Saturday, March 9, 2013

14 Ways to Engage Students in the New Youth Curriculum

I went to a stake leadership training meeting this morning and came out with an entire page of detailed notes about how to engage students in the new youth curriculum.  The teacher of the class, Sister Bowen, is my son's early morning seminary teacher and has the chance to use these methods with a group of sleepy  high school students every single day.  Some of the ideas may be a little better suited to a seminary class, but I think all of them have the potential to really engage the youth (whether it be in a church classroom or during family home evening) and get them to use different parts of their brain as they learn the information in the lessons.   I'm one of those people who really needs to do more than just listen to a lesson in order to really get it to stick, so I wouldn't mind if  Sunday School and Relief Society teachers used some of these sometimes too!

One of the concepts that really stuck with me from her lesson is that sometimes as teachers we get too wrapped up in each student "contributing" to the class and forget that "participating" can be done in many different ways.  Just as we don't always contribute to a testimony meeting by sharing our testimonies out loud, it doesn't mean that we haven't participated  and felt the spirit.  It's more important to engage students and help them to actively learn the material, than it is for them to answer all the questions.   Here are some of the ideas she shared with us on how we can do that:

1. One Thing--Instead of asking the youth to retell an entire story or explain a complicated gospel concept, ask everyone to share just one thing about it.  This will allow more of the class to be involved and makes it less intimidating to answer. 

2. Draw--Don't be afraid to pull out the crayons and markers.  Just because they're teenagers, doesn't mean they won't a enjoy a minute to illustrate a scripture story or concept.  It won't be fine art, but it will give them the opportunity to use the other side of their brain as they're learning the lesson. 

3. Every Third Person--When asking people to read scriptures or whatever, instead of going right around the room, have every third person do it.  It's just another way to "spread the love" and make sure that more of the class has an opportunity to participate regardless of where they're sitting in the classroom.

4. Mix it Up--If you find that your class tends to always sit in the same seats and next to the same people, find a way to mix it up.  Have everyone write down their favorite song (or whatever), then have them sit alphabetically based on the what they've written down. 

5. Quizzes--Occasionally give short (low pressure) quizzes to help make sure they understand the material.  To make it even more meaningful, have them take turns writing the quizzes themselves. 

6. White Boards--Buy cheap whiteboards and dry-erase markers (at the dollar store or Walmart) for each member of the class.  Ask them a question and have them write their answer on the whiteboard and display their answers all at the same time.  It gives them an opportunity to think of the answer independently and also introduces a tad bit of healthy competition.   

7. Chalkboard--Give them the opportunity to move their bodies and come write something on the chalkboard.  They can fill in the blanks of a scripture, write down class feedback, or draw out a chart. 

8. New Era--Don't be afraid to use stories and tidbits from the New Era (or Ensign).  It's an especially great place to find real life examples of people living the principles of the gospel.

9. Write--Provide paper and allow them to write.  It can be as simple as taking notes, copying down charts, or giving them a minute to write down their thoughts.   The act of writing things down will give their brains one more way to process the information, so that hopefully they'll remember it better.

10. Journals--Beyond just providing paper, give them class journals to take notes in, write down their thoughts or experiences, or glue in handouts.  You can use a composition notebook or small binder.  Either way it's probably best if they keep the journals at church, so they always have them during class. 

11. Caveman Speak
--To liven things up, have everyone summarize their answers into 5 words or less (caveman speak). 

12. Epistles
--Have the students write an epistle to someone about a gospel topic that  is meaningful to them. 

13. Facebook
--print off a template of a facebook page and have them create facebook pages for people in church history or from the scriptures.  Make sure they include their beliefs, interests, and status updates. 

14. Media--Occasionally find ways to connect people in the media  with the lesson you're teaching.  It can be as an example of someone who's made bad (or good) choices, or someone who's sung a particularly meaningful song, or someone who's done contributed to society in a meaningful way, etc.    Our teacher shared how she brought in a bunch of pictures of Tim Tebow  and together they made a list of the scriptures he'd written on his face.  They looked up each of the scriptures and then had each class member pick the scripture they would write on their own faces. 


Anonymous said...

Great ideas! I agree that kids always pay better attention when the teacher ustilizes a variety of teaching methods.

jk said...

Thanks for sharing. I loved the variety of ideas to try.

piccolina said...

im so glad i found your blog! please please, never stop blogging!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for these wonderful ideas. I can't wait to use some if not all to my Sunday School to prevent them from falling asleep :)

Nancy W. Jensen said...

Thanks so much! I linked to this entry for my readers from my Come Unto Me website. (