Advice for Early Morning Seminary Teachers

Seminary Advice – Aug 2008

(These thoughts are solely my opinions and might even need correction!)

  • Always start on time. If you keep starting later and later – then the students will learn to keep coming later and later
  • Discipline –
    • You should have your highest level of discipline/class control on the very first day. You can always ease up on discipline, but it’s very difficult to be lax with discipline and then try to tighten things up.
    • Start off strong to establish your role and control of the class
  • Break lessons in to segments or chunks (i.e. 15 minute segments. Gospel topic, scripture mastery, video, game, etc). Keeps things interesting and helps keep their attention
  • Goal of helping the students feeling the Spirit every single day
  • They won’t remember everything that is taught to them. Concentrate on teaching at least one main concept rather than trying to teach every little fact or detail.
  • Keep the class off-guard
    • Helps you maintain control in the class
    • Don’t get in a rut of doing the same thing every day or even every week. Keep things fresh and changed
    • Helps maintain discipline
  • Remember to teach using different methods. Students have different learning styles. Some are verbal, some visual, etc.
  • Push Seminary pins. This is especially true for Freshmen and even Sophomore teachers.  If students don’t start getting their pins early – they probably won’t.
  • Teenagers like to have an excuse to be motivated. It’s amazing how even just a small treat will help create the motivation in teenagers to do difficult things.
  • Stories can work well. The Savior taught in parables. Lessons can be learned more easily and remembered for much longer via stories.
  • Be careful about bearing one’s testimony in frequent and trite ways that it loses its power and effectiveness when really testifying by the Spirit.
  • Attend students activities (school, church, etc.). They notice that you are there and really appreciate the show of concern and interest in them. It can break down a lot of walls.
  • Celebrate birthdays. It personalizes the class and creates a special, individualized moment for the person.
  • Use lots of compliments and praise. Pygmalion effect. Some students don’t get a lot of positive reinforcement at school or even home.
  • Create a ‘safe’ environment. Free from criticism and mean teasing either from teacher or other class members. Very low tolerance for this in class.
  • Your example through your attitude and personality will teach many unspoken lessons
  • Teaching seminary is a marathon. Don’t start off in a sprint and then burn out early.
  • Some days lessons will just bomb. That’s ok. Some days are like that.
  • Some days will be surprisingly good.
  • Always follow and teach by the Spirit. This can’t be emphasized enough. Some times a lesson will be just for one student. You don’t always knows beforehand or even afterwards who that lesson was for.
  • Start preparing your lesson each day by first reading in the Book of Mormon and by prayer
  • Ensure parents are completely aware of any issues or problems. Waiting until it gets to be a much bigger issue can make the situation even more difficult.
  • Have a monthly meeting with each Bishop – a combined meeting with all Bishops and teachers affected is extremely valuable.
  • You might want to have a class presidency. At the least have one student be the secretary to help you keep roll. Anything that you can do to have the students have ownership of the class can be greatly beneficial.
  • Love them – always
  • Scripture mastery/chasing. Repetitive learning can help learning retention. Years afterwards students won’t remember most of what was taught. But they will remember the spiritual feelings they had and they will probably remember most of the Scripture Mastery references.
  • Be careful about having very competitive situations where losing students are easily identified and noticed. Often it’s better to have the competition among groups rather than individuals.
  • Realize how important the social aspect of seminary is to the students. Often one of the main reasons some of the youth come to seminary is just to be with their friends. This doesn’t mean that we should encourage constant social chit-chat, distractions, etc – however we do need to realize the influence that social interaction has on the desire to come to seminary. Difficult area to handle.
  • Always be in Sunday dress (white shirt and ties for men. Dresses for women.)
  • Don’t be afraid to say no to others who ask you to do other church callings (i.e. substitute teach Sunday School, Primary, etc.). Any extra time should be used for seminary preparation – not other church teaching assignments. Most members don’t realize and understand the tremendous load that seminary teachers are under.
  • When you ask questions in class – make sure and wait for an answer. Make sure and out-wait them. This can be difficult and uncomfortable to do. If you provide the answer – you bail out the student. If they learn that you will provide an answer – then they will learn not to answer.
  • When asking questions – sometimes it works best to first ask the question – pause – and then say someone’s name. If you need to repeat the question – that’s ok. If you say the students name first and then ask the question – then the rest of the students know they don’t have to be attentive and don’t have to think of the question/answer.
  • If the class is receptive – one of the most powerful/best methods for teaching is going verse by verse through the scriptures. Not all classes can handle this.
  • All classes are different and have their own personality. Each class each year will be different.
  • Don’t do administrative stuff (handing out manuals, cards, etc.) on the first day. The first day should be a very powerful, spiritual lesson. This lesson sets the tone and standard for you for the rest of the year.
  • Teaching seminary is all about loving the youth. One tip shared with me is to go to your classroom sometime during the seminary year. Go when you are in the room by yourself with the room set up like it normally is. The youth tend to like to sit in the same seat day after day. Go and sit in each of the youth’s seats and while sitting in each one thing about that student. By sitting there and pondering you can get a better feel and perspective of what that student might be thinking of when you are teaching. It can be a powerful way for you to become more in tune with each student, what they need and how you can better help them.
  • Good discipline / class management techniques:
    • When students are talking / being disruptive – stop, look at them, and wait for the disruption to stop
    • Move around in the class. If a student or group of students are being disruptive – go stand in front of them and wait for the behavior to change
    • Don’t spend lots of time with your back to the students (i.e. writing on the board). If there is a lot of writing to do on the board – have one of the students do it for you. That way you can still maintain control over the class
  • Some days you will think you are just a failure as a teacher. Some days you will be on top of the world. Some students will think you are the absolute best teacher. Some will think you’re the worst.  Just remember – it’s some place in the middle. There will be highs and lows. Just keep an even keel.
  • Here is a suggestion that was sent to me by Nancy L. that sounds good: “One thing I have on my list that you don’t, is that I really like is a seating plan.  I divide the class into zones and then they have to sit in that group.  I don’t tell them which chair, just in that group.  I know as a shy introverted teen, it was so much easier to walk into a class knowing where I would be sitting without the stress of trying to decide who to sit by or wondering who would sit by me.  I change the zones every 3 weeks so that they sit with a new group.  It also helps with discipline as there are people that need to be separated and then I only let them be in the same zone once in a while for a treat. The zones also have the benefit of everyone taking a turn being a zone leader for the 3 weeks, you have automatic groups for games, and the zone takes care of devotionals and prayers for a week each.”

