Structuring your 20 minutes each Sunday to maximize effectiveness.
1 minute or less
You need to get their attention. Their minds will be all over the place. Greet them with enthusiasm, hook their attention so you can sing! Sing! SING!
Wiggle Song (or two!)
Maybe they just came from class and are feeling wiggly. Maybe they just came from Sacrament meeting and they just can't sit still. Sing a fun song, or two or three and get the wiggles out. Don't be afraid to sing it in a silly style to make it even more fun!
This is the time to sing one or two practice songs for the program, or throw in more favorites so the kids continue to pay attention. Everyone needs a break from singing the same verse of the practice song over and over again!
After a short break of review/fun songs sing this weeks practice song one more time. It lets you know how well they learned what you taught earlier and the parts of the song where the kids are struggling. This way you know what to focus on next week.
Whether the kids are about to go into sharing time, class or home always end with a reverent song. The reverent song lets the kids know it's time to settle down and be prepared to pay attention to what is next.
A well organized singing time will have time for 8 to ten songs, even if you are spending ten minutes teaching a song. Reviewing songs is very important! It helps reinforce gospel principles, it's fun and it's what singing time is all about! SINGING!
What if sharing time goes long and I don't have the full 20 minutes?
Not a problem! You can know exactly what to do by looking at your kids.
Are they super wiggly?
Wiggle Songs 4 minutes
Practice Song 4 minutes
Review Songs 2 minutes (probably one song or two short ones)
Reverent Song 1 minute
Are they being reverent?
Practice song 5 minutes
Review/fun songs 5 minutes
Reverent song 2 minutes
What if it's important to explain a gospel principle so that teaching the song is more effective? Where is the time for that?
Sharing time! If the song of the month (or any song) needs extra time to be explained get with the person doing sharing time that week. Have sharing time be first. Talk about the song. Explain the gospel principles and have the children participate while learning. Then when it's time to sing, you have time to sing and there was plenty of time to learn about the song as well.
I don't see time for games or activities in your schedule.
Keep the games simple. If they take too much time, you lose valuable practice and singing time. Don't let the game be so involved that you don't sing any songs! When we have a singing time where I will be calling on the children to pick what we sing I usually ask right at the beginning for them to each think of a song, that way they already have a song they want to sing if they are called on.
You don't have to spend all 9 minutes working on the practice song. Sometimes you only need 5. Sometimes the kids just need to review the practice songs, and you don't need that time for learning a new song. That's a great time to throw in a fun game that needs a little extra time.
Well begun is half done!
This is definitely the Mary Poppins in me!
Be organized. Know what songs you plan to sing for opening song, closing, wiggle songs, birthday songs, and review songs. It's very helpful to give that list to the pianist so that they can get to the next song quickly. Take the extra step and write down the page number for them! You don't want the kids to get restless and stop paying attention because they are waiting for the pianist find the page. Make everything go smoother by being prepared!
Know the songs! Practice all week, or for several weeks so you know the song you are teaching. As soon as you pick up your phone to look at the words you've lost the kids and it's really hard to get their attention back.
Watch the kids! Pay Attention!
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just lose them. It's sad. It's heartbreaking. But you have to continue on. It's time to abandon the schedule and get them back on track before you can continue with the regularly scheduled activities.
What to do when you have lost control and the primary kids aren't paying attention:
Action songs - kids can't help but join in. They love to move around.
Sing it silly - The kids need singing time to be fun. Pick a wiggle or action song and sing it like a pirate. You will have their full attention.
Do something drastic. Have an emergency visual aid handy. I have reverent glasses. When I put them on the kids are magically reverent. Have something that lights up! Change your location. Move to the back of the room!
Use your pianist!!! Fall asleep if they sing too quiet and have the pianist wake you up. Have the pianist play a fanfare if they do a great job, or play some minor chords when they don't sing well.
Send me an email! I would love to answer any questions you have and help in any way I can. All primaries are different! firstname.lastname@example.org