Primary in the Age of the X-Box

January 30, 2005 | 32 comments
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Sheri Lynn’s plaintive comment has me thinking about the difficulties of teaching Primary with today’s stimulus-saturated kids. I haven’t spent a lot of time teaching Primary, but I did recently spend a couple of years as Primary Music Leader, so I have some idea of what challenges teachers face. I’m afraid I’m likely to be long on analysis of the problem and short on solutions, so please use the comments for discussing practical approaches that you know work.

It seems to me that Primary teachers face a perfect storm: kids who are used to being entertained every minute of every day, a schedule that’s virtually impossible for kids (especially the little ones) to physically manage, subject matter that is crucially important but often quite abstract and not always riveting, manuals and inservice programs that are frequently inadequate for people who aren’t naturally “good with children,” and being just one of the many concerns of bishoprics with much too long a list of urgent things to attend to.

Some of these factors can be mitigated by good communications with the bishopric, a presidency that works hard at inservice training, and thinking hard about how to ease the physical difficulty of kids being contained and expected to be still and quiet for three hours (snacks, plenty of movement in singing time, etc.). The one difficulty I see as virtually impossible to address within the confines and structure of Primary is the hyperactive, visual-stimuli-addicted nature of kids raised on TV, computers, and video games. There’s no way Primary can compete with the nonstop, mechanically-driven activity of TV. Even the beloved Sesame Street runs in very, very short segments, so that kids get accustomed to constant change, constant entertainment. Kids, especially middle- and upper-class American kids, have constant opportunities and excitement–sports, music lessons, family trips to interesting and educational places are the rule more than the exception for many Mormon families. Kids are sophisticated, a little jaded, and the simple kinds of lessons and entertainment that sharing and singing time provide just can’t seem very cool.

Already in 1976, the indomitable LaVerne Parmley (Primary General President from 1951-1974) noted that it was harder to teach children raised with such wide and varied opportunities for entertainment and excitement:

I think all children have certain characteristics and growth patterns. I think the children then [in her early days of working in Primary--ca. 1930] were a little easier to discipline because they didn’t have the television. They didn’t have cars, they didn’t have all the experiences that children are having now and couldn’t do as many things.

I had to walk to high school every day, and it was a mile and a half . . . and now I don’t think there are any children that walk that far. Buses take them or their parents drive them. Till I was married I had only been to Idaho once. I had only been out of Salt Lake City once. And now when I see the children . . . . My own grandchildren have been to New York, they have been all over. . . . I think children have had a much wider experience. We didn’t have television. Just think what children see now–all the world events, all the big athletic events, and they see things all over the world that we never dreamed of. I think children are a little more independent now because of the experience they’ve had. As I say, I really think they were easier to discipline in school and in Primary.

Things have only gotten dramatically worse since then. Dramatically better, too–of course it’s great for kids to have wider experience of the world and more sense of the scope of things as they think about what the gospel can mean. But what a challenge for Primary teachers–smart, sophisticated kids, too old in many ways for the sweet little Primary songs and activities, but more desperately in need of solid gospel understanding than ever! I don’t think Primary can or should compete by trying to entertain children; indeed, it can serve a vital function by carving out a space that is quieter, slower-paced than the TV-school-basketball-music less0ns-dance-soccer-computer games-TV weekdays our kids live through nowadays. And yet, we have to get their attention long enough to show them why they need this space, need what they can learn in it.

How do you do it? How do you grab their attention without the crazy amount of visual and kinetic stimulus they’re used to? How do you convince them that some of this “boring” stuff is more exciting than anything else they can know or do? How do you survive past the opening prayer without that tranquilizer gun Sheri Lynn mentioned?!

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32 Responses to Primary in the Age of the X-Box

  1. Rusty on January 30, 2005 at 6:36 pm

    What they need, of course, is an xbox game based on the Gospel. The winning objectives being charity, faith, love, forgiveness, etc.I will go and do the things the Lord commands…

  2. Trenden on January 30, 2005 at 8:17 pm

    That game sounds boring.

  3. Kelly Knight on January 30, 2005 at 8:56 pm

    At least a couple of the national radio talk-shows that I listen to with some regularity have approached the problem with learning that today’s youth, from little kids to teens, seem to have. Listening to them, I have come to the conclusion that much of the problem can be boiled down to this: The youth of today are not expected to focus on anything for more that 12 seconds.

