Monday, September 13, 2010

Teaching Children: Simple is More

When I first was "called" as the primary chorister in my Washington, DC ward, I panicked.  I had grown up with primary choristers who created poster-board alligators whose mouths would open as we sang louder and songs with words created from pictures.  In more recent years, a whole host of online services for LDS primary choristers have sprung up, complete with pictures corresponding to each primary song (the curriculum, including lessons and songs the children sing each month, are standardized the world over, which lends itself to quasi-mass marketing (to the hundreds or thousands, certainly not millions).  A chorister need only print, color, and mount someone else's picture, complete with the verse written at the bottom.  I saw my life pass before me as an unending series of mind-numbing coloring sessions.

Which is what I dutifully set out to do for the first few months, as I believed it to be expected. But I quickly began to feel I was wasting time and my own creativity for something that was only marginally effective in helping the children to memorize the songs.

Over the three years I have served in this calling, in DC and now in London, I have tested the waters to determine the amount of return for effort spent on coloring.  I have now simplified the process to purchasing a rather large black sketchpad big enough to include each song for the entire year (no cutting out and mounting) and drawing pictures for each phrase in pencil, with the words written beneath.  The children take turns erasing words as the song is memorized, leaving only the pictures.  Once the pictures are left (which are all the smallest children comprehend anyway), there is only a short further time required before the book is no longer needed at all.  During this stage, children are invited to help turn the pages.

The children love both turning the pages and erasing the words.  Now that they are "passing" off songs in preparation for the primary program in November, I've created a simple, handwritten chart (in the same black book) where we draw-in sad, straight-faced, happy, or very happy smiley faces (again, they take turns drawing in the appropriate face) to rate how the song was sung each week.  I'm sure I could have spent hours creating a chart on my computer, going to the copy center to have it enlarged and laminated, and then purchasing stickers to have the children place on the big board.  It would have looked better.  But it would have taken two hours versus two minutes, with only the slightest margin of benefits.

This way, instead of spending hours on things that provide only marginal returns, I can actually enjoy my calling and the children - to laugh with them, pray over them, throw parties for them when they reach memorization goals (I have a "testimony" of positive reinforcements!), and share what I know about Jesus Christ with them as I teach the songs, all little sermons.  It turns out that they love my hand-drawn pictures (or drawing them themselves), the familiarity of the memorization process, and respond very well to the Spirit they feel when they understand the words of the song and especially as it becomes part of their testimony through memorization--which is, after all, the point.

No comments:

Post a Comment