5 Steps to a Lesson

Five steps for creating a Relief Society or Elders Quorum lesson  from your assigned General Conference talk. Includes tips for creating questions and discussions starters.

You’re a Teacher

Are You Prepared?

Are you ready to be a:

  • Discussion Starter who engages others instead of lecturing?
  • Fellowshipper who validates and empowers others instead of being the class focal point?

The principal role of a Relief Society or an Elders Quorum teacher is to initiate discussions, where the rest of the group does the talking. Learning retention increases by 73% when people actively participate in the topic. We optimally create lesson plans that promote class discussion and spend time validating and responding as they talk. This will encourage interaction and belonging among your group.

girl studying scriptures

“I gave one of the best Relief Society lessons I ever prepared after following these tips, and it totally worked for our group of women too. Amazing engagement and the Relief Society President hasn’t stopped thanking me for the lesson, and it was weeks ago.”

Rachel

“After sharing the first highlight, hands were going up nonstop. I hardly said anything other than to call on the next person. I was able to ‘get out of the way and let the Spirit teach.’ I’ve never experienced anything like it before. The sisters taught and testified to each other. So beautiful!!”

Betty

Your page/blog was such an enormous answer to prayer. The suggested quotes, questions, and activities, along with the Lesson outlines themselves were such a blessing to me. Giving my a jump off point and understanding of how to prepare a lesson…

Ann

How Do I Put a Lesson Together?

Go through these prompts one step at a time and make your own effective lesson plan.

1. Prepare Yourself
  • Read the General Conference talk through at least twice if you have time. The sooner, the better.
  • Highlight the quotes/principles/scriptures which stand out the most to you.
  • Tip: absorb the material faster by watching the General Conference video while you read and highlight. It will maximize your understanding – in the least amount of time.
2. Select Lesson Material
  • Avoid the temptation to cover every point in the conference talk. Otherwise, you will become a lecturer and miss out on valuable opportunities to get your group talking. Discussion allows much-needed learning and fellowshipping to take place. This is truly a situation where less “teaching” is more.
    • Select your top five most meaningful highlights.
    • Try to select shorter, easy-to-digest quotes/principles. A story is an exception.
    • Think of each highlight as a mini-lesson or its own section.
    • Consider yourself a success if you don’t get to all five highlights when you lead your group on Sunday. Sometimes I don’t even get past the first one – but the discussion experience is fabulous. With this method, five points are all you’ll ever need.
3. Create Questions and Discussion Starters
  • For each of the five chosen highlights, repeat this step.
    • Pull out keywords from the highlight (see example below**). Questions and successful discussion starters can be created with help from the keywords. Ponder the keywords and possibly look up definitions for them. My favorite help is the thesaurus. I use thesaurus.com a lot. (If it is a verse – check out some of the footnotes too. Often, there are inspirations and great discussion material there.)
    • Create 2-3 questions about the highlight. For example, ask questions about why, how, when, where, what, and who. Also, ask “Can you relate” questions.
    • If possible, be prepared to share a personal story, experience, or thought on this highlight. Preferably, this is back-up in case your class isn’t talking a lot. Nonetheless, place first priority on the rest of the group using up the talk time.

    **Here is an example using a quote from a talk by Quentin L. Cook.

    The keywords which stand out most for me are: balance, faith, spirituality, and conversion.

    Using the seven questions:

    1. What is conversion? (Can you be active and not be converted?) What does it mean to deepen conversion? What would that look like if you were to have a balance between Church and home experiences? What would feel balanced?
    2. Why does the Church now want us to have a balance of these experiences at home? Why not just have them at church?
    3. How can we include experiences and habits which will increase faith, spirituality, and conversion at home?
    4. When is the best time you have found to study and ponder or have other spiritually uplifting moments? Do we sometimes need to schedule it in purposely?
    5. Where can meaningful spiritual experiences occur most often?
    6. Who benefits the most when we have regular spiritual experiences at home?
    7. Can you picture your home becoming a center of faith, spirituality, and more profound conversion? What changes would you make? (This is a “can you relate” question.)

