Mind Frames in Effective Bible Study

Essential questions: (1) “How can Sabbath School class participants—students—study the lesson in such a way as to gain more knowledge of the Bible and grow in a relationship with your Savior Jesus Christ? (2) How can you, the Sabbath School facilitator, study in such a way as to be able to impart greater Bible knowledge and lead your Bible students deeper into the topic and a relationship with Jesus Christ?

Think: Mind + Frame

Just as a frame holds a picture, your mind holds a picture of what to do next when studying. Your mind is the frame; the pictures are the seven steps. Each mind frame, when put together, will help you dig deeper into the richness of the lesson. 

The following seven mind frames, when combined, follow the natural cycle of all learning:

  1. Previewing sets the stage for learning.
  2. Naming draws attention to important differences.
  3. Connecting groups information for ease of learning and memorizing.
  4. Recapping self-monitors the learning progress.
  5. Constructing nudges students to “use it or lose it.”
  6. Self-testing provides evidence of learning.
  7. Reflecting takes perspective and makes learning personal.


Advertisers are great at getting you to preview! Picture your favorite cereal box. Do you recall that some words and objects stand out? They grab your attention by being bigger, bolder, or centered to catch your eye.

That’s why it’s important to preview before you even begin to study a new lesson. Scan (preview) for the most difficult content, important details, bullet points, etc. Your mind will store away the things that to you are more interesting, more important, and more complicated.

Each person previews for something different. One learner will look first for interesting things. Another will focus on what seems important. Still others will search for what looks familiar or puzzling.

Before studying new material, make yourself a previewing graphic organizer that includes the following elements, and use it:

  • Looks interesting. 
  • Looks important. 
  • Looks difficult. 
  • Looks familiar.

“Getting the gist” is a pre-learning strategy that will help you make better sense of what you are reading: (1) Pick a passage of the text you have to read. Now write the first sentence. (2) Write the last sentence. Do not read the passage yet. Write your prediction of what the passage is about. After writing your prediction, read the passage. Evaluate: How did I do?

Reading the first and last sentence may not always be enough. Often reading the first and last paragraph of a particularly difficult section of a text gets an even deeper understanding of the content. Like the “getting the gist” strategy, the first paragraph usually introduces the big picture or main idea of the text; the last paragraph usually sums it up. Also, the prediction is where learning takes place.

When reading to learn, you are actually rewriting the text as you read it, bringing different background experiences and knowledge to the lesson, meshing your background knowledge and experiences with the author’s words to create meaning. So make sure you are allowing thinking time to make these connections.


Naming is the next step in studying. It is a mind frame we call naming, or taking a closer look at the material. If you’ve previewed well, you will be more than ready to dive into the details!

Naming involves categorizing, looking at differences. Pay special attention to how things are different. For example, the sun and the moon are important to life on earth yet they are also very different. That’s why they don’t have the same names.

Your brain retrieves information from your memory by using a name. In other words, anytime you search your memory for information you need a name to find this information. During recall, your performance will be only as good as the names you know and the differences you have learned. Self-generated material is easier to recall, especially when you have written the study notes yourself. After all, you took the time to write it all down. When you take notes, you are recording the names of important ideas in ways that help you study and remember them.

Recoding. Experts call this process of taking information from different sources and putting it in your own words recoding. Students call it “taking notes”! No one can remember everything he or she reads. But we all can use tools to keep track of our thinking. We use these same tools over and over—each time we study deeply and effectively.

The most common recoding tools are using sticky notes, writing in the lesson guide, using a highlighter, taking notes on paper, and making note cards. These tools track our thinking. And they truly come in handy when we are preparing to facilitate or participate in a discussion.

Logo graphics. As you work your way through the text, use symbols or codes as short cuts to focus your thinking along the way. Such symbols or codes are commonly called logo graphics. As with notes, your best logo graphics will be those you make up yourself. They are like sign posts that make your thinking visible. Actually, you use logo graphics all the time. Think about the emoticons you use in text messages and e-mails. Here are three examples of logo graphics that might be useful as “thought trackers”:
✔  = I got it!
!    = stop and think
?    = I’m confused

Look for signal words. If you’re hiking on a wilderness trail and come upon a rushing river, it’s a relief to see a bridge! Signal words are like bridges that connect sentences, paragraphs, and ideas. They signal that a new or important idea is coming up.

For example, “first” is a signal word because you can expect “second” to follow. “Because” indicates that a reason is coming. There are words that signal time, order, and sequence. Still others signal cause and effect. Others signal that a conclusion is about to be reached. Signal words are used to direct readers. Become familiar with signal words-clues that help take the mystery out of reading. Become a “signal” expert.

Set a purpose. Turn headings, titles, and subheadings into questions during your note taking. This helps you learn with purpose—to find answers to your questions. For example, if the heading is “Jesus and the Johannine Letters” you might ask, “Who is Jesus according to the Johannine Epistles?”

Sabbath School facilitators might even pose these questions to the class as an introduction to the next week’s lesson. When there is time, verbally or in a handout, preview the next week’s lesson. In a verbal preview, scan for some new and interesting information. If someone has a question, assign the question to them to report on the next week. I wouldn’t be surprised if they would come back with the answer—and maybe a few more questions!

One interesting way to approach a Sabbath School discussion is to consider “possibilities.” In the mind-frame method of study, that is called “connecting.”

W. Eugene Brewer
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists