Triangular Teaching: A New Way of Teaching the Bible to Adults


Barbara Bruce wrote Triangular Teaching ?to help teachers and leaders to engage their adult students with scripture so that it becomes life-changing.? This practical, hands-on book trains Christian education leaders and teachers in the methods of ?triangular teaching,? an integrated approach involving multiple intelligence theory, brain research, and creative and critical thinking. It includes a section explaining triangular teaching methods and Bible lessons that illustrate the methods. The book includes helpful...

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Triangular Teaching: A New Way of Teaching the Bible to Adults

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Barbara Bruce wrote Triangular Teaching “to help teachers and leaders to engage their adult students with scripture so that it becomes life-changing.” This practical, hands-on book trains Christian education leaders and teachers in the methods of “triangular teaching,” an integrated approach involving multiple intelligence theory, brain research, and creative and critical thinking. It includes a section explaining triangular teaching methods and Bible lessons that illustrate the methods. The book includes helpful triangular teaching tips for the activities described in the Bible lessons. An appendix includes worksheets that a leader or teacher can photocopy for use in a group.

“Barbara Bruce has created a delightful resource for those who want to teach the Bible effectively and engagingly to contemporary adults. Not only does the book give you pre-planned lessons, but it explains the theories behind each teaching decision. This combination of theory and practice will quickly teach teachers to teach more effectively.”
-Dr. Margaret Ann Crain, Associate Professor of Christian Education, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Triangular Teaching is an excellent tool for teaching church educators how to be more proficient in facilitating learning. It is a trailblazing resource that weaves three concepts with great clarity and sharing the 'whys' is quite helpful in enabling teachers to develop the skills as second nature.”
- Dr. Mary A. Love - Editor Church School Literature, AME Zion Church, Adjunct Professor, Christian Education - Hood Theological Seminary

“Barbara Bruce has done it again. Not only does she model for us how to teach using multiple intelligences, but this book is a wonderful set of experiences. Go ahead and begin to teach!!”
-Dr. Jack Seymour, Professor of Religious Education, Editor, Religious Education, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Barbara Bruce is a respected leader in Christian Education. She offers workshops around the country in the areas of creativity, multiple intelligences, and brain research and how to use these areas of research in Christian Education and faith formation. She has published several books including Seven Ways of Teaching the Bible to Adults, Teaching and Learning With Adults, Mental Aerobics, and Our Spiritual Brain.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780687643523
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2007
  • Edition description: Paperback
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Bruce has worked as a Christian educator for nearly twenty years. She is the owner of “Process: CREATIVITY,” a consulting firm offering workshops in creative and critical thinking. She is the author of Teaching Children Bible Basics, 7 Ways of Teaching the Bible to Children, Standing Up Against the Odds, Start Here; Teaching and Learning With Adults, 7 Ways of Teaching the Bible to Adults, and Our Spiritual Brain. Her most recent publication is Mental Aerobics: 75 Ways to Keep Your Brain Fit.
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Read an Excerpt

Triangular Teaching

A New Way of Teaching the Bible to Adults

By Barbara A. Bruce

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2007 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-687-64352-3


Triangular Teaching Training Session

Scripture: Proverbs 2:1-5

Materials Needed:

• Printed words Brain Research, Multiple Intelligences, Creative and Critical Thinking

• Tape

• Newsprint/markers

• Pipe cleaners—three per participant

• Copies of the Ways of Learning Profile (Appendix, pages 177–78)

• Journaling materials

• Bibles, Bible commentaries, Bible dictionaries, Bible maps

Pre-teaching Strategy

Have several triangles displayed in the room as two-dimensional pictures and three-dimensional structures. Print the words "Brain Research," "Multiple Intelligences," and "Creative and Critical Thinking" on strips of paper backed with tape. Give three colored pipe cleaners to each participant. Ask participants to tell you the attributes of an equilateral triangle. Record the responses on newsprint or chalkboard.