    Huh? Sure, if you watch much television, you know that the typical scene on the average sitcom will last roughly 91 seconds. MTV has, by directive, narrowed that down to 12 seconds. X-box, Play Station, and other games depend on constant motion. We have gone from a society that at one time had to sit quietly and read books for entertainment, or listen to “The Lone Ranger” on the radio, to one that demands, or at least has been spoon fed the idea, that we must be stimulated every waking minute with new visual input, new physical motion.

    Is it really any wonder that our primary age children cannot sit still long enough to listen to a short lesson? Sadly, it is even difficult for many adults to sit through Sacrament meeting, setting a example for their children that leaving Sacrament to get a drink, go to the bathroom, or just walk around, is acceptable behaviour.

  4. Will on January 30, 2005 at 10:02 pm

    Hmm. I think that in school they are still expected to focus on things longer than 12 seconds. Maybe it would be worth asking elementary school teachers for some advice before becoming a Luddite.

  5. Kelly Knight on January 30, 2005 at 10:27 pm

    Will,

    I am at a loss- Luddite? I am not sure whether to be offended or not…

  6. Kelly Knight on January 30, 2005 at 10:35 pm

    I found it!

    The Luddites were a group of English workers in the early 1800s who protested – often by destroying machines – against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution that they felt threatened their jobs.

    Will, you believe that a desire to remove X-box because it interferes with the education of children is somehow a bad thing? Well, if this is the case, count me a Luddite. I don’t have an X-box, Play Station, for my children. An occasional venture on the internet to disney kids is about the limit. Oddly, I can recall fewer than a handful of times that I, or my wife, have ever been called by the primary to attend to our unruly children. Quite the opposite, we most often get good reports from their teachers.

    Call me a Luddite, or a fool, or whatever you choose, but it seems to be working, at least in my family, to avoid the mindless and mind-numbing influences of video games.

  7. Trenden on January 30, 2005 at 10:59 pm

    I personally think the key here is moderation. I have an uncle that’s a bit extreme and about 15 years ago he got rid of the TV all together and his kids ended up sort of wierd. They can’t seem to relate with people very well. I don’t know how much the lack of TV had to do with it though. IMHO TV and X-box are fine as long as you control it and limit it so your kids can live a balanced life.

  8. Jim F. on January 30, 2005 at 11:10 pm

    Trenden, we had TV in our home when our children were growing up, and they grew up well, but I seriously doubt that your cousins’ weirdness can be explained by their lack of TV.

  9. Katherine on January 30, 2005 at 11:42 pm

    We have one member of the Primary presidency that always has the kids riveted, and she is the opposite of 12-second-attention-span Lady–she seems so deliberate in her delivery as to be almost slow, but she makes this work to create suspense. She is an excellent story-teller, and much of her communication to the children is couched in story (not trite “faith-promoters” but narrative). I’m sure it’s a natural gift of hers, but maybe it can be cultivated?

  10. Lisa on January 31, 2005 at 1:24 am

    I always wonder about questions like this. Are kids really harder to teach? Or is it just nostalga and ignorance on our part? We were so much more innocent then, things were so much better then, it’s all down hill since then. Nah.

    My guess is that nothing much has changed. Kids are probably much the same as they always have been and teachers today are probably facing pretty much the same challenges as they were in the 1970s and the 1930s. Today we lament how much easier it was in the 70s, in the 70s they lamented how much easier it was in the 30s, and I bet if you looked you could find a quote from the 30s lamenting how much easier it was in the 1890s. But that doesn’t mean it really has changed, only that it’s easy to look at the past through rose-colored glasses.

    Which isn’t to say that we can’t make better primary programs and train our teachers better and all that. We can. I just get tired of the chest beating about how horrible everything is these days when it’s not horrible. the more things change . . .

  11. Rosalynde Welch on January 31, 2005 at 2:42 am

    Trenden, chalk me up as one more weird product of a TV-free household!

    (Can’t say the same about my children, though, which causes me some consternation… Just like listening to popular music. It was NEVER done in my parents’ household, but my kids have been exposed to their fair share rhythm tracks.)