    Once you’ve thought of some questions – settle on 2-3 which you feel are best for your group.

    Another way to create lesson material is to create lists of synonyms and/or definitions of the keywords. Using keywords to explore a quote further, verse, or topic can generate great discussion. For example, I might ask, “here are some definitions for the word balance. “What do you believe Elder Cook meant when he said “our purpose is to balance the Church and the home experiences…?

    Balance

    • adjust
    • harmonize
    • stabilize
    • attune
    • correspond
    • equalize
    • equate
    • even
    • level
    • match
    • parallel

    You can use this same discussion starter idea with any keywords you’ve identified!

    Another discussion starter is asking the class to pull out keywords themselves from the highlight or quote and ask why those words are essential.

4. How to Deliver
  • Congratulate yourself as soon as you have five mini-lessons ready to go from your five highlights. While this article primarily addresses the basic structure of putting together a meaningful lesson – let your creativity flow. If you like to craft or bake or set up panoramas and displays – those are wonderful and stimulating ways to promote a learning atmosphere. One of my personal favorites is to bring chocolates. While in class, you can use games, role-play, mini-groups, skits, musical numbers, and any number of ways to keep the engagement level optimal. (I do stay away from videos – they tend to shut/slow the discussion down, maybe because it’s too passive.)Here are some suggestions for successful lesson material delivery:
  • Suggest ground rules or extend an invite before you start reading any quote or scripture (in other words, make suggestions ahead of time of what they might find) –For example– in gospel doctrine, when reading a verse, I often ask people to imagine themselves in that time and place. What do you notice about what’s going on? How would you feel? Does it remind you of any situation in your own life? These are subtle suggestions to be more engaged with the material.Or I might say, “Okay, after we read these verses, we’re going to discuss the character of the Sons of Mosiah. Notice what comes up for you as we read this scripture set (or quote).”Or “when I read this scripture before class, I wondered how Mosiah’s sons could progress to the point that they did? Notice what comes up for you as we read these verses (this quote) today, and let’s talk about it.”Another tip, extend that invite to look/listen for the words and phrases they might find stand out for them from any given quote. Ask why that particular word, phrase, or idea seemed important.

    To sum up – help them be more prepped and engaged as you study material together. It does make a difference. My favorite go-to invite is, “See what comes up for you as we read this quote…what stands out for you today?” Or “As we read this next quote (scripture) you might notice some similarities to your own life – see what comes up for you today.”

    4-second rule. Don’t ever worry if you don’t get immediate responses to your questions or attempts at starting a discussion. Sometimes it takes a while to warm up. When you ask a question, wait four seconds, and if there are no volunteers, ask the same query differently or with other words. For example, “What do you suppose Elder Cook meant by balancing Church and home”? <4-second pause> “Is there a need in our day to harmonize gospel experiences in the home with experiences at Church?

    Glorious Pause. You’ve had a long time to think about the material while preparing. It may take people a bit to get those thought processes rolling. Don’t let that unnerve you. If there is silence after the 4-second rule and a second prompting, stand/sit there with a smile on your face. Some of the best discussions I’ve ever led – started with a lengthy response time.

    If you get into a great conversation, let it roll. This is an invaluable event at Church. The most important thing you can do is create an experience that fosters thinking and internal investigation. That’s a success – we’re teaching how to ponder a spiritual topic and have a train of thoughts. And how to relate it to our own lives and with each other. Networking is also a form of much-needed fellowshipping. Sometimes I’ll only get through a couple of quotes the entire lesson or even just one quote/verse because the dialog opened up so well.

5. How to Get More Participation

A)  Make sure others read the verses and quotes…not you. You already talk enough. Quite often, the person reading will be prompted to make comments too.

B)  Be ready to share your own story or two upon some quote or another – people love personal experiences; it opens them up. People will mirror you; if you are forthcoming, they will be forthcoming.

C)  Pass out reading assignments ahead of time – a week if you can. “Would you please share your thoughts on this verse and what comes up for you? Feel free to share any stories from your own life on this topic.”  That ups the quality of content and sows the seeds of great discussion. Use people who don’t speak up a lot – that’s gold.

