Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Seminary Awards

The entire class
 (minus 1 who was on vacation already)
 The Master Scriptorians...

This was my first year teaching Early Morning Seminary. I was called to teach this class in October after the year had already started.
The 24 students in my class were from the two wards that meet in our building.

Because I had been bringing my daughter to this Seminary class for a month before I was called, I knew that they did not have a smooth start to their Seminary year. I have had 3 sons graduate from Seminary and I know Seminary can be an amazing experience for the teacher and the students. From all observations, this was not looking like a positive experience for the teacher or the students.

As I began teaching, it was apparent that they had not had a consistently positive Seminary experience for several years. Eventually, I would learn that for my Seniors, they had four years of continuous changes in teachers, teachers who did not hold class regularly, and teachers who did not emphasize Scripture Mastery.
The fact that they continued to attend class speaks to the amazing youth that they are.

When I took over the class, they were about 1 month behind in the manual and not one Scripture Mastery verse had been introduced. As I worked with my class, it was clear that they had not received a solid introduction to the course of study, The New Testament, so I ended up going back to the beginning at some point during October. I realized I could not assume they had covered any material in the manual.
Incredibly, we got through the New Testament. We had to race through the last books and we did not get to study Revelation in any depth, but we accomplished far more than just getting  through a manual.

Both Bishops told me to be prepared for my class size to get smaller as the year progressed. They told me it is "normal" for the class to have about 20-25 students at the beginning of the year and to end with about 5-6.  To me, this is not "normal" and I was determined to see this change and I was willing to do the work.

With this in mind, I set some goals for this year (not necessarily in this order):

  • Finish the year no matter how difficult it became
  • Introduce and emphasize Scripture Mastery
  • Require each student to have his/her own set of scriptures, to mark the Scripture Mastery verses, and to have their scriptures in class each day.
  • Each student needed to learn how to use an actual set of scriptures (paper) No electronic scriptures, etc. No electronics during class at all. 
  • Teach how to scripture chase.
  • Create an environment that would encourage a love for the Savior, the Scriptures, and the Gospel
  • Start on time-even if only 2 people were in their seats
  • Make sure the tables and chairs are set up on Sunday for the week.
  • Never have my students arrive to a harried teacher who is setting up tables and chairs just to get the day going. (I arrived between 5:40 and 5:45 every day)
  • Have the hymns playing on a CD as the students arrive each day.
  • Get to know each of my students and their parents (this was a challenge as half of them are in another ward and some of the parents do not speak much English) I would step out of our meetings to go find my students and their parents each week until I had met them all. Now they are dear friends.
  • Prepare and teach in a manner that my students would know that I love them and the Savior, Jesus Christ.
  • Raise the bar for daily class devotionals and require everyone to participate. If they were late, they gave a closing devotional. If they were absent, they gave their devotional the day they returned, even if there was another one, also.
  • Use several different teaching methods every day. Keep them interested and guessing what may come next.
  • Offer Awards that each student was capable of obtaining.
  • Present these Awards at the end of the school year during a Seminary Sacrament Meeting. (Recognizing their efforts in front of their parents, peers, and ward members was a beautiful experience.) You can read more about our Seminary Sacrament Meeting by scrolling down a few posts.
Here are the Awards my students could earn:

Course Completion
Everyone received this, which was what I had hoped for. When we had the Seminary Sacrament Meeting-everyone received at least one award. It was so important for my students to taste and feel success in a gospel setting.

  • Read the entire New Testament (The Completion of The New Testament Award)
  • Read the 4 Gospels (The 4 Gospels Award)
  • Read for 10 minutes per day for at least 30 days in a row (Consecutive Days Reading Award)
Scripture Mastery
  • Scripture Scholar- Explain the meaning of each Scripture Mastery verse to me any time during the year
  • Scriptorian-Memorize all 25 Scripture Mastery verses and recite them to me as you memorize them during the year
  • Master Scriptorian- Memorize all 25 Scriptures and recite them all in one sitting
  • Excellent Attendance 90% or above
  • Superior Attendance 95% or above
  • Perfect Attendance 100%
(All of them received an Attendance Award of some type. Six of my students received perfect attendance)

The students may make up days that they miss for illness or school/family travel or days they miss due to no control of their own (car trouble, ride issues, etc). They may not make up days that they miss due to "just wanting to sleep"

I found some nice wood  award plaques at Deseret Book that fit a half page size award inside under the plexi-glass. I think they are made by Sounds of Zion and can be ordered on-line. They were $10.50 in the store at Deseret Book.
If you look at the photo of my students with the awards, you can see what they look like.
I printed the awards on parchment paper and put a gold notary seal on them.

I will tweak these awards for The upcoming Book of Mormon year once I have a solid plan. Right now, I am trying to enjoy summer, yet I am finding that I suffer from "Seminary Teacher's Brain" is nearly impossible to turn off Seminary thoughts completely. Not such a bad thing, but I do need to accomplish a few summer projects that are not Seminary related.

