Sunday, January 24, 2016

Using Binders to Make Youth Lessons More Effective

I never was the kind of student who could skip the lecture because "everything was in the book".  I had to read the book AND go to class in order to really absorb the material.   So a few months after I was called as YW president, I started to really feel like we needed to add that one more thing to help our Sunday lessons to be more interactive.    After a discussion with my presidency, we decided to provide a binder for every young woman that would be kept in the YW closet and handed out before each lesson.  The binder would provide a place for them to take notes, keep handouts, draw charts/illustrations from the lesson, and answer questions asked during class.   

We've been using them now for three years and I think they've played a very valuable  role in helping our Sunday lessons to be more meaningful.   They give the girls that "extra" way to learn the material  and make it less likely that the lesson floats in one ear and out the other.   The part that I've liked most about them is that I feel like their effective use (which takes a concerted effort) has facilitated better discussions.    When the girls have the opportunity to write an answer to a question in their binders first before answering, the answers are invariably more well-thought out and  original, since they wrote their answer before hearing everyone else's answers first.   I also like that they have a sort of spiritual journal for them to go back to.   When a girl moves from the ward or graduates to Relief Society, the binder is given to the girl.   

What do you need?  
1-inch binders with pockets (one for each girl)
pens (one for each girl)
loose leaf paper (to keep in each binder)
a couple of sheet protectors per binder for hand-outs 
3-hole punch to keep in the closet (or use the one in the library)
1 composition notebook and pen per girl

Why Use Them? 
1. The binder provides a place for the girls to take notes, which helps them remember what they've learned better.  It also provides a place for them to go back and review what was taught another week.

2. The binder provides a place to write down answers to questions asked during the lesson.   When a moment of quiet is provided to write the answer down, then girls are asked to share their answers; the answers are invariably more well thought out and original, since they've written their answers before they've heard anyone else's.  I also feel like it definitely reduces the whole copying the same train of thought as the person before them that often occurs in lessons. 

3.   A lot of the girls really, really like the way the binders help them to better absorb the lessons and  learn the gospel more effectively. 

4.  I think that creating an outline or "worksheet" to go along with the lesson (see picture below), sometimes helps me to better prepare the lesson and helps the girls to have something to follow along with. 

Some Hurdles/Tips
1.  A small percentage of the girls (about 5 of our 33 girls) really do not care to use them.  We do not force the issue.  

2.  If you don't consistently hand them out and/or encourage their use, they will not be as effective.  I'll often chime up in class (when I'm not teaching) and say things like, "That would be a great thing to write in your binder." 

3.  You need to collect the binders at the end of class, so they do not get lost at home.  We rarely see a binder again that has been accidentally taken home.  

We have 33 YW in our ward, so the binders take up an entire shelf (plus a little) in our closet, but in my opinion they are worth the space and time they take up.   

  This year for our binder covers we had each girl watercolor their own background, then when they were dry, we printed this year's mutual theme onto it.  

 Here's a printable graphic I made of this year's mutual theme that you are welcome to use:  

If you use a binder or notebook in your youth class, I'd love to hear your ideas for what works and what doesn't with them.   What other ideas do you have to make your lessons more effective?  

No comments: