Sometimes asking leading questions is a bad idea. Sometimes it’s manipulative. But in a guided discussion class, you want to ask questions which lead the learner to understanding the main points of the lesson. You still don’t want to be manipulative or heavy-handed, but by asking a series of questions which slowly include more cues to what you’re looking for makes the environment safer, and thus learners more likely to respond. Last time we began looking at how to teach a particularly interesting and difficult subject, the book of Revelation.
Of course, you could simply explain all this to the class, but if you can lead the class through this process, they will feel more ownership of the results. And they will remember it better.
We were discussing the sea beast in Revelation 13 which, “Resembled a leopard, but had the feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion.”
The first question I suggested might be something like this: “Is there somewhere in the Old Testament where we can find a leopard, a bear, and a lion together in one passage?”
I have said that the questions should “model the process of interpretation.” Before we get to this chapter, the teacher should have firmly established that the key to understanding Revelation is the Old Testament, with special focus on the Sanctuary. So my first question models the process by 1) pointing to the Old Testament, and 2) suggesting what might be found together in a single passage, to wit, a leopard, a bear, and a lion. Those are the two cues or clues to the answer: Old Testament, and all of the three beasts found together in a single passage.
It one of the class members has by now got the hang of it, they may well remember the vision in Daniel 7.
Next I suggested that after a short pause with no response, the next question might be: “Perhaps in another symbolic prophecy?” Now we have three cues or clues to the answer: Old Testament, the three beasts found together in a single passage, and a symbolic vision.
Once again, long before this we should have discussed the link between the apocalyptic visions of Daniel in the Old Testament, and those of Revelation in the New Testament. There are other symbolic prophecies, notably in the book of Ezekiel, for example. Later I will discuss how to handle what may be incorrect answers, for example, If a person were to answer, “Perhaps in the book of Ezekiel?” For now, I want to focus only on how through questioning we “model the process of interpretation.”
If there are no responses after another pause, I suggested a third question: “Maybe an apocalyptic book, like Revelation, with lots of visions about the future?” Here we have added the clue that the Old Testament book in question might be similar to Revelation. Very likely this will result in someone saying, “The book of Daniel?”
When ever a class member demonstrates that they are beginning to understand the interpretive process, reward them with body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice.
If they don’t, we quickly follow with,”Maybe the book of Daniel?” It is important that the series of pauses grow shorter, not longer. The longer the pause goes on the more apprehension builds up in the class, and a series of long pauses will raise it to very high levels. It’s up to the teacher to keep the tension and anxiety low, you do that by watching the class and sensing their mood. Over time, as you develop a relationship with your class, these pauses will be less threatening. We’ll talk more about this later as well.
If the book of Daniel is as close as the class can get, then you quickly ask, “How about Daniel 7? Would someone like to read that?”
After reading the pertinent verses you could say, “So in some way, the beast in Revelation 13 is a combination of these beasts in Daniel 7, is that right?”
You would follow that up with a question such as, “What about the seven heads and ten horns? Where did they come from?”
If the class members see or suspect or suggest that the seven heads and ten horns might also be in Daniel 7, ask, “Where do you see that? Can you show the class?” I should not need to add that the question should be asked hopefully, not skeptically, because your attitude is another clue to the correct answer. Whenever a class member demonstrates that they are beginning to understand the interpretive process, reward them with body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. We will look at these elements in detail later.
It is a simple fact that what we are told we may disagree with, but what we find for ourselves we internalize and believe.
If they do not, ask something like this: “How many heads does the lion have?” On the answer, “Onne,” hold up one finger, and ask, “What about the bear?” When they respond with the same answer, hold up another finger.
“How about the leopard?” In Daniel 7, the leopard has four heads. When the class responds, hold up four more fingers. By this time, someone will have caught on. Because the leopard in Daniel 7 has four heads, the four beasts together have seven heads. Whenever in the process someone catches on, smile and say, “Yes! Wow, isn’t that amazing?”
At this point you probably won’t need to ask about the ten horns, because the class will have recognized the process you’re going through, and will realize that although three of the beasts have no horns, the fourth beast has ten horns. So collectively, the beasts in Daniel 7 have seven heads and ten horns.
Now you’re ready for the summation. “So the beast in Revelation 13 doesn’t just have the pelts or body parts of the four beasts in Daniel 7, it also has the same number of heads and horns. So is it fair to say that this beast represents a combination of all the traits of those four great empires depicted in Daniel chapter 7?”
Of course, you could have simply explained all this to the class, and depending upon the time available and what is to be covered in that time, it might be necessary. But if you can lead the class through this process, they will feel more ownership of the results. And they will remember it better.
It is a simple fact that what we are told we may disagree with, but what we find for ourselves we internalize and believe. And if we repeat this type of questioning, of guiding the class through the process of interpretation, they will grow more confident and more excited, and will retain much more of what is presented.
There are many more examples that could be given, but for now we are going to move on to the next step: how to deal with incorrect answers, skeptical answers, and hostile/accusatory answers. As mentioned in my guidelines, all these will happen, and the only way to keep a class safe and learning is for the teacher to be prepared to deal with them.