I often get asked, "How do you go about preparing your lessons?" I'm always hesitant to answer because the process is different for everyone. And it should be different for everyone because we all think and learn in different ways and are blessed with various different talents.
However, in hopes of helping you find your method, I am sharing mine if you promise to tweak it until it's right for you. Keep in mind this process also includes a ton of prayer- during the whole process I'm praying for guidance, direction, understanding, my class, my family, ideas, etc. Prayer is the key.
Also please read Teaching in the Savior's Way. It will give you excellent instructions and tips on what great lessons are.
- I read the chapter selfishly first. I want to see what I can take away from it for my personal life. I highlight and take notes and make action plans for my life. This allows me to focus later on others because I've already gotten what I need out of it.
- After at least a day, I go back and reread the lesson thinking purely of my class. I try to think of their life circumstances and what may resonate with them. Sometimes it is the same things that I highlighted before and sometimes it is completely different.
- Then I let my thoughts sit with me and ponder for a while- it could be a couple of hours to a week depending on the materials and impressions I receive. Pondering is a huge part of the process for me. I can't move forward until I feel good about the chapter and the ideas I have in my head first. This often involves reading other materials on the same theme to help me look at things in different ways- General Conference talks and other materials that I find using Deseret Bookshelf PLUS.
- Next I start writing down thoughts I feel good about and figure out what my main point should be. My main point is what the majority of my lesson will focus on. Then I go back to the title and see if my main point aligns with the main purpose of the lesson. If it does, I write down my main goal for the overall lesson (i.e. to strengthen everyone's testimony of the restoration and it's significance in our lives today). If it does not, I go back and rework it- was I thinking too much about myself and missed the point? Am I distracted by a great quote and not focusing on the lesson as a whole? My main goal is what I want the class to walk away from the lesson with. Everything that I plan from here on out should help accomplish the main goal especially the main point.
- Now I find two other points that support the main goal that I would like to include. These two sub points while great are ones that I can leave out if time is an issue.
- Then I start beefing up the main point with scriptures, quotes from the manual, activity ideas, discussion questions, and testimony. I want to get my class to interact with each other- not just listen to me. I do the same with the sub points but not to the same depth. I don't write word for word- I keep everything in outline form so I can have a discussion with the class instead of a read aloud. Need some teaching method ideas? See all my Teaching Tip posts.
- Finally I figure out a way to open and close my lesson. I find when I plan the beginning and ending at the same time, it helps bring the lesson full circle and ties everything together nicely. I love doing pre-openers as well if can- something that gets my class thinking about the lesson before it actually starts. This could be sharing a quote on Facebook or having them do a board activity as they enter the room.
- I always want to leave my class with a challenge to take action- we don't go to church to simply listen. The challenge will basically be my main goal for the lesson reworded to apply to them individually. I write it down again (in big letters) to make sure I restate it clearly at the end of my lesson. Issuing the challenge usually gives me another opportunity to bear my testimony as well.
- Then I w alk away from my lesson plans for a few days. If something's not right, it will nag at me and I'll know I need to spend more time on it. Either way though, I'll read through it all again and tweak as necessary. I make sure I know the lesson well enough that I know what comes next so teaching flows more effortlessly. And last of all, I gather all my supplies ahead of time so I'm not doing a last minute dash out the door on Sunday and inevitably forget something.
All in all it's a couple of weeks process at the minimum. Of course, life doesn't always allow for that long but I strive to have at least that much time when possible.
Need a basic lesson outline to get you going? Here's one that I've created based on my method above. Try it out and figure out what works for you.