Principles of Teaching
by Adam S. Bennion
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A member of the stake presidency in one of the stakes in southern Utah, in discussing this matter a short time ago, remarked that in his family of four boys one very definitely had decided to become a farmer and was already busy at getting acquainted with the details of the work; a second boy was devoted to music and voiced a very vigorous protest against farming; the third son was so bashful and reticent that he hadn't given expression to any notion of preference; the fourth, a happy-go-lucky sort of chap, free and noisy in his cutting up about the place, wasn't worrying about what he was to do in life—he just didn't want anything to do with strenuous effort.

"How can I drive a four-horse team such as that?" was the interesting query of this father.

Practically every family presents this variety of attitude and practically every parent is trying to work out a solution to the problem, so there is nothing startling about the term individual differences. Educators have just given the matter more careful and scholarly attention of recent years.

If the matter of differences in children constitutes a problem of concern in a family of from two to ten children, how much greater must that problem be in a class from thirty to fifty with approximately as many families represented. The problem has led to some very interesting investigations—investigations so simple that they can be carried on by anyone interested. For instance, if we could line up all the men in Salt Lake City according to size we should find at one end of the line a few exceptionally tall men, likely from six feet to six feet six inches in height. At the other end of the line would be a few exceptionally small men—undersized men from three feet eight or ten inches to four feet six inches. In between these two types would come in graduated order all sorts of men with a decidedly large number standing about five feet six or eight inches. This latter height we call the average.

Practically we see the significance of these differences. No manufacturer thinks of making one size of overall in the hope that it will fit each of these men. He adapts his garment to their size, and he knows approximately how many of each size will be called for in the course of ordinary business.

If these same men could be taken one by one into a music studio and have their voices tested for range, the same interesting variations would be found. There would be a few very high tenors, a few exceptionally low bassos, and a crowd with medium range with fillers-in all along the line.

If we were interested in carrying the experiment still further we might apply the speed test. In a 100-yard dash a few men would be found to be particularly fast, a few others would trail away behind at a snail's pace, while the big crowd of men would make the distance in "average time."

Of course, it would be foolish to attempt to make tenors of all these men—equally foolish to try to make speeders of them all. In these practical matters we appreciate the wisdom of letting each man fit into that niche for which he is qualified.

Nor are these differences confined to the field of physical characteristics and achievements. Tests by the hundred have demonstrated beyond all question that they hold equally well of mental capabilities. In the past children have gone to school at the age of six. They have remained there because they were six. At seven they were in grade two, and so on up through the grades of our public schools. Tests and measurements now, however, are showing that such a procedure works both a hardship and an injustice on the pupils. Some boys at six are found as capable of doing work in grade two as other boys at eight. Some boys and girls at six are found wholly incapable of doing what is required in grade one. One of the most promising prospects ahead educationally is that we shall be able to find out just the capacity of a child regardless of his age, and fit him into what he can do well, making provisions for his passing on as he shows capability for higher work. Not only has this matter of individual differences been found to apply generally in the various grades of our schools—it has been found to have significant bearing upon achievements in particular subjects. For all too long a time we have held a boy in grade four until he mastered what we have called his grade four arithmetic, spelling, geography, grammar, history, etc. As a matter of fact, many a boy who is a fourth-grader in grammar may be only a second-grader in arithmetic—a girl, for whom fourth grade arithmetic is an impossibility, because of her special liking for reading, may be seventh grade in her capacity in that subject. In the specific subjects, individual differences have been found to be most marked. Surely it is unfair to ask a boy "born short" in history to keep up to the pace of a comrade "born long" in that subject; so, too, it is unfair to ask a girl "born long" in geography to hold back to the pace of one "born short" in that subject. The results of these observations are leading to developments that are full of promise for the educational interests of the future.

In order that we may more fully appreciate the reality of these observations let us set down the concrete results of a few experiments.

The first three tests are quoted from Thorndike:

In a test in addition, all pupils being allowed the same time,

1 pupil did 3 examples correctly 2 pupils did 4 examples correctly 1 pupil did 5 examples correctly 5 pupils did 6 examples correctly 2 pupils did 7 examples correctly 4 pupils did 8 examples correctly 6 pupils did 9 examples correctly 14 pupils did 10 examples correctly 8 pupils did 11 examples correctly 7 pupils did 12 examples correctly 8 pupils did 13 examples correctly 5 pupils did 14 examples correctly 5 pupils did 15 examples correctly 6 pupils did 16 examples correctly 1 pupil did 17 examples correctly 5 pupils did 18 examples correctly 1 pupil did 19 examples correctly 2 pupils did 20 examples correctly

The rapidity of movement of ten-year-old girls, as measured by the number of crosses made in a fixed time:

6 or 7 by 1 girl 8 or 9 by 0 girl 10 or 11 by 4 girls 12 or 13 by 3 girls 14 or 15 by 21 girls 16 or 17 by 29 girls 18 or 19 by 33 girls 20 or 21 by 13 girls 22 or 23 by 15 girls 24 or 25 by 11 girls 26 or 27 by 5 girls 28 or 29 by 2 girls 30 or 31 by 5 girls 32 or 33 by 3 girls 34 or 35 by 5 girls 36 or 37 by 0 girl 38 or 49 by 4 girls 40 or 41 by 1 girl

Two papers, A and B, written by members of the same grade and class in a test in spelling:

A. B. greatful gratful elegant eleagent present present patience paisionce succeed suckseed severe survere accident axadent sometimes sometimes sensible sensible business biusness answer anser sweeping sweping properly prooling improvement improvment fatiguing fegting anxious anxchus appreciate apresheating assure ashure imagine amagen praise prasy

In a test in spelling wherein fifty common words were dictated to a class of twenty-eight pupils, the following results were obtained:

2 spelled correctly all 50 3 spelled correctly between 45 and 48 5 spelled correctly between 40 and 45 11 spelled correctly between 30 and 40 6 spelled correctly between 20 and 30 1 spelled correctly between 15 and 20

And now the question—what has all this to do with the teaching of religion? Just this: the differences among men as found in fields already referred to, are found also in matters of religion. For one man it is easy to believe in visions and all other heavenly manifestations; for another it is next to impossible. To one man the resurrection is the one great reality; to another it is merely a matter of conjecture. One man feels certain that his prayers are heard and answered; another feels equally certain that they cannot be. One man is emotionally spiritual; another is coldly hard-headed and matter-of-fact. The point is not a question which man is right—it is rather that we ought not to attempt to reach each man in exactly the same way, nor should we expect each one to measure up to the standards of the others.

An interesting illustration of this difference in religious attitude was shown recently in connection with the funeral of a promising young man who had been taken in death just as he had fairly launched upon his life's work. In a discussion that followed the service, one good brother found consolation in the thought that the Lord needed just such a young man to help carry on a more important work among the spirits already called home. His companion in the discussion found an explanation to his satisfaction in the thought that it was providential that the young man could be taken when he was, that he thereby might be spared the probable catastrophies that might have visited him had he lived. Each man found complete solace in his own philosophy, though neither could accept the reasoning of the other.

An interesting case of difference of view came to the attention of the teacher-training class at Provo when someone asked how the lesson on Jonah could be presented so that it would appeal to adolescent boys and girls. The query was joined in by several others for whom Jonah had been a stumbling block, when Brother Sainsbury, of Vernal, startled the class by saying Jonah was his favorite story. "I would rather teach that story than any other one in the Bible," he declared, and illustrated his method so clearly that the account of Jonah took on an entirely new aspect.

Many men and women in the world are shocked at the thought that God is a personality. To them the idea that God is simply a "man made perfect," a being similar to us, but exalted to deity, is akin to blasphemy. And then to add the idea of a heavenly mother is beyond comprehension. To Latter-day Saints, on the other hand, these thoughts are the very glory of God. To them a man made perfect is the noblest conception possible. It makes of Him a reality. And the thought of Mother—Heaven without a Mother would be like home without one.

And so with all the principles and conceptions of religion, men's reactions to them are as varied as they are to all the other facts of life. Everywhere the opinions, the capacities, the attainments of men vary. The law of individual differences is one of the most universal in our experience.

* * * * *


1. Just what is the meaning of the term Individual Differences?

2. Illustrate such differences in families with which you are familiar.

3. Apply the test to your ward choir.

4. Name and characterize twenty men whom you know. How do they differ?

5. Have a report brought in from your public school on the results of given tests in arithmetic, spelling, etc.

6. Have the members of your class write their opinions relative to some point of doctrine concerning which there may be some uncertainty.

7. Observe the attitude and response of each of the members of a typical Sunday School, Kindergarten, of an advanced M.I.A. class.

8. Illustrate individual differences as expressed in the religious attitudes of men you know.

9. To what extent are boys different from girls in mental capability and attitude?


Those listed in Chapter VII.




