Pre-Teach Your Lessons

Have you ever wished, as you finished a lesson, that you could teach that same lesson to the same students again? The next time you would really do it well! It is usually not possible to give the same lesson to the same students, but we can do something that is almost as good: we can practice presenting the lesson—in our minds.

Studies have shown that the human nervous system cannot tell the difference between an actual experience and an experience imagined vividly and in detail. For example, in a study of the effects of mental practice on improving basketball skills, the players who visualized themselves tossing the ball through the basket improved their skill almost as much as players who had actual practice. (Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-cybernetics, Prentice Hall, 1960, p. 32.) I have found that mental practice, or synthetic experience, is equally effective in improving one’s teaching skills.

Synthetic experience is a form of role-playing in your mind. First you must visualize your class situation in detail. Picture in your mind the physical classroom, the appearance of each student, and his usual behavior. Then visualize yourself presenting the lesson in this classroom to these students. Role-play—in your mind—the entire lesson presentation, including the responses of each student. Then vary your presentation to include other possible responses of the students. Role-play problems that might arise during the lesson, and your proposed solution to the problem.

Don’t be concerned during your first “practices” if you do not handle a problem successfully; most learning is a process of making and correcting mistakes. After the “practice,” analyze the situation, perhaps talk with someone else, and then decide on a better approach to the problem. In succeeding “practices,” role-play the best approach that you have devised. Repeat this role-playing until you have “taught” the lesson in a way that you believe will be effective.

You may wonder where you can find the time to “practice” the lesson. This is no real problem for most people. You can role-play your lesson while you are washing the dishes, ironing, riding to work, gardening, resting, or doing any other activity that requires little concentration.

After you have repeatedly role-played a lesson, you will have built patterns in your brain of successful, effective teaching experiences. These patterns will serve you as if they were formed from actual experience. Then when you actually present the lesson to your students, you will find that you are prepared, by experience, to present an effective lesson. As a bonus, you will know that you are prepared, and thus you will be free to concentrate on the special needs of each of your students. Naola VanOrden, Rural Sutter Creek, California

Need Sugar, Honey?

To replace sugar with honey in your favorite recipes: substitute honey for the sugar, cup for cup; then reduce the liquid called for by 1/4 cup for every cup of honey substituted.

In baked goods, add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to the recipe for every cup of honey substituted. Bake at a temperature 25° lower than instructions call for. Rosemary Brown, Chester, Idaho

Happy (179th) Birthday, Elizabeth!

To get your family interested in genealogy, you may want to give special attention to ancestors’ birthdays! Get a calendar that has several lines for writing on each date. Go through your book of remembrance and record the names of your direct ancestors on the days that they were born and also the years in which they were born. (Use the female’s maiden surname instead of her married name, since she was given that name at birth!)

As soon as the calendar is ready, explain to the children that for the next year they will commemorate the birthdays of their ancestors in order to become “better acquainted” with them. As a family you might pick a spot in the house where the birthdays will be posted. The night before an ancestor’s birthday, make a simple construction-paper sign proclaiming the event. A typical sign might read:


  • Elizabeth Barnfield

  • Born 1799

Children will not always know the name and will ask about the ancestor. Find the ancestor on a pedigree chart and figure out the relationship the children have with the birthday name. If other facts are known about the ancestor, now is the time to talk about them! Our children really look forward to the posting of birthdays on our cupboard door.

To share your family’s newfound enthusiasm for genealogy with your friends and neighbors, invite them to a special genealogy family home evening—on a night other than Monday. Our family made invitations that looked like books of remembrance, noting the details of time and place on the inside. We asked all those attending to come dressed as an ancestor (complete with a name tag stating who they were and when they were born and when they died). If possible, they were to be prepared to tell a little about the person they were representing.

On the appointed night, we posted a sign at our front door saying, “Welcome to the Past,” and sixty guests were greeted by our son, who was dressed as Roger Sherman, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and one of our ancestors. Our home was lit with candles and kerosene lamps, and the scene was set for an evening of learning about genealogy geared for all, even the very young guests.

The variety and fame of our ancestral guests was great, and even the young children realized that they were doing something special that evening. Most of the parents reported great excitement in their homes as decisions were made as to who each would be. One of our daughters faced a dilemma: she had two favorite ancestors and “didn’t want the other one to feel bad if she wasn’t chosen to attend the family home evening”! Deanna J. Hoyt, Laramie, Wyoming