Your Turn to Teach

by Shane Barker

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    If you had to teach a class, would you be puzzled, or could you put all of the pieces together to make a great experience?With a bit of preparation and a little practice, anyone can teach effective, meaningful lessons. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind.

    Ryan Periga was grinning as he walked to the front of the classroom. Ryan was the president of our deacons quorum, and it was his turn to present our priesthood lesson.

    “We’re going to do something a little different today,” he announced, holding out a box with a picture of Snoopy on the front. “I brought a jigsaw puzzle, and Brother Warner said we could spend a few minutes putting it together.”

    He opened the box and spilled the contents out on the floor. He dropped to his knees and looked around. “Well, don’t just sit there,” he said. “Give me a hand!”

    He didn’t have to ask twice. We were typical 12- and 13-year-old boys, and we were always anxious for something to do. Even if it meant working on a child’s jigsaw puzzle.

    “Find all the edges first,” one jigsaw expert suggested as he sorted through the pieces.

    “And the corners,” another deacon advised.

    “Look, here’s part of his nose.”

    “Yeah, and here’s a piece of his tail. Put it over there.”

    According to the box, the puzzle was designed for three- and four-year-old children. It only contained about 30 large pieces, so it wasn’t long before we had the whole thing finished. The only problem was that one large piece was missing, right in the middle.

    “Way to go, Ryan,” someone protested. “You brought a defective puzzle!”

    “Oh, I don’t know,” Ryan said, eyeing the finished product. “It doesn’t look that bad.”

    “What are you talking about?” someone asked. “It looks dumb.”


    “ ’Cause it’s not all there!”

    Ryan tried to look surprised. “Is that important?”

    “Of course, it’s important! You can’t have a puzzle without all the pieces.”

    Ryan grinned slyly: he had us right where he wanted us. He pointed toward the one empty chair in the room. “You might have noticed that Kevin hasn’t been to priesthood meeting for a while. So in a way, we’re just like this puzzle. We’re not complete. Without Kevin we’re not a whole quorum.”

    Ryan had made his point. He’d taught his lesson so well that each of us understood it perfectly. And we spent the next several minutes discussing ways to bring Kevin back into the quorum.

    You’ve probably had lessons on things like quorum unity before. So have I. But I’ve never seen anyone make the point quite as well as Ryan did. He focused our attention on the problem in a way that we all understood its significance.

    Now there are going to be times when you’ll have the chance to teach lessons, too. You might be asked to give a lesson in Relief Society or priesthood meeting. Maybe it’s your turn to teach the family home evening lesson. Or perhaps you’re going to present the next home teaching message.

    You don’t need to be a General Authority to be a good teacher. Everyone has thoughts, insights, and experiences that can help shape and influence others. So here are a few ideas for making your lesson a good one.

    1. Don’t be afraid to ask your adviser, parents, or companion for their ideas and input.

    Most importantly, remember to be prayerful. Seek the help of the Lord and invite his help in your preparations and your presentation.

    2. Look for ways to relate the topic to the lives of those you’re teaching.

    Ryan’s lesson was effective because he didn’t just talk about quorums. He talked about our quorum. He didn’t simply talk about activating people. He talked about helping Kevin. Quorum unity was suddenly something each of us could relate to.

    Think back to some of your own experiences. If a gospel principle has played an important role in your life, or if you’ve had an inspiring experience, someone else might benefit from hearing about it. Explain how prayer helped you to solve a problem. Or tell how you made reading the scriptures a daily habit. The closer to home your lesson is, the more impact it will have.

    3. Next, look for ways to make your lesson come to life.

    Use object lessons, activities, stories, and discussions. (Ask your seminary teacher for ideas.) Try to involve everyone.

    Ryan’s lesson is a good example. While we were busy working on the puzzle, we had no idea there was a point to what we were doing. But we were all involved; everyone was participating. And when the time came for Ryan to make his point we were more receptive to it.

    4. Be prepared.

    You can’t start working on a lesson Saturday night and expect it to go well Sunday morning. So start planning as far in advance as possible. Collect your notes and ideas and organize them.

    Then study your lesson until you know it thoroughly. It’s okay to use notes to keep from forgetting things, but never read your lesson straight from the manual.

    5. Remember to conclude each lesson with specific ideas for applying what you’ve taught.

    If your lesson deals with missionary work, challenge each person to share the Book of Mormon with a nonmember friend. If you teach a lesson on service, challenge everyone to do a good turn during the next week.

    6. Finally, bear your own testimony of the principle you’ve been discussing.

    Teaching is a tremendous responsibility, but it can also be a lot of fun. A good teacher can make a difference and bless the lives of others. So when your turn comes, make the most of it. Get out there and teach!

    Tried and True Teaching Tips

    1. Avoid reading long stories. Most stories—even when they’re well written—don’t have the same impact when they’re read aloud. So try paraphrasing instead, putting the story in your own words. Better yet, find a story from your own experience that makes the same point!

    2. Use Church magazines to find ideas. The Friend, New Era, and Ensign are all excellent sources of stories, ideas, and quotations. Look through the index in the December issues to find specific topics.

    3. If you are going to use scriptures (a good idea for any lesson), make sure each person has a copy. If the members of your class don’t regularly bring their scriptures, arrange to borrow copies from the ward library.

    4. If you’re going to use an activity or object lesson, be sure that it’s appropriate. Avoid activities that might detract from the spirit of the meeting.

    5. Be your own best lesson. It’s hard to impress a class with the importance of prayer if you don’t pray regularly yourself. But remember, you don’t need to be perfect at something in order to teach about it, as long as it’s something you are sincerely working at.

    6. Be excited about your lesson. If you don’t have enthusiasm for what you’re teaching, it’s a good bet that no one else will either.

    Photography by Welden Andersen

    The Savior was the master teacher. If you want to teach his gospel effectively, you’ll need the help of the Spirit.