The causes of individual differences.—Norsworthy and Whitley on the significance of parentage.—The teacher's obligation to know parents.—The influence of sex.—Environment as a factor.—Thorndike quoted.—B.H. Jacobsen on individual differences.

So far we simply have made the point that individuals differ. We are concerned in this chapter in knowing how these differences affect the teaching process. Fully to appreciate their significance we must know not only that they exist, and the degree of their variation, but also the forces that produce them. On the side of heredity, race, family, and sex, are the great modifying factors. Practically, of course, we are concerned very little as Church teachers with problems of race. We are all so nearly one in that regard that a discussion of racial differences would contribute but little to the solution of our teaching problem.

The matter of family heritage is a problem of very much more immediate concern. Someone has happily said: "Really to know a boy one must know fully his father and his mother." "Yes," says a commentator, "and he ought to know a deal about the grandfather and grandmother." The significance of parentage is made to stand out with clearness in the following paragraph from Norsworthy and Whitley, The Psychology of Childhood:

"Just as good eyesight and longevity are family characteristics, so also color blindness, left-handedness, some slight peculiarity of structure such as an extra finger or toe, or the Hapsburg lip, sense defects such as deafness or blindness, tendencies to certain diseases, especially those of the nervous system,—all these run in families. Certain mental traits likewise are obviously handed down from parents to child, such as strong will, memory for faces, musical imagination, abilities in mathematics or the languages, artistic talent. In these ways and many others children resemble their parents. The same general law holds of likes and dislikes, of temperamental qualities such as quick temper, vivacity, lovableness, moodiness. In all traits, characteristics, features, powers both physical and mental and to some extent moral also, children's original nature, their stock in trade, is determined by their immediate ancestry. 'We inherit our parents' tempers, our parents' conscientiousness, shyness and ability, as we inherit their stature, forearm and span,' says Pearson."

The teacher who would really appreciate the feelings and responses of a boy in his class must be aware, therefore, that the boy is not merely one of a dozen type individuals—he is a product of a particular parentage, acting as he does largely because "he was born that way."

We shall point out in connection with environmental influences the importance of a teacher's knowing the home condition of his pupils; but it is important here, in passing, to emphasize the point that even though a child were never to live with its parents it could be understood by the teacher acquainted with the peculiar traits of those parents. "Born with a bent" is a proverb of such force that it cannot be ignored. To know the parental heritage of a boy is to anticipate his reaction to stimuli—is to know what approach to make to win him.

Because of the fact that in many of our organizations we are concerned with the problem of teaching boys and girls together, the question of the influence of sex is one which we must face. There are those who hold that boys and girls are so fundamentally different by nature that they ought not to be taught coeducationally. Others maintain that they are essentially alike in feeling and intellectuality, and that because of the fact that eventually they are to be mated in the great partnership of life they should be held together as much as possible during the younger years of their lives. Most authorities are agreed that boys and girls differ not so much because they are possessed of different native tendencies, but because they live differently—they follow different lines of activity, and therefore develop different interests. To quote again from Norsworthy and Whitley:

"That men and women are different, that their natures are not the same, has long been an accepted fact. Out of this fact of difference have grown many hot discussions as to the superiority of one or the other nature as a whole. The present point of view of scientists seems well expressed by Ellis when he says, 'We may regard all such discussions as absolutely futile and foolish. If it is a question of determining the existence and significance of some particular physical sexual difference, a conclusion may not be impossible. To make any broad statement of the phenomena is to recognize that no general conclusion is possible. Now and again we come across facts which group themselves with a certain uniformity, but as we continue, we find other equally important facts which group themselves with equal uniformity in another sense. The result produces compensation.' The question of interest then is, what in nature is peculiar to the male sex and what to the female? What traits will be true of a boy, merely because he is a boy, and vice versa? This has been an extremely difficult question to answer, because of the difficulty encountered in trying to eliminate the influence of environment and training. Boys are what they are because of their original nature plus their surroundings. Some would claim that if we could give boys and girls the same surroundings, the same social requirements, the same treatment from babyhood, there would be no difference in the resulting natures. Training undoubtedly accentuates inborn sex differences, and it is true that a reversal of training does lessen this difference; however, the weight of opinion at present is that differences in intellect and character do exist because of differences of sex, but that these have been unduly magnified. H.B. Thompson, in her investigation entitled The Mental Traits of Sex, finds that 'Motor ability in most of its forms is better developed in men than in women. In strength, rapidity of movement, and rate of fatigue, they have a very decided advantage, and in precision of movement a slight advantage.... The thresholds are on the whole lower in women, discriminative sensibility is on the whole better in men.... All these differences, however, are slight. As for the intellectual faculties, women are decidedly superior to men in memory, and possibly more rapid in associative thinking. Men are probably superior in ingenuity.... The data on the life of feeling indicate that there is little, if any, sexual difference in the degree of domination by emotion, and that social consciousness is more prominent in men, and religious consciousness in women.'

"Pearson, in his measurement of traits, not by objective tests but by opinions of people who know the individual, finds that boys are more athletic, noisy, self-assertive, self-conscious; less popular, duller in conscience, quicker-tempered, less sullen, a little duller intellectually and less efficient in penmanship. Heymans and Wiersma, following the same general method as Pearson, state as their general conclusions that the female is more active, more emotional, and more unselfish than the male. 'They consider women to be more impulsive, less efficient intellectually, and more fickle than men as a result of the first two differences mentioned above; to be gifted in music, acting, conversation and the invention of stories, as a result in part of the second difference; and to think well of people and to be easily reconciled to them as a result of the third.' Thorndike finds the chief differences to be that the female varies less from the average standard, is more observant of small visual details, less often color-blind, less interested in things and their mechanisms, more interested in people and their feelings, less given to pursuing, capturing and maltreating living things, and more given to nursing, comforting and relieving them than is the male. H. Ellis considers the chief differences to be the less tendency to variability, the greater affectability, and the greater primitiveness of the female mind, and the less ability shown by women in dealing with the more remote and abstract interests in life. All the authors emphasize the smallness of the differences; and after all the striking thing is not the differences between the sexes, but the great difference within the same sex in respect to every mental trait tested. The difference of man from man, and woman from woman, in any trait is almost as great as the differences between the sexes in that trait. Sex can be the cause, then, of only a fraction of the difference between the original nature of individuals."

It is reasonably certain, then, that a teacher may safely appeal to both boys and girls on the ground of the fundamental instincts, feeling confident that common stimuli will produce largely the same results.

Important as it is that we know what our pupils are from their parentage, it is even more important in the matter of religious instruction that we shall appreciate the force of the varieties of environment that have been operative. Though boys and girls may be essentially alike at the outset of their lives they may be thrown into such associations as to make their ideals and conduct entirely different. Fancy the contrast between the case of a girl brought up for fifteen years in a household of refinement and in a companionship of gentility, and the case of a boy who during the same years has been the pal of bullies on street corners. Surely stimuli that are to promote proper reaction in these two cases will have to be suited to the person in question.

Then, too, the teacher must realize that one child may come from a home of faith, confidence, and contentment; whereas, another may come from a home of agitation, doubt, and suspicion. One may have been taught to pray—another may have been led to disbelieve. One may have been stimulated to read over sacred books—another may have been left to peruse cheap, sensational detective stories. To succeed in reaching the hearts of a group of such boys and girls, a teacher surely ought to be aware of individual differences and ought to be fortified with a wealth of material so that the appeal may be as varied as possible. To quote from Thorndike's Principles of Education:

"A teacher has to choose what is for the greatest good of the greatest number. He cannot expect to drive forty children abreast along the highroad of education." "Yet the differences in children should not blind us to their likenesses." "We need general principles and their sagacious application to individual problems."

"The worst error of teachers with respect to individual differences is to neglect them, to form one set of fixed habits for dealing with all children, to teach 'the child instead of countless different living individuals.' To realize the varieties of human nature, the nature and amount of mental differences, is to be protected against many fallacies of teaching."

Our treatment of individual differences was well summed up in the following paper by B.H. Jacobsen, a member of the B.Y.U. Teacher-Training class:

The Significance of Individual Differences in Teaching

"Individual instruction in our religious organizations as in the public schools is under present condition impracticable. We are compelled to teach in groups or classes of somewhat varying size. Consequently, it is of prime importance for the teacher, in trying to apply that fundamental principle of pedagogy—an understanding of the being to be taught—to know first what characteristics and tendencies, whether native or acquired, are known to a large majority of the children in the class. Leaving out of consideration the possible presence of subnormal children, the language used must be clear and simple enough to be comprehended by all; the great majority of the questions must be intended for all to find answers to; the stories, illustrations, incidents, pictures, and various devices employed must be reasonably within the range of experience and comprehension of all members.

"At the same time, it is important to recognize the fact that, after all, the class as a whole does not in any very fundamental, pedagogical sense constitute the objective unit of instruction. Though it seems natural for most teachers to look upon the class as a more or less uniform mass, and the exigencies of the situation make this to some extent unavoidable, still the individual child remains always the real unit, and furthermore the units are all different—in appearance, training and temperament.

