Exciting Teaching Methods


Georgia Smelser


Jesus was the Master Teacher. No other person has come close to making the impact that He made upon mankind. The many educationally sound methods He used two thousand years ago are as contemporary as today’s newspaper. Methods of recent years that we have termed “new” have their roots in the ways Christ taught. Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of His teachings and take some lessons from a “Pro.”

1. Good Opening Statement

Jesus opened His lessons with a concrete statement, a parable, an illustrative story, or a thought-provoking question to capture the initial interest of His audience.

2. Authority

Jesus taught with authority. His lessons were direct and practical. He did not stammer, mince words, or compromise under any condition. He always had a fitting answer to silence His critics’ insincere questions. He knew His subject and quoted Old Testament references freely. The sure and definite way He taught, undoubtedly, put His listeners at ease.

3. Definite Aims

The lessons Christ taught had definite aims. His curriculum was well-rounded. Basically, He taught His pupils their relationship to God, to man, and to themselves. He fed them a well-balanced diet.

4. Positive Terms

Jesus emphasized the positive. He taught His pupils more what to do, than what not to do. The Law of Moses repeatedly said, “Thou shalt not….” but Christ said again and again, “But I say unto you, thou shalt…”

5. Understood His Pupils

Christ knew His pupils and their immediate needs. He knew when they needed assurance, comfort, and understanding. He also knew when they needed to be “lined up” or to be rebuked.

6. Visual Aids

Jesus was a master with the use of visual aids and picturesque speech. He used visual aids consistently even when teaching an adult class for He knew that people of all ages responded well when imagery was used. He sat a child in their midst and taught them humility. He taught as He and His disciples traveled, using grain, fig trees, water, harvest fields, and skies as object lessons.

7. Response

Jesus liked to get a reaction from his listeners. He let them exchange opinions. He probed His listeners with soul-searching questions, often obtaining a revealing confession.

8. Love

Christ loved His pupils. His motive for teaching was not to glorify Himself as a great teacher. Love was His motivating purpose. He wanted to give them deliverance from sin, healing for their bodies, a knowledge of Christian growth, and preparation for eternity.

9. Example

Christ taught effectively through the example of a sinless life. His teachings would have lost their impetus
had He not thought them important enough to follow personally. His forceful life made His teachings forceful.

10. Jesus Believed in People

Jesus was not afraid to believe in people even when others ignored or despised them. He did not teach only the easily motivated or the well-behaved.


11. Did Not Squelch the Personality

Jesus did not squelch the personality of those he taught. He recognized their individuality and personal
potential. Despite Peter’s hotheadedness, Jesus loved and accepted him. He found a responsible place of service in the kingdom for Peter.

12. Variety of Methods

Jesus varied His teaching methods according to the occasion and the group He taught. Along with the much-used technique of lecture, he used the discussion method, story-telling, question and answer, research, project, and even a kind of interest or learning center approach. Jesus knew that pupils needed to be taught through many methods to whet their desire for learning.


Although Jesus knew all things, He did not cram it into His pupils’ thinking at one time. “Ram it in,
slam it in, pupils’ heads are hollow; cram it in, jam it in, there is more to follow,” was not Jesus’ method of teaching. He carefully chose the method to match the occasion and gave them bite-size morsels they could handle.

Here are listed twenty teaching situations in the book of Luke showing the variety of techniques Jesus used.

Story Text Method
The boy Jesus in the temple Luke 2:41-52 Listening and asking questions
Reading Isaiah in synagogue Luke 4:16-21 Scripture reading
Great draught of fish Luke 5:5-11 Demonstration
Teaching about fasting Luke 5:34, 35 Illustration
Withered hand healed Luke 6:9-11 Rhetorical Question
Jesus teaches multitude Luke 6:20-38 Discourse (lecture)

Woman washes Jesus’ feet Luke 7:36-50 Contrast
Parable of sower Luke 8:4-15 Parable and explanation
Twelve sent out to preach Luke 9:1-10 Project
Good Samaritan Luke 10:29-37 Analogy
Teach us to pray Luke 11:1-4 Model
Fruitless fig tree Luke 13:6-9 Parable
What is the kingdom like? Luke 13:18-21 Comparison
Let the children come to Me Luke 18:15-17 Rebuke
Rich young ruler Luke 18:18-30 Dialogue
By what authority? Luke 20:1-8 A form of agree/disagree
Fish with coin in its mouth Luke 20:21-26 Audio visual aids
Widow’s mite Luke 21:1-4 More audio visual aids
Jesus looks at Peter in courtyard Luke 22:55-62 A well timed glance
He opened their understanding Luke 24:44-53 Illumination

(Taken from Bible Learning Activities grades 7-12 by Bobbie
Reed and Rex Johnson)


There is no permanent impression without definite expression. Learning center activities provides the
setting for expression. Jesus employed numerous activities at the beginning of a series of lesson, at the end, or whenever it would be most effective educationally.