Hooking the interest of participants as soon as they enter the room provides for a level of anticipation and wanting to know more. This activity incorporates Visual/Spatial, Bodily/Kinesthetic, Verbal/Linguistic, and Logical/Mathematical learning tools.

Engaging the Scripture

Explain that the following Scripture captures the essence of what we will be involved with in this Bible study. Explain that the Book of Proverbs is one of the books of wisdom in the Old Testament. The purpose of the book was educational, and its tone is parental. The book focuses on wisdom teachings that bring together one's experience and interpretation of life with one's actions.

Invite participants to listen carefully and respond with their own understanding of what the Scripture is saying. Read Proverbs 2:1-5. Invite responses. Explain that the next several months will be spent in an in-depth study of the life and teachings of Jesus. Explain that this study of the Christian testament will be interactive and participatory. Everyone will be engaged in, involved in, and responsible for his or her own learning.

This activity serves a dual purpose. It connects Scripture to learning, and it provides participants with an idea of what is to come. Alerting participants to the fact that they will be actively involved in their own learning will help to alleviate feelings of surprise during the study. The expectations are stated up front.

Creating the Triangle

Ask participants what they need to feel safe and comfortable in a Bible study class. Create a list of Rules for a Safe Environment. Invite them to consider what "rules" they would need to have in place in order to feel emotionally and psychologically safe. Record these rules and keep them posted in your classroom throughout this entire study. Invite participants to covenant to uphold these rules and to monitor themselves.

When participants create their own rules, there is greater ownership. Participants tend to adhere to their own rules with greater certainty than rules that someone else has established for them.

Explain that brain research demonstrates a good and valid reason for creating these rules. The brain cannot function optimally if it senses any form of threat. Threat may come in the form of sarcasm, put-downs, fear of little biblical knowledge, fear of looking foolish, etc. In order for the brain to be fully and completely engaged, it must feel safe. Assure participants that they will learn and grow in an environment that is both physically and psychologically safe.

Communicating clearly to the participants about the learning brain techniques you are using will help them to understand why some lessons work better for them than others.

This explanation is a segue into the first side or base of the triangle. Hold up the paper with the words "Brain Research," and tape it to a wall or board as the base of the triangle. Explain that much of what we will be doing is based on how the brain learns. You will be told when and why research into the learning brain is being utilized. Your responses will be welcome. Invite participants to begin to create their own triangle with pipe cleaners. The first pipe cleaner will be the base of the triangle.

Explain that the second side of the triangle is based on multiple intelligence theory. Attach the paper that reads "Multiple Intelligences" as the second side of the triangle. This theory, espoused by Dr. Howard Gardner and his many disciples in the field of education, states simply and yet profoundly that we all learn differently. Each of us has the capacity to learn in many and varied ways, but we have our preferred ways of knowing. In this Bible study, we will respect preferred ways of knowing but also attempt to stretch beyond our preferences and experiment with some new ways of looking at Scripture. Invite participants to attach the second pipe cleaner to create the second side of a triangle.

Stretching beyond the way we have always done things is a neat segue into the third side of the triangle—"Creative and Critical Thinking." Add and attach the third pipe cleaner, saying, "Creative and critical thinking complete the triangle." The participants should have completed the formation of the triangle.

Explain that we will begin today by thinking about thinking. Your brain is created to discover patterns and make meaning—that is its job. In this study we will be looking for meaning in various ways to help in our understanding of the life and teachings of Jesus in the Bible. We will use time- tested tools and techniques to increase depth and breadth of thinking. You will be told why we are using these tools and techniques and asked for your input and response.

Our Ways of Learning

Say something like, "We will be making some discoveries about how you like to learn. Please fill out the Ways of Learning Profile from the Appendix and we will discuss your preferences." Allow participants time to fill out their forms. When choices have been made, ask those who have the same learning preferences to sit together for the next part of the activity. Say each of the following ways of learning aloud, and allow time for each group to gather and sit together:

• Verbal/Linguistic

• Logical/Mathematical

• Visual/Spatial

• Musical/Rhythmic

• Bodily/Kinesthetic

• Interpersonal

• Intrapersonal

• Naturalist

You will undoubtedly find participants who will say, "But I like several of these methods of learning—what shall I do?" Explain that we all have at least three preferred ways of learning. Invite them to sit with the group that constitutes their most preferred way of learning.

