Learning Through Teaching: Child Lead Family Home Evening Lessons
By: Kirsten Smith
Teaching Strategies Series: Learn how the Protege Effect can help shape gospel lessons in your home.
“When Dad suggested that everyone in the family take a turn at giving the family night lesson, I thought that it would be funny to say, “Yeah, let John give the lesson next week.” John is three years old. So Dad assigned John the lesson, and with Mom’s help, John gave one of the best family night lessons that we have ever had, and the joy on that little guy’s face was worth more than we will ever be able to give him in return’” (quoted by Lowell Durham Jr., in “What Makes a Good Family Home Evening,” New Era, June 1972, 13).
Family Home Evening
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints encourages all families to hold regular Family Home Evenings (FHE). During these focused moments together, families gather together to teach and strengthen one another. Home learning is no different than the learning that happens at school, church, or work. The same techniques used in a classroom can apply in our home.
While FHE is often observed on Monday evenings, any time together spent studying the gospel can benefit from appropriate teaching strategies. Over the next few months, we will be discussing some different teaching techniques to increase participation by all family members in your home. Young or old, parent or child, we can all contribute to gospel learning in the home.
The Protégé Effect
Today we are going to focus on how being the teacher can improve learning. This teaching technique is not new. In fact, thousands of years ago, a philosopher in ancient Rome, acknowledged its importance. He is quoted as having said:
“While we teach, we learn.” - Seneca the Younger
More recently, scientists have termed this phenomenon the “Protege effect”. They found that “students enlisted to tutor others work harder to understand the material, recall it more accurately and apply it more effectively.” In order to teach something, one must have a clear understanding of the topic. Studies concluded that even young children, who are still learning themselves, can benefit from teaching younger siblings. Our brains work and grow while teaching.
Applying the Protege Effect in the home?
In many ways, we are all still learning the gospel. Unlike learning the alphabet or math facts, gospel learning is a continuous journey. And because of this, we can all learn and grow through others’ experiences and insights. Don’t fall into the trap that just because you are an adult, you have nothing to learn from your children. And of course, siblings of all ages can learn from each other. Our children can be teachers in our home. And we can reap the rewards of the protege effect when we provide opportunities for all family members to teach.
“Children participate more readily when their father and mother include them and are patient with their efforts.” - Church Manual
Learning through teaching
There are many ways to provide teaching opportunities within your home. Our FHE123 lessons follow the same format each week, giving the child confidence to teach.
The scripture grounds the lesson in a gospel principle. We value teaching from the Word of God and know there is power found in the scriptures. Taking turns giving the lessons provides opportunities for all family members to become familiar with the scriptures and feel that power.
The lesson portion of our outline provides a number of questions and a quote related to the topic. These questions provide an opportunity for the teacher to lead a discussion on the topic. Learning and teaching can happen simultaneously during these conversations.
Lastly, the activity section provides a few options to infuse fun into gospel learning. A kid’s brain needs fun and action. So this variety can help keep their brains engaged and learning. When the child teaches, they should choose which activity to do based on their knowledge of your family. This gives them some ownership over the lesson and increases their connection to it. It also strengthens family bonds as they think about the needs of other family members.
Suggestion for Application
Consider the following styles and ponder how they might apply in your own home.
We can involve even the youngest of children in teaching family home evening lessons when we team teach. Children who are unable to read can team up with a parent or older sibling to help present lesson material. The young child can help pick a topic, choose the activity or repeat key phrases as part of the lesson. While they may be too young to teach the whole lesson, they may enjoy holding pictures and can say aloud words, phrases, stories or questions as whispered by the parent. When children feel engaged and connected to the material they will create positive associations in their brains and set the groundwork for future learning and teaching.
Plan ahead and involve a young child in your next lesson using these three steps.
1-Meet together before starting. Give the child an overview of the lesson and topic. Tell them the parts you need help with.
2- Announce to the family who is teaching the lesson. Set up a simple rotation so family members are all aware of the schedule.
3- Involve the young child as often as possible. They want to feel included and independent. Gospel conversations can be complex but gospel truths are simple. Allow the simplicity to be the focus of these lessons.
Children who are familiar with the process of Family Home Evening and understand the idea of a lesson can easily step into the role of teacher. When provided with the lesson material, such as our easy to follow FHE123 lesson plans, they are able to take ownership of the lesson and feel pride in their ability to teach important principles of the gospel. The lesson plan will be their guide as they teach. Children love sharing new things they’ve learned. Encourage this desire by giving them the opportunity to teach.
