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How do you know? Part 3: Delivery

By: Joe Willmann

In the previous two posts, Preparation and Checking for Understanding, we have discussed the first two steps in the Backwards Design process: Identifying Desired Results and Determining Acceptable Evidence. In this post, we will cover the final step: Planning Learning Experiences and Instruction.

Planning Learning Experiences and Instruction. That’s a mouthful. Basically, in a nutshell, it’s the how. How am I going to teach this material? How am I going to deliver instruction?

In most of your scenarios, you have more handcuffs on this area than a Day School teacher would have. Here are some general assumptions that I am going off of:

  • Your class meets once a week for about an hour.
  • You have a wide range of biblical and doctrinal knowledge in your group.
  • Your group has varying levels of access to technology resources during study.
  • You have varying levels of participation during study.
  • You, yourself, have your own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to presenting material.

The first two steps in this process are more concrete than this step will be for you. We have to be cognizant of the limitations we have in the parish environment. I understand that a lot of what you do is going to be direct instruction, based purely on what is listed above.

In that light, let me give you a few tips from a former classroom teacher’s perspective that will help you in delivering direct instruction in a practical way.

1. Create a classroom procedure and stick to it.

In K–12 education, we do this not only for our itty-bitty guys and gals, but also for our high school students as well. When you set expectations and how class will flow, things go much more smoothly. It also helps your guests! Let me give you a few examples.

  • Let’s say you are a teacher who has a handout every week. Find a place in the classroom that you will put it every week, and create the expectation that your students (parishioners) will pick it up before class. Be intentional the first month about reminding people where they are, and that when they come in, they should go pick one up. Now this is going to require a little bit of preparation on your part. If you set up an expectation and don’t follow through with it (e.g., you don’t have your handouts ready until right when you walk into the class), you will lose that expectation. This is also something that will gain you class time. Let’s say your Bible study is held in the fellowship hall, and you have forty or fifty people who attend it. If you don’t have a procedure in place for how you will distribute your materials in an efficient manner, just handing out packets of information could take four to five minutes away from your class time.
  • Try starting off every lesson with a “Do Now” type of item. This would be something that you would post in your classroom to get students ready for the task at hand. To continue with our Ephesians 2 example for this series of posts, your “Do Now” for a lesson might be this: “Before we get started, review the Third Article of the Creed in Luther’s Small Catechism.” This is an activity that won’t take a lot of time, but it will be something to get your class in the right frame of mind heading into the lesson.
  • Keep a similar opening every week. Have a brief opening devotion for every lesson. If your study is in the morning, consider using the Daily Prayer for Morning (page 295 in Lutheran Service Book) to kick-start your lesson. Even sing a hymn! This will accomplish two very important things:
    • It will put your students in the right frame of mind for studying Scripture.
    • It will help put a pause to the sidebar conversations started during the fellowship time prior to your study!

Sticking to this type of routine is something that effective classroom educators do across the country every day. It will really help empower your teaching as well.

2. Involve the reading of text in your study.

I know this isn’t an earth-shattering revelation. But there is a great correlation in the learning process from both reading and hearing text. It will activate multiple senses and improve retention. Design your class in such a way that you evenly split up the reading. Whether you have small groups share the responsibility or one person reading to the whole class, you should engage in this activity.

3. Be intentional with what you project.

There is nothing worse than a PowerPoint slide with twelve-point font that the instructor simply reads word for word. Here are a few tips:

  • When it comes to teaching, project main ideas and questions. Do not project your thought process or answer to a question.
    • The second that you project your thought process up on a screen, you have lost the attention of your class, because they are now reading the screen. Instead, focus what you project on a main idea or a question. We are getting into a little bit of psychology now, but there is such a thing as FOMO, or fear of missing out. When you project so much information on a screen, you have even lost your students’ attention for most of your presentation, because they are eagerly waiting for your next information-heavy slide instead of focusing on what you are discussing with the class.
    • The only time that you might break this rule would be to project a common reading, such as Scripture or a confession. Because so many different translations of the Bible come into our Bible studies, projecting one common translation can help bring unity to the group.
  • Do not, I repeat, DO NOT worry about transitions and special effects on your slides.
    • While your words appearing on the screen as if they dropped like an anvil or leaving the screen as if they burned away may look neat, it is truly just a distraction. You may wow a few people in the audience, but they now will spend the next ten to fifteen seconds thinking about how “neat” your transition was, and you probably have said something in that time span that you wanted them to hear.
    • The only time that you might think about doing this is if you are using the transition or effect to emphasize a point.

