Periodically I like to give what I call a “Spiritual Mid-term.” This is where I give students the opportunity to grow in deeper gospel study skills. I divide the class into teams of about three students each. I give them team-responsibility for one chapter. They are to read the chapter as a group, select the theme or teaching from that chapter, and then prepare a mini-presentation for the rest of the class. (I have twelve students in my class. Thus, my teams tend to be small. Adjust according to your needs. :0)
For the presentation I request that they select a theme hymn, make a poster or some kind of visual display delineating the main thought, and prepare to share their testimonies regarding their assigned chapter. They are also to prepare a list of questions that will get the rest of the students in the class digging into the actual scripture block to find the answers to questions asked during the presentation.
I’ve shared with the students as to why I periodically do this. I want them to have solid gospel knowledge. I want them to know that the scriptures contain the answers to ALL of life’s questions, no matter how difficult or far-out those questions may be. I also remind them that in a few short years (for some of them as short as one year away!), they will be attending college and that if they are attending a church school, most likely they will be in a student ward. As such, many of them will be called as Sunday School teacher, Relief Society President, Elder’s Quorum President, Sunday School President, Enrichment Leader….. anyways, you get the idea.
Their eyes kind of pop when this clicks. I let them know that they are in a time of preparation for these future leadership opportunities and that they will be preparing lessons for auxiliary organizations within the church. I want them to be able to handle those opportunities with inspiration and not be overwhelmed by them. So I tell them that each time we do these “Spiritual Mid-terms” as a class, it is an opportunity to check their growth, their knowledge of the gospel, and their testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ.
Today each team received the assignment for one of the following chapters in Alma: 31, 32, 33, or 34. I gave them each some suggested teaching resources from the seminary manual, some coloring pencils, a hymn book, and two blank pieces of paper upon which to prepare their visual displays (explaining that when a class has something to look at, they often will remember that visual for a long time).
The kids then split out into groups and begin working on their “mid-term.” I play soothing hymns as a quiet backdrop while they are working.
Doing this off and on throughout the year has resulted in kids who seem to know how to handle their scriptures, seem to be able to find ways to share the gospel with others, and have grown in comfort being in front of others. I have been proud of them as I’ve seen them bring the gospel to one another through these periodic presentations. The spirit has been so strong as they’ve shared their testimonies and their mini-lessons.
Is any of this perfect in its process? Of course not. We are all human after all. But as these students have taken up the challenge, wonderful things have resulted.
And now tomorrow, the presentations! :0)
1. Ask the students to FIRST read the chapter together before discussing ideas. This way they will have accomplished the most important portion of gospel-lesson preparation, before getting caught up in presentational ideas.
2. Have the students say a team prayer, asking for the spirit when they present.
Students are to:
* Read the chapter together as a group.
Then (if the teams need to be larger, they could subdivide these responsibilities so as to not run out of time):
* Select a theme and hymn.
* Draw a visual.
* Prepare a list of questions and a quote for the class from that scripture block.
(sample of student-drawn visual)
The Next Day Seminary Mom Wrote
Today the students made their presentations. It went well. Each one participated in one way or another. They closed by sharing their testimony.
What I’ve noticed is that when the students present these “Spiritual Mid-terms” (which they prepared yesterday in class), they do an excellent job getting one another to read the scripture blocks and to make application to their personal lives.
Several of the slogans they used for their posters or presentations were (some obtained from the lesson materials):
From the Alma 31 team:
“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.” (Elder Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17)
From the Alma 32 team:
“Faith can be a gradual process.” (student created phrase)
From the Alma 33 team:
“2 Nephi 32:9 – remember the First Vision came because of prayer.” (student created phrase)
From the Alma 34 team:
“Procrastination is the thief of eternal life.” (President Joseph Fielding Smith, Improvement Era, June 1969, 37)
I’ve been surprised how strong the spirit can be when the students themselves are teaching. The particular combination of students in this class is very strong. These kids are powerful and well-behaved. I recognize that this class may be unique. Some seminary teachers must grapple with students who have not yet found their footing on gospel soil. What an important calling and moment in life for them.
But what I’ve learned is that by having high expectations from the start, the kids tend to lift themselves to acting in a behaved way. When I have had to “call a kid on the carpet”, the other kids seem to take notice and recognize that I hold this time as sacred with them and expect them to live to high standards.
I fully recognize that with another class, the things I have done may not have helped. Each class requires a unique approach. But all kids can and do respond to consistency. Therefore, I can only share my personal approach in hoping that it might help another teacher. Goodness and strength come from the Lord and he responds to prayers and pleas for help!
I don’t take credit for anything I’ve done; the spirit has really pointed out important activities to help these kids. In fact, there’s probably a huge “Seminary Idea Factory” up in heaven which has workers working overtime to help us as seminary teachers. :0)
I say that light-heartedly, but very much recognize that the Lord is good and kind and the blessings/ideas we receive as seminary teachers come from him. And I am just one tiny mortal on earth trying to do the same as all other seminary teachers – enrich the lives of the Lord’s “stripling warriors.”
One thing which I believe helped the direction of this class more than anything else were the private appointments I made individually with each seminary student in their own home before the school year began. For each appointment, I brought a survey.
They filled it out while we sat together and we discussed their pet peeves about seminary and their favorite things about seminary. We discussed what they hoped to receive from me as a seminary teacher and what they hoped to never see from me as a seminary teacher.
I believe this made all the difference in letting them know that I cared about their very personal thoughts and held them as important entities in my own heart. As the school year has progressed, I hope that they have felt me carry this through.
At the end of the year, I will have them fill out another survey, in addition to letting them give both themselves and me a “grade.” Participation is a good thing.
Here is a modified list of questions from what I had previously given in the survey:
“YOUR THOUGHTS, PLEASE!”
(I would also add EMAIL, CELL PHONE, and IM information)
BIRTHDATE (for treats and a card on that day)
FAVORITE SCHOOL SUBJECT
AFTER SCHOOL JOB? (If so, HOURS WORKED PER WEEK)
FAVORITE SPARE TIME ACTIVITIES
THINGS YOU ARE GOOD AT
THINGS YOU WANT TO IMPROVE ON
FAVORITE MUSIC AND/OR ARTIST
FAVORITE BREAKFAST FOOD
FAVORITE FAMILY ACTIVITY
YEAR IN SEMINARY (circle) 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
FAVORITE BOOK OF MORMON SCRIPTURE
PET PEEVE ABOUT SEMINARY
FAVORITE THING ABOUT SEMINARY
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM SEMINARY THIS YEAR?
WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL GOAL FOR SEMINARY?
What an opportunity to teach those whom the Lord has withheld until now, when the fiercest of battles are being fought for the souls of mankind.