"In general the methods and material will be uniform for all, but there will still be abundant opportunity for exercising little individual touches and tricks in relation to individual pupils, especially those who vary somewhat widely from the average. Even such a superficial matter as size, especially superior size, might profitably receive a little special consideration by the teacher and thus at times save some pupil a little physical embarrassment. The boy unusually active might be given some physical task to perform, even if it has to be provided for the occasion, though it must not be too artificially created, as this is sure of detection.

"Questions requiring more than ordinary mental ability to answer may be directed to those of superior alertness and intelligence, who may also be given more difficult subjects to look up for presentation to the class. Special interests in animals, flowers, books, aeroplanes, industries, vocations, should be discovered and utilized by the watchful teacher. Even though the connection may be a little remote, any contribution of real interest and value is legitimate in order to relieve the monotony of a dull class.

"Pupils differ very widely in temperament and disposition as well as in capacity. The timid boy or girl should be given special encouragement and commendation, while the over-bold will take no injury from a mild "squelch" occasionally. The child of gloomy disposition should if anything have more smiles and sunny words sent his way than the cheerful one, who is in no danger of losing his share. The talkative child will need cautioning and careful directing, while the one who seldom speaks needs the frequent stimulus of a kind and encouraging look or word. The child who is naturally docile and obedient will develop smoothly and without great need of special attention and direction, while the stubborn, the rebellious, the untractable child, the cause of continual worry and solicitude, is the one on whom special thought must be bestowed; for his soul is no less precious in the sight of God, and the wise teacher may be the means of making him a useful citizen, as well as directing him in the way of working out his eternal salvation."

* * * * *


1. Discuss the relative significance of race, sex, family, and environment as factors producing individual differences.

2. Why is it essential that teachers know the parents of pupils?

3. What are the advantages of having boys and girls together in class? What are the arguments for separating them?

4. How can a teacher be governed by the force of individual differences when he has to teach a group of forty pupils?

5. Discuss the statement that teaching is both a social and an individual process.

6. Choose a subject of general interest and illustrate how it might be presented to satisfy different types of pupils.


Those listed in Chapter VII.




Attention the mother of learning.—Gregory quoted.—The fact of attention in the Army.—What attention is.—Illustrations.—Attention and interest.—The three types of attention: Involuntary, nonvoluntary, voluntary.—How to secure attention.—Interest the great key to attention.

In that stimulating little book, The Seven Laws of Teaching, by Gregory, et al, the second law is stated in these words:

"A learner is one who attends with interest to the lesson."

Expressed as a rule of teaching, the law is made to read:

"Gain and keep the attention and interest of the pupils upon the lesson. Do not try to teach without attention."

As a matter of fact, it is impossible to teach without attention. A person may hold class—go through the formality of a class exercise—but he can really teach only him who attends. The first big, outstanding thought with reference to attention is that we should secure it, not so much in the interest of order, important as it is in that connection, but because it is the sine qua non of learning.

A boy may sit in a class in algebra for weeks, with his mind far afield on some pet scheme, or building palatial edifices in the air, but not until he attends does he begin to grasp the problems presented. It is literally as well as scripturally possible "to have ears and hear not." Attention is the mother of learning.

Think of the force of that word attention in the American Army. It is a delight to see the ranks straighten to that command—would that our messages of truth could challenge the same response from that vast army of seekers after truth—the boys and girls of the Church. The soldier at attention not only stands erect, nor does he merely keep silence—he is eagerly receptive—anxious to receive a message which he is to translate into action. His attitude, perhaps, is our best answer to the question, "What is attention?" Betts says, "The concentration of the mind's energy on one object of thought is attention."

As Magnusson expresses it, "Attention is the centering of consciousness on a portion of its contents." And Angell adds, "Attention is simply a name for the central and most active portion of the field of consciousness."

The mind, of course, during waking hours, is never merely passive. With its flood of ideas it is always recalling, observing, comparing, analyzing, building toward conclusions. These processes go on inevitably—go on with little concern about attention. But when we narrow the field—when we bring our mental energy to a focus on something specific and particular we then attend.

Betts, in his The Mind and Its Education, very happily illustrates the meaning of attention:

"Attention Measures Mental Efficiency.—In a state of attention the mind may be likened to the rays of the sun which have been passed through a burning glass. You may let all the rays which can pass through your window pane fall hour after hour upon the paper lying on your desk, and no marked effects follow. But let the same amount of sunlight be passed through a lens and converged to a point the size of your pencil, and the paper will at once burst into flame."

To follow another analogy, attention is to the energies of the mind what the pipe line leading into the power plant is to the water in the canyon above. It directs and concentrates for the generation of power. Just as the water might run on and on to little or no purpose, so the energies of a boy or girl may be permitted to drift aimlessly toward no conviction unless the teacher wins him to an attention that rivets truth to his life.

In a discussion of attention the question of the relation of interest to attention is bound to arise. Do we attend to things because they are interesting? Or are we interested in things because we give them our attention? The two terms are so interwoven in meaning that they are frequently treated under one chapter heading. Our purpose here is not to attempt to divorce them, but rather to give them emphasis because of their significance in the teaching process.

Attention denotes a focusing of mental energy on a particular idea or object; interest, subjectively considered, is an attitude of mind. Perhaps we can get a clearer idea of the two terms if we consider the various types of attention. First of all there is what is called Involuntary attention. This is the type over which the mind has little or no control. A person sits reading—his attention fixed on the page in front of him—when suddenly a rock crashes through the window immediately behind him. He jumps to see what is wrong. His attention to his book is shifted to the window, not because he wills it so, but because of the suddenness and force of the stimulus. The excitation of the auditory nerve centers compels attention. The attendant feeling may be one of pleasure or of pain—there may be an interest developed or there may not. Involuntary attention clearly does not rest upon interest.

Then there is what is called Nonvoluntary attention. I go to a theatre and some particular musical number is featured. It grips my interest and I follow it with rapt attention, wholly without conscious effort. Unlike the case of a sudden noise, in this experience my attention is not physiologically automatic—I could control it if I chose—but I choose now to give it. Interest clearly is the motor power behind such attention. Then, finally, there is Voluntary attention. I sit at a table working out a problem in arithmetic. Outside there is being played a most exciting ball game. My interests are almost wholly centered in the outcome of the game, but duty bids me work out my problem. I make myself attend to it in spite of the pull of my natural interests.

And so attention is seen to be purely the result of physiological stimulus; it is seen to accompany—fairly to be born out of it—interest. It is seen to be the result of an operation of the will against the natural force of interest. This three-fold classification is of particular significance to the teacher. He may be sure that if he resorts to the use of unusual stimuli he can arrest attention, though by so doing he has no guarantee of holding it; he may feel certain of attention if he can bring before pupils objects and ideas which to them are interesting; he may so win them to the purposes of his recitation that they will give attention even though they are not interested in what may be going on for the time being. It is evident, however, that resorting to violent stimuli is dangerous, that forced attention is ultimately disagreeable and certainly not a modern commonplace in experience, that attention which attends genuine interest is the attention most generally to be sought.

One question still remains: "How shall we proceed to secure and to hold attention?"

In the first place we should remind ourselves that it is a difficult matter to give sustained attention to a single object or idea, unless the object or idea changes. The difficulty is greater with children than with adults. In the second place we should be mindful that it is poor policy either to demand attention or to beg for it.

Where attention has to be secured out of disorder we are justified in making use of stimuli that shock pupils into attention. One of the best illustrations of this sort of procedure was the method used in the David Belasco theatre in New York to get audiences quiet for the opening of the performances. Mr. Belasco was convinced that the orchestra had become a mere accompaniment to the clatter and noise of the audience and so he did not trust to that means to secure order. In fact, he discarded the orchestra idea. At the appointed hour for the curtain to rise, his theatre became suddenly dark. So dark that the blackness was startling. Immediately upon the silence that attended the shock the soft chiming of bells became audible which led the audience to strain in an attempt to catch fully the effect of the chime. At that point the curtains were drawn and the first lines of the play fell upon the ears of a perfectly quiet audience.

It is safer and better, of course, to anticipate disorder by getting the lesson under way in an interesting manner. These artificial devices are serviceable as emergency measures as well as helpful as restful variations in a class hour. Change in posture, group exercises, periods of relaxation, all help to make attention the more easily possible.

The key to sustained attention, when all is said and done, is interest. There is no substitute for the fascination of interest. As Magnusson says: "Monotony is the great enemy of attention. Interest is the attention-compelling element of instincts and desires." The teacher can feel assured of success only when he is so fully prepared that his material wins attention because of its richness and appropriateness. Special thought should be given in the preparation of a lesson to the attack to be made during the first two minutes of a recitation. A pointed, vital question, a challenging statement, a striking incident, a fascinating, appropriate story, a significant quotation—these are a few of the legitimate challenges to attention.

