You've figured out the meat of your LDS lesson but you still have no idea how to actually start it. Don't worry. Use one of these 8 ideas to get you thinking and find the perfect beginning for your lesson. Before you start scrolling, keep in mind two key points to every opening:
- Avoid Distractions- That includes apologies and unrelated stories or jokes. When you begin your lesson with an apology you plant a negative mindset for everyone including yourself. Do your best, rely on the Spirit, and skip the apology. Jokes are entertaining but again, they distract from your lesson. Jokes start a path of thinking that doesn't go down your lesson plan. Keep people on track by beginning your lesson in a creative way that will keep everyone on track.
- Use Variety- Keep your class intrigued and interested with different openings each time you teach. When you begin the same way every time, people automatically start to tune out. Do your part to keep their attention. The rest will be up to them.
If you've been watching my Teaching Tips videos Thursdays on Facebook, you know I'm a big fan of the pre-lesson starters. They get your class thinking about the lesson before it even begins- wheels are turning and the conversations flow more readily. These are 3 of my favorite ways to do a pre-lesson starter:
- Write a simple question on the board then hand out dry erase markers to those already in the room. Ask them to write one word or simple phrase answer on the board then pass the marker on to someone else. This allows you to discuss the question right when you begin and relate it to your overall purpose.
- Hand out Post-its- As everyone enters, give them a Post-it and pen. Ask them to draw a simple drawing, write a phrase, ask a question, etc that goes with what you have on the board. This works really well if you have a few categories on the board or even a Venn Diagram. You can also rearrange some notes as you teach points in your lesson.
- Pin it! Hand out Pin pages (get yours below) with a description of what you want your class to draw. People will complain about their artistic ability- it seems to be human nature to automatically put ourselves down. Simply encourage them- you may need to say repeatedly, "I LOVE stick drawings!" as well as "That's why there is room for a description too." and "Do your best; use words if you need to." Ideally you'll have a few Pinterest "boards" for people to use. For example, in Howard W. Hunter Chapter 18, you can have 3 boards in the front: Honesty at Home, Honesty at Work, Honesty on the Road. Your class would then draw a pin of being honest (or not) and hang it under one of the boards. You can then read a few pins out loud and see if it could be pinned under multiple boards instead. It's great way to discuss how honesty applies to every facet of our lives- we can't be honest at home then dishonest at work. We need to be completely honest all the time. It's also a great way to see the different perspectives of your class so you can quickly adjust your lesson as needed.
The great thing with pre-lesson starters is you can get almost everyone participating in a short amount of time. There will be some that won't participate. Don't worry about it. It's not you, it's them. We are all going through something. You can encourage everyone but don't push it or force someone to participate.
Everyone loves a good object lesson. The principles often stick with us and help us think outside of the box. I often include object lessons in my Howard W. Hunter videos and teaching tips. You also discover even more object lessons on my LDS Object Lessons Pinterest board. Remember though, your object lesson needs to easily relate to your lesson. If it's a stretch, it's most likely more distracting than helpful. You can relate back to your object lesson throughout your lesson and use it in your ending.
General Authorities of the Church are excellent at using stories to teach us a lesson (who still remembers President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's story of Great-Aunt Rose?). Christ used parables while He was on the earth to teach us. They are excellent way to start your lesson. Stories help everyone put themselves into another person's shoes and see how to apply the principles you will be discussing. You can also end your lesson by going back to the story and restating the purpose with your testimony. Don't have a personal story? Ask someone ahead of time to tell theirs or use one in the Church magazines.
Dissect a Quote or Scripture
Write a scripture or quote on the board before your lesson begins. Several people will have read it by the time you start your lesson. Begin by reading it out loud yourself or even as a class. Then start dissecting it. What phrases jump out to people? If you define certain words, does it help the whole scripture become clearer? Are there two parts dependent on each other? Circle, underline, insert your own name, and define. Pull the scripture or quote apart as you discuss your lesson. End your lesson by saying it again and sharing your testimony. It's a great time to try a choral reading if you haven't yet. They can be extremely powerful.
You can also use this with a pre-lesson starter by selecting a few individuals ahead of time to start dissecting the scripture or quote for you. Give them a marker and have them circle key words, insert their name, etc. You could also call a few people before Sunday to have them think about certain parts of the quote or scripture and share their thoughts on Sunday.
Is there a really inspiring video you can use to begin your lesson? LDS.org is full of great videos of various lengths. You can search through the media library on the Church's site (when you type in a search word, narrow down your results by clicking on the "Videos" tab on the left side of the page) or use one of the suggested videos found in the lesson helps on this blog. Most videos need you to set it up a little before you push play. Explain the beginning scene, ask a question that you want answered after it's done, or see if people can pick how particular words are used. Then push play. Remember to download your video instead of relying on the connection at church. Read more tips before you use a video in your lesson.
Question to Ponder
Write a question on the board before your lesson begins. When you start, set up the question a little and ask it again. Then put some music on and let your class ponder it for a few minutes. You can even pass out papers and pencils for people to write down their thoughts. After a few minutes, discuss it. This is a great method to try if your class tends to be on the quiet side as it gives everyone a chance to reflect without the pressure of sharing. After they have a chance to write their answers down, some may be more willing to share out loud.
Dig through your gospel art kit, print out a picture from LDS.org, or use approved artwork from your home to begin your lesson (Get your presidency's approval before bringing in art not available on LDS.org). Ask your class what they notice about the piece, what feelings it evokes, what shapes and colors are used. Talk about several aspects and even things that are not in the picture or sculpted on the statute. You should have an idea what specific things you want to point out in that piece of art as well and how it ties into your next point in the lesson. You can use the artwork again at the end of your lesson to tie things together. You can see me demonstrate this style of teaching on the video in 3 Teaching Tools to Use in Your Next LDS Lesson. It works well with all ages.
Draw on the Board
A lot of scripture stories lend themselves to drawing on the board. You can ask someone else ahead of time or draw on the board yourself as you set up a scripture or story. Draw a map if helps put things into perspective. Draw several keywords that you will use throughout your lesson. Give something visual for your class to look at and something that you can refer back to often throughout your lesson. For example: A temple lesson could include a drawing of the temple nearest you, a body, and our homes. Talk about how the drawings relate and point to them each time you ask a question about the temple. Depending on which temple you are talking about, the answers will change.
Whichever way you choose to begin your lesson, let the Spirit be your guide always. These are suggestion to help you think outside of your normal routine but they are in no way a substitute for prayer and listening to the Spirit to discover what your class really needs.
Your Turn- How do you like to start your lessons?