D) Respond to a class contributor like they are your best friend and you’re having a conversation in the foyer; give them some conversational feedback.

E)  Validate every attempt to be involved in the conversation. Parrot back their idea or tell them what you liked about their comment. I will often say, “I loved that word you used…introspection; I’ve felt a lot of introspection when preparing this lesson.” Say their name. Refer back to an earlier comment and mention who made it. The validation you extend is engaging and memorable. Remember, people have different levels of understanding and various combinations of “line upon line.”  Be conversational and try to make the best of every comment. Don’t play “guess what I’m thinking.”  or ‘just one right answer.”   If there is a flawed understanding, be very gentle and diplomatic. “Well, I can understand why you might view it that way…let me share an experience (or a scripture)

New tip: I see this happen repeatedly! Do not ever be concerned or annoyed by going “out of order.” For example, if someone makes a comment that covers material later in your lesson and the discussion naturally swings there – roll with it and work the quote or verse in. Don’t invalidate and shut that person’s comment down by stating that it’s for “later.” (Don’t be like, “why did you bring that up now – that messes up my lesson.”) If you want people to volunteer…be a safe person to contribute to. Turn the detour into a success for everyone.

F)  Difficult people with antagonistic questions – Don’t be scared of it; turn it into a golden opportunity for more participation. People love to chime in when it gets a little heated anyway. You can say, “Let’s open this up to the group. Does anyone have a response or viewpoint on that? This diffuses the focus off of you. When invited and validated, you’ll usually find people willing to jump in on something like this.

If it is contentious, kindly invite that person to speak with you afterward, but you’d like to get back to the lesson…or tell them you’ll need to research that one and get back to them.

G)  No videos. They tend to produce a passive group – if you feel you must share a video, restrict it to the beginning of the lesson.

Summary: How much should I prepare?

Out of 50 minutes, you’ll typically get about 35-40 for the lesson by the time opening/closing exercises, announcements, prayers, and hymns are done. Every quote you have someone read, and then ask questions or some other discussion starter/activity – by the time you get a few comments, you’ll quickly use up 5 minutes. If the discussion opens up at all or someone tells a story or relates an experience, or asks a question – you’ll hit 10 minutes per quote without trying to. Don’t be surprised if you only end up getting through 2-3 quotes…that’s great. This means some real conversation and contemplation are taking place.

You are ready! I’m so excited for you as you prepare to bring a wonderful experience to your group. Blessings to you always.

Have confidence that you can create a meaningful and memorable lesson. Teaching does take practice, but these steps will help you get there faster.

This is a gentle reminder from a sister in Christ to say your prayers over your lesson preparation. The Spirit knows best and is clever and efficient and wise. Pray to have your eyes opened and your efforts blessed. Inspiration will come to you.

Thank you for taking the time to prepare to teach. You help gather Israel when you encourage others to live their faith with more devotion. Godspeed you.

Shawnie Cannon

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54 Comments

  1. LaVern Appleton

    I used your lesson plan for President Jeffrey R Holland’s conference address and it was an amazing class. Thank you!

    Reply
  2. LaVern Appleton

    Would you possibly make a lesson plan for Elder Alexander Dushku’s APRIL 2024 Conference talk “PILLARS and RAYS”
    Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Crista Mceuen

      Please do that this helps me so much with my lessons

      Reply
  3. Alyse

    I love your outlines and prepped lessons. They are so helpful! Thank you so much! Will you be doing Elder Renlund’s ‘The Powerful, Virtuous Cycle of the Doctrine of Christ’ soon?

    Reply
  4. Charlie

    I love your blog! I was hoping to see highlights on Integrity: A Christlike Attribute

    By Elder Jack N. Gerard
    All is well!! Thank you for your service

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      Hello Charlie, thank you for the kind comment. I am doing most of the apostles first, with the exception of Elder Dushku. I could get to him eventually -but it won’t happen until June. If you use the “5 steps” page, it should get you there pretty quickly. Best of luck!

