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Those Juniors, Part 34: The Art of Application

by Eric B. Hare

Last segment: Patterns of how to reach the juniors and keep their interest and get them excited about Sabbath school.

We have seen that the superiority of inductive teaching over deductive lies in the stimulation it gives to “thinking.” We have also noticed that the natural thinking process is an addition of percepts to make concepts, a comparison of concepts to form judgments, a weighing of judgments (which is reasoning) in order to form new judgments and conclusions.

Moreover we are instructed:

“Every human being, created in the image of God, is endowed with a power akin to that of the Creator,—individuality, power to think and to do. The men in whom this power is developed are the men who bear responsibilities, who are leaders in enterprise, and who influence character. It is the work of true education to develop this power; to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men’s thought.”1

It will be the study of this chapter, therefore, to consider and illustrate a lesson outline which will be in harmony with these principles.

In preparing to teach, it is first necessary to discover the “theme” of the lesson. To every lesson there is a title and a theme. The title is the name of the lesson; the theme is the underlying or embedded truth which the lesson is to emphasize and teach. The theme gives direction to the lesson and enables the teacher to take accurate aim. Whenever I chance to listen in to a teacher who does not know exactly where he is going, and perhaps covers only three or four questions in the lesson period, I am reminded of the colored porter who was sent to look at a crated calf that was put off at a junction. He was told to look for the destination, so that the calf could be put on the right train. In a minute he came back greatly dismayed, saying, “Dat dere calf done gone chawed up de place where he am goin’.” Without discovering the theme, that is exactly what we shall do, and instead of teaching the lesson, we shall be merely occupying the time. It is possible for the title and the theme to be the same; for instance, we might have a lesson entitled “The Love of God,” and the theme could be “God loves His people.” More often, however, the theme is different from the title and must be searched out. It is even possible to find more than one theme in a lesson, in which case the needs of the class will be the deciding factor. With the theme in mind the teacher can guide the discussion and add an emphasis here and there so that the theme may be clearly realized and understood.

Very frequently the memory verse gives us a clue to the best theme in the lesson, but this is not always so. To illustrate: Here is a lesson with the title “Abraham’s Visitors.” This is the name of the lesson and tells what the story is about. The memory verse is, “I will hear what God the Lord will speak,” which instantly suggests the theme “prayer,” in which you could focus on Abraham’s talking to God and its results. But, as I look through the story and study the questions and answers, the underlying truth which I would rather choose to emphasize is “God’s great mercy,” and I would focus on His mercy to Abraham and to Sodom, in that He was willing to save the whole wicked city for ten righteous people.

Again the theme of “hospitality” could readily be developed from the same story, and you can see how the spiritual needs of my class would decide which was the best theme for the occasion.
Let us take another lesson, “Lot Brought Out of Sodom.” The memory verse is “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” and immediately “the danger of worldly association” is suggested for the theme.

Weak, indeed, is the teaching of the one who merely tells the story suggested in the title, and very little stronger is the teaching of the one who has discovered the theme but has not learned the art of applying the great underlying truth of the lesson to the lives of his pupils. This art does not just happen; it is no mere accident. It is the studied, deliberate result of a psychologically correct lesson outline, in which there are five distinct steps:

1. Preparation.

2. Presentation.

3. Association.

4. Generalization.

5. Application.2

Preparation—Of course, this is not the preparation of the lesson. The teacher has attended to that long ago. Nor is this the time to apologize. Apology is never in order. Your friends don’t need it, your enemies won’t believe you anyway, and if you haven’t studied, the children will soon find out; so don’t tell them, whatever you do. Apology actually is a form of conceit. It has no place in the lesson outline of one who has done his best and is depending on God. We are now standing before the class or sitting in their midst, and the first thing we want to do is to find some foundation stone in the previous knowledge of the pupil, on which we can build the truth of the new lesson. Even as percept is added to percept to make a concept, we want to find something to which we can add. If the review has been properly conducted, the events and characters of last week’s lesson have led us right up to the place where the events and characters of this week’s lesson carry on. In any case, this step is a very short one, requiring only a statement or two or a question or two, and we are ready for the next step.

Presentation—This is the presentation of the new facts, the story, and the illustrations of the new lesson. This occupies the most of the lesson-study time. If the last five minutes of the lesson period are left for the remaining three steps, that will ordinarily be time enough. During the presentation of the lesson the teacher uses his streamlined ideas, tactfully holding the attention and guiding the emphasis of the story and the lesson material toward the development of the theme. We are, in this process, continuing the adding of percepts to percepts to form concepts. Then the five-minute bell rings, and we go into the next step.

Association—As in the natural thinking process we next compare concepts with concepts in order to form judgments, so now, after the study of the new lesson, we take a minute or two to look back into our previous lessons or facts of common knowledge for circumstances where the results were the same or similar or opposite, carefully noting the reasons.
This comparison prepares us for the next step.

Generalization—After the comparison we are now ready to form the judgment. Having noted the comparison of specific examples, we are now ready to generalize the underlying rule or principle, which is, in other words, the crystallizing of the theme. This is not a long step. It is usually completed in one clear answer from the class or one clear statement from the teacher. And now we are ready for the last and most important step of all.

Application—Generalization is having a good aim. Application is pulling the trigger. The theme having been made clear, it is now tactfully fitted to the lives and experiences of the pupils. Just a question or two. Just an answer or two. Just a word or two. We have added something new to our characters or given new life to something already there.

(Next week: “A Better Man.”)

1. Ellen White, Education, p. 17.
2. John Adams, Primer on Teaching, pp. 68-80.

Copyright © 1973 by Eric B. Hare. Used by permission

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