11 responses

  1. Can you tell me about seminary pins? I know nothing about them. The only incentive I am aware of is “The Moroni Challenge” and even that is a little confusing. I have 2 copies of the Moroni Challenge from the material I have inherited and they are very different in the level of requirements- and the reward appears to be a certificate. I live in Japan and do not have as easy access getting materials or getting my questions answered as I would if I lived in the states. Any help you can give would be helpful.
    Thank you for all the wonderful tips you have written!

  2. Chris, you are way ahead of me. I don’t have any materials yet but I have been told they are coming. I have not heard of the Moroni Challenge. Will that be in the books I will receive? If not, where can I get that information? I am in Japan also, so I have the same problem. I only have 2 students, maybe 3, but they are great kids and deserve the best I can give. These tips are great and will really help.

  3. Thank you for all this important info. I have taught for five years and agree with most everything you stated, I even learned a few new things that I cut and pasted and will keep on my desk. Thank you for taking the time to help all of us teachers.

    Kam Winters

  4. Appreciate your insight and sharing!

    Teresa

  5. Thank you!
    Becky

  6. Thank you,
    These suggestions are fantastic. 🙂

  7. Your outline is great. I have found changing it up is always effective. I taught seminary for 17 years and was released last year. I am now teaching Gospel Doctrine and find that what I did in Seminary works great tn this class also. Thanks

  8. What are Seminary pins?

  9. Seminary pins are awards that stakes in our area have given away for 20+ years. They are akin to high school athletic letters. They actually require significant effort on behalf of the student. For example, this year in the Old Testament this is what the students have to do to get one:

    – Memorize 25 Scripture Mastery Scriptures from OT
    – Read 200 days for 10 minutes or more from the OT
    – Read the Old Testament (for the OT it is usually some selected portions. For the other scripture years they need to read the whole book)
    – Name the current First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve in order
    – Give a Book of Mormon to a non-member friend

    If they do all those things then at graduation they are rewarded with a pin. Some wards have plaques up for those students who have received pins for all 4 years. I’m not sure where our stake gets the pins, but looking online here is one place: http://latterdayeditions.com/products.php

    Hope that helps.

    Jett

  10. Awesome !!!! Thanks much for ideas. It has been is my first year and I Have had difficulty all year with constant chit chat from 2 specific boys. I have tried a number of things from the beginning, talking to parents, the bishop,having parents come into class. This is really annoying to the other students. Any other ideas?

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