* * * * *


1. Discuss the statement: "There is no such thing as inattention; when pupils appear inattentive, they are singly attentive to something more interesting than the lesson."

2. Explain the force of attention in the learning process.

3. What is attention?

4. Discuss and illustrate the different types of attention.

5. Give some practical suggestions on the securing of attention.

6. Point out the distinction between attention and interest.

7. Discuss the effect of monotony on attention.

8. How do children and adults differ in their powers of attention?


Pillsburg, Attention; Norsworthy and Whitley, Psychology of Childhood; Strayer and Norsworthy, How to Teach; Betts, How to Teach Religion; Weigle, Talks to Sunday School Teachers; Fitch, The Art of Securing Attention; Thorndike, Principles of Teaching; Dewey, Interest and Effort in Education; Brumbaugh, The Making of a Teacher.




Individual differences and interest.—What makes for interest.—Interest begets interest.—Preparation is a great guarantee.—Knowledge of the lives of boys and girls a great help.—The factors of interestingness: The Vital, The Unusual, The Uncertain, The Concrete, The Similar, The Antagonistic, The Animate.

After discussing the relation of interest to attention we still face the question: What is it that makes an interesting object, or an idea interesting? Why do we find some things naturally interesting while others are dull and commonplace? Of course, everything is not equally interesting to all people. Individual differences make clear the fact that a certain stimulus will call for a response in one particular person, quite unlike the response manifested in a person of different temperament and training. But psychologists are agreed that in spite of these differences there are certain elements of interests that are generally and fundamentally appealing to human nature. To know what it is that makes for interest is one of the prerequisites of good teaching.

But before naming these "factors of interestingness," may we not also name and discuss briefly some other essentials in the matter of creating and maintaining interest?

In the first place it is good to remember that a teacher who would have his pupils interested must himself be interested. If he would see their faces light up with the glow of enthusiasm, he must be the charged battery to generate the current. Interest begets interest. It is as contagious as whooping cough—if a class is exposed it is sure to catch it. The teacher who constantly complains of a dull class, very likely is simply facing a reaction to his own dullness or disagreeableness. "Blue Monday" isn't properly so named merely because of the drowsy pupil. The teacher inevitably sets the pace and determines the tone of his class. Many a teacher when tired, or out of patience, has concluded a recitation feeling that his pupils were about the most stupid group he has ever faced; the same teacher keyed up to enthusiasm has felt at the close of another recitation that these same pupils could not be surpassed. A student with whom the writer talked a short time ago remarked that she could always tell whether the day's class was going to be interesting under a particular teacher as soon as she caught the mood in which she entered the classroom. Half-heartedness, indifference, and unpleasantness are all negative—they neither attract nor stimulate. Interest and enthusiasm are the sunshine of the classroom—they are to the human soul what the sun's rays are to the plant.

The second great guarantee of interest is preparation. The teacher needs to have his subject matter so thoroughly in mind that, free from textbook and notes, he can reach out to a real contact with his boys and girls. If his eyes are glued to his book, he cannot hope to arouse keen interest. The eye is a great force in gripping the attention of a class or audience. They want nothing to stand between them and the speaker. Not long ago one of the most forceful and eloquent public speakers in Utah failed miserably, in addressing a thoroughly fine audience, because he was lost in the machinery of his notes. His material was excellent—his power as an orator unquestioned—yet he was bound down by a lack of preparation that cost him the mastery of his audience.

Not only does adequate preparation enable a teacher to reach out and take hold of his pupils; it makes it possible for him to capitalize on the situations that are bound to arise in class discussion. A concrete illustration to clear up a troublesome question, an appropriate incident to hit off some general truth, a happy phrase to crystallize a thought—all these things are born only of adequate preparation.

Not long ago a candidate for the presidency of the United States delighted an audience of ten thousand or more in the Salt Lake Tabernacle by his remarkable handling of questions and comments thrown at him from that vast audience. There was no hesitancy or uncertainty. He spoke "as one who knew." He was prepared. He had so lived with the questions of the day that they fairly seemed to be part of him. The interesting teacher never teaches all he knows. His reserve material inspires both interest and confidence. A class begins to lose interest in a teacher the moment they suspect that his stock in trade is running low. The mystery, "how one small head could carry all he knew," is still fascinating. Thorough preparation, moreover, minimizes the likelihood of routine, the monotony of which is always deadening. A class likes a teacher—is interested in him—when it can't anticipate just what he is going to do next and how he is going to do it.

A further aid in holding interest is to know intimately the life of the boys and girls taught. To appreciate fully their attitude—to know what sort of things in life generally appeal to them—is a very great asset to any teacher. If a teacher knows that a boy's reaction to the story of the Israelites' crossing the Red Sea is that that story is "some bunk," he is fortified in knowing how to present other subjects which are similar tests to a boy's faith and understanding. To know pupils' attitudes and mode of life is to know what sort of illustrations to use, what emphasis to put upon emotional material, what stress to lay on practical application. In short, it is to know just how to "connect up." It stimulates to a testing of values so that a teacher selects and adapts his material to the needs of the boys and girls whom he teaches.

And, finally, as a key to interest, a teacher needs to know what the "factors of interestingness" are. According to the findings of the Public Speaking Department of the University of Chicago, they are summed up in these seven terms:

The Vital The Unusual The Uncertain The Concrete The Similar The Antagonistic The Animate

This list becomes more and more helpful as it is pondered. It is surprising to find how experience can be explained on the score of interest by reference to these terms. Those things are vital which pertain to life—which affect existence. Dangers are always interesting. Catastrophies are fascinating. Just today all America is scanning the newspapers throughout the country to find an explanation of the Wall Street explosion. We shall not soon forget the feverish interest that gripped the people of the world during our recent world wars.

When life is at stake, interest runs high. So it does when property, liberty, and other sacred rights, so vital to life, are affected. Anything vital enough to justify the publication of an "extra" may be depended upon to grip the interest of men and women.

It is equally clear that a fascination attaches to things that are unusual. New styles attract because of this fact. Let a man oddly dressed walk along a thoroughfare—the passersby are interested immediately. A "loud" hat or necktie, or other item of apparel, attracts attention because it is out of the ordinary. Much of the interest and delight in traveling lies in this element of the new and unusual which the traveler encounters. The experiences of childhood which stand out most prominently are usually those which at the time riveted themselves to the mind through the interest of their extraordinariness.

Every reader knows the fascination of uncertainty. "How will the book turn out?" prompts many a person to turn through hundreds of pages of a novel. An accident is interesting not only because of its vital significance, but because there is always a question as to how seriously those involved may be hurt. One of the clearest illustrations of the force of the uncertain is found attending baseball games. Let the score stand at 10 to 2 in the eighth inning and the grandstands and bleachers begin to empty. Few spectators care to remain. The game is too clearly settled. As the boys say, it is "sewed up" and there is nothing uncertain to grip interest. But let the score stand 3 to 2 or 2 to 2 in the eighth and even the man scheduled home for dinner stays to the end. He wants to know how the game is "coming out."

It is easier also to be interested in concrete than in abstract things. General truths are not gripping—concrete illustrations of those truths are. If I declare that it is important to have faith, I create but little interest in an audience. But if I tell that same audience how some individual has been miraculously healed through faith, I have their interest completely. Concrete illustrations fit into and link up with our own experiences so easily and forcefully that they are particularly interesting.

So, too, with things that are similar. The mind naturally links like with like. We are fond of making comparisons. The interest in the similar is due to that fundamental law of learning that we proceed from what is known to that which is unknown and we proceed along points of similarity.

And how natural it seems to be interested in things antagonistic! Our love of contests of all sorts is evidence of the fact. Who can resist the interest that attaches to a quarrel—a fight—a clash of any kind. The best of classes will leave the best of teachers, mentally at least, to witness a dog fight. Our champion prize fighters make fortunes out of man's interest in the antagonistic.

And then, finally, we are interested in the animate. We like action. Things in motion have a peculiar fascination. Who does not watch with interest a moving locomotive? Advertising experts appreciate the appeal of the animate, as is evidenced by the great variety of moving objects that challenge our interest as we pass up and down the streets of a city and we respond to the challenge. In fact, it is natural to respond to the appeal of all of these seven terms—hence their significance in teaching.

* * * * *


1. Discuss the force of individual differences in choosing material that will be interesting.

2. Why is it so essential that the teacher be interested in what he hopes to interest his pupils in?

3. Show how preparation makes for interest.

4. Why is an intimate acquaintance with the lives of pupils so essential a factor with the interesting teacher?

5. Illustrate concretely the force of each of the factors of interestingness.


Those listed in Chapter XI.