  12. Doug Spencer on January 31, 2005 at 9:47 am

    I taught primary in New York for 2 years and found the most difficult aspect was not a short attention span but finding lessons that related to the kids. I remember one of my lessons about the spirit and the body (you know, the hand/glove thing). I took a doll to class and after a short introduction asked the children why the doll was unable to move. Answer: “Because he has no batteries.”

    In an age where even Mario and Luigi are relics of the past, finding stories, props, and visual aids that engage primary children was always my toughest task.

  13. cugeno on January 31, 2005 at 10:20 am

    I currently teach the 10-11 class at a Primary in Maine. The biggest difference I note in my kids boils down to one thing:

    Do they have two parents in their home who are active in the Church?

    If the answer is yes, I can pretty much bank on the fact that the kid 1) will likely know the basic foundations of the Gospel and give me something with which to work, and 2) disciplinary problems will be rare, indeed.

    Oh, and count me as blaming the X-Box and clones (at least in part) for the upswing in childhood obesity and earlier-onset Type-2 diabetes mellitus.

  14. Kristine on January 31, 2005 at 10:24 am

    Cugeno, that’s interesting; I’ve never been in a ward where gospel knowledge and behavioral issues were that closely tied to the parents’ marital status and church activity. I’ve been shocked by the ignorance of a bishop’s kid and impressed with the behavior of lots of single parents’ children. I guess that just goes to show how difficult it is to generalize from our own limited experience.

  15. Kristine on January 31, 2005 at 10:47 am

    Lisa, I don’t think kids are “worse” now than they were in 1930–since Primary began as a response to children’s bad behavior, it’s unlikely that there has ever been a time when they just sat sweetly in the pews, lisping little songs and smiling at their teachers. However, I think that today’s entertainment-saturated culture does introduce a new set of challenges for Primary teachers, and it was the changed *character* of those challenges, not the *degree* to which children’s behavior has changed, which I wanted to examine. Doug’s observation that it’s harder to find analogies and props is the sort of thing I was interested in. I tried hard not to do to much breast-beating in my post, observing that there are great benefits to kids’ expanded opportunities, along with the challenges.

  16. Lisa on January 31, 2005 at 11:44 am

    Sorry I wasn’t clear, I didn’t think you were guilty of breast beating, just some of the subsequent comments. Still, I’m not really convinced that modern technology has changed the challenged all that much. Certainly it’s worth exploring, but I wouldn’t be surprised if our feelings about the matter greatly outweigh the actual changes. But I could be totally wrong.

  17. Lisa F. on January 31, 2005 at 12:15 pm

    One of my first memories is being in my Sunbeam class, and watching my friend Karin jump up and down on the table while the teacher screamed that she was bringing bottles next week since we were all such big babies. That was 1968. I’m with Lisa — I don’t think things have changed that much.

    I am in a Primary presidency now, and also am teaching a 9-10 year-old class that regularly has about eight kids in it. Pacing is important — you”ve got about 8 minutes (in my class) before you need to switch tracks (from a story to a role play, etc…). With the younger ones, the pacing has to be even quicker. You also have to exude DTAC (don’t take any crap) and you have to love them a lot. It is the most demanding job in the church, and I find it hugely rewarding.

    Inservice is really essential, and that is hard for us. Many teachers don’t want to go to extra meetings, but it is important to get together and talk about what works — and to be willing to try new things.

  18. Lisa F. on January 31, 2005 at 12:41 pm

    Other thoughts — in order to be able to grab their attention without all the usual stimulus, I have to be able to teach without the manual in my hand. I also have to be prepared enough that I can look into their eyes as I teach. I have to know the stories by heart. I glance at notes from time to time, but if I pick up the manual to read to them: carne muerte.

    Look at your classroom management — is it too cold or too hot? Do you need a different seating arrangement? Are you close enough to give a physical cue (tap on the knee or hand on the shoulder) to quickly take care of disruptive behavior?

    Engage them in ideas to help activate a particular class member: How can we let so-and-so know we miss them, etc…Then, I believe, they begin to get a sense of the power of their Primary Class. They are (or can be) a great source for good. They need to feel and experience that.

