Tip #1: Plan Early. Plan Often.
Don’t fool yourself: last-minute lesson planning is not advisable. Planning ahead allows your brain time to work, to churn out thoughts and connections that don’t come instantly. Lessons are like meat that needs to marinate before it can reach its full flavor. Sure, you can throw something together, and the lesson may not fall apart, but there is a depth and richness available to those who plan early. Know the lesson well enough that you can deliver it with most of your focus on the participants, rather than your manual. This cannot be emphasized enough: prepare ahead and reap the blessings.
Tip #2: Prepare to Engage.
Connecting learners to the lesson on multiple levels – spiritually, emotionally, and cognitively – is essential to creating a lesson that is more than just a way to spend forty-five minutes on a Sunday. As you study the lesson, ponder specific, concrete examples from your own or others’ lives that you can share to bring the lesson to life. Identify the key emotion elicited by the central focus of the lesson, and make sure that your lesson is true to that emotion. Try narrowing down the purpose of the lesson to an emotion, a gospel principle, and a future action. Plan to engage your class in each of these three ways. Remember: each and every teaching experience should result in an increase in testimony, an emotional connection to the doctrine, and an action to take in one’s life.
Tip #3: Use Resources Judiciously.
The amount of resources available to teachers is astonishing – and sometimes paralyzing. Imagine that resources are a color wheel. You have primary resources, like primary colors, that you should use as your core preparation materials. These are the scriptures and Church manuals. Secondary resources are those available from trusted church leaders and sources (such as BYU). Tertiary resources are those created by other teachers or found outside of the Church (including our own Pinterest boards), and they should be accent colors only, never the focus. As you prepare, make sure the greatest portion of your study time is spent in primary resource study. This will ensure that the Spirit can be the true teacher.
Tip #4: Spend as Much Time on the Questions as the Answers.
Voltaire advised, “Judge a man by his questions, rather than his answers.” The same is true of teachers. Effective teachers use effective questions. They allow participants to answer open-ended questions with a variety of answer possibilities, rather than simply who/what/where/when closed-ended questions with one right answer. Prepare questions with care, and practice controlling the question/answer portion of a lesson. Learn strategies for conducting strong discussions, and watch your class come alive.
Tip #5: It’s Not about You.
The teacher is for the class, not the class for the teacher. The lesson exists to develop the testimonies of the members and allow them to translate that testimony to positive action in their lives. It is not a one-man (or woman) show, and it is not appropriate to have the teacher upstage the central focus of the lesson. The teacher is the servant of the class, not the other way around, and strong teachers develop a servant’s heart through prayer, fasting, and thoughtful preparation. They do not use the class to boost their egos or focus attention on themselves. Like museum guides, they are constantly drawing attention to the beauty around them.
You can download this article as a printable here.