Do you suffer from "Seminary Teacher's Brain"?
What type of awards do your students earn?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

You Might Be An Early Morning Seminary Teacher If...

There is so much truth here, you will not know whether to laugh or cry.
Thank you for sharing this perspective!
Click HERE and be prepared to smile, nod your head yes, laugh, and say...has he been following me around?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Teacher To Teacher Question?????

Dear Fellow Seminary Teachers (past and present),

This was my first year teaching early morning Seminary. I started teaching in October and my students did not have class journals. I did not attempt to add that to our routine, but would like to include student journals as part of our every day lessons and class work next year.

What works best for student journals?
What type and size?
Do you use a composition book? a 3-ring binder?
What do you use journals for the most?
What do you have students place in their journals?

I am thinking whatever we use needs to meet the following requirements:
1) Each student has the same size/type of journal
2) Needs to be the size of a standard sheet of notebook or printer paper
3) Should be conducive to gluing in handouts as well as adding pages with 3 hole-punches
4) Needs to last the entire school year.
5) Would be nice to have lined and un-lined pages.
6) The completed journal, ideally, should be a "road map" that documents our year and becomes a keepsake.

I am sure I am missing some items., please add to my list and tell me why you chose the type of student journals you have.

I am not certain how many readers will see this. According to my statistics, There are a lot of readers who stop by here daily. Please share your expertise!

Thank you for any input!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

End of Year Sacrament Meeting

 Seminary is over for this year!
We ended with a Sacrament Meeting in both Wards. My students attended both Wards in our building, the Seniors spoke and the entire class sang.
I recognized the students for their accomplishments such as Scriptorian, Master Scriptorian, Reading, and Attendance.
It was a wonderful way to end our year.
This is a AMAZING group of young women and men.
The entire class!
 The girls!
 The boys
 The Freshmen
 The Sophomores
 The Juniors
 The Seniors
( I have a few students who will complete their Book of Mormon Scripture Mastery 
over the summer before class starts in August. These kids are incredible!
 The boys after the photo session. (They were good sports about all the picture taking)
 Two of my students after our big photo session.
I will miss the Seniors.
Enjoy summer and I will see you August 19!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Seminary Protection

I wrote this on my personal blog last year, never thinking that, a year later, I would be a Seminary Teacher, not just a Seminary Parent.  I have watched this protection in action all year long...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Seminary Protection

Last weekend, our Mission President and his wife spoke to our youth at a mini youth conference camp out.
Sister Anderson gave the following thought about Seminary:
A typical morning for a Seminary Student:
Wake up
Personal Prayer
Family Prayer
Arrive at Seminary
Opening Hymn (a form of prayer)
Opening Prayer
Closing Prayer

This adds up to FOUR prayers and a hymn, making it FIVE prayers all before heading off to school
Even if Personal and Family prayer are not part of the morning, TWO prayers and a hymn are in place to fortify and protect youth as they go out in the world.
This perspective has been with me all week as I have pondered the intense issues that have been introduced to Katherine's life as a 9th grader. I am certain she is not unique as she is bombarded by the messages of the world.
Some of the subject she hears regularly are:
Atheism, Same Gender attraction and marriage as a normal option, word of wisdom as choice, not letting a Church or religion tell you what to do, suicide, and so much more.
Thankfully, we have open conversations about these subjects and I am able to counsel and guide her as she navigates these issues.
I am even more grateful to wake up at 5:15 am and drive Katherine to Seminary so she can have the protection she needs to survive in a world where evil is called good and good is called evil.
Early Morning Seminary is an inspired program. I truly believe lives are saved as a result of the strength a Seminary student receives each morning.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Seminary In My Pocket Summary

Read HERE about  "Seminary in My Pocket'

During the last week of Seminary, I used all the items I gave them for a review of the year. Surprisingly, many still have all of their items in the pouch "pocket" I gave them. More importantly, many of them remembered exactly what each item represented.
This is proof to me that sending a "piece of the lesson" out the door with my students helped to reinforce the message.
As a teacher, I know that involving more than one of the senses and a variety of teaching methods/tools is the most effective approach. I have written this before, yet it is worth repeating: It is so important to not use TOO MANY tools in one lesson, yet you must use a variety or methods and tools with each and every lesson-especially early in the morning.

Seminary In My Pocket evolved "by accident" but ended up as a very effective teaching tool. Many times it was an quick idea that popped into my head the night before class (I am hoping the late night inspiration shifts more to day time next year)
Above is a photo of the organza bags I ordered from AMAZON. Students chose their own color and wrote their names on them with sharpies. They carried these in their scripture totes or backpacks.

Below is a list of the objects I used. Some need no explanation. Some can be used so many ways (such as rocks) Search my blog for details of many of the items. I did not record every item as I went along which is why I am making this list.
As a teacher, you can use this as a springboard and create what will work best for you and your students.
After all, it is all about the students.