A child ready for guided teaching can follow this simple process:
Look over the lesson guide. Print out or give an electronic version of the FHE123 lesson to your child. Make sure they are comfortable with any new vocabulary words used on the paper.
Have the child make a simple plan. Encourage them to follow the 123 model as outlined in our lessons. First, Second, Third. Let them know they get to pick which questions to ask, and which activity to do.
Let the child lead the lesson. Give them space and time before jumping in to take over. Encourage and support from the side, but allow the child to lead the discussion.
This approach requires some more advanced skills but you may still find a time when it is appropriate for your family. Open teaching does not rely solely on a lesson plan and allows the teacher to more fully learn and grow as they prepare. Giving the older child the opportunity to research and study a topic prior to teaching allows them to truly immerse themselves in the material. Most adults don’t do well with a wide open slate, so we would recommend still providing a topic or idea list. If you are following the Come Follow Me curriculum you can use the manual or FHE123 lesson to guide your topic selection.
Once a topic is selected, the family member prepares to teach. Guidance should be provided to show them how to search the scriptures, words of the prophets, and other available resources for gospel truths. It is through this research, with an end goal of teaching, that magic happens. In order to be able to teach, you must have a solid mastery of the topic. You may also find that the individual will be required to simplify tricky topics, making them easier to learn by other family members.
Individuals using an open teaching style could follow a pattern like this:
Pick a topic. Review your family's goals, needs or focus of study to pick a topic. Come Follow Me and FHE123 would both be a great starting point.
Ponder on the topic. What do you already know? Make a list of questions and start finding the answers using trusted resources.
Gather Material. Gather stories, scriptures, quotes, and discussion questions that can be used during the lesson.
Organize a plan. If a child is familiar with the FHE123 model, they might feel most comfortable mimicking our style. Teach a principle, ask questions to guide discussion, and then do an activity.
Allow the individual to teach. Don’t step in and take over. Offer support and encouragement and empower them to teach the truths they learned. Remember, the most important learning is happening within the teacher.
“When you expect to have to teach, it changes how you engage in the learning process, and that leads to reinforcement of memory of the text, but also improvement in understanding.” - Tricia Guerrero
One scientific study found that the benefit of preparing to teach is consistent even if the individual never teaches the lesson. It is the expectation of teaching that changes the learning process. As parents we all want our children and loved ones to come unto Christ and have a solid individual testimony. This is done by study and also by faith. Collaborative teaching lessons can help involve multiple family members for each lesson and maximize learning opportunities.
These lessons require each family member to study and learn and prepare individually prior to coming to your FHE lesson. Similar to the expectation for Come Follow Me lessons at church. As family members study, with an expectation to share, they will make more connections and have a clearer understanding of the topic.
Prepare for a collaborative lesson by:
1- Picking a topic. Use your family’s needs or a current study plan to decide on a topic or scripture passage to review.
2- Using resources to study. Provide guidance as needed to ensure each family member has access to resources on the topic. FHE123 lesson plans correlated with the CFM material could be a great resource to give a family member needing help.
3- Preparing to teach. Instruct each family member to prepare to teach what they learn.
4- Having Lesson time. Come together and share what you learned. Have an open discussion and take turns. Not all points may be covered, but remember it was the preparation that was important.
We recognize that each family is different. With different ages, abilities, and time available. You may find yourself shifting between 2 or 3 of the teaching styles above as your family’s needs change. The specifics aren’t important, the important part is involving each person individually so they can learn and grow through the act
The Power of Teaching
Having children teach the lesson can benefit your home in a variety of ways. The children may feel more connected and engaged with the lessons. They may find themselves learning more through their own study and preparation. And each family member will also bring their own perspective and style to the lessons they teach. Children specifically, may have insights that are simple, pure and powerful.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know it well enough”. — Albert Einstein
There is beauty in simplicity. Especially in the gospel. We should not feel the need to overcomplicate gospel principles. Allowing others the opportunity to teach will show you the level of understanding they have, and where gaps might exist. Parents can then make a plan to fill in those gaps.
Successful Family Home Evenings
Family Home Evening lessons can be successful if each family member is included. Children can be included through assignments to: pray, lead music, prepare lessons, bear testimony or choose activities. When all family members take turns preparing and teaching lessons each individual will have the opportunity to feel connected to the gospel and maximize their learning. These moments spent together with each other, and with the Spirit, will help us stay on the path to return to live with Heavenly Father.
Resources and additional reading: