7 Helps to Success with the New Curriculum by Hank Smith

Today’s post is by Hank Smith, and he is one of the awesome writer/speakers/authors I asked to contribute to helping you all with teaching the new curriculum to your families and classes.

Hank is a popular speaker and has several talks on CDs out for you and your youth to collect.

Hank Smith teaching in the Religious Education Department at BYU and is a favorite speaker for Especially for Youth, Best of Especially for Youth, and BYU Education Week. Hank and his wife, Sara, were both born and raised in St. George, Utah. They are the parents of one daughter and two sons.

7 Helps to Succeeding with the New Curriculum


“Dad, this new curriculum is awesome.There is one girl in my class I’ve never heard say a word. Today in class she was giving a ton of comments!” This is what my friend’s son said to him last Sunday after Church. Conversations like this one are happening all over the world. It is a wonderful time to be teaching the youth of the Church.

The following are 7 helps to succeeding in the new curriculum:


As the Sunday School President of my stake, I’ve begged and pleaded with the teachers to believe the following quote. President Boyd K. Packer said, “True doctrine understood changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will change behavior quicker than the study of behavior will change behavior.” The new Sunday School curriculum is centered on doctrines, not behaviors. Do your best to make sure your lessons stay doctrinally centered. Discussing behavior is not a bad thing to do, but you’ll have more impact on your students’ lives as you try to keep the discussion focused on the doctrine.


When I first started teaching seminary I was given a piece of advice that continues to bless my teaching today. A good friend said to me, “Hank, prepare until you are excited.” I’ve thought of that often as I’ve prepared myself to teach. When I can start to envision how this material might impact my students’ lives, I can feel my level of excitement start to rise. Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “Part of what may be lacking, at times, in the decent teacher, is a freshening personal excitement over the gospel which could prove highly contagious.”


Great teachers are like great artists. Not all great artists paint the same way. Similarly, great teachers do not all teach the same way. Grant Anderson, one of the greatest teachers in the Church, said, “What does a great piece of art look like? Like Van Gogh’s Starry Night or like Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa? Does a great piece of music sound like Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata or Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture? Does great literature look like Shakespeare’s work or like Mark Twain’s? The answer is obvious. While great pieces of art share common characteristics, great art does not have one look or sound. So what does great teaching look like? Like all other art forms, examples of great teaching do not look alike, but they do share some common characteristics.” This will help you to avoid the danger of comparing yourself to the other teachers around you. Comparison is a thief of joy. Dismiss it as quickly as you can.


Let the students know when they are doing it right. I would love to see a Sunday School teacher stop the class to let the students know when they’ve succeeded. After a series of good comments, when the students have listened to each other and responded to the content of one another’s comments, let them know what they just did. You might take a “time out” to say, “Susan, did you see how you responded to what Michael said, and then Amy you took Susan’s comment and took us in a new direction. That was awesome you guys! That is what we want to happen every week.” You could do the same thing on an individual level with a text message or a phone call after class.


Use a majority of the senses. Students are more likely to be engaged when they are using a majority of their five senses. Usually they’ll use sight and hearing in class, but they’ll be more engaged if they can use their sense of touch. For example, instead of reading a conference talk to them, have a copy for each of them to hold; better yet, give them a copy with a highlighter and have them mark their favorite parts. If you can involve their sense of smell and taste as well, you’ll have their undivided attention!


Strive for improvement, not perfection. It is irrational to think your class is going to be just like the classes on the training videos the Church has produced. There is a difference between the ideal and real. The videos show us the ideal, but we have to deal with the real. Your students would act differently if there was a camera crew in the room. There will be wonderful moments when the real becomes the ideal, but don’t stress out when you have to deal with the real most days.


Love your students. Charity covereth a multitude of sins (1 Pet 4:8). You’ll be amazed how much slack your students will give you when they know you love them. Pray to be interested in Prom, Friday’s game, and the latest superhero movie. Meet them on their level and enjoy seeing the world the way a teenager sees it. You can win their heart with a bit of praise in a comment, a written note, or a phone call home. It will take two minutes of your time, but they’ll remember and love you for it.

I hope these 7 helps prove beneficial to you as you take on the challenge to teach the new curriculum. I have no doubt the Lord will bless us as we do our best to help him hasten his work!

– Hank

If you have any tips of your own, please share by adding them to the comments below.


  1. What amazing and insightful advice. I am going to pass this on to my husband (Sunday School President) for an upcoming “teach the teacher” meeting. Of course, it helps that it comes from Hank Smith (who is our family’s personel Dumbledore). THANKS!

  2. Thank you Hank! Thanks Shannon for posting this. I will use these tips in teaching the YW. I have a class full of older girls with many different interests and learning levels. I find that it is helpful to give them reading “assignments” ahead of time. I have several shy girls who will not participate if called on in class…partially because of their delayed reading level or learning disability, but partially for other reasons. It is my constant prayer that they are participating in spirit, but to me, true teaching is less about me talking and more about the girls sharing and teaching me….how can I involve them more without embarrassing them about their learning disabilities,etc? They respond well to videos, but again, this seems like it should be the icing rather than the cake. Any tips would be appreciated. Thank you.

  3. I just got called as the Beehive Advisor in my ward this past Sunday! I have been a nervous wreck and feeling absolutely TERRIFIED to teach the Youth…they are so smart and incredibly amazing! I am so grateful for these tips and for the peace and reassurance I have felt with my calling in reading these! Thanks so much for your website and all that you offer here!

  4. This is awesome! I teach 12 year old Sunday school, and my kids are a challenge at times, keeping their attention and whatnot. I definitely agree with #2. Whenever I am excited about a lesson, and I let them know about it, they want to ind out why, and the lessons are much more successful.

  5. Awesome!!! He was my favorite seminary teacher and I absolutely loved the way he taught! He made us want to learn and come to class.

  6. These are such good tips, I’m going to pass them on. Just one thought on #7. In our stake training meeting, they said that there should be less of a focus on asking the youth about their week (sports, dances, etc.), and more of a focus on knowing what happened with their spiritual growth that week. (Each week we are supposed to start by sharing our experiences about last week’s lesson). If we know where they are spiritually, that will be more important than spending much time on the events in their week.
    I love tip #2. I read this article just after reaching that point where I am excited for this week’s lesson about the Savior. I love this new curriculum!

  7. I was just released from teching youth Sunday school (after 5 years) at the end of 2012, so I missed the new cirriculum, but I am excited for it. I am also a school teacher as well. I always try to have different activites in class — cross words, scripture chases, puzzles to solve, short video clips. I try to teach to the different styles of learning that my kids all had, which kept me on my toes. The gospel is so fun, and that’s what I always wanted my kids to know.

  8. I came across your site from Sugardoodle, and think that you have GREAT input. You really have things that can help everyone be a better teacher. The church’s program is great, but sometimes we all just need more specific help when it comes to teaching. I’ve noticed it is especially hard to know how to ask good questions. That is why I’ve created this website: http://teachingthechosen.com.
    Teaching The Chosen is a website geared to helping LDS teachers with the youth Come Follow Me program learn how to better lead a discussion. We offer help and guidance on how to construct a good question, and many other things with teaching. We also encourage you to add your ideas so we may all be leading one another to become better teachers.
    Check it out to see what you think!

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