Houston, we have a problem!


Problem-Based Learning allows students to come to conclusions based upon previous experience and knowledge.  Often students are surprised at how much they actually know about certain subjects.  This would be beneficial in seminary because many students don’t realize that they do have strong testimonies and beliefs about gospel topics.  Case studies that are relatable and relevant to teenagers are one effective way to employ this model.  For example, with the doctrinal mastery initiative students are asked to complete practice exercises after learning about a particular topic.  This would work well when we cover the commandments at the end of the school year.  Problems such as someone who acts like a Christian on Sundays but not Monday-Saturday.  Or examples of someone not thinking that breaking certain commandments are not a big deal.  Great options with this method in seminary!


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Socratic Seminar in Seminary

office meeting

Seminary classes thrive when students are willing to openly communicate and participate.  The Socratic Seminar approach goes beyond a good class discussion.  It requires real dialogue–meaningful, thoughtful, and well organized.  Many teachers settle for a couple of comments when there is more to the subject to unveil.  This model needs to be selected carefully because in seminary we don’t want people thinking that opinion is doctrine.  Doctrine and opinion are completely separate.  To keep the doctrine pure and to allow the students to have open dialogue the textbook suggests using text, in seminary that would be scripture, to study, think about, and analyze that can then lead to a successful seminar in seminary.  One idea that I would imagine would work well would be with the story of Enos in the Book of Mormon.  It is a story about prayer and it is relatively short (only 27 verses).  Great questioning could lead to very uplifting comments and stories about how students have received answers to their prayers and how God listens to them when they “cry” unto Him.

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Role Play

And ActionRole playing in the classroom helps the lesson come to life because students are able to put themselves into the story and specific characters.  In a seminary setting, we will often use this when certain scripture stories allow for dialogue.   This year the curriculum manual suggests using this method to allow students to practice inviting someone to read the Book of Mormon as if they were a missionary.  There is an element of reality in role playing that only comes when students are willing to get out of their comfort zone and engage in this form of active learning.  I have also used it to teach the Joseph story in Genesis.  I am a believer in this model!

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Graffiti Model (Cooperative Learning)


According to the textbook there are a series of steps associated with the Graffiti model that follow this order:

  1. Prepare Graffiti Questions
  2. Divide Students into Groups
  3. Explain the Process to the Groups
  4. A Social Skill is Identified, Explained, and Practiced
  5. Distribute Materials
  6. Groups Answer Questions
  7. Share Information
  8. Measure Group and Individual Accountability
  9. Assess Learning

In seminary I have some ideas that would work well with this model.  In Jacob chapter 5 in the Book of Mormon there is an allegory of tame and wild olive trees.  The chapter is rich in symbolism which would make it enjoyable for students to gather into groups and go around the room answering different questions about what they think the meaning of different aspects of the allegory represent.  Some sample questions could include: what do you think the vineyard represents?  What could burning the branches symbolize?

Another idea for this model would be during 1 Nephi 8 when we learn about the “Lehi’s Dream”.

This would also be great to use when teaching about the commandments for doctrinal mastery.  Each commandment has a blessing associated with it and students could write down at each station the blessings associated with each commandment to see how God truly does want to bless us when we do what He asks.

Those are some simple ideas that could really help bring these subjects to life, especially Jacob 5 which traditionally has been hard for teenagers (and many adults) to understand.  In seminary I would have to use butcher paper for each station with dry erase markers to avoid ink bleeding through paper and staining the walls.

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Jigsaw Cooperative Learning Model


Jigsaw falls under the umbrella of cooperative learning.  The model is proven to increase student involvement and understanding.  A major reason for these outcomes is because each student is given a specific task to become “an expert” in a given category or subject that they must then return and teach in a home group.  This puts a little bit of pressure but without that pressure this model wouldn’t succeed.  It also builds social skills due to the fact that each students works with a minimum of two groups.

I plan to use this in seminary in the following ways:

  1. Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge  has three areas of emphasis (listed below).  I could have groups become experts in one of these three areas by having them study and read the paragraphs in their journals and then rearranging the groups and having the students report to each other about the other two ares of emphasis.
    1. Act in Faith
    2. Examine Concepts and Questions with an Eternal Perspective
    3. Seek Further Understanding through Divinely Appointed Sources
  2. There are three witnesses to the Book of Mormon (listed below).  I could have each expert group become an expert on that person and then get into new groups and learn from their peers about the other 2 witnesses.
    1. Oliver Cowdery
    2. David Whitmer
    3. Martin Harris
  3. In the 1st book of Nephi we are introduced to a family.  It might be a fun activity to have students in expert groups take an individual and become an expert on that member of the family and have them share with their new groups insights that they learned that they didn’t know prior.

This model is very interactive and engaging.  There are many ways to use it.  When the model and the material mesh–you have the perfect equation for edifying education!

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Inductive Model

The Inductive Model of teaching “is an active, engaging model of instruction that encourages students’ development of critical-thinking skills as they explore and learn concepts in the academic content areas and the facts associated with these concepts” (Teaching Models, p. 186).  To simplify, it is like funneling and channeling the concept from broad to narrow.  To start out the teacher gives many examples and by the end the students have crystalized the concept by the process of elimination and through reason.

I plan to use this model when introducing my students to the first prophet in the Book of Mormon, Lehi.  I will start by showing many paintings of prophets from the Old Testament and have them look for similarities.  Students will begin to narrow down from the pictures what exactly a prophet does.  I will then use Lehi’s specific example in 1 Nephi 1:18-20 and show that Lehi is just like other prophets that came before him.  Prophets teach, warn, denounce sin, and testify of Christ.

Once students can clearly see this doctrine (concept) I will invite them to take home a copy of “The Living Christ” and “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” to see how prophets today are doing exactly what Lehi and the prophets before him did–teach, warn, denounce sin, and testify of Christ.  This model strengthens critical thinking skills and provides deeper understanding.

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Inquiry Model


How many pounds does an airplane weigh?  What is the capitol of Turkey?  Who was the 6th President of the United States?  We all have questions and inquiries–some important and some not so much.  We live in a world where immediate answers are readily available.  The inquiry model of teaching doesn’t mean you invite students to ask “Siri” their questions but rather to collaborate and work together to find out the answer themselves.  It is an empowering technique that, if employed and delivered appropriately, empowers students to walk away having worked for an answer, not just an ordinary answer from google but a uniquely individual answer based upon the learning that took place in the classroom.

This model is described in “Teaching Models” as: “a model that builds on natural curiosity to provide students the opportunity to learn a systematic approach that leads to discovery and deeper understanding of the world and the processes involved in comprehending it” (pg. 244).  It seems that in the religious realm there are an infinite array of questions that I am asked as a seminary teacher.  Students love to ask questions but many times they are unwilling to do what it takes to get an answer.  They seem to want me, as their teacher, to have all the answers.  While I am knowledgeable regarding the doctrine and practices that does not mean that I can prescribe a formula as easy as a math teacher can (i.e. 2+2=4).  Religion is more about the individual and God rather than the individual and a teacher.

With that said, I believe that spiritual questions deserve spiritual answers and that varies from person to person.  This model is engaging to youth because there are many questions that can be asked.  As the teacher my job is the help them find answers for themselves, not just give a generic response.  President Eyring has stated, and I believe it fits nicely with this model of teaching, ““To ask and to answer questions is at the heart of all learning and all teaching” (“The Lord Will Multiply the Harvest”, Feb. 6, 1998).

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