      Reply
  5. Ron and Faye Bell

    Thanks for your help with this site. I’m teaching HIGHER JOY Elder Utchdorf in May. I was hoping to see your lesson here. May you be blessed for your efforts,

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      Thank you so much! I will have Elder Uchtdorf done by mid-week. He gave a fabulous talk.

      Reply
  6. Dalton Lutz

    5 highlights from Elder Sabin’s talk is not working at the moment.

    Reply
  7. Ana

    Servi na Organização das Moças e na Organização Primária por muitos anos e quando fui desobrigada, foi desafiador ministrar um debate na Sociedade de Socorro. Agradeço por suas dicas, elas são um tesouro valioso! Gosto principalmente, da atenção e cuidado que você sugere para com as pessoas que estão participando do debate. Muito obrigada!

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      Sister Ana, what a beautiful note to leave me. I’m so glad you find this site useful. Many, many blessings to you.

      Reply
  8. Heidi Jenkins

    Wow. Thank you so much for your insights. I came to your webpage looking for “other peoples ideas” on my assigned General Conference talk. I ended up learning how to make a great lesson for ANY talk. I have struggled determining how to create a great lesson that encourages discussion, and you have solved that problem. THANKS! Im so much more excited to go forward!

    Reply
  9. NotablePianoLessons

    I am so so excited to try this approach! I am a Relief Society President about to get released after 4 plus years and I wish I had read this article years ago. I knew in my heart this is how to go about doing a lesson and I did half way try to do this but always believed the thought that I also needed to cover as much as the general conference talk went over. This is literally impossible if you want to truly let the class get involved. Also the amount of preparation that goes into a lesson when you try to discuss every detail is erroneous!! I needed this article to give me the confidence to plan accordingly. Yay!! Again thank you so much. I will be applying this approach this Sunday. I’m a little nervous with trying a new format but I’m confident it is going to be so much better and allow the audience to truly connect with each other and grow as they ponder and discuss ideas.

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      I’m excited you are here! You will do wonderfully, and it won’t surprise me if they ask you to be a teacher. Good luck with the discussion and God bless you. Don’t worry, the hands will go up.

      Reply
      • Heidi Grinnell

        I googled how to teach general conference talks and this site was first to show up so I clicked on it, and read all these wonderful tips on how to teach the talks. I’m a new RS teacher and I’ll be teaching Elder Renlund’s talk. I am wondering if you have had the opportunity to work on that yet? I’m grateful to you for this site. Thank you-I know this will help me for my first RS lesson.

        Reply
  10. Brooke M. Head

    I can not tell you how grateful I am to find a lesson plan for conference talks! I am R.S. president and I don’t want to tell you how I have avoided teaching for over 2 years, but somehow I have! (I have never taught) And now, this Sunday is the Day. Breath…..Breath….. Deep breath. Thank you is just not enough to express my gratitude for these lesson plans. Thank you!!! Thank you!! Thank you!!!!!

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      My goodness – as an RS President you have plenty to do and I admire any presidency that will sit back and let others in the spotlight. I hope it went wonderfully – bless you for searching and seeking to prep for your lesson. Blessings as you lead your group of women and thank you for all the time you put in!

      Reply
  11. Salie

    Thank you so much. These help me a lot being a newly called relief society teacher every 4th Sunday. This will add confidence to me. God bless…

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      I love that thought! That you will feel more confident. I’ve been a teacher without it and know how hard it is to stand up in front of others. God bless you too.

      Reply
  12. Guy Gehmlich

    I have always felt like my thoughts race and are all over the place while I teach elders quorum. I am so glad that I found your website. I’ve become better at keeping the lesson on track and built confidence in my approach! I know I am a better teacher when I use your tips. Thanks

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      Guy, I know exactly what you’re talking about. It wasn’t until I went discussion-style that I was able to cure that. Hope your next lesson goes beautifully.

      Reply
  13. Carrianne

    Thank you for sharing your breakdown. I have taught RS only a handful of times. I always wondered, okay, I have this talk that I love, now how do I turn it into a lesson??? Do I just read my favorite parts. I’ll just end up saying, “I loved this part because…” and it wouldn’t necessarily generate discussion. But breaking it down into digestible chunks (5 highlights) is great. And then each part is expanded. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      Carianne – I am so happy that you found the suggestions useful! Teaching can be scary, especially if you don’t get the response you would like. Kudos to you for searching out better ways. I hope your lesson went well!