    I also like to hang a big sheet of newpaper print on the wall (it is going up next week). On it, the kids write the things they have learned, or sign off on the scriptures they have memorized. Younger kids could draw pictures of what they have learned. It becomes a nice cummulative symbol of all of the work that the class has done. It also gives them a goal for the end of the class period (what am I going to write or draw?) and is a good change of pace.

    I often express (and really feel) gratitude for the short time that we get to study the gospel together once a week. It is rare and special — sacred even. My kids know I feel that way. I sometimes say things like, “Today we are going to study some very cool church history,” and that gets their attention.

  19. Jim Richins on January 31, 2005 at 1:13 pm

    I generally agree with Lisa and Lisa F., that the nature of children hasn’t changed over 100 or 200 years (evolution does move that fast). However, there are at least a couple of factors that earlier generations did not have to deal with, which have a huge effect on children today: 1) the prevalance of the media, and 2) our rapidly changing social environment (e.g. nature of the family).

    The difference between 2000 and 1900 is much greater than the difference between 1900 and 1400. One would be foolish to try to deny that the number and degree of change over the last century do not result in a fundamental effect on children today.

    Exactly what the nature of that effect is, however, is still controversial. Much of the problem comes from a tendency to oversimplify and say that game consoles (for example) have a negative effect, and so we should blame Nintendo and Sony for all of our problems. The effects, however, are surely more complicated than a simple positive vs. negative comparison. There are many advantages offered by the media today, but these are purchased at the price of various liabilities. The ability to manage the new responsibilities of our day and age (in relation to both the media and our new social environment) is not a genetically inherited ability of human beings, but one that must be learned. Today’s rapid pace of change makes it difficult even to understand what these new responsibilities are, let alone develop any sort of skill with them. This applies equally well (although in different ways) to adults as well as children.

    It has been several years since I was called as a Primary worker, but when I was there, I spent many years teaching several different age groups. I look back at that time with fondness. I’m sure I had some days more difficult than others, but I don’t remember those. Indeed, while reverence problems may not appear as often in Gospel Doctrine as they do in CTR 6, on the whole, teaching adults is a much more difficult proposition! I look forward to being called back to Primary, hopefully the sooner the better.

  20. MDS on January 31, 2005 at 1:26 pm

    I wonder if the fact that Primary is “different” than the hi-tech entertainment that many kids are used to doesn’t actually work to our advantage in pedagogical terms. If Primary became just another DVD or video game, and wasn’t somewhat unique in terms of the child’s other experiences, would the child be as engaged? Would moving towards the world be a good or a bad thing for primary instruction?

  21. Chris O'Keefe on January 31, 2005 at 1:42 pm

    I found the reference to Sesame Street interesting. I read The Tipping Point last summer; it has a chapter on Sesame Street, Blues Clue’s and “stickiness” of ideas. While the book is a theoretical mishmash, the reason that the creators of sesame street (and then Blue’s Clues) focused on short segments was after several studies of how children watched TV, they realized that you *had* to switch segments after only a few minutes, or else you’d lose the children. As for Blue’s Clues, they took it one step further, concentrating on short segments that tied together into a whole, but that they actually repeated several times in the course of a single week, so children would be watching the same episode several days in a row. Becuase of how these show’s catered to the way that children watch television, both have been remarkablyl successful.

    So, of course, having never actually taught a primary class, I have no idea if the principles of brief segments combined with lots of repetition would actually work (in terms of ideas, though, perhaps not the approach. If you try to do the same things with kids in the same hour, I doubt it would work).

  22. cugeno on January 31, 2005 at 2:17 pm

    Oy, Kristine… correct, and count me chastened.

    I have some awesome kids who are from single-parent homes. That was not the intent of my post, I just noticed that (in my class, in this particular branch), the kids with both parents active are all pretty squared away. The ones who struggle are from other circumstances, some of them pretty horrible.

    Just one dude’s experience, in one branch. In some other wards and branches in which I have served, we had some doozies. (What IS it about the bishop’s kid, anyway?) =)

  23. Curtis on January 31, 2005 at 2:20 pm

    Ahhh, but >this< from our friends at The Onion...

