Teaching students to use the Gospel Library to answer questions is one of my very favorite teaching techniques. In my opinion taking the time to teach students how to look up and answer when you can easily answer it yourself, separates good teachers from excellent ones.
Using this method will take more time in class, and you need to be very proficient at your use of the Gospel Library in order to not frustrate students with your own inability to use the tools. You must know what type of information is found in the Bible Dictionary and Gospel Topics Essays and Church History essays, and you will need to be ready to go in an instant. However, I think withholding an answer slightly while you teach students how to find the answer is one of the most valuable things a teacher can do. Remember the old saying: “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime?” For Seminary it might be: “Give a student an answer and they have ten minutes of peace; teach a student how to fish for answers, and they can feast on the words of eternal life forever.”
When I taught Seminary, I plugged my computer into the television every day because we used the online music tool to provide our hymns. If a question came up, I could Google the answer or look it up at LDS.org right in front of the class. We had discussions about how to determine between good and bad sources, and especially how to use the tools in the Gospel Library to answer questions. Plan ahead to be ready to **demonstrate how** to answer a question. As you get to know your students, you will be able to predict the questions that will come up during class and can prepare to respond. Here’s an example of how our class learned to use the Bible Dictionary during our study of the Old Testament:
When we read about giants in the Old Testament, I knew my students would have the typical questions: “Is this for real? Were they really giants or were people just smaller? Is this a mistranslation? How big were these giants really?” I looked up Giants in the Bible Dictionary and read a good bit about Giants online before class, so I knew where to look for answers. When students began questioning, I let them discuss it for a minute or two until it became clear they were all engaged, and they all knew no one actually knew the answers. I asked, “Hey, would you like to take a minute from class to figure this giant-thing out?” “YES!” “Well, how do you think we could find out about giants……” “Bible Dictionary!”
We all turned to the Bible Dictionary together and read all the footnotes and cross-references about Giants. The lesson was one of the most important things we did all year. From then on, students began turning to the Bible Dictionary first when they had a question -- instead of me! They had learned to fish.
In the case of the giants, the “difficult” question was not as serious as a question as polygamy or race and the priesthood, but it was a question that was both interesting and easily answered using the tools available. Students used the Gospel Library tools in a real life situation in the classroom, and then could apply that skill to their own personal study. Look for ways to teach students to use tools and revelations to find their own answers. Help them learn to fish.