Triangulation. We can’t hardly get anywhere without it. Most of us type in an address to our smartphones and off we drive carefree. Yet, it takes at least three satellites coordinating together to know where we are and where we need to get. If another satellite gets in the action, we can even track our altitude and more. Maybe someday a fifth satellite can track attitude and do something about road rage as well.

GPS illustrates a helpful way for those of us who teach to make sure we’re staying fresh and engaging. When I think of those teachers who impacted my life, they practiced an approach to teaching that I would describe as “thorough.” Though it wasn’t this 3-layer tool, they taught in ways where little was left to chance and all of us had opportunity to be engaged (it’s still a student’s choice whether he/she wants to learn).

I call this tool 3-Layer Teaching and if you put it into practice, you’ll be a more effective teaching with more learners. All you have to do is think in “3’s.” Oh, and I even mad it into a spiffy acrostic called “UNDER” to help me remember the five areas.

  1. Use three methods. Most of us default to teach via the method that we prefer or is easiest. Usually that’s either lecture where we tell our learners what we worked at learning before the class or event while we expecting little of the same work from our students. So they don’t. And they walk away without learning much that will last. Maybe a few ideas. Nothing more. We need to invest in our ability to teach via various methods. Maybe we grab some books that help us learn about teaching methods and perhaps we should get familiar with the range of methods that school teachers use. Then, as we design our “lesson,” we can readily use at least three different methods to keep it fresh and engaging. And fun!
  2. Need three points. As much as some may like having one main point, I still think we need to teach it via three angles. Right now, most of us are wired to take in about three points when we’re learning. Anything more is subject to loss of focus. One of the most helpful books I’ve read that challenged my speaking and teaching was Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo.
  3. Design three sections to your content. This isn’t about your methods or your points, but rather to think like a story-teller with your lesson. Every story or book has a beginning, middle, and an end. (I dare you to click on that video link there) Your points could all be in the beginning or end part, but your content arc may need an illustration as the middle, or a role play as the beginning. Look at your content and see if you can divide it into three sections.
  4. Engage three learning styles. Even though you may choose three different methods, it’s important to evaluate whether they engage the different ways people learn. You can do a lecture and a role play for your first two sections, but asked nothing different from your learners style-wise. They’re still sitting there listening. This one is a bit more demanding, but it’s worth your time to learn and give it a try. Think about three learning styles you want to “meet” during your lesson. And if you want to learn about YOUR learning style, you can take this 20-question quiz. 
  5. Review three times. Too often we fail in our teaching due to poor and last-minute preparation. I have found it best to make sure I review the lesson or meeting well before I step upfront to lead. I want to know it so well that I know exactly how it’s going to go. That means that it has to be prepared and ready to go at least a day in advance so I can sleep on it a night and review it with fresh eyes the next morning. The last review makes sure I know the key methods, points, sections, and phrases that need to be emphasized in the lesson.

What of those ideas would make the biggest difference for most of the teaching you’ve observed? Which of these do you already do well? Pick one of the five UNDER points and give it a try!  Then let me know how it went. I’d love to hear about it.

If you teach young people in a Christian setting, you will want to get my latest book, TEACHING THE NEXT GENERATIONS. Each chapter is written by a recognized expert and each chapter will just help you be a better leader and teacher. The book is called a “comprehensive guide” and would make a great gift to someone you know who is involved in ministry to young people.


Photo by Pirate Alice