When the groups have assembled, ask them to respond to the following questions:

• What traits in yourself helped you to select this group?

• What strategies do you use to help you learn something new?

• What are your second and third most preferred ways of knowing?

Allow a brief time of response from each group. Ask participants to look around the room and see how the group is divided. Ask for insights, comments, or questions. Suggest that even when the primary intelligence is used, the second and third choices for learning preferences may be different, creating a unique profile for everyone. Not everyone learns best in the same way. Be sure to include your most preferred ways of knowing since you have asked the class to share theirs. Monitor yourself as we tend to teach in our own most preferred ways of knowing.

Explain that no intelligence is better than any other, although most adults have been programmed by living in this time and place to work in the realm of Verbal/Linguistic and Logical/Mathematical intelligences. A great percentage of adults report that they learn through visual aids. (The world of advertising knows this all too well.) Explain that in an effort to meet those needs, you will be using standard techniques of reading and writing. However, in order to stretch thinking, you will add many visual techniques including, but not limited to, videos, maps, graphs, and a timeline of Jesus' life and teachings. Suggest that we will use many and varied means of expanding our understanding of how Scripture both speaks to us today and is a useful and critical guide in making decisions.

The previous activity engages the multiple intelligences side of the triangle. It helps participants to learn about their own learning preferences; and they can actually see and hear how others in their class learn best.

Creative and Critical Thinking

Explain that metaphor and analogy are two critical tools for creative and critical thinking. Jesus used these tools as a primary way of teaching. Suggest experimenting with this next exercise. There are No Wrong Answers! Each answer can be defended equally.

Record the words, "Is your faith more like ..." on a chalkboard or sheet of newsprint. Under the title, make two columns of the following words—writing only one pair at a time:


Ask for responses as you record each pair of words. State that all answers must have an explanation as to why it was chosen. You may use as many of these pairs as time and interest allows. You may make up your own pairs as long as the words are opposites in meaning.

Debrief this exercise by asking how it felt to describe your faith in these metaphorical terms. What skills did you use?

The above exercise engages the critical and creative thinking side of the triangle. It helps participants to experiment with metaphorical thinking in a safe environment, which will open the door to creative thinking and provide a new lens with which to understand Scripture. Assuring participants that there are no wrong answers gives them permission to experiment with creative thoughts. The debriefing exercise is where critical thinking enters the picture. Thinking through why you chose the metaphor and how it specifically speaks to your faith engages your critical thinking skills. This is why "debrief" is such a critical part of the process of learning something new.

Explain that you will be using many and varied tools and techniques that will help to open minds and hearts as you bring the Scriptures to life in exciting ways.

Summarize Triangular Teaching

Review the main points of triangular teaching given in the Introduction. Have participants write a paragraph or two about what the term "triangular teaching" means to them.

Additional Resources for the Lessons

The following resources will be helpful for all the Bible lessons.

Provide books, such as Bible commentaries and Bible dictionaries, as references for those who want to do more in-depth study.

If possible, have a computer with Internet access available for those who enjoy searching the Web. I find that typing something specific into a search tool such as Google™ or Yahoo! ® works well. When I want to search for several versions of the same Scripture text, I turn to Another useful online Bible site is As with books, it is wise to check Web resources to make sure that they are reliable and accurate.

Provide maps of the region during the time Jesus lived his ministry for those who need to see the area.

Have hymnals on hand for those who want to experience Scripture/prayer through music.

These reference materials will give credence to the various learning preferences, particularly those Logical/ Mathematical learners who need to have substantial information to make their learning complete.

For Personal Reflection

Provide each participant with a journal—these may be purchased or created by stapling papers together. Print the name of each participant on his or her journal. Explain that these books are private. No one will see them but the writer. They are for the participant to record in any way they choose thoughts and feelings about each session. This will be a weekly practice and be done as part of the reflection each week. Encourage participants to decorate their journals with pictures or Scripture quotations as they see fit. Explain that they may create a collage cover for their journal. By the end of the study, they will have a unique work that is all their own.

