Are They Getting It?

Have you ever been teaching and thought, “is anybody getting it?” Perhaps you are in the middle of your lesson,  teaching your best, and getting blank stares. You thought you told a funny story, but no one smiles. You think that point should get a hearty “Amen!”, but all you see are sleepy faces. Are they getting it? How can you know?

Photo credit Ming Tsang via

Photo credit Ming Tsang via

I have been teaching in different church contexts for about 10 years both in English and, later in ASL. I have taught everyone from grade schoolers to people old enough to be my great-grandparents to groups of prisoners in a detention center. I say that to let you know that, although my time teaching the Word is relatively short (I know many preachers with decades of experience), it is varied. These things I have learned were not learned in a vacuum, but it the real world doing real work. These insights are things that I have observed, done, done wrong, and learned over the years. One thing I’ve noticed, is that the techniques used to check people’s attention are almost the same across the board. With all that being said, are they getting it? How can you help?

Are they getting it? There are some simple techniques I will share for you to know if your audience is or is not understanding you. First, however, you need to accept the fact that not everyone will follow what you’re saying or signing. Sometimes, it is the speaker’s fault. He or she might need to grow as a teacher or preacher.  Even in those cases, people are still trying to engage with the lesson. The times I have seen a truly boring speaker, who were at fault for losing their audiences, I am convinced they simply didn’t care. They were all content and no connection. If you are reading this, you are not in that group! So, if you do care and try to connect people with your message, it’s not always your fault.

The times I have seen a truly boring speaker, who were at fault for losing their audiences, I am convinced they simply didn’t care… If you are reading this, you are not in that group!

Some people just won’t get everything you say. Maybe they are ill, tired, or troubled. Just recently, I brought my son to a church picnic and interpreted the prayer. I was a little distracted while praying and trying to make sure my year-and-a-half old didn’t run away (he didn’t). I was distracted, but it was not the speaker’s fault.


How can you know if they are getting it?

Check their eyes. This is the only difference between making sure your audience is getting it between the Deaf and Hearing. You you cannot see a Deaf person’s eyes, it’s safe to say that they are not getting it. Most of the time, that’s true for the hearing as well, but not always. I have seen many squirming, fidgeting children tell me exactly what the lesson was afterwards.

Ask! Afterwards, ask about the lesson! Get feed back from your audience.

Check while you’re teaching. Throw in a “understand” or “clear” and see if you get a definite yes. For me, anything short of YES means I need to back up and re-explain the concept.


In my next post I will deal with techniques to help your audience follow what you are saying. For now, I want to leave you with some closing thoughts.


Everyone will not follow everything you say or sign, and it’s not always your fault. Do your best and make sure as many as you can “get it.”

If they took time to come to church, they probably want to learn something.

Your audience doesn’t want you to fail! They want you to succeed!


What are some ways you tell if people are paying attention?

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