16 Decide What to Teach and How to Teach It

Teaching The Gospel A CES Resource for Teaching Improvement, (2000), 58–59

Principles to Emphasize

Decide What and How to Teach

“Every teacher has two decisions to make when preparing a lesson: ‘What will I teach?’ and ‘How will I teach it?’” (Teaching the Gospel: A Handbook for CES Teachers and Leaders [1994], 19).

Balance the What and the How

If a teacher does not balance what to teach and how to teach it, “edifying teaching will most likely be lessened” (Teaching the Gospel: A Handbook, 20).

Sequential Scripture Teaching

“One of the best ways to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ is to teach the scriptures . . . in the sequence they appear in the standard works” (Teaching the Gospel: A Handbook, 20).

Suggested Training Activities: Decide What and How to Teach (15 minutes)


Invite teachers to read the first paragraph of the section entitled “Decide What to Teach and How to Teach It” (handbook, 19). Ask them to look for the two decisions every teacher must make when preparing a lesson. After they have read the paragraph, ask: What two decisions must every teacher make when preparing a lesson? Why are these decisions important?


List the following words on the board: methods, content, writing, concepts, audiovisual material, principles, reading, scriptural insights, doctrines, small group work, historical context, discussions. Have teachers indicate which items relate to deciding what to teach and which relate to deciding how to teach.


Invite teachers to consider the content of the gray box at the bottom of page 19 of the handbook. Ask:

  1. What should be considered when deciding what to teach? (see handbook, 19).

  2. What do you think is the difference between “knowing” and “understanding” a principle?

  3. Why should this difference be considered when deciding how to teach a gospel principle?

  4. What else should be considered when deciding how to teach a gospel principle? (see handbook, 19).

  5. What do you think is the relationship between “feeling” and “doing”?

  6. How might the two parenthetical statements in the gray box on page 19 of the handbook assist you in preparing your lessons?

Suggested Training Activities: Balance the What and the How (15 minutes)

Object Lesson

Draw a simple balance on the board or bring one to display. Write or place the word what on one side of the balance and how on the other.

balance scale


Invite teachers to read the first paragraph on page 20 of the handbook. Then ask:

  1. Why is it important to balance these two aspects of lesson preparation? (see handbook, 20).

  2. What experiences have you had that illustrate the need for this balance?

  3. What happens when the focus of a lesson is too heavily on the what? on the how?

  4. Which of these two concepts, the what or the how, should come first in lesson preparation? Why? (see handbook, 20).

Object Lesson

Have teachers imagine that you need their help in packaging a gift you wish to deliver to students. Identify a variety of containers used in shipping and mailing (envelopes, boxes, crates, etc.). Ask:

  1. Which container do you think I should use?

  2. What information is needed to make an appropriate decision?

  3. How should the packaging (delivery) reflect the nature of the content?

  4. How does this apply to deciding how gospel principles should be “delivered”?

Suggested Training Activities: Sequential Scripture Teaching (15 minutes)


Write the following statement on the board: Sequential scripture teaching means __________. Ask teachers to consider how they would fill in the blank, and invite them to share their responses. Discuss the responses.


Invite teachers to read the section entitled “Sequential Scripture Teaching” (handbook, 20). Have them highlight or underline what sequential scripture teaching means and what it does not mean. Ask:

  1. What is meant by sequential scripture teaching? (see handbook, 20).

  2. How is it different from simply teaching concepts?

  3. Considering the bulleted items on page 20 of the handbook, how can teachers recognize if their teaching follows the principles of sequential scripture teaching?

Case Studies

Distribute handout 15 and invite teachers to consider which of the bulleted principles of sequential scripture teaching on page 20 of the handbook apply to the case studies on the handout. As principles are identified, have teachers describe how they might apply the principles.


Invite teachers to apply one or more of the principles they identified in the previous activity in an upcoming lesson. Have teachers share their experience of applying what they have learned (with a colleague or in the next in-service meeting).