Significant insights often appear as people think about what they have experienced in the session. Neural pathways are strengthened as the concepts are revisited and turned into words or drawings. The journals also provide a longterm reference to how Scripture has touched their lives.

Closing Prayer

Close this session with a prayer of thanksgiving for everyone joining this group with hearts and minds open and ready to receive the movement of the Holy Spirit as we learn and grow in faith together.

Leader Reflection

Where did you notice "aha's" during this lesson?

Which activities prompted the most participant involvement?

How/where might you "tweak" this lesson according to the needs of your class?

How did you grow as a teacher/learner through this lesson?

Checking the Triangle

Look at the triangle below. In the space beside the multiple intelligences side, write the ways of learning demonstrated in each of the activities. In the space beside the critical and creative thinking side, write which thinking process is supported by each of the activities. Consider whether an activity will be listed on more than one side of the triangle.


Joseph, Son of David

Scripture: Matthew 1:1-17, 18-25; 2:1-12

Materials Needed:

• Extra Bibles


• The Visual Bible: Matthew (see Bibliography)

• Newsprint/markers

• Paper/pencils

• Timing device

• Journals

Pre-teaching Strategy

Welcome the participants. Review the Rules for a Safe Environment created during the Triangular Teaching Training Session. Ask participants to tell you everything they know about the Christmas story. Record all responses on newsprint. Keep this newsprint to be completed at the next session.

Break into teams of two or three and ask for the response to: "If you were going to tell someone about Jesus, where would you begin? Why?" Allow for one minute and 16 seconds of discussion. Invite sharing with the total group.

This activity is a learning hook to draw participants into the story. It helps participants to get ready for the opening chapter of Matthew's Gospel. It calls upon critical thinking skills as well as Intrapersonal and Interpersonal intelligences. See my notes about the odd amounts of time in the section called How to Use This Book.

Ask who can recall where the "Christmas story" appears in the Bible. Reiterate that only Matthew and Luke record the birth of Jesus. Explain that you will be looking at these two stories this week and next week with the expectation of learning at a deeper level what we think we have known all of our lives. We will go beyond our mental scotoma.

Invite participants to read an introduction to Matthew in a study Bible such as The New Interpreter's Study Bible, edited by Walter J. Harrelson (Abingdon, 2003). Have extra Bibles on hand for those whose Bibles do not have introductions to each book. Explain that "first impressions" call on our intuitive and/or "gut level" response. Ask participants how they respond to first impressions. Ask for insights and information gained from the introduction. Record the following questions on newsprint or whiteboard:

• Information about the writer—why is this important to know?

• What audience was the writer addressing—why is this important to know?

• What message was intended to be conveyed to the reader/hearer of this Gospel—why is this important information to know?

This information gathering will satisfy the need to know the facts for the Logical/Mathematical learner and will help participants to realize that the Bible has a great deal to tell us in many and varied ways.

Engaging the Scripture

Divide participants into three groups. Invite each group to read one of the Scripture sections: Matthew 1:1-17; 1:18-25; and 2:1-12. Have each group discuss the following: In this Scripture, what challenges you or makes you want to know more?


Excerpted from Triangular Teaching by Barbara A. Bruce. Copyright © 2007 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


How to Use This Book,
Triangular Teaching Training Session,
Joseph, Son of David,
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Remember Your Baptism and Be Thankful,
Temptations of Jesus,
Calling of Peter,
Faithful Friends,
Lilies of the Field,
Jesus Calms a Storm,
Two Stories of Faith,
Keeping the Sabbath,
Kingdom Parables,
Jesus Walks on Water,
Rich Man, Poor Man,
Thank You!,
Who Do You Say I Am?,
Can He Do That?,
A Widow's Offering,
Peter's Denial,
The Empty Tomb,
Doubting Thomas,
Do You Love Me?,

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