Here are three criteria of worthwhile activities:

1. The topics and subjects need to be relevant and important to both teacher and students.
2. Students need to be allowed to choose one or more of the following items: (a) how and when the activity will be done, (b) the materials used in the learning activity, and (c) how the activity will be presented to the larger group.
3. The activities should give the students the opportunity to share the results of their work.

Barbara Bolton and Charles Smith in their book Bible Learning Activities Grades 1-6 (Gospel Light Publication) carefully researched Jesus’ methods of teaching and found at least fifty times where He used the learning activity method and each activity met the three-point criteria just listed.

There are some differences in Christ’s learning activities and the ones suggested for the classroom,
especially in the education of children. First, Jesus was not confined to a classroom and given a definite time of the week to carry out His activities. Second, many of His learning activities seemed to take place accidentally, or randomly, with pre-planning. Third, His learning activities are of real life nature, rather than the contrived or managed activities in a normal classroom.


The many methods of teaching can be condensed into about six categories:

1. Teacher to student communication (teacher as performer…lecture or story-telling)
2. Student to teacher communication (reports, recitation, testing)
3. Teacher with student on a quest for truth (question and answer, discussion, discovery)
4. Group activities involve the teacher with the students (panels, debates, drama, discussion, buzz groups, forum/symposium, scripture search, music, learning center activities)
5. Instructive play (games and toys, simple role playing, sand table, puppets, finger plays, puzzles, action songs)
6. Nonclassroom activities (field trips, research, projects, interviews, creative writing, assignments)


1. Major Factor: Objective of the lesson is analyzed Objective needs to be:

a. Brief enough to be remembered
b. Clear enough to be achieved
c. Specific enough to be written down

2. Other Factors:

a. Age of students
b. Content of the lesson
c. Available resources
d. Educational background of students
e. Time allotment


Lecture method may be simply defined as “the instructor giving an oral presentation of facts and concepts.” It is an old and much-used method that can be deadly dull or exciting, depending upon the ability and preparation of the teacher.

When the teacher has much material to cover in a limited amount of time, the lecture method is ideal.
It takes time to break into any variation of group method and more time to listen to the conclusions or reports. This is one of “lecture’s” strong points.

Almost any size of class can be handled by the lecture method…from small groups to mass audiences
in coliseums. Lesson content can stay centered, structured or controlled with the teacher in charge.


1. Combine lecture with audience involvement (discussion, reaction groups, question and answer, allow feedback).
2. Support lecture with visuals (overhead projector, blackboard, charts, flipcharts, etc.).
3. Have a clear and simple outline for lecture.
4. Practice good principles when speaking–eye contact, voice inflection, avoiding distracting mannerisms.
5. Emphasize important points (through visualized outlines or clearly expressed verbal presentation).
6. Use interesting illustrations to “let in the light” (quotes, anecdotes).
7. Specify clear objectives for lecture (the big picture). Socrates said, “We have a much better chance of hitting the mark if we can see it.”
8. Give your students mimeographed outline or guide to follow during the lecture.


Panels are good approaches to discussion teaching. They work well with large classes. They can be used with panel members of differing points of view. It is best to use people with special training or experience pertinent to the subject to be discussed so they can speak with authority.

Usually there are no prepared speeches. But panel members can be forewarned and forearmed so they
can crystalize their thinking on the subject.

Some panels use a pro and con approach while others cover subjects with many angles that need a variety of viewpoints.

A moderator is needed to keep the discussion on track and to encourage all the members to contribute.

The audience may want to ask questions at the close of the panel discussion so that all minds are
at ease.


1. The guided panel where moderator addresses previously prepared questions to panel. This is a structured approach.

2. The expanded panel (where audience can ask questions and even add discussion).

3. The reaction panel. First there is a lecture, film, or some other presentation. Pre-selected panel members then offer a critique of the presentation either by speaking briefly to the issue, interacting with speaker or both. Sometimes if the panel can preview a film, their comments may be more in depth.