Interest should be inherent in the lesson taught.—An illustration of "dragged in" interest.—Interest and the "easy" idea.—A proper interpretation of interest.—How to make the subject of Fasting interesting.—The various possibilities.—How to secure interest in the Atonement.—How to secure interest in the Resurrection.—How to secure interest in the story of Jonah.

"Oh, that's all right," says one. "It is easy enough to talk about interest, and it's easy to be interesting if you can choose anything you like to amuse a class. But if you have to teach them theology, and especially some of the dry lessons that are outlined for us, I don't see how we can be expected to make our work interesting."

Of course, there is some point to such an objection. Having been asked to teach the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we cannot defend the practice of bringing in all kinds of material just because it is funny. And, of course, it is true, too, that some lesson outlines upon first thought do appear rather forbidding. But it is equally true that there is a path of interest through the most unpromising material, though that path does not always run alongside the teacher's highroad of ease and unconcern. A false notion of interest is that it denotes mere amusement—that it is something aside from serious and sober thought.

The writer recalls visiting a class taught by a person holding such a notion. Having given his lesson but little thought he apologized for its lack of interest by saying, "Now, boys and girls, if you will just be quiet while we go over the lesson, even though it isn't very interesting, I'll read you our next chapter of Huckleberry Finn." And yet the lesson, hurried over, with a little intensive study could have been made as fascinating as the reading of Huckleberry Finn and notably more profitable.

Another misconception relative to interest is the idea that to make a subject interesting you must so popularize it that you cheapen it. This idea is typified in the "snap" courses in school—courses made interesting at the expense of painstaking application. As a matter of fact, to cheapen a thing is ultimately to kill interest in it. Genuine interest of real worth is born of effort and devotion to a worthy objective. Far from dissipating the mind's energies, it heightens and concentrates them to the mastery of the bigger and finer things of life.

A subject to be made interesting must present some element of newness, yet must be so linked up with the experience of the learner as to be made comprehensible. It must, moreover, be made to appeal as essential and helpful in the life of the learner. The two outstanding queries of the uninterested pupil are:

What is it all about? What's the use?

Let us, then, turn to two or three subjects which at first thought may appear more or less dull to see whether there is an approach to them that can be made interesting.

Members of the teacher-training class at Provo were asked to name four or five subjects which they regarded hard to stimulate interest in. They named the following:

Fasting. The Fall. The Atonement. The Resurrection. The Story of Jonah.

Let us suppose that I have met my Second Intermediate class of eighteen boys and girls to discuss the subject of fasting. I might begin by relating an actual experience in which through fasting and prayer on the part of the members of a particular family a little boy has just been most miraculously restored to health, after an operation for appendicitis. It was an infection case, and three doctors agreed there was no possible chance of recovery. A fourth doctor held out the possibility of one chance in a hundred. And yet a two days' fast, coupled with a faith I have seldom seen equalled, has been rewarded by the complete recovery of the boy, who is now thoroughly well and strong.

Such a concrete illustration is one possibility for arousing interest.

Or, I might proceed with a few definite, pointed questions:

"How many of you eighteen boys and girls fasted this month?"

The answers show that seven have fasted; eleven have not.

I proceed then to inquire why the eleven have failed to fast. Various explanations are offered:

"Oh, I forgot."

"We don't fast in our home."

"Father has to work all day Sunday; and so, because mother has to get breakfast for him, we all eat."

"I have a headache if I fast, so I think it is better not to."

"I don't see any use in fasting. Going around with a long, hungry face can't help anyone."

"It's easy to fast when they won't give you anything to eat."

"I like to fast just to show myself that I don't live to be eating all the time."

"I believe it's a good thing to give the body a little rest once in a while."

"I feel different when I fast—more spiritual or something."

"It must be right to fast. The Church wouldn't ask us to if it wasn't a good thing."

The definiteness of these replies, coupled with the suspense of wondering what the next answer will be, keeps up a lively interest.

A third possibility would be to call for the experiences of the pupils, or experiences which have occurred in their families, or concerning which they have read. A very rich compilation of interesting material can be collected under such a scheme.

Or, finally, I may choose to proceed immediately with a vigorous analysis and discussion of the whole problem. I arouse interest by quoting a friend who has put the query to me, "What is the use of fasting?" and then enlist the cooperation of the class in formulating a reply. Together we work out the possible justification of fasting.

The following outline may represent the line of our thought:

1. Jesus taught us to fast. a. His forty days in the wilderness. b. His injunction to his apostles.

2. Our leaders have instituted fasting in these latter days.

3. By fasting we develop a mastery over our appetites. The body is made to serve the will.

4. Physiologically, it is a good thing to fast. Many scientists are now recommending regular rests for the digestive organs.

5. Fasting makes possible an elevation of spirit.

6. Our system of fasting makes it possible to see that no one in the Church wants for food.

7. Fasting enables us to appreciate the feelings of those who are less fortunate in the world than we are, who are denied the blessings we enjoy.

Of course, each idea needs to be introduced and developed in a concrete, vigorous manner. So treated, fasting can be made a very fascinating subject.

The following suggestions on introducing the lesson on the Resurrection to little children have been drawn up by one of the most successful kindergarten teachers in the Church:

"There are several things to be considered before presenting the lesson on the Resurrection to little children.

"First, the teacher must feel that she can present it. In other words, she must love the story and feel the importance of it. She must also be able to see the beautiful side and remember that she is teaching, 'There is no death; but life eternal.'

"The next question to consider is: How are we going to present it? We must lead the child from the known to the unknown, through the child's own experience. Therefore we go to nature, because all nature appeals to the child. But in order to create the right atmosphere, the teacher in selecting the subject must feel that what he has selected is the very thing he wants in order to explain to the child, 'There is no death.'

"There are several ways in which the subject may be approached through nature. We may take the Autumn and let the children tell what happens to the trees, flowers, and different plants. Lead them to see the condition after the leaves are off. Then what will happen next Spring. Or we may take one specific tree or brush and talk of the twig where the leaves were in the summer, but have now fallen to the ground. The twig looks dead. But on opening the bud and removing the brown covering we find the tiny leaf inside waiting and preparing to come forth in the Spring.

"The bulb may be used in a similar way, leading the child to see the bulb as it is before planting, then to see what happens when we plant it.

"The caterpillar may also be used. Here we have the live worm getting ready to go into his cocoon and is absent for some time; then he returns, only in another form. A higher stage.

"Lead the child to see that every thing in nature has a period of changing, of apparently going away for a short time, but is not dead—it returns to life.

"Be sure to have the objects you are talking about before the class, while you are discussing the subject. If not obtainable, use a picture, or draw them."

The problem of the story of Jonah is usually submitted with a twinkle in the eye of him who raises the question. The world has so generally relegated it to the heap of the impossible that even some of our own people look rather amazed when a champion for Jonah steps forward. And yet this story properly approached is one of the teacher's greatest opportunities. If it is to be presented to small children it can be told very beautifully, either as a lesson on disobedience or, from the point of view of the people of Nineveh, as a lesson on fasting and prayer. Little children will not be troubled with doubt and disbelief unless the teacher fosters such attitudes.

To older minds, of course, the story already is a good bit of a stumbling block, and therefore needs to be given thoughtful preparation.

At the outset, with older students, we ought to lead them into the beauties of the story—beauties which all too frequently are wholly unknown to the ordinary boy or girl. Read the story:

The call that comes to Jonah. His hesitancy. His dodging of duty. His selfish judgments. His punishment. His attitude toward the people of Nineveh. The lesson taught.

"Yes," says the young skeptic, "but how about the whale idea? Do you expect us to believe that stuff? It's contrary to all natural law."

Let's meet the issue squarely. The Bible says that Jonah was swallowed by a big fish. Science is agreed that that part of the account is easily possible—nothing contrary to natural law so far.

"But what about the three days? That surely is."

Here is a challenge. Is it possible that life can be suspended, "and restored"? Let the scriptures testify. It was so in the case of the daughter of Jairus. (Mark 5:22-43.)

So was it in the case of Lazarus. (John 11:23-44.)

Consider the case of the Son of God Himself! Buried in the tomb, Jesus rose the third day. If you can believe in the resurrection, you can believe in the restoration of Jonah. It is interesting to note that Jesus Himself accepted the story of Jonah. See Matthew 12:40:

"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

To doubt Jonah is to question the Master. Not only so, but if a person throws out the story of Jonah, he faces a chain of miraculous events from one end of the Bible to the other from which he will have difficulty to escape. You ask me to explain Jonah, I shall reply by asking you to explain:

The creation of man. The flood. The confusion of Babel. The parting of the Red Sea. The three Hebrews and the furnace. Elisha and the ax. The birth of the Savior. His resurrection. One-third of the account given by Matthew. Your own birth.

May one not accept with confidence the word of God as contained in the Doctrine & Covenants, Sec. 35:8?

"For I am God, and mine arm is not shortened; and I will show miracles, signs and wonders unto all those who believe on my name."

