Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Share, Teach, Act: Questions on getting Youth more involved with the New Curriculum

Like many of you, our ward is spending several Sundays getting ready to teach the New Youth Curriculum. I am really looking forward to seeing how this change will be played out throughout the next year! I like the emphasis in getting the youth thinking and talking. I'm a big believer in the equality of intelligence, and I also believe the Spirit can talk to them just as much as it can talk to us! 

I am teaching this week and I was asked to let the youth know what I will be teaching so that they can read it too. Or, at the least, give them some assignment by mutual this week that they can do for Sunday. Now that I'm in the middle of getting ready to teach, I can see some advantages and disadvantages to this and I was hoping some of you would help me think through them.

Advantage: giving an assignment has the potential of having everyone on the same page and focused together before we even get to class. In other words, it creates unity.

Advantage: giving an assignment helps youth learn on their own.

Advantage: giving an assignment makes me as the teacher think through what I want to do much sooner.

Advantage: giving an assignment may make the youth more ready to talk and participate.

I like these potential advantages a lot. But, here are some disadvantages I've thought about as I've begun to prepare:

Disadvantage: giving an assignment means that you lock yourself in a little bit to a "plan" and aren't following the Spirit in the moment (unless you are brave and honest enough to just tell the class that the Spirit isn't leading you that way any more, if that's what happens)

Disadvantage: giving an assignment means that you can't set up a context in the classroom for what they are reading. This of course would be more important in some circumstances than others.

Disadvantage: giving an assignment means that everyone comes to the class with their own ideas of what it means, which could actually create a very un-unified class discussion. I've seen this happen in study groups and book groups. Sometimes when we've already had our ideas, it's harder to engage with someone else's; it's easier to just share our idea and hope everyone likes that one instead. :) When that's happened in my study groups, it takes a good half hour before anyone really starts to engage with each other's ideas.

Disadvantage: giving an assignment means that I spend one or two days deciding what to teach instead of an entire week (or more!)

What other advantages or disadvantages do you see?

My purpose here is not to determine whether or not assignments are always good or always bad. My purpose here is to think about the advantages and disadvantages of giving assignments, so I can be better at listening to the Spirit to know when to use them and when not to.

So, any ideas to help us think through this question?


  1. The youth in my ward were part of the early implementation of the program to evaluate how it worked. I was serving in the YW as the second councilor up until a few weeks ago; so I was able to participate first hand in our ward's experience. I loved it.

    During the past few months, we tried many different approaches but what seemed to work best, at least with the Beehives, was to give all of them the reading assignment early. We also gave a few of the girls special parts to teach. We found that we didn't have to give them the assignments super early in the week though. We could get them the assignment by Thursday night or even Friday and they would still come prepared.

    At first, it was hard to give up the control I felt I had over every question and topic discussed but I was pleasantly surprised that the girls stayed on topic and gave great spiritual insight into the lesson. Especially the ones who had read ahead of time and been asked to give a part. We had one girl who gave her part by handing out small reading assignments, asking questions, writing answers on the board and doing a little handout. It was actually very well prepared and spiritual. Of course, that is an extreme example but it was really fun to see the girls giving the lesson, asking the questions, and sharing experiences. A few times we didn't finish the lesson and the girls chose to discuss it again the next week.

    Like I said, I was a little nervous at first but the Lord knows the youth and that they are ready for this change. I believe it’s a very inspired program. I hope your experience goes as well as ours did.

  2. Thanks Jeanna for your comment. I love hearing from people who have already been using the new curriculum for a while. I'm looking forward to seeing the youth take control of the lessons more and I'm eagerly anticipating the growth that will happen in our own youth in my ward! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  3. I was actually thinking that having the girls think through/read/study in preparation would be a good thing. Yes, they would come in with their own ideas, but wouldn't it be wonderful if they also came in with their own understanding having received some inspiration, promptings or understanding through the Spirit of their own just like we do as we prepare for the lessons?