    Study: Watching Fewer Than Four Hours of TV a Day Impairs Ability to Ridicule Pop Culture

    NEW YORK—A Columbia University study released Tuesday suggests that viewing fewer than four hours of television a day severely inhibits a person's ability to ridicule popular culture.

    "An hour or two of television per day simply does not provide enough information to effectively mock mediocre sitcoms, vapid celebrities, music videos, and talk-show hosts—an essential skill in modern society," said Dr. Madeleine Ben-Ami, a professor of cognitive science and chief author of the study. "The average person requires a minimum of four to six hours of television programming each day to be conversant on the subject of The Apprentice or able to impersonate Anna Nicole Smith."

    Tracking 800 individuals between the ages of 15 and 39, researchers found that people who watch fewer than four hours of television a day have difficulty understanding the references made on VH1's Best Week Ever, and are often unable to point out the absurdity of infomercial products or the cluelessness of American Idol finalists.

    "Study participants who watched television inconsistently were less personally invested in what they saw than regular viewers," Ben-Ami said. "While some sporadic viewers were able to enjoy jokes made by others, they were unable to make jokes of their own. The regular viewers averaged 12 celebrity-related sarcastic asides per hour, while the uninformed viewers made almost none."

    ...continues on http://www.theonion.com. Last week’s issue.

  24. Curtis on January 31, 2005 at 2:21 pm

    Sorry, here we go.

    NEW YORK—A Columbia University study released Tuesday suggests that viewing fewer than four hours of television a day severely inhibits a person’s ability to ridicule popular culture.

    “An hour or two of television per day simply does not provide enough information to effectively mock mediocre sitcoms, vapid celebrities, music videos, and talk-show hosts—an essential skill in modern society,” said Dr. Madeleine Ben-Ami, a professor of cognitive science and chief author of the study. “The average person requires a minimum of four to six hours of television programming each day to be conversant on the subject of The Apprentice or able to impersonate Anna Nicole Smith.”

    Tracking 800 individuals between the ages of 15 and 39, researchers found that people who watch fewer than four hours of television a day have difficulty understanding the references made on VH1′s Best Week Ever, and are often unable to point out the absurdity of infomercial products or the cluelessness of American Idol finalists.

    “Study participants who watched television inconsistently were less personally invested in what they saw than regular viewers,” Ben-Ami said. “While some sporadic viewers were able to enjoy jokes made by others, they were unable to make jokes of their own. The regular viewers averaged 12 celebrity-related sarcastic asides per hour, while the uninformed viewers made almost none.”

  25. Trenden on January 31, 2005 at 7:36 pm

    See, that Onion article explains why my cousins turned out weird. Without a TV in the home they couldn’t develop socially.

  26. M.J. Pritchett on January 31, 2005 at 7:39 pm

    There is a surprising amount of truth to the Onion’s satire. Among the highly educated, hardworking associates at my large law firm the discussion of TV shows is gradually taking the place formerly held by the discussion of professional sports.

  27. Will on January 31, 2005 at 10:21 pm

    Kelly,
    We don’t have an x-box/gamecube/playstation at home either and we only get a few television stations. I’m not defending those.

    I just don’t agree with the assertion that youth aren’t expected to focus on anything longer than 12 seconds. That may be true of advertisers and video game producers, but usually there are plenty of other people in a child’s life that expect more of them.

    And saying someone is a Luddite is not necessarily an insult. See this article for a discussion of moddern Luddism. In fact, I consider myself a Luddite when it comes to music — I absolutely abhor the music of Barney, for example because it is completely synthesized. But kids seem to love it. I think it is bad for them because it is like artificial flavoring. It pretends to be the original sound of an instrument, but is really a weak imitation.

    If you really want some ammunition for arguments against technology, read something by education professor Larry Cuban.

  28. Jennifer Jensen on January 31, 2005 at 11:11 pm

    I’m too lazy to read everyone’s comments so I apologize if I’m repetitive. I taught primary for almost 8 years consecutively. I taught every class except the sunbeams and then spent a year in the presidency in an inner city branch in new york. I love teaching primary but it can wear one done. Here is a list of things I did that I found successful:

    1. Be realistic with the scope of the lesson.
    A: If they are younger than 8 I was happy to get the title and main idea of the lesson across. DO NOT attempt to get through the entire lesson. It is impossibe. make sure you get the main idea across, then tell them one of the stories that you think they will relate to most. If none, then share a personal story or make one up. DO NOT FEEL LIKE A FAILURE because all you can do is get maybe one thing across to them.

