Saturday, January 19, 2008


I'm teaching an Old Testament seminary class this year. Teaching a daily class leaves little time for grandiose planning or research. Just staying on top of the teaching schedule takes about all I've got. There is an average of 17 forty minute lessons a month, some covering scriptural topics I am completely unfamiliar with. Lauri and Curtis have both been seminary teachers in the past and have helped me with great classroom activities (a huge help - really). Having said that, on occasion it gets to be 10:30 at night and it's been a very busy/hectic/ridiculous day and I've got nothing for class the next morning. On those days, the poor students in the class get a lesson read straight out of the manual. Obviously, the manuals are an inspired teaching tool, but by design they are written in a fairly general style- made to be developed into lessons specific to the age, location, needs of different classes all over the world. When I go into the classroom unprepared, we all (including me) walk away almost bored.

Knowing that the manual is meant for every kind of teacher, I was a bit taken back when I ran into this little instruction in a lesson plan last month: "Draw or show a chariot like the one in the following picture. "
REALLY now - a horse reared up on its hind legs, pulling an Egyptian chariot and rider in the very act of shooting a bow and arrow? Goodness . . . how many run-of-the-mill adults could draw that???! The alternate suggestion was to show the illustration to the class. The illustration was 2" in size. Not a good size for a visual aid in a classroom.

As it ended up, I asked one of the more artistically inclined boys to draw it on the white board and he entertained us with his artistic flair for quite a while while we continued on with the lesson.

Another surprise I found this week -- a lesson on David and Goliath. It was suggested to make a life size Goliath -- obviously a good lesson idea. It made for a great visual and a fun activity. The budget to run a seminary program is ridiculously small, purchasing even the simplest supplies for such an activity just about wipes out the budget for the semester. So the alternates are: dumpster diving for large cardboard (can't do it-- that requires time, which I don't have), figuring out how to stand up a 9 1/2 foot tall human figure drawn on butcher paper (that would require some kind of framing system, again-- requires time. There are no walls that are tall enough in or around our building) , or overspending the budget (I've done that on many occasions-and apparently will do it once again). The students drew it on foam core board and it held up to the pummeling during the activity.
What surprised me was the instructions for making a sling. Here are the written instructions:
Consider making a sling. Use any sturdy fabric or soft leather for the pouch (an oval about 8x13 centimeters, or 3x5 inches) and something like shoelaces for the strings (any length from 46-60 centimeters, or 18-24 inches). Tie a knot in the end of one string and a loop in the other. The loop goes over the index or the third finger and the knot is held between the thumb and the index finger.

Got that? I was picturing an elasticized, Dennis-the-Menace type rock-flinging slingshot, so I couldn't get my brain around these instructions. Apparently this is the kind that you lasso over the top of your head a few times and let it go at just the right moment at just the right speed and velocity to injure your opponent.
An added bonus of humor in the manual: Let the students use the sling. Do not use stones. Be mindful of student safety and use something that will not harm people or your building--marshmallows work well.
(Would any teacher even consider giving 15 year old boys a handful of rocks and a sling shot?? I think not.)

It ended up being a fun activity. We stood our Goliath up outside, and using a sling, tried to whack him in the forehead with a bean bag. Most of the flinging going on was straight down into the lawn, or into the side of another student's head or up on the roof of the building. We now have more appreciation for David's aiming abilities.

What was more poignant, though, was the discussion afterwards -- aside from just being a cool story - why is it important that we know it or study it?

We started our discussion about "mean girls" at school being like a Goliath, challenging anyone that disagrees with them. (every high school has a few), then we switched the topic to discussing other types of battles in their lives - temptations that seem insurmountable.

We read this incredible quote by President Hinckley:

“There are Goliaths all around you, hulking giants
with evil intent to destroy you. These are not nine-foot tall
men, but they are men and institutions that control
attractive but evil things that may challenge and
weaken and destroy you. Included in these are beer
and other liquors and tobacco. Those who market these
products would like to enslave you into their use. There
are drugs of various kinds. . . . There is pornography,
seductive and interesting and inviting. It has become a
giant industry, producing magazines, films, and other
materials designed to take your money and lead you
toward activities that would destroy you.
“The giants who are behind these efforts are
formidable and skillful. They have gained vast
experience in the war they are carrying on. They
would like to ensnare you.
“It is almost impossible to entirely avoid exposure to
their products. You see these materials on all sides. But
you need not fear if you have the slingshot of truth in
your hands. You have been counseled and taught and
advised. You have the stones of virtue and honor and
integrity to use against these enemies who would like
to conquer you. . . . You can triumph over them by
disciplining yourselves to avoid them. . . .
“Victory will be yours. There is not a [person] within
the sound of my voice who needs to succumb to any of
these forces. . . . You have His power within you to
sustain you”

It was an interesting discussion about the industries out in the world being like Goliath. They are huge, they are rich, they have unlimited resources to influence the population. But teenagers are so darn smart. They know what's out there in the world and they know what they're up against. I love it when they "get" it.

Hopefully, days like this make up for an occasional boring lesson.


Lauri said...

I LOVE teaching seminary!!! sounds like some good lessons. Another take on the Goliath could develop a lesson on what "weapons" we have to fight the Goliath's in our lives.

Your lesson reminds me of the time we "Put on the whole armor of God" by making an armor out of foil, toilet paper, paper bags, paper plates, etc. It was awesome!

I remember the days of going to class not feeling completely like I had a handle on the lesson. Sometimes (rarely) the Spirit took over and I learned something too. More often I just failed miserably as a reminder that the Lord helps those who help themselves.

Keep up the good work.

Cynthia said...

See? I told you that you were a great help. I already stole that idea from you and we had a great class. It makes such a difference when they are involved in a hands-on activity.

Yvonne said...

What a great post. Now you have to know when I tell you this I would NEVER put one of my students in any danger. I put my son on the TV stand--straddling the TV--it really gave the kids an idea of how tall Goliath was!!! I made the sling shots and we used ping pong balls and big marshmallows. (I, too, laughed about the rocks)

I love what you did. Great job.

I love teaching, too. Like you, some days it's really hard to get it all together.

Thanks for stopping by my blog--not sure you'll ever see this comment, but I hope so.

(You are a lot farther ahead in the lesson manual than we are--when did you start the year???

Vickigene said...

Where did you get foam core board 9 ft tall? I am trying to make a Goliath for 11 year old scout day camp.