Our stake primary music leader is Megan T. She has been a primary chorister more than once, and works with young children. We just had stake primary music training too, that she taught, so I was able to watch her incorporate some of her instruction into her lesson today. One thing I really liked about her instruction is that she didn't try to reinvent the wheel. She taught about the basics, reminded us how important they are, and then gave us specific examples of how she does this when she teaches. I was then able to see her put this into practice when she taught the music today.
Here's how she taught today's main music lesson, that can be done with any song. The primary manual also gives little hints about these teaching methods so if you read church instruction, none of this should be a complete surprise. In fact, I've used most of the same concepts at some point in various lessons but the same concepts feel like a very different activity in different contexts. What I love is how Megan combined everything into THIS lesson, and the way she interacted with the children. She was very fun and engaging. I was impressed. The children really loved her. I also love how she handled children that were less participatory.
Three basic principles to remember here, that Megan (who also just went to the world leadership training for music leaders) advocates:
1. Children like and appreciate repetition.
2. Children like to be challenged.
3. There's a magic number for how many times a child needs to hear a song before they can learn it - three times.
Obviously, this isn't word per word, but this gives you the gist of how it went ...
Part 1: Introduce the Song and Give them an Incentive to Listen Closely
Megan: How many of you know what a DARE is? (Said in a fun, "daring" voice.)
Children raise their hands.
Megan calls on several children who give examples of a dare. She responds appropriately.
Megan: Did you know there's a primary song that dares you to do something? Listen while I sing it and tell me what the song dares you to do.
Megan sings the song Dare to Do Right (without a piano! This is where I need more guts. I try hard no to sing solos in primary.)
Megan: What does the song dare you to do?
Children raise their hands. Megan calls on a child to list each of the two dares. She spends some time asking the children if they know what it means to "be true" and giving children opportunities to respond.
Part 2: Repetition. Sing the Song Again and Give them a New Incentive to Listen Closely.
Megan: I want you to LISTEN closely and tell me how MANY TIMES you HEAR the word DARE when I sing it again!
Megan sings the song again, interacting with the children and watching them count.
Megan: How many times did I sing the word "dare?"
Megan lets different children give different answers.
Part 3: More Repetition.
She then sings the song AGAIN and counts how many times she sang "dare" with them.
Part 4: Adding Movements. Physical Participation.
Megan asks them to stand up the first time they hear the word "dare," then sit down when they hear it again, so they are popping up and down throughout the song.
Part 5: Adding More Movements.
Megan: Can the boys in the room stand up and show me a "brave" pose?
Megan gives them time to get warmed up to this. She shows them her own "brave" pose, then points out children who have great "brave" poses, for example, showing off their muscles. She stops to admire a little four-year-old's biceps, and just interacts and has fun with them, giving them time to demonstrate their different ideas. They love this.
In senior primary, there is one class of all boys that I think sometimes tries to be "too cool" and therefore is less responsive. Megan teases them, "Oh, you must be girls because you don't have any brave poses." Instantly of course, there are a set of "brave" poses. She does this very carefully - I think we all know that teasing has to be a delicate thing with children, but these kids are older and are obviously being tough, so she reads them well.
Megan: Girls, can you stand up and show me a "kind" pose?
Megan does the same things with the girls. A sweet little CTR4 girl stands up, tilts her head to the side, clasps her hands in front of her, and gives a sweet little smile. Great "kind" pose. The teachers were having fun watching all the children participate as well.
Megan: OK, TEACHERS, can you stand up and show me a "well" pose?
This one was tougher but one teacher pats himself on the back. Another teacher gives a "thumbs up."
Megan: Okay, now I'm going to add to the song, because not only are you going to stand up and sit down when you sing "dare," but you are going to stand up for boys when you hear "bravely" and strike a brave pose, and for the "kindly" and "well" pose, too. This time, sing with me okay?
We sing the song again. By this time, I'm surprised to realize how much I've memorized.
I realize as I write this post that not every child was singing but the important thing is that they were engaged and participating, and whether they realize it or not, they were learning the song. From my perspective as an observer, Megan's methods were very effective and fun. I think it's easy when you are directing the music to be critical of yourself and think you want 100% singing but it's good to be in the chairs and remember that the perspective changes when you are not leading the music.