in their notebooks, and they should be prepared to take two or three minutes in next week’s class to talk about what they have written.

In considering possible solutions, class members should study the section of this book titled “Create a Learning Atmosphere” (pages 75–87).