The short time you spend teaching a lesson at home or at church can have an eternal effect on those you teach. Each lesson can help them feel the influence of the Spirit, grow in their love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and increase their dedication to live the gospel. Keep this in mind as you prepare lessons. Your success in representing the Lord and teaching by the Spirit will be influenced by the care you give to lesson preparation.
Beginning Lesson Preparation Early
Planning a lesson takes time and attention. Soon after you finish one lesson, begin preparing for the next. You will probably be most aware of those you teach and their needs and interests immediately after you have been with them. You will also be most aware of their response to your teaching.
Three Questions to Guide Your Lesson Preparation
As you begin to prepare a lesson, prayerfully review the lesson material, considering the needs and interests of those you teach. Then ponder the three questions listed below. These questions should guide you throughout your lesson preparation.
What should happen in the lives of those I teach as a result of this lesson?
Which specific principles should be taught?
How should these principles be taught?
Following are some specific ways to use these questions to begin lesson preparation. As you review a lesson in this way, write down ideas that occur to you. This will give you a structure for your continued prayerful pondering of the lesson.
1. What should happen in the lives of those I teach as a result of this lesson?
Study and ponder the lesson material and the accompanying scripture passages. Consider what those you teach should understand, feel, desire, or do as a result of the lesson. For example, in preparing a lesson about prayer, you may decide that learners should understand the importance of prayer and that they should resolve to pray each morning and night. In preparing a lesson about family responsibility, you may decide that as a result of the lesson, family members should be more diligent in completing household duties. In teaching a lesson about scripture study, you may decide that the lesson should inspire those you teach to study the scriptures daily.
Many lessons in Church-produced manuals include purpose statements. These statements can help you determine how each lesson should influence those you teach.
2. Which specific principles should be taught?
Always keep in mind the needs and backgrounds of those you teach. Ask yourself, “Which principles in the lesson will help those I teach meet the challenges they face?”
Often a lesson will contain more material than you are able to teach in the time you are given. In such cases, you should select the material that will be most helpful for those you teach.
The amount of material you cover is less important than its influence in the lives of those you teach. Because too many concepts at one time can confuse or tire learners, it is usually best to focus on one or two main principles. Then you can identify additional, supporting ideas from the manual.
Avoid trying to teach all that could be said on a particular subject. Those you teach will likely already have some understanding of the subject. Your lesson should supplement, clarify, and confirm what they know. Remember that your lesson is not the only time they will learn about the subject.
3. How should these principles be taught?
You should select teaching methods that will help learners understand and apply the principles you teach (for information about selecting appropriate and effective methods, see
In selecting methods, you should first review the discussion questions, stories, and other learning activities that are suggested in the lesson manual. If you feel that these methods will help meet the needs of those you teach, familiarize yourself with the methods. If you feel that you should use other methods, begin early to determine how to teach the principles. Consider using examples, illustrations, comparisons, or personal experiences that will help teach the main principles of the lesson.
The methods you decide to use may require that you obtain materials from the meetinghouse library, such as pictures, objects, hymnbooks, or videocassettes.
Cultivating Your Ideas
After you have some initial ideas on how to teach a lesson, you can develop and refine them. If you have begun preparing early, you will be more aware of experiences, stories, and scriptures that will help those you teach. Thoughts may come to you as you ponder the principles to be taught and the needs of those you teach. This is one way that the Spirit can guide you in your preparation. You may want to carry a notebook so you can write down ideas as they come to you.
It is helpful at this point in your planning to once again study the scripture references that will be used in the lesson. This will help you better understand them and liken them to those you are teaching.
Adjusting and Revising As Needed
As the time to teach the lesson approaches, there will likely be some final adjustments to make. This is much like the pruning a gardener does to give the right shape to a tree or shrub. During this stage you should:
Have clearly in mind what should happen in the lives of those you teach as a result of this lesson. Ask yourself, “Will the lesson bring these results?”
Review the specific points you want to teach from the manual: the main principles and the supporting ideas. Organize a clear outline. Be sure to plan a clear beginning and a strong, focused conclusion (see
“Beginning the Lesson,” page 93; “Concluding the Lesson,” pages 94–95).
Finalize the teaching methods you will use. Ensure that the methods you select will help learners apply the principles you teach.
Finalize your choices of the materials you will use.
You may be prompted by the Spirit to make changes right up to the last minute. You may even be prompted to make changes in the very moment you are teaching. Be open to all these promptings, and recognize that it is your careful preparation that allows you to receive the ongoing guidance of the Spirit.