  • Rocks (Pebbles for their pockets to remind them about the large rocks in casting stones, or a solid foundation, A name for Christ, etc)
  • Penny (Widow's mite, worth of souls)
  • Quarter with a happy face (worth of souls, atonement was for you-you are worth it)
  • Mustard Seed
  • Rivet  (Keep eyes riveted on Prophets and Apostles)
  • Small plastic Army character (Armor of God)
  • Rubber Band (We wore these to remind us to think pure thoughts)
  • Small wooden heart (Love one another, Christ's love)
  • Button (Use kind words-button your lips)
  • Plastic spider ring (Dont get caught in Satan's web)
  • Seeds (growing our testimonies)
  • Small jingle bell (Used quote by Elaine Cannon on be a bellringer-example and light to the world- could als use with feed my sheep, lambs, etc.)
  • Small Birthday Candle (Ye are the light of the world)
  • Gold Coin (Parable of the lost coin)
  • Water Bottle Cap (from plastic water bottle-The Living Water)
  • Faux craft gem (Your infinite worth)
  • Eraser with a happy face (The Atonement will erase our sins which bring us joy)
  • A Walnut in the shell (this was from a lesson on prioritizing and goal setting)
  • Mini pumpkins (the harvest and gratitude)
  • Wheat Berries (The Bread of Life-we ground the wheat and made bread and homemade butter)
  • Small pieces of palm leaves from our Palm Sunday experience. Some of them made book marks with the palm leaves and still had them on the last day.
  • Small sample tube of toothpaste (I did not give this out but wish I had thought ahead to have one for each student when we used toothpaste to teach the power of words-details are posted on this blog)
I know there are a few more but this is what I have written down and what my post-Seminary year brain can recall. Most of the items are every day items or things I have at home in my craft supplies. The idea is to not spend $ and be creative with what you already have.
Another note: I did not use food for Seminary in My Pocket items as I wanted them to be items that would last throughout the school year and beyond. I used food plenty of times in object lessons, but not for Seminary in My Pocket.

If you have ideas for Seminary in My Pocket items, please leave a comment. 
Let's share!

What I Have Learned From Teaching Seminary

This Seminary Teacher is spot on as she shares what she has learned from teaching Seminary.
Click HERE to enjoy her words of wisdom.
I am so grateful she took the time to share, especially her insight on the Holy Ghost.
It is a wonderful time in history to teach Seminary. I am connected, via technology, to so many great teachers and resources.
Thank you for sharing!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


It is nothing short of extraordinary to ponder the accomplishment of attending early morning Seminary.
This link is for an excellent article by Jason Wright that puts many of our experiences as teachers in perspective.
Click HERE.
I have loved teaching early morning Seminary this year. I marvel that I actually completed the year. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had in a Church calling. The most demanding is an understatement, but definitely the best.
Many of my students attend early morning Seminary at great sacrifice, not just of sleep and time. Many live in areas that are not safe. Dark, early mornings compound that concern. Some of them walk through neighborhoods and streets that are not safe as they meet their rides.
At the beginning of the year, one of my students would be outside waiting for me at 5:40 when I arrived. Soon, I would discover that he was waking up at 4:30 to start walking to the chapel so he could be on time for class. He walked through a business-industrial section of town that was deserted and not the best place to be on foot and alone at 4:30am. This changed and he ended up living with another family in the area for the balance of the school year. That way, he could be to Seminary and school safely and consistently. He is now graduated from High School and preparing his mission papers. He is also one of my Master Scriptorians.
I have a single, widower father who drives his 2 daughters and volunteered to go out of his way to pick up another girl in our class every day. They were consistently on time and in their seats ready to learn every morning regardless of the  early hour and the extra stop to pick up another student.
I started the year with 24 students and will end the year with 21 enrolled students. One is on a mission, two moved away (and still became Scriptorians).
All of my students have attendance records in the high 90% range, with 3 having 100% attendance. Those 3 with 100% attendance were physically in class every day-they did not complete extra assignments or make up work to accomplish this.
Six of my students are Master Scriptorians
Two of my students are Scriptorians (could be more than 2 after this evening)
I mention these statistics because these are students who set goals and push themselves. The majority  of them do not have a parent forcing them to attend Seminary or memorize scriptures. Many of them are the first generation in their family to live and be educated in the United States. English is the second language for the majority of my students, yet they speak, read, and memorize beautifully in English.
They love the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They love learning. Many of them will enter full time missionary service soon. They are prepared. They are amazing.

How do you feel about teaching Seminary?
If you are like me, you are exhausted right now,  but it is a "good" tired.
How do you prepare over the summer?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Seminary Casserole

Seminary Breakfast Casserole recipe and information
We still have our Seminary Sacrament Meeting this coming Sunday and I still have so much I want to share from this past month of lessons. Summer is here and hopefully that brings a little more time for blog updates.