Friday, July 24, 2015

Extreme Primary (Part 1): Huge Primaries

Huge Primaries:  This still isn't enough rhythm sticks!
All Primaries are not created equal.  Or at least, they're not created with an equal number of children.  While most of the activities I detail in this blog will work for most Primaries, sometimes you have to adapt to meet your children's needs.  This Friday post is the first of a three-part series exploring ways to help your extreme Primary.  You can read the other posts here and here.

Challenges with a Huge Primary

One Sunday in January, instead of listening to the announcements, I counted the children in my Senior Primary.  Sixty-three.  Sixty-three!  Ok, maybe there's one of you with a larger Primary, but I haven't heard about it.  Message me, and we can swap stories. :)  Here are some potential concerns with a huge Primary, along with some fixes that have helped me.

Concern #1:  

You want to include instruments in your Singing Time, but the cost to equip so many children is daunting.  

Fix A:  Making it yourself is totally the way to stretch a buck.  See my tutorial, here, on making sand blocks.  I've also made scarves from second-hand curtains, shakers from baby food jars and dried peas, and jingle bell shakers from pipe cleaners.

Fix B:  Fancy instruments are pretty and, well, fancy, but you can make do with cheaper things, too.   In an earlier post, here, I outline how to use egg cartons as instruments, and here I combine them with other cheap items (paper cups, paper plates, ice cream buckets, and sheets of paper) to make a band.  

Fix C: Sharing is caring, and caring is what counts, right?  Sometimes I only get enough of an item for half the children, and they take turns.  That's the case with my hand bells.  I love the different musical experience they bring to the children, but they cost roughly $4 a piece. Sharing it is!

Concern #2:

Passing out items and taking them back up again sometimes seems as if it will take the entire 20 minutes.  

Fix A:  If it's something non-distracting, like paper and pencils, I give them to the teachers as the classes are coming in.  I ask them to hold the items back until later.  This is my favorite way to pass things out.

Fix B:  If I can't catch the teachers beforehand, I'll stack papers under the first chair in each row.  That will usually distract the child sitting there, but if I whisper in an ominous tone that touching the papers now will bring their impending doom, then they normally giggle and leave them alone. 

Fix C:  For loud or super-interesting items, the above fixes won't work.  Instead, I demonstrate the activity first, and then I ask a few responsible children to pass out the items for me.  I start the activity as they're moving throughout the room, so that children can join in as soon as they receive the manipulative.

Concern #3:

Quieting the children in between songs is a monumental effort, especially when you have to put away instruments.  

Fix A:  Prevention is worth more than a cure, right?  The best course of action is to plan quick transitions between songs, so there is very little down time.  For example, say, "Pass your sand blocks to the end of the row, and then look at the code I've written on the board."  As you're ending one activity, you're already directing their attention to the next.  Thanks to Sharla at for teaching me how important transitions are!

Fix B:  Sometimes Fix A just isn't enough, and you still have to cut through chatter.  If the children have gotten noisy between songs, hold up an item that you'll be using in the next song (chalk, word strip, etc.), and smile expectantly.  Walk back and forth, showing it to different sides of the room silently, and let your eyes sparkle with the surprise of the next activity.  Yes, this sometimes takes a minute, but soon the children will be quieting each other, in order to hear what you have planned.

Fix C:  If you don't have something physical to hold up for the next activity, clap a simple rhythm (such as long, long, quick, quick, quick).  I don't know if this is a method employed in public schools or what, but the first time I tried this, the children immediately knew what I expected, and they clapped the pattern back to me.  Repeat with a different pattern a time or two, to catch any straggling chatty ones, and then abruptly turn to the next song.  This fix has never failed me. 

Finally, pay attention to the type of noise you're hearing in your Primary. Are the kids mocking your activity?  (Ahem. Not that that's happened to me or anything...)  Maybe don't use that activity again.  Are they excitedly talking to their classmates about the activity?  Then maybe don't stress that they're a little noisy.  Essentially, they're saying that they love coming to Primary.  And that is music to our ears. :)

Happy singing!

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