* * * * *


1. Discuss the proper use of stories in securing and maintaining interest.

2. Point out the danger of bringing in foreign "funny" material.

3. Show how difficult subjects may be made of even greater interest than easy ones.

4. Use the greater part of this class hour for illustrating how to create interest in subjects ordinarily found hard to teach.


Those listed in Chapter XI.




The steps involved in the preparation of a lesson: The aim; organization; illustration; application; questions.—Problems involved in the presentation of a lesson: The point of contact; illustration; the lesson statement.—Various possibilities.—The review: questioning; application.—The matter summarized.

So many textbooks have been written about teaching—so many points of view have been advanced—such a variety of terminology has been employed, even in the expression of a single educational notion—that beginning teachers are frequently at a loss to know just how to set about the task of teaching. Leaving for further consideration the more purely theoretical aspects of our problem, let us face the questions of most immediate concern:


Is there not a common-sense procedure which we can agree to as promising best results in these two fundamental steps? At the outset let us agree that preparation and presentation are inseparable aspects of but one process. Preparation consists of the work done behind the scenes—presentation involves the getting over of the results of that work to the audience—the class. Frequently teachers are confused because they mistake directions governing preparation as applying to presentation. For instance, one teacher proceeded to drill a class of small children on the memorizing of the aim—an abstract general truth—unmindful of the fact that the aim was set down for the teacher's guidance—a focus for his preparation done behind the scenes.

Though in the preparation of a lesson we keep the aim clearly in mind, and though, when we stand before our class, we let it function in the background of our consciousness as an objective in our procedure, we ought not to hurl it at our class. As a generalized truth it can make but little appeal to young minds, and it ought to be self-evident, at the end of a successful recitation, to mature minds.

And so with the matter of organization. We skeletonize our thoughts behind the scenes, but the skeleton is rather an unsightly specimen to exhibit before a class. The outline should be inherent in the lesson as presented, but it ought not to protrude so that the means will be mistaken for an end. Subsequent chapters will illustrate both the selection of an aim and its elaboration through suitable organization.

The successful preparation of a lesson involves at least five major steps. They are named here that the problem of preparation may be grasped as a whole. Later chapters will develop at length each step in its turn.

1. The Aim. A generalized statement, a kernel of truth about which all of the facts of the lesson are made to center. A lesson may be built up on a passage of scripture, on the experience of a person or a people, or on a vital question, etc. But in any case, though we are interested in the facts involved, we are interested not in the facts as an end in themselves, but rather because of the truth involved in the facts. In other words, we seek to sift out of the material offered in a lesson an essential truth which helps us in a solution of the problems of life. Attention to the aim is a guarantee against mere running over of matter of fact.

2. Organization. A teacher should outline his lesson so that pupils may easily follow him through the subject matter presented to the ultimate truth that lies beyond.

3. Illustration. Illustrations are what make truth vivid. Successful teachers owe much of their success to their ability through story or incident to drive home to the experience of pupils those fundamental truths which in their general terms make but little appeal. One of the most helpful practices for teachers who would become effective is the habit of clipping and filing available illustrative material. There is a wealth of rich, concrete matter appearing regularly in our magazines and other publications. What is good today likely will be equally good a year or two years hence when we shall face the problem of teaching again today's lesson. An alphabetic letter file may be had for a few cents in which can be filed away all sorts of helpful material. It pays to collect and save!

4. Application. Having selected his aim, the teacher knows the result he should like to have follow his lesson, in the lives of his pupils. He knows, too, their tendencies and their needs. In giving attention to application he is merely making a survey of the possible channel into which he can direct his pupils' activities. In considering application he asks, "Of what use will this material be in the experience of my pupils?" The test-application is the real test—both of the subject matter presented and of the effectiveness of the presentation.

5. Questions. Finally, lesson preparation is not complete unless the teacher has formulated a few thought-provoking questions which go to the very heart of the lesson. The question is the great challenge to the seeker after truth. It is easy to ask questions, but to propound queries that stir pupils to an intellectual awakening is a real art. Surely no preparation can be fully complete unless it involves:

The selection of an aim. The orderly organization of material. The collecting of rich illustrations. The pondering of facts to their application. The formulating of at least a few thoroughly stimulating questions.

Can we not agree to these steps as fundamental in the proper preparation of our lessons in all of our Church organizations?

With the subject matter well in mind—the work behind the scenes completed, the teacher is then prepared for the problem of presentation—is ready to appear on the stage of class activity. The first outstanding problem in lesson presentation is that of the Point of Contact. This is a phrase variously interpreted and often misunderstood. Perhaps it is not the happiest expression we could wish, but it is so generally used and is so significant when understood that we ought to standardize it and interpret it as it affects our Church work.

When a class assembles for recitation purposes its members present themselves with all kinds of mental attitudes and mind content. The various groups of a Mutual class may have been engaged in all sorts of activities just before entering their classroom. One group may have been discussing politics; another may have been engaged in a game of ball; a third may have been practicing as a quartette; and still a fourth may have been busy at office work. Facing such a collection of groups stands a teacher who for an hour or more has dismissed all temporal matters, and has been pondering the spiritual significance of prayer. Evidently there is a great mental chasm between them. Their coming together and thinking on common ground involves the Point of Contact. There must be contact if an influence for good is to be exerted. Either the teacher must succeed in bringing the boys to where he is "in thought," or he must go to "where they are."

Teachers in Bible lessons all too frequently hurry off into the Holy Land, going back some two thousand years, and leaving their pupils in Utah and in the here and the present. No wonder that pupils say of such a teacher, "We don't 'get' him." To proceed without preparing the minds of pupils for the message and discussion of the lesson is like planting seed without having first plowed and prepared the ground.

In the Bible lesson, it would be easy to bridge over from the interests of today to those of Bible days. Suppose our lesson is on Joseph who was sold into Egypt. Instead of proceeding at once with a statement as to the parentage of Joseph, etc., we might well center the interests of these various-minded boys on a current observation of today—a wonderfully fine harvest field of grain. They have all seen that. Make a striking observation relative to the grain, or put a question that will lead them to do that for you. Having raised an issue, you continue by inquiring whether or not the same conditions have prevailed elsewhere and at other times. Did they prevail in the days of Israel? The step then to the story of Joseph's dream, etc., is an easy one.

This illustration, though simple and more or less crude, indicates that to establish a point of contact, we must reach out to where the pupil now is, and lead easily and naturally to where you would have him go. Surely we cannot presume that he has already traveled the same intellectual road that we have gone over.

Suppose we face a group of adolescent boys to teach them a lesson on the importance of their attending church. If we proceed with a preachment on their duties and obligations, we are quite certain to lose their interest. Boys do not like to be preached at.

We know, however, that they are interested in automobiles. By starting out with some vital observation or question out of the automobile world, we may count on their attention. Following the discussion thus raised, we might then inquire the purpose of the garages that we find along all public highways. We could dwell upon the significance of repairs in maintaining the efficiency of cars. Now we are prepared for the query, Is it not essential that we have spiritual garages for the souls of men, garages where supplies and repairs may be had?

The "gas" of faith. The "oil" of consolation. The "adjustment" of repentance. The "charging" of our spiritual batteries, etc.

Once led into the subject, boys can be made to see that spiritual problems are even more vital than material ones.

The point of contact established, we next face the matter of Lesson Statement. The subject matter must either be in mind already because of home preparation, or the teacher must supply it. In the smaller classes the teacher generally will have to tell in good part what he wishes to convey; in the larger classes, there are the possibilities of home preparation, topical reports, the lecture, and the socialized recitation built up by questions and discussions. It is not intended here to discuss the various methods of lesson presentation—the thought being simply that in some way the lesson statement must be presented.

Then there is the problem of connecting up the present lesson with those that have already been presented. The review is a vital factor in fixing in the mind the relative value of material covered.

Then, too, there is the matter of questioning to test knowledge and stimulate discussion, together with the weaving in of illustrative material that has already been thought out or which may suggest itself as the lesson progresses. If, as all this material has been presented, the application has been made sufficiently clear to the pupils, the presentation is complete; otherwise avenues of action should be pointed out, care being taken to stimulate rather than to moralize.

In conclusion, then, we have the matter of preparation as follows:


As it involves subject matter: As it involves presentation:

1. The Aim Point of Contact 2. Organization Lesson Statement 3. Illustration Review 4. Application Illustration 5. Questions Application

* * * * *


1. Discuss the helpfulness of having a definite procedure in the matter of lesson preparation.

2. Point out the differences between lesson preparation and lesson presentation.

3. Name and discuss the essential steps in preparing a lesson.

4. To what extent would you favor adopting these steps as the fundamental processes?

5. Discuss the meaning and significance of "The Point of Contact."

6. Why is some kind of lesson statement a prerequisite to a good recitation?

7. Show how this statement may be made.

8. What do you consider your most valuable device in the preparation of a lesson?

9. Discuss the importance of filing away the material looked up in the preparation of the regular work of teaching.

10. Indicate some of the best methods of filing.


Betts, How to Teach Religion; Weigle, Talks to Sunday School Teachers; Thorndike, Principles of Teaching; Strayer and Norsworthy, How to Teach; Earhart, Types of Teaching; Betts, Classroom Method in Management; Bagley, Classroom Management.