Wise selection of panel members offers the audience more than one viewpoint and this heightens interest. Because of the multiplicity of input, it offers a breadth and depth of information which usually exceeds what one speaker could produce. Panel members literally think aloud in front of the class and this adds a
fresh and honest response.


Too often when the lecture method is used exclusively, the subject material is pulverized and spoon-fed the students by the teacher. The students are not required or challenged to think. They can sit there in the audience in “park” and let their mind “idle” all over the universe –then go home on “empty.” Untouched, unchallenged, no feedback, nothing required.

Discussion teaching differs from question and answer teaching primarily by the kind of questions asked. It is a purpose to get students to think through issues rather than verbalize memorized data or repeat right answers. Often discussion will center on the solution or interpretation.

Problem to be discussed should be limited in scope so it can be understood and dealt with in the allotted time.

Involvement of students is a principle of the learning experience. It will help them crystalize their thinking.

People change most rapidly and completely in proportion to the amount of interaction they have with other people. People who isolate themselves usually become set in their ways and resist change.

When people discuss (open exchange) they learn both the existence and the validity of other points of view. Teaching by discussion is a motivational technique which encourages a student to think through concepts which have been hazy.

In using general discussion, the teacher must be in charge and keep discussion on the track. He must tactfully discourage one person from doing all of the contributing. If some “off the wall” point comes up, the teacher must
be prepared to handle it tactfully without ruining the spirit of the session. “That’s one opinion,” he might
say with a slight shrug, and move on.


Symposium method is a “big team” approach to teaching. Regular Team Teaching usually consists of a teacher and a team-mate sharing the teaching time. With symposium, three or more well prepared speakers besides the teacher present their opinions on an issue. They sit facing the audience. Unlike panel discussion where members express personal opinions, symposium speakers can present researched material following the outline of the lesson. This gives the audience several different faces to see, different voices and a variety of thinking. A question and answer session can be scheduled after the presentations.


Elmer Towns in his book, The Successful Sunday School and Teachers Guidebook (Creation House) says this about brainstorming: “Give each student a three-by-five-inch card on which you have written a word to be discussed. Have each write down the first thing that comes to mind concerning the word. Discuss contributions later. Right now, get students to think creatively. After each has written something on the card, give opportunity to share the ideas. The ground rules for brainstorming are simple. Each person says what is on his card or whatever comes to mind that he may or may not have written down. As he reacts to what is said by others, he should not question the validity of their contributions. When such questioning and refutation begin, creativity generally stops. The aim of brainstorming is creativity.”

“Encourage members to amplify what is said by other students. This is called “Hitchhiking” on someone else’s thoughts. The contribution of one student may bring to another person’s mind a further thought on the topic. This person shares his new or expanded thought.”

Brainstorming topics can include: Bible verses or fragments to support a topic, ways to help in a specific situation, how to witness, ideas about class growth, where to go on an outing or field trip, etc.

If the class is very large, have a brainstorming panel made up of eight to ten persons. Ideas can be recorded and some of the ideas presented later for further consideration.


The group is broken into several listening teams, with no more than six in a group. Each group selects a leader. Before the film is shown or the lecture is given, the teacher gives each team some specific aspect of the lesson to watch for. These things can be written on small cards. The value of this method is that all of the class gives close attention to all of the lesson because they don’t know when their particular part of it will be given.


When the lecture or film is over, the small listening teams get together and discuss their gleanings. Their leader then presents their findings to the whole group during a discussion time.


Dr. Donald Phillips at Michigan State University (years ago) is thought to be the first user of buzz
groups in rather large classes. He divided the audience in groups of six and for six minutes the groups discussed a problem or facet of the lesson. It became known as the “Phillips 66” technique.

Usually this technique follows a lecture, panel, film etc. and discusses basic information and creative ideas about the given subject.

Where this method differs from listening teams is that the groups do not rehash what they have just heard (not just a recall technique), but they share their feelings about practical applications of the lesson, answers to a “why” question, or even hypothetical situations such as “In what way do you think your life might be altered if you suddenly inherited one million dollars?” This method encourages more creative thinking.

Herbert A. Thelen, in his book Dynamics of Groups at Work suggests, “The buzz group offers a natural and useful transition from the listening situation to the decision of each individual to act. It is an intermediate step in the movement of responsibility from the officials (leaders) to the small group to the individual.