      Reply
  14. Rachel M

    Thank you thank you thank you 10 million times over for sharing this. I gave one of the best Relief Society lessons I ever prepared after following these tips, and it totally worked for our group of women too. Amazing engagement and the Relief Society President hasn’t stopped thanking me for the lesson, and it was weeks ago. This resource you have prepared is truly amazing and when followed leads to some truly profound discussion. I am also considering adapting this for my college classes, it’s so awesome!

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      I loved your comment! You must have presented the lesson in a memorable way – to have the RS President still talking about it. It means she felt engaged and noticed others felt engaged. I am so intrigued with the idea of using this in a college setting too. I wish we had lessons like this when I went to school. Bless your amazing heart.

      Reply
  15. Lindsey

    That you so much for sharing this teaching aid. I was asked to teach the RS lesson this week on one of the conference talks and wasn’t sure where to start. Your thoughtful recommendations and structure made all the difference for me and made me feel much more calm and confident going into the lesson today that I have ever been. I cannot thank you enough for sharing insights on teaching and creating a template that made it so easy to build a lesson around. Thank you thank you thank you!

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      Aww…that is so sweet that you would come back and share this. This makes me completely happy. Bless your heart.

      Reply
  16. Wendy Bayles

    Thank you so much for your inspiration! I’m very passive and I teach RS. I acquired some brain damage in 2015 and since then I have trouble with problem solving let alone teaching! My Sister in the Ward text me your site and I was able to calm down and understand what, how to teach the lesson by Elder Gong-Trust Again
    Thanks again I love you with all my heart ❤️

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      I love you too. Thank you for sharing your touching story. They were inspired to have you teach this lesson! I bet it went wonderfully.

      Reply
  17. Betty Leishman

    Hi Shawnie,
    I echo the sentiments of others – you are an answer to prayers! and my lifelong quest to become a discussion leader instead of a lecturer. Lecturing was very comfortable for me but I knew it did not allow the Spirit to teach. I found your teaching helps a few weeks ago and had the most glorious teaching experience ever today!
    Your guideline of choosing five highlights really works. I was able to apply the guidelines to a talk you hadn’t made highlight suggestions on. (So to those asking for you to create highlights for them, I say, “Have faith and courage. You can do it!”)
    I felt well prepared after creating 5 mini lessons, and was able to let go of all the great quotes and scriptures I’d gathered, trusting the Spirit to bring out whatever was needed. After sharing the first highlight, hands were going up nonstop. I hardly said anything other than to call on the next person. I was able to ‘get out of the way and let the Spirit teach.’ I’ve never experienced anything like it before. The sisters taught and testified to each other. So beautiful!!
    I’m speaking in sacrament meeting in a few weeks and can’t wait to use your suggestions and apply what I’ve learned.
    A thousand thank yous for sharing your gifts and insights with those of us who are searching!

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      Oh my goodness! You are amazing in your ability to summarize and beautifully describe the work, the process and the results. This is one of my most favorite comments ever because you captured the essence of what this blog is all about. Bless your incredible heart. Transitioning from lectures to discussion is like going from the Terrestrial kingdom to the Celestial kingdom. You infused so much light into your sisters. Wish I was there!

      Reply
  18. Rhoda

    thank you for sharing…

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      You are most welcome.

      Reply
  19. Vicki

    I have used this method of teaching & it has been a lifesaver for me. Thank you so much! You’re awesome!

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      Vicki, thank you for those kind words. I truly wish I was sitting in your RS room when you give a lesson.

      Reply
  20. Fiapaipai Roberts

    I really loved this. This is so helpful. Thank you so very much. I will be teaching on the 4th Sunday of Dec. I was a bit worried on how to lead a good discussion about Temple. I started researching and found this..
    Amazing how the Spirit guides us to where to look.
    Now I’m looking forward to my lesson with all your help
    Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      Oh my goodness, I thought I answered your comment. I hope your lesson went awesome! I am so glad you took the time to be here and to leave your thoughts. I loved what you had to say.