A review of the steps in lesson preparation.—The values of outlining.—Objections answered.—Outlining a means, not an end.—The essentials in outlining.—An illustrative outline on prayer.

Preparing a lesson is no easy matter, particularly for those teachers who are new to the calling. There are those, of course, for whom reading an assigned chapter through constitutes a preparation, but to the successful teacher this preliminary reading is only the initial step in the process. Adequate preparation involves the following questions:

What aim shall I select out of the material available as the focus for my day's work?

How shall I build about that aim a body of facts that will establish it as a fundamental truth in life?

How shall I illustrate the truths presented so that they will strike home in the experiences of my boys and girls?

How shall I make sure that members of the class will go out from the recitation to put into practice the teachings of the day?

What questions ought I to ask to emphasize the outstanding points of my lesson?

What method of presentation can I most safely follow to make my lesson effective?

How may I discipline my class so that no disturbances will interfere with our discussions?

Reduced to simple terms, the matter of preparation together with presentation, involves the problems of

Organization Aim Illustration Application Methods of presentation Questioning

It is difficult to single out any one factor and treat it as if it were independent of the others—teaching is a complex art with all of these factors inseparably contributing to the results desired—but, for purposes of clearness, may we not proceed to give attention to each in its turn that in the end the teaching process may the more definitely stand out in all its aspects?

For convenience, then, let us in this chapter consider the problem of organization. How to outline a lesson is one of the most fundamental considerations involved in the teaching process. In fact, it is doubtful whether there is any one more helpful attainment than the ability clearly to outline subject matter. It not only enables the teacher to proceed systematically, thereby insuring clearness and adequate treatment of a lesson, but it makes it so easy and profitable for a class to follow the discussion. Outlining to teaching is what organization is to business. Just as the aim points out the goal we seek, so the outline indicates the route we shall follow to attain the goal. Outlining is simply surveying the road before the concrete is laid.

Occasionally a teacher objects to outlining on the ground that it is too mechanical—that it destroys spontaneity and the flow of the Spirit of the Lord. It has always seemed to the writer that the Spirit of the Lord is quite as pleased to follow a straight path as it is to follow a crooked one. Outlining is not in any sense a substitute for inspiration—it is merely a guarantee, by way of preparation, that the teacher has done his part and can in good conscience ask for that spiritual aid and guidance which he then is entitled to. The fact that order is a law of heaven rather indicates that there is no divine injunction against outlining.

Of course, outlining is not an end in itself—it is a means merely to more systematic procedure. Two difficulties frequently attach to outlining: one is that the outline is made so complex that it hinders rather than helps in the matter of clearness; the other is that a teacher may become "outline bound," in which case his teaching becomes mechanical and labored. Such a teacher illustrates clearly the force of the passage, "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."

But if the outline is made simple—if it is considered as merely a skeleton upon which is to be built the lesson—it is one of the greatest assets a teacher can have. Perhaps we can make the matter clearest by going through the process of outlining a lesson, indicating the essential steps involved.

Suppose we are asked to prepare a lesson on prayer. Keep in mind that in such a preparation we face the problems listed at the beginning of this chapter: the aim, the illustration, the application, etc., and keep in mind also that each of these subjects will be taken up in its turn and that for the present we are concerned primarily with the query, "How can I organize a lesson on prayer?" Let us assume, too, that we are preparing this lesson for young men and women about twenty years of age.

First of all, I must decide why I am to teach the subject of prayer. In view of the fact that the matter of the aim is to be considered fully in the succeeding chapter, suppose we agree that our purpose in this lesson shall be to establish prayer as a habit of life.

Step number one, then, is the selection of an aim—a focus for the thought of the lesson.

Step number two is the collection of random thoughts. As I begin to ponder the subject of prayer and its influence on life, all sorts of ideas crowd into my mind. Perhaps I read some one's discussion of prayer—perhaps I talk to a friend relative to it—perhaps I just ran the subject over in my mind. The thoughts that come to me may be vague and wholly disconnected. My immediate concern is content—order will come later. And so I jot down, either in my mind or on paper, such ideas as these:

"Prayer is the soul's sincere desire." The Song "Sweet hour of prayer." What is the use of prayer? Are prayers answered? How often should I pray? Does the Lord hear and answer our prayers, or do we answer them ourselves? What kinds of prayers are there? How may I know how to pray? Should prayers always be answered affirmatively? What are the characteristics of a good prayer? What prayers have impressed me most?

And so I go on. My task in step two is to scout about intellectually in search of available, suitable material. Many of my jottings may duplicate others already set down; others may not be appropriate for my need; still others may be wholly irrelevant. But I am seeking a wealth of material that I may make my recitation as rich as possible.

Now, step three becomes a process of correlation and elimination—a process of hitting upon my main headings—setting up the milestones to mark my course of development. And I so sift the material in my mind and sort it out under appropriate captions. After a good bit of intellectual rummaging about, I find that my random thoughts on prayer fall rather naturally into four main divisions, each capable of expression in a question:

I. What is prayer? II. Why should I pray? III. How should I pray? IV. When should I pray?

But now that I have these major headings, I still face the problems of enriching them and elaborating them so that they will have body enough to stand. In other words, I build up my sub-headings. Under the first question, for instance, I group these thoughts:

I. What Is Prayer? 1. It is communion with God. 2. It is the key to God's storehouse. 3. It is the key to God's heart. 4. It is "The soul's sincere desire." 5. It is the great anchor of faith.

Under question two, I group:

II. Why Should I Pray? 1. Because I am commanded of the Lord to pray. 2. Because through prayer I keep in tune with the Spirit of the Lord. 3. Because it is through prayer that I acknowledge the goodness of God. 4. Because through prayer I petition for needed blessings. 5. Because through prayer I establish and preserve an attitude of humility.

Under question three:

III. How Should I Pray? 1. Simply. 2. Sincerely. 3. In spirit. 4. After the pattern of His prayer. 5. In secret as well as in public.

Under question four:

IV. When Should I Pray? 1. Regularly. 2. Morning and evening. 3. To meet special needs. 4. My attitude should always be one of prayerfulness.

This matter of organization may be diagrammatically illustrated as follows:

Random Thoughts Organized Thoughts

The hymn

The song What is the use FOCUS I. What is Prayer? of prayer? or AIM II. Why should I pray? Are prayers answered? To establish III. How Should I Pray? How often should prayer as a I pray? life habit. IV. When Should I Pray? What are the characteristics of a good prayer, etc.?

In short, organizing involves the search for thought and the bringing of order out of chaos. Having selected the aim, the main headings, and the sub-headings, we now face step four—the enriching of these sub-headings in illustration, incident, etc., so that we may link up these thoughts with the experience of our pupils. We may think of so much stimulating material that during the ordinary class hour we can cover well only one of these questions. Our purpose and the needs of the class must determine the extent of our detail. The actual material that could be used to enrich this lesson on prayer will be given in the chapter on illustration.

Step five involves the problem of application, or "carry-over into life"—a subject to which another chapter will be devoted. Of course, we ought to say here, in passing, that application is not something added to or "tacked on" a lesson. It may be emphasized at the close of a lesson, but in reality it pervades and is inherent in the whole lesson.

* * * * *


1. What is meant by calling teaching a composite process?

2. Point out the essential advantages in outlining lessons.

3. Show how outlining is not in conflict with inspiration.

4. Name the essential steps in lesson organization.

5. Choose a subject from one of the manuals now in use in one of our organizations and build up a typical lesson.


Those listed in Chapter XIV.




The force of illustrations.—Three kinds of illustration material: 1. maps; 2. pictures; 3. incidents.—The force of maps and map drawing.—The appeal of good pictures.


Illustrative material for a lesson on prayer.

Having discussed the organization of a lesson together with the formulation of the aim, let us now turn to the problem of illustrating and supplementing a lesson. In organizing a subject for teaching we drive the nails of major thoughts—through illustration we clinch those nails so that they will be less likely to pull out of the memory.

The three chief classes of illustrative and supplementary material are:

Maps, pictures, incidents—actual, imaginary.

It is clear that in the lesson outlined on prayer, in chapter fourteen, we should have little occasion for the use of a map. We can, however, in connection with that lesson, point out the force of pictures and incidents.

