The myth of “Church Approved” resources

I got an email today asking me if my website was church approved.  I thought I had squelched the myth of “church approved” 11 years ago…  Guess not. This question indicates a misinterpretation of Church leaders’ teachings that just gets me so frustrated that I felt it merited a public response.  This post originally appeared on my MormonShare.com FAQ, back 11 years ago: Is your website Church approved? No, it’s not. There is no such thing as church “approved” materials.  There are only church-produced materials.  Church-produced materials are created by Church employees and approved by its Curriculum department. The Curriculum department of the Church oversees the production of materials printed by the Church, like the Friend, lesson manuals, etc. You…

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Sleeping Student

My Lesson is Boring!

AC expressed a common concern on the LDS Seminary Teacher Facebook Group: “I’m a new teacher this year, not creative at all and need desperate help. I have my two boys in my class and they both tell me I’m boring.” Here’s what I said: Please know that everything I’m about to say is intended to be helpful. Please read it in that context.1) Consider the source. Your own children may be harder on you than others. They may be uncomfortable being taught in a formal setting by their own mother. They may have already seen all your tricks and heard all your stories. They may even be saying something to get a rise out of you, which unfortunately teenaged…

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Increasing Student Particpation

Increasing Student Participation during Gospel Lessons

Most gospel teachers struggle with classroom participation. Sometimes you’ll get a classroom of students who are very active and loud, and other times you may have a classroom of very quiet students. We want students to enjoy each other, but “between the prayers” we want them to talk about the gospel — not Friday night’s game. Following are some ideas to help you increase appropriate discussion in your classroom: Talk Less Ask and Pause Make your Classroom a Safe Place to Ask Questions and Share Ideas Encourage Sincere Participation Attempts Talk Less When a teacher takes the spotlight, becomes the star of the show, does all the talking, and otherwise takes over all of the activity, it is almost certain…

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Evaluating A Gospel Lesson – 10 Questions to Ask

After a lesson is complete, you may feel elated or even discouraged.  Evaluating your teaching is an important, often neglected, step that can help you improve as a teacher.  Evaluating your lessons is the “report” part of the Return and Report pattern taught in the temple.  Reporting, by asking questions of yourself, prayerfully consulting the Lord, speaking with another teacher or leader, or blogging experiences, can help you develop Here are some tips that can help you evaluate lessons and develop a plan to improve poor experiences or reproduce great teaching experiences. 10 Themes to consider after a lesson Was my level of preparation adequate?  Did I read each scripture reference?  Did I check LDS.org for music, videos, or general conference talks?…

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Jenny's blog

Cell Phones in Seminary Class

Electronic Device Use of Electronic Scriptures Survey Report, 2012-2013 By Jenny Smith Note from the Author: I originally gave Russell Simon permission to publish this paper on his blog this past summer. Due to some (frankly silly and inconsistently applied) requirements from Seminaries & Institutes, Brother Simon set all Seminary related items on his blog to private.  I’ve decided to post the document here in case it offers any help to teachers who are wondering if they can or should allow the use electronic scriptures in the classroom. Introduction: I am a Seminary teacher in the Fredericksburg Stake located in the commonwealth of Virginia.  My current class of sixteen LDS Seminary students meets daily in my home before the regular…

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Improving the Quality of Devotional Talks

Youth devotionals — they can put the most patient of teachers over the edge.  The forgetting, the faking, the false doctrine, the too-familiar gospel cliches all combine in a slow-moving train wreck that can make opening exercises in your class a miserable experience. Students forget or ignore assignments, and we teachers act like it’s okay to share spiritual things with no preparation or thought. I have experienced a fair amount of trepidation about devotionals. Last year, in fact, we didn’t do devotionals in my seminary class at all. I was a new teacher, unsure of my abilities, and I am the kind of person who does not accept mediocrity. “Was that your best work? Plan on redoing it tomorrow,” is…

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Jenny's blog

Regional Seminary Inservice Report – Leading Discussions with Good Questions and Lesson Ideas

We had a regional inservice training the first weekend in January. In this area, Seminary and Institute teachers are invited to a Saturday training that lasts for several hours. This one went from 9 AM to 3 PM, and included lunch. Lunch was the best part :) Our meetings start off with a kind of a keynote address and then we get to choose courses from two sessions in the morning, eat lunch, and then have two sessions in the afternoon. At the previous inservice, the meeting was cut short at lunch time due to a pending storm, and so during lunch there were some tables set up with different Seminary type activities and ideas that people could view at…

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Jenny's blog

10 Tips for Giving a Great Talk

Primary Object Lesson Talks You will get some good ideas from my LDS Object Lessons for simple Primary talks. Top Ten tips for Giving a Great Talk by Robert Felts, New Era, August 2000 from LDS.org Accept the assignment cheerfully, and pray for guidance, especially if you aren’t comfortable with the assigned topic. Start outlining your talk at least a week before your assignment. Use scriptures. Try to memorize the verses for your talk. Include your own spiritual experiences and testimony. Make sure your notes are easily readable. If you’re really ambitious, try memorizing your talk so you don’t need notes. Rehearse in front of a mirror. Practice standing straight on both feet without shifting or making nervous gestures. Avoid “ums”…

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