    B: Over 8s can take about half of the lesson. What I found best to do with them is lots of discussion. I’d explain the main point and then discuss it with them. Ask what they know about that part of the doctrine and ask them what questions they have. Another great thing to do is ask them to tell a story related to the lesson. They love it and it’s a good way to make the lesson applicable. Their stories are quite thrilling, you’ll be surprised by their creativity and capacity to make connections.

    c. there will be some children with a good background in church doctrine that they’ve learned at home. Those kids like to explain the things they already know. Let them. Kids tend to find each other more interesting than teachers. Jjust keep a tabs on them so they don’t get obnoxious.

    2. ALWAYS ALWAYS have an activity for them for the last 15 minutes of class. You can’t teach them for the full hour or whatever ungodly length of time it is these days. I have a primary lunchbox I keep with crayons, markers and stickers in it that I would take every Sunday. This applies to all age groups. I’m not one for spending time prepping for all the activities they suggest in the book. I usually made up my own. Let them draw a picture of something in the lesson, or play some kind of game. This does not have to be complicated. Even if you just let them color for the last 15 minutes of class that’s good enough for them.

    3. For the younger kids, what I used to do when they were getting too rowdy was turn off the lights and sit in my chair looking stern. I’d sit in the dark with them and whisper that we couldn’t go on with the lesson until they acted more reverently. That works. You may have to do it more than once some days–the phases of the moon or something seriously affects their behavior. Some days they will all be completely out of control.

    4. Another thing for younger kids which they actually really enjoyed, when they were too rowdy I’d stop and say it was time for the wiggle game. That means everyone has to get up and jump and wiggle in front of their chair until I say stop. This makes them giggle and they love it, but you have to be careful to not let them get carried away. It helps, they’re calmer afterwards.

    I almost never prepared full lessons. I ‘d look it over pick out whatever story I’d want to do, maybe choose ONE scripture only to read in class. Then I’d show up and introduce the subject, have a discussion, tell a story with them, then we’d color. That worked really well for me.

    Good luck.

  29. Sheri Lynn on January 31, 2005 at 11:52 pm

    BLESS YOU SISTER HARRIS FOR STARTING THE TOPIC FOR ME!!!! I just about cried for joy to see it. Thank you.

    I taught my second class yesterday. I made my husband come along and sit there (which helped a lot!) Then I told the children (8-11) how disappointed I’d been in their behavior the previous Sunday, and that they weren’t 18 month olds who needed a nursery, and I didn’t think I ought to have to act like a nursery leader. (That’s a step above screaming about bringing baby bottles, I hope!) I told them they’d raise their hands if they wanted to talk, only one person would talk at a time, and that they would be respectful and attentive in the combined hour part of the program and set a good example for the younger kids–or I’d take them to their parents and not let them come back unless a parent came with them to keep them in line. I talked about the Savior, about knowledge and faith, and about how someone who won’t pay attention can’t learn enough to win salvation.

    Then I taught the lesson I’d prepared. Sister Jensen, thanks for what you said because that’s pretty much the conclusion I came to–there was no way I’d get through the whole thing for them before losing it. I taught an abbreviated version, with some tie-ins to the “respectful” and “good example” exhortation I’d already performed. Then I allowed them to color for a bit, drawing a picture of what they think it will be like to be in the Celestial Kingdom with the Savior and family members, et cetera.

    Things deteriorated toward the end when I had to allow one to go to the restroom–suddenly it was pandemonium again, and I completely lost control. They all just flew in every direction like a flock of ducks invaded by barking dogs. We had no closing prayer. I was just hoping they’d all go to the primary room where they were supposed to go, as I could do nothing once they all just fled. In the primary room, they behaved BETTER. Not well, but better.

    The girls are by and large much better than the boys. Some of the kids had charge of younger siblings, one perhaps 3 years old–and that littlest child behaved beautifully the whole time–go figure. I know they’re not supposed to do that, but obviously there must be some reason for it.