Maps naturally are of greatest service in lessons with historical and geographical background. The journeyings of Israel mean so much more to us when we can follow them from place to place on a good map. So the Book of Mormon account clears up if we are similarly guided. Had we authentic maps of the lands named in the Book of Mormon, how much clearer and more interesting the history would become! We would know the exact spot on our present-day maps where Lehi and his family landed from their heaven-directed barges; we would know where to find the land Bountiful; where may now be found the ancient site of the City of Zarahemla; where flows the River Sidon; what country is indicated by the "land northward"; the journeys of the Nephites as they were being driven; what states saw there continued struggles against their inveterate enemies, the Lamanites, and how they reached their final battle-ground near the Hill Cumorah. To visit with Jesus in Palestine adds a charm to the New Testament that is really hard to evaluate, and surely the travels of our own pioneers call for the aid of a good map. Thoroughly to appreciate all that they did requires that we travel over the wonderful trail they followed—that being impossible, the next nearest approach is to see actually drawn out the magnitude of their achievement. The appeal to the eye couples so forcefully with the appeal to the ear that no classroom ought to be without its maps. Perhaps it is not beyond possibilities to conceive that at a not distant date we shall have made available films for class use to intensify the great lessons we draw from history.

Pictures make a wonderful appeal, particularly so to children. It is impossible to measure the inspirational appeal that a single masterpiece exerts on a class of boys and girls. A theological class in one of the Sunday Schools of Salt Lake County was once blessed with a most magnetic and powerful teacher. Upon his death, the class had his picture framed and hung on the front wall of the room in which he had taught. From that day to this the silent inspiration of that picture has stimulated scores of young men and women to the high ideals for which he stood.

More generally applicable and more easily available, of course, is the Incident. The ability to tell a story is one of the finest attainments of the teacher—particularly if he will take the pains to find vigorously wholesome and appropriate ones. May we repeat the warning that stories ought not to be told merely to fill out the hour, nor to tickle the ears of the class, but to intensify and heighten the truths contained in our lessons.

Included under the heading Incident may be listed short poems and all kinds of literary bits that fit in appropriately as spice to a lesson. On the subject Prayer, the following are some possibilities:

Under question I, "What is prayer?" the hymn, "Prayer Is the Soul's Sincere Desire."

Prayer is the soul's sincere desire, Uttered or unexpressed; The motion of a hidden fire That trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh, The falling of a tear, The upward glancing of an eye, When none but God is near.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech That infant lips can try; Prayer, the sublimest strains that reach The Majesty on high.

Prayer is the Christian's vital breath, The Christian's native air; His watchword at the gates of death; He enters heav'n with prayer.

Prayer is the contrite sinner's voice Returning from his ways, While angels in their songs rejoice, And cry, "Behold, he prays!"

The Saints in prayer appear as one In word and deed and mind, While with the Father and the Son Their fellowship they find.

Nor prayer is made on earth alone,— The Holy Spirit pleads, And Jesus, on the Father's throne, For sinners intercedes.

O thou by whom we come to God, The Life, the Truth, the Way! The path of prayer Thyself has trod; Lord, teach us how to pray!

The two songs: "Sweet Hour of Prayer," "Did You Think to Pray?"

"For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart, yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads." (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 25:12.)

The following selection:

"Prayer—sweet breath from out a joyous heart wafting gratitude to Heaven.

"Prayer—a sacred confidence between a fearful soul and God.

"Prayer—a holy balm which soothes and heals the scars in a wounded breast.

"Prayer—an angel's kiss on the longing lips of loneliness.

"Prayer—a rod that bars the way between the human soul and sin.

"Prayer—a choking sob of anguish from pain-drawn lips in plea for help."

Under question II. "Why should I pray?"

"And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day." (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 59:9.)

"Pray always that you enter not into temptation, that you may abide the day of his coming, whether in life or in death. Even so. Amen." (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 61:39.)

"Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit, and in this there is no condemnation, and ye receive the Spirit through prayer; wherefore, without this there remaineth condemnation." (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 63:64.)

"The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth;

"Yea, a voice crying—Prepare ye the way of the Lord, prepare ye the supper of the Lamb, make ready for the Bridegroom;

"Pray unto the Lord, call upon his holy name, make known his wonderful works among the people;

"Call upon the Lord, that his kingdom may go forth upon the earth, that the inhabitants thereof may receive it, and be prepared for the days to come, in the which the Son of man shall come down in heaven, clothed in the brightness of his glory, to meet the kingdom of God which is set up on the earth;

"Wherefore may the kingdom of God go forth, that the kingdom of heaven may come, that thou, O God, mayest be glorified in heaven so on earth, that thy enemies may be subdued; for thine is the honor, power and glory, for ever and ever. Amen." (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 65:2-6.)

"Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the Spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matt. 26:42.)

The following incidents were related by a member of the B.Y.U. Course and are typical of scores of others available for this lesson:

Brother Hunter's Account of the Manifestation of the Successor to the Prophet Joseph

"There was a great deal of discussion among the brethren and sisters as to who should lead the Church; some thought it should be the Prophet's son; some, one of his counselors, and some the President of the Quorum of the Twelve. I was at a loss to come to any conclusion. It worried me considerably and I prayed earnestly that God would make known to me who it should be, but without avail.

"I went to the meeting that had been called and listened thoughtfully to what was said and done. The longer I listened the more mystified I became. I bowed my head in my hands and prayed for God to give me understanding. While I was in this attitude, Brother Brigham arose to speak, I suppose. I heard a voice—the Prophet's voice as natural and true as I ever heard it. I raised up quickly, fully expecting to see the Prophet, and I did. There he stood and there he spoke. I listened breathlessly. The form of the Prophet gradually changed to that of Brother Brigham, but the voice was not Brother Brigham's. It was still the Prophet's. Then beside Brother Brigham I saw the Prophet, who turned toward the speaker and smiled. My heart beat rapidly with joy and I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that Brother Brigham was called of God to lead the Church."

Brother Huntsman's Baby Healed

"A fine, plump baby girl had come to the Huntsman home. As weeks and months passed and the child failed to use its lower limbs, a doctor was called and pronounced the trouble infantile paralysis. He said that it would never walk, for experience had showed that whenever this affliction affected the lower part of the body the medical profession could not cure it.

"The Huntsman people were faithful Latter-day Saints and did not give up hope, but called in the Elders. After a time conference was held at Shelley and Elder David O. McKay and one other of the general Church authorities were in attendance—I don't remember who. After the afternoon session the child was administered to. While sealing the anointing, Brother McKay promised the child the use of its limbs and every organ of the body.

"That night it began to move them, and the next morning stood alone by the aid of chairs. In a few days it walked, although being fairly fleshy. Soon after I moved away from Shelley, but a year or so afterwards I had occasion to go to Idaho Falls and there I met Brother and Sister Huntsman. The child was with them and ran and played as other children."

A Psychology Student Receives Aid

"A friend of mine who was a student in an eastern university told the following incident of how the Lord came to his aid.

"The psychology class while studying the relationship of the brain to life and intelligence entered into a discussion as to the nature of intelligence, and in some way the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith were brought into the discussion and jeered at, by all members except my friend, who was a "Mormon." His defense brought forth ridicule and intensified the discussion.

"As the class period had expired without completing the argument, a week from that day was the time set to complete it. Of course, my friend felt that he should do all possible to defend the attitude of the Church, so he studied, fasted and prayed, to secure the aid of inspiration, for he well knew that nothing but scientific proof would be accepted.

"The day came and he realized that he was illy prepared, but still hoped for divine assistance. During the giving of evidence to dispose of the existence of intelligence separate from the workings of the brain, and ridiculing the existence of a spirit, he prayed silently and earnestly.

"His turn came and he arose to speak. After the opening sentences he glanced down on the paper for his evidence and found a strange handwriting there. He says a peculiar power took possession of him. He spoke rapidly and fluently, he declared, without comprehending or at least remembering what he said. As he finished, his own writing was on the paper and he knew not what had been spoken, but there was no evidence offered to offset it.

"The professor asked him to give the names of the books from which he obtained his points, and on being told that God gave them to him, he replied, 'It's strange, but I can't believe such nonsense.'"

Under question III. "How should I pray?"

The Lord's Prayer as a pattern.

The prayer in Gethsemane.

The Bee-Keeper's prayer—1920, June number of Young Woman's Journal.

"And again, I command thee that thou shalt pray vocally as well as in thy heart; yea, before the world as well as in secret, in public as well as in private." (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 19:28.)

"Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." (Mark 11:24.)

"At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say unto you, that I will pray the Father for you." (John 16:26.)

Under question IV. "When should I pray?"

"He shall pray unto God, and he will be favourable unto him: and he shall see his face with joy: for he will render unto man his righteousness." (Job 33:26.)

"And now concerning the residue, let them journey and declare the world among the congregations of the wicked, inasmuch as it is given." (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 61:33.)

"Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you: seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you;

"Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you." (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 88:63-64.)

"Pray always that you enter not into temptation, that you may abide the day of his coming, whether in life or in death." (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 61:39.)

"Therefore let the Church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation." (Doc. & Cov., Sec. 20:33.)

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