Friday, July 31, 2015

Extreme Primary (Part 2): Tiny Primaries

Yep, that's enough chairs.
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 second of a three-part series exploring ways to help your extreme Primary.  You can read the other two posts here and here

Challenges With a Tiny Primary

I grew up in a tiny branch of the Church in Arkansas.  We averaged fewer than 60 people in attendance every week, with a Primary of about 15.  After I moved away, I've seen even smaller Primaries:  a branch with only one Primary child in Yambol, Bulgaria, where I served as a missionary; and a branch with only two children in Long Beach, Washington, where we visit while on vacation every summer.  Tiny Primaries bring their own set of unique challenges, but they also offer opportunities not available to large groups.  Here are some of the differences I've noticed myself while teaching tiny Singing Times, along with some possible ways to adapt to them.

Difference #1:

You have Junior and Senior children combined in one Singing Time (and sometimes Nursery-aged children, too!).  Planning activities that appeal to both the youngest and the oldest child is difficult.

Suggestion A:  Some activities appeal equally to all ages of children.  One approach is to solely base your Singing Time plan around these type of activities.  See my post here for a good example Singing Time plan that would work well for a combined Primary.  Two of the activities are exactly the same for both Junior and Senior aged children.

Suggestion B:  Plan the base activity for the young children, and then part-way through, offer an added challenge for the older children.  I taught Singing Time to eight children last week (three of them being my own sons), having called ahead to the branch where we were vacationing to arrange it.  Two were still Nursery-aged!  I planned a base activity of clicking rhythm sticks with the beat of "The Church of Jesus Christ" (p.77), and after one time through, I demonstrated a trickier rhythm for the older children to adopt. 

Suggestion C:  Plan complementary activities for your younger and older children.  For example, in my Singing Time plan here, for the song "I Feel My Savior's Love" I have the younger children draw their own idea of how they feel the Savior's love, and I have an envelope game for the older children.  These activities can be done simultaneously quite well.

Here's a full example Singing Time plan, based off of the one I linked to above.

Combined Singing Time

"The Holy Ghost"  (p. 105) 
Paper cups.  Use as an instrument, tapping on lap and on the opposite hand.  Add a more complex rhythm after the first time through.

"Tell Me the Stories of Jesus"  (p. 57) 
Magic chalkboard.  Tell the children you brought in a magic chalkboard, and it will draw a picture of what you sing.  As you sing, draw a fast, simple illustration, then hide the chalk and pretend like you're surprised. Ask the older children for ideas for details you could add. Add them while you repeat the song.

"I Feel My Savior's Love"  (p. 74)   
Draw your own idea for Juniors.  Envelope game for Seniors. (See description here.)

"Come, Follow Me"  (Hymns #116) 
Mirror image.  I got this idea from Sharla at  Stand face to face with a partner. One person moves his hands with the feel of the music, and the other person follows the movement as the mirror.  See Sharla's video on YouTube here.  You can either choose to partner an older child with a younger to be a helper, or you can partner older children together so that they get the full experience while you assist the younger ones.

Difference #2:

With only a handful of children, there's no way your Sacrament Meeting presentation can fill 45 minutes.

Suggestion A:  Don't try to fill the 45 minutes. Focus on making it a positive experience for the children!  Make it a memorable and happy 15 minutes. :)

Suggestion B:  With your Primary President (if that's not you) and your Branch President, consider inserting talks by others associated with Primary:  a Primary leader, the Branch Presidency member over Primary, or a member of the branch who has a particularly powerful love for Primary.

Suggestion C:  Get creative with your songs.  Have every adult with a Primary calling sit up front to sing with the children.  Ask any musically inclined youth to join you for the songs.  If your children are particularly timid in front of groups, consider only singing a couple songs, or else print out lyrics for everything and have the congregation sing the entire program with you.  

Difference #3:

With so few children, you have a lot more flexibility with your activities than most Primaries.

Suggestion A:  Buy some instruments!  Unlike with the huge Primaries, discussed in my post last week, you can purchase a lot of different instruments for relatively little cost.  I've even found several small sets of rhythm instruments at my local second hand store.  In the amounts I could find second hand I couldn't stock a large Primary, but they are great for tiny Primaries or for most Nurseries.  

Suggestion B:  Bring in more sophisticated instruments.  You could borrow some from friends or branch members, like a guitar (you can finger the chord, and just let the children strum), snare drum, glockenspiel (That's the mini xylophone that beginning percussion players normally use--you could color-code a couple chords for the older children to play.), etc.  With a tiny Primary, you can give each child a turn to accompany your songs. 

Suggestion C:  Get moving.  Bring the children up front to sit on the ground in a circle when you're singing a story to them.  Post pictures around the room on the walls, and have the children walk with you to different ones as you feature them in your activities.  March through the halls or around the outside of the building as you sing a movement-filled song. I wanted so badly to do this with "Pioneer Children Sang As They Walked" (p.214). :(  Let me live vicariously! Somebody please do this and let me know!

My final thought is this:  don't fall into the trap of thinking, "Oh, my Primary is too small to do anything really fun."  That is so not the case.  Embrace your tiny Primary and leave the rest of us looking wistfully at what only you can do. ;)

Happy singing!

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