    One girl is a different sort of problem. She may well be 11, but she looks 18. I wouldn’t think a thing of it if I had seen her climb into a car and start driving. She must have put fresh lip gloss on fifteen times during class. She is beautiful, elegant, self-possessed and obviously not interested in participating in any of this. She wouldn’t read when it was her turn, wouldn’t sing, though she did help with the littler kids several times. She would get this look on her face that reminds me of my father’s attitude toward religion. If we had been rubbing blue mud on our faces she couldn’t have been more superior. She sat like a lady and disrupted nothing, but I might as well have been giving a talk on the coefficient of static friction. She did not care. She was there because someone still had the ability to make her be there. Can I possibly make her want to be there, and still keep the hyper boys in line?

    There IS a language barrier here, and it’s tricky. The children and I speak English. Their parents almost all speak Spanish exclusively. Few have any English at all. The sad thing is–these kids don’t speak Spanish well and can’t read it. They are bored in the combined session of Primary, and pay no attention because it’s not in English. I think some put down their parents for not speaking English. They speak to each other in English.

  30. Jennifer Jensen on February 1, 2005 at 1:16 am

    Sheri,
    I remember being 11 and way too old for primary. Could you ask the girl to be your assistant? Pull her aside and tell her that you know it must be hard to be with the little kids but you could use her help in teaching the class. Maybe let her teach part of the lesson?

  31. Charlene on February 2, 2005 at 12:56 am

    Interesting topic. Most of the misbehaving children in our ward are the offspring of two faithful members, usually members who hold leadership positions, certainly no slouches, doctrine-wise. I could tell you some stories that would make your hair curl…

    I do think children have a shorter attention span and that it is a learned thing. (Of course, MY children are the exception, which I attribute to their healthy diet, having limited exposure to TV/computer and a mother who is the paragon of all motherhood :D)

    Once a month I read for our local library’s Children’s Story Hour. Actually it’s a half hour and for most of the tots, that’s more than enough. My first time reading to them was an unmitigated disaster. I chose a couple of my sons’ favorite Beatrix Potter books. My ds’s love these stories, they love to repeat the big words such as soporific and perambulate. But these children at my premier were swinging from the light fixtures by page 4. I have since learned that they have about a 2-3 sentence attention span per page. Four if it’s Dr. Seuss.

    But I attribute a lot of that to training. I started reading to my ds’s at 6 mos, reading increasingly more difficult and lengthy books. Their natural tendency was to wriggle, grab the book, turn the pages too early. Same with FHE and scripture reading–lots of wiggles and giggles. But I clearly explained my expectations, found ways to help them meet those expectations and helped them learn to overcome the “natural man.” I fear too many parents/leaders/teachers indulge the natural tendencies of children instead of setting boundaries and expectations and teaching them how to meet them.

    I also have to agree that I really really REALLY dislike the new manuals, esp for the younger (Jr. Primary) ages. At this age these children think in concret terms. They should be getting loaded up on stories from the scriptures, songs, things they can parrot. (Using a term from Dorothy Sayer’s The Lost Tools of Learning.) They are not going to grasp abstract ideas like the spirit/body thing. Oh, they may be able to retell what you said, but they will not comprehend. I was totally dismayed by a Sunbeam lesson I taught that asks us to teach the symbolism of the water in the Sacrament and in Baptism. Symbolism?!?! What 4yr old can grasp any kind of symbolism??

    Now a good teacher can glean from those manuals a great lesson. But it requires training or an inate talent. That’s where Inservice lessons would be great, but who does that anymore? And if they do, who attends? A good manual will introduce the principle to be taught in teacher’s language, then break it down into several activities the teacher can use to reinforce the principle–stories, scriptures, songs, games, etc. Every teacher also needs a trouble-shooting guide–what to do when children don’t grasp the concept, what to do when they are tired or inattentive, how to change the pace of the lesson, how to help children towards self-discipline.

    So…who here is going to write that trouble shooting guide?

  32. Sheri Lynn on February 2, 2005 at 11:47 pm

    Thank you. I learned so much from your posts. And a comforting quote from the current month’s ENSIGN–not sure which page–”Whom God calls, He qualifies.”

    (Darn, Ebay pulled the flamethrower auction….)