      Reply
  21. Lian

    Thank you so much! It’s been a long time since I have taught a lesson and I was at a bit of a loss (especially since it is a zoom lesson) but this article helped me immensely.

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      Zoom can be so hard! I bet your lesson went wonderfully. Thank you for taking the time to make better discussions – Zion is blessed.

      Reply
  22. Anne Baraza

    Shawnie this is God sent.I am to lead for the first time ever our Relief Society class on Sunday 3rd October. Didn’t know how to go about it but this has eased the work. Pray for me so that the holy spirit can guide me and the entire class during the lesson.Thank you!

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      This is so sweet! Thank you for sharing. You might get an extra week because this week is General Conference? I will absolutely pray for you, that the lesson will be inspired and your class too.

      Reply
  23. Luz

    Thank you so much for the lesson help. Makes a lot of sense, I will share this with my teachers.

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      Oh how wonderful! I hope your teachers find it useful. Blessings to you.

      Reply
  24. Mark

    I just happen to come across your website and I just can’t help but feel so grateful to you Sister Shawnie for doign this. I recently got called in to a role where I help and teach EQ classes… since this is my first time doing this its been a wonderful but challenging experience. I suddenly came across your website and it is definitely Heaven sent! Thank you!! 🙂 I will use these to help me improve my lessons.

    Reply
  25. Naomi Falepapalangi

    Thank you so very much for sharing your beautiful thoughtful ways of leading a discussion for Relief Society. I really loved and enjoyed every guiding steps on here. Today is my first time of the year for leading our Relief Society class, through Zoom wish me luck.

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      Naomi, I will be praying for you. Good luck! They will love all your preparation. Blessings to you.

      Reply
  26. Gina Zimmerman Paz

    Thank you for this! I have been called as a RS teacher, in a new ward where I know no one, and have to use zoom. I love teaching/facilitating RS lessons and talks, my old, much bigger ward was like family for me, friendships going back many years, so it was no big deal. My first Zoom lesson was last month, and I was kinda terrified, I am new to Zoom and my new sisters. With your help, the lesson actually went really well, and I feel more secure for tomorrow’s lesson. This is a new time for all of us, but ultimately, we are sisters and we will get through this together!

    Reply
    • Shawnie

      Bless your wonderful soul. Yes! Being new in front of a new group can be quite unsettling. I’ve been there. I wish I could be there for yours – I’m sure there are at least a few sisters who find great meaning and comfort in all your prep. Thank you so much for your kind words.

      Reply
    • Ginger Barth

      I’m in your same boat! New ward, I don’t know anyone. Zoom scares me, I don’t know how to work zoom. My first lesson is in 3 weeks. Glad I found this page. I think it will help a lot. Thanks

      Reply
      • Shawnie

        Miss Ginger – perhaps the hardest thing about Zoom is seeing ourselves on camera. You’ll get used to it. Trust me. After a while, you realize most everyone is in the same boat and it’s just like seeing people at church. Good luck when you teach. Take a deep breath…you got this.

        Reply
  27. Lorene Little

    My first Zoom lesson was an utter and complete failure… now I am to teach next week. I am terrified but am willing to do my best. Thanks for your helpful suggestions.

    Reply
    • Shawnie

      Lorene, Zoom IS different then a classroom. We are all pioneers in this. What’s wonderful is you want to progress and you reached out to prepare. You will be blessed! You are good enough and you know enough.

      Reply
  28. Shanae

    Thank you! You were an answer to my prayer! I was asked to facilitate a RS discussion over Zoom without having taught adults in many years! I felt very overwhelmed and unsure how to give a lesson when all I wanted to do was tell everyone to read the talk because the presenter had already said it better than I ever could! Your tips helped me narrow down my thoughts and made this task feel manageable! Now I feel more confident in leading a discussion!

    Reply
    • Shawnie

      Shanae – how wonderful they asked you to facilitate the lesson! I will be praying for you by name. You’ll do great.

      Reply

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