4. Know where distractions are going to come from in your group.

If we are honest with ourselves, we all know that we will have distractions in every Bible study:

  • The person that takes things off topic (and that might be you!)
  • The personal conversation that happens on the side
  • The person checking Facebook during your lesson (although this sometimes might be an indication on how engaging your lesson was)
  • The person who has an opinion for every question (I know I’ve been that person before)

This is a tough area to crack because you have to do it lovingly. You are typically teaching adults, and they do not want to be treated in the same way that you would treat a room of thirteen-year-olds. As someone who spent a majority of his career prior to CPH teaching adults, I can tell you that I would sometimes rather deal with a group of seventh graders. As adults, we may not always conform to the same expectations that we would have of our own children (more than likely, you and I included!).

Knowing this, you have to adapt your classroom management. Here are some tips for the situations above.

  • The person that takes things off topic
    • Think of responding to their query or statement this way: “That’s a great thought/question, John. I don’t have time to address it right this second, but let me get back to you on that!”
      • When you do this, be sure to write down what the person said and actually follow through on getting back to him or her. Otherwise, you are just being dismissive of the individual, and that won’t go over well.
  • The personal conversation that happens on the side or the person checking Facebook during your lesson
    • Proximity to people changes behavior. If I was in a classroom of thirteen-year-olds and there were a few students together who were off task, I would just relocate myself to be standing close to them. This will let them know that I know what’s going on and I’d like for them to correct the situation, without me having to say anything. Amazingly enough, the same thing works when you are teaching adults!
    • If you notice this happening in your lessons, don’t just assume that people are being rude. You should always evaluate the effectiveness of your lesson, and if you have a lot of people disengaged with the topic, you might question if you are presenting the information in a way that is keeping your audience or class engaged in what you are teaching.
  • The person who has an opinion for every question
    • For me, personally, this is the most challenging situation. I think primarily it is because, as a teacher, you are excited that people are engaged with your class, and when they aren’t, you can always rely on this person to interact with you. One of the most challenging aspects to this will be the personal relationships that you have with your students (parishioners). The best way to handle this situation is to just be honest (shocking, right?). Just let your class know that you won’t be able to get to every comment or question, because you do want to get through the material that you have planned for the day. This still gives you the discretion to go down any rabbit trails as you see fit, but it also sets up the expectation that you may not always call on every person. As a great instructor, you should always be available for those questions after your lesson though. That way, you can either respond immediately or write the questions down and get back to the person when you have the chance. I have found this type of transparency and follow-through to be the best route in keeping an orderly classroom.
      • In full disclosure, this is an easier task in a large-group setting than in a small-group setting. In a small study with ten or fewer people, I would recommend setting up classroom norms at the beginning of the study that everyone agrees to. You might set aside five minutes of every study for everyone to share their personal insights. This could be more productive and keep your study on schedule.

So there you have it, Backwards Design for the parish educational setting. I hope these posts will be a blessing and a help to your ministry. If you have any questions about anything in this series, feel free to get ahold of me! Reach me at or @jtwillmann and @cpheducation on Twitter. God bless!

About Concordia Publishing House

Concordia Publishing House (CPH) is the publishing arm of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. For 150 years, CPH has been providing individuals, churches, and schools with products that are faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. From books and Bibles to church supplies, curriculum, and software, CPH offers over 10,000 products to support the proclamation of the Gospel worldwide. Visit CPH online at