Each group selects a reporter. This is an excellent way to discover or develop leaders. Interaction is the teaching principle with this method.

Some people express their thoughts better in small groups where they do not feel threatened and it is easier
to share feelings. Teachers can float from one group to another to motivate better involvement where it is needed. Some think that this method works best for senior high students and adult classes.


Whole books have been written on this method and much focus has been placed on it in the United Pentecostal Sunday School program in past years. Basically the responsibility of the class rests upon two teachers rather than one. Each teacher is free to choose his/her method (or methods) of teaching as the class session is shared (evenly or however it is divided). The pupils can benefit from the best of two minds, and the change of face midstream in the session gives needed variety. Team teaching is especially good as a method of teaching junior highs through adults.


Role play and drama differ in that drama uses a script and role play has the element of spontaneous reaction. Role play is based on the philosophy that meanings are in people, not in words or symbols.

One youth group set up a situation where one member played the role of a young man seriously injured in an auto accident. The other role was God talking to the young man and responding to his bitterness–explaining that catastrophes sometimes happen. The young man talks with loud accusing voice while “God” speaks calmly and reassuringly.

Nursery children can role play and become sheep crawling in and out of a sheepfold made from blocks, a beginner or primary child can role play a review lesson, a junior can role play a practical lesson application, while a youth or adult can role play historical sketches or life situation scenes.


Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of transmitted culture. Jesus represents the highlight of history with respect of storytelling. All age levels enjoy a well told story. Stories provide information and enjoyment. A story provides a vicarious experience, allowing the listener to put himself into the situation, thus  experiencing its excitement and application. In terms of communicating truth, stories can be used to explain concepts which are not clear in straight exposition…just as Jesus used parables to clarify truths.

A good story should be told and not read, be given in the language of the age level given to, trimmed of unnecessary details that would take away from the main flow of the story, be given with good facial expression from storyteller and appropriate hand and body gestures, and be told strong and clear enough with barely any moralizing or sermonizing at the end.

(or center of interest teaching)

Word Aflame has developed a new “Using Learning Centers” brochure that deals with the philosophy of this method with ideas for nature, art, book, puzzle, home-living, block, variety, and worship centers for nursery age level through juniors.

(Copies of brochure will be given workshop attenders.)


Handwork is a method of teaching that uses most of the child’s five senses. Handwork projects need to be closely related to lesson objectives if it is to be a learning experience.

Handwork time should be a relaxed, enjoyable time when pupil and teacher build relationships.

Before the mechanics of making a project is explained, give the correlation with the lesson. As it is worked on, talk more about this correlation and encourage discussion.


Although music is not considered a teaching method within itself, it can teach. Well chosen songs can create a desired atmosphere, teach facts, appeal to the emotions, and help pupils memorize parts of Bible verses. Truth which enters the heart on the twin wings of melody and rhythm has entered to stay a long time. Singing can be an energy release as well as an emotional release.

Periodically, the songs that a church or a Sunday School class sings should be evaluated. Instead of spending so much time singing about the devil’s antics and people’s trials and tribulations, we could be spending that time worshiping God and lifting Him up.

Preschool songs should:

1. Be short with singable melody
2. Be a song about familiar and concrete things (no symbolism)
3. Have repetition and good rhythm
4. Be within the child’s voice range
5. Lend itself to action play (much of the time)
6. Be understandable and relate to spiritual things– especially current lesson theme
7. Be memorable and catchy (at times) without taking away the serious meaning.


Learning is not a simple process. Many books, both secular and religious, have been written and are being written on this important subject. When you mix various methods, various teacher’s personalities and abilities, with individual differences, it is amazing that learning takes place.

Many educators will agree that learning takes place when these three simplified factors are considered:

1. To know
2. To feel
3. To respond

In this breakdown, the know includes both the rotememory level and the factual understanding level. For the pupil to understand a particular idea or truth, he must be able to recognize it, restate it, and to note its relationship with other facts or ideas.

To feel involves the emotional areas, the life-implications. The pupil learns how to make use of the information and principles being taught. To feel is to arrive at a relational understanding of truths taught. To feel is to internalize concepts.

To respond is to be, to do, to obey the lesson. To know the lesson is good; to know and feel is better; and
to know, feel, and respond is best. This third factor of response, combined with the first two factors, produces desired learning. If a truth is believed or respected enough to become a life response, this is the learning most Christian teachers desire.