  4. My question mostly stemmed from the fact that I like the idea of preparing lots and lots and then going into the classroom and seeing where the Spirit guides in the moment. I love involving the youth, but in the past I've done that by asking lots of questions in the classroom itself and letting them work through scriptures or talks as a group, with as little involvement from me as possible. So I totally trust the YW to work hard and feel the Spirit, but I've always done that in the moment. I'm adjusting to the idea of having to decide a week before what to focus on, instead of doing that in the moment. I did send out an email so all the girls would study the same talk this week. I'm curious how it will go! Thanks for the comments & I hope we keep getting more of them!

  5. With increased experience I have been reminded on many occasions that while having the Spirit guide "in the moment" can be exciting, having Him guide "in the preparation" is just as valuable (often even more valuable). He will guide us regarding the type and content of assignments we give. We will still need his influence as we lead the discussion because more will be prepared than can be discussed. But the advantage of giving out assignments is that EVERYONE in the class has an opportunity to learn and be led by the Spirit -- not just the teacher.

  6. So we've tried this once now, and I was concerned that only the few who had read the material ahead of time felt they could really participate in the discussion. (We asked lots of questions than anyone could answer, but I still noticed that those who were prepared were more likely to talk.) I like the idea of a group discussion, but what suggestions to you have for a ward where you find many of your girls are not reading ahead on a regular basis? For example, maybe in that case it would be best to read the talk(s)/parts of talk(s) or scripture(s) out loud together during class and then discuss it. Or, maybe assignments to read at home could be given based on the previous week: if a lesson went well but there were questions left unanswered, we could make assignments to further a discussion, rather than create one? My personal style still has trouble with the idea of assignments that limit what I do when I get there. And not just because I am an adult; if the teenagers were teaching one week I'd want them to have the same freedom. I suppose ideally, for me, I would only give reading assignments if the Spirit prompted me to do so, which I assume it would, on occasion.

    More thoughts?

  7. I fear that we will have a problem in our ward like KS's . . . the girls are busy and I think that church homework will fall to the bottom of the list. I wonder if we could take a few minutes during our weeknight activity to do a little bit of group prepwork . . .

  8. We have a couple of girls who are very willing to express their ideas and thoughts on questions asked, but we have a lot of girls who are quite reserved and who rarely participate, although when we do manage to draw them out they have some very profound things to say. I hope that the new curriculum will help me ask more inspired questions, and for the girls to feel more confident to express their thoughts. Maybe with practice? In the meantime, I am preparing for some moments of silence. We have discussed as a presidency that maybe we as adults need to make sure we are not jumping in with answers in those silent moments as perhaps the girls are counting on us to do just that. If they know that if only they stay silent long enough someone else will answer, they have no reason to step out of their comfort zones.

  9. As I looked at the curriculum and the invitations for the youth to teach, I noticed that the young men's lessons include a section that the young women's section lacks. It is called "Let the Young Men Lead." Why is this?

  10. Joanne, great catch and GREAT QUESTION. I don't have answers, but since the curriculum has been promoted as the same for YM and YW, it's tremendously useful to note places where they diverge & to think about what that means. Thanks for pointing it out.

  11. Joanne... Indeed, good catch. I am wondering why the difference in format - for YW "Introduce Doctrine" and for YM "Begin the Learning Experience." As for the "Let the Young Men Lead" section, I can think of the platitudes that can be thrown around about the young men needing to learn this skill as compared to the young women, but I too wonder why (really) the divergence.

  12. We are doing something in our ward that a few of the young women requested. We created bookmark style scripture study cards for each month with the lesson titles posed as questions to think about while you study the various scriptures. On the back we put all the conference talks and their reference info for reading. I put them on my blog for free download at www.arizonagardengirl.blogspot.com if you think that might be something you would want to do. We shall see how much they are used, but I have used them as a teacher a bunch already. Whenever I have a moment I am able to just open my scripture app on my phone and look something up really quick. Super helpful.

  13. Camille, thanks for the idea. I passed on your comment to our YW president and she really liked it.


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