Sign in to follow this  
funkenheimer

Help in primary

Recommended Posts

I am a little embarrassed to have to even ask for help about this, but here goes.

A few months ago I was called to teach the 10 and 11 year old primary class. The class has both boys and girls mixed. When I was called to this position I was told this was a pretty unruly class. It didn't help that the teachers before us (the other male teacher is also new) didn't prepare lessons and instead chose to play hangman each Sunday.

I have a pretty extensive background in teaching/training. I worked as a corporate/technical trainer for 7 years at my last job. I have taught primary classes many times and have also taught the Gospel Principles class and served as the technical consultant in a genealogy class.

But I have to say, I have never struggled as much as I have with this class. As is expected the boys are a handful and the girls stay pretty quiet. I plan lessons ahead of time and rarely open the manual. I have tried games and various other activities but nothing seems to get their attention. I have tried lecturing when they are noisy but they don't seem to care. They have this "I am too cool for this" attitude.

4 of the boys, who are pretty much the ring leaders, will turn 12 before the end of the year and they will move to a new Sunday School class. Does anyone have any advice besides just riding it out? This seems like a cop out to me and its not fair to those who are quiet and paying attention.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Visit with the ring leaders one on one. Get to know them individually over ice cream. Let them know what your goals are for the class, and ask if they will help you accomplish those goals.

You can also ask them what things you can do to make the class more interesting. Perhaps a class day trip on a Saturday, etc.

Often kids do not take teachers seriously, because they only see them in context of the classroom. Take it out of the class on occasion, as a group or individuals, and you should see an improvement as they will come to know and respect you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Alana

Dude, don't diss the hang man. Also, I suppose saying to bribe them with candy is not an acceptable answer. Am I bad teacher for teaching half the lesson with a bad of m&m's held in my hand above my head? At least this way it looks like they are kind of making eye contact.

In my class we have some very different personalities, some are very loud and others are quiet. I use very different tactics with different kids. My class is the 6-7 class, so these ideas might not work for you. I take a penny and ask them to raise their hands if they hear it drop. I then drop it. Soon, everyone is wanting to hear it drop and it gets dead quiet. Then I ask them to keep that quiet. I tried just sitting them with my arms folded not talking until they were quiet.... but they will just keep going and going and going for a long long time. That didn't work. Giving one m&m to someone being reverent without commenting on it, just giving them the m&m also works some days. I don't really worry about being fair, but if someone doesn't get an m&m, I'll give them one at the end of the class and just thank them for being there today.

Giving them something to do with their hands while I'm teaching seems to help the boys a lot to hear better. For instance, folding a paper a certain way that I've shown them, then writing a thank you letter on it. When someone is being unruly I'll have them come help me at the front and sometimes I'll be silly about it, using them like a puppet and pretending they are talking while I wave their hands around. I mean, they are kids after all, they can get a lot out of the lesson if they are hyper as long as they aren't out of control. Plus, not rewarding bad behavior with attention doesn't apply to my 45 minute class, their parents can do that at home.

Having them group up and do skits about part of the lesson gives us a nice 5-10 minute break mid class.

I also control where they sit and am consistent with not allowing moving their chairs, even if it's just wiggling them in place.

I always get the white board markers because sometimes I'll draw something weird on the board like a mouse and say 'so here's Joseph Smith...oh wait, that's not him!' and have one of the kids come up and draw a better picture. Kids love love love the chance to draw on the board. As far as the 10-11 year olds go..... well, I pity you:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am a little embarrassed to have to even ask for help about this, but here goes.

A few months ago I was called to teach the 10 and 11 year old primary class. The class has both boys and girls mixed. When I was called to this position I was told this was a pretty unruly class. It didn't help that the teachers before us (the other male teacher is also new) didn't prepare lessons and instead chose to play hangman each Sunday.

I have a pretty extensive background in teaching/training. I worked as a corporate/technical trainer for 7 years at my last job. I have taught primary classes many times and have also taught the Gospel Principles class and served as the technical consultant in a genealogy class.

But I have to say, I have never struggled as much as I have with this class. As is expected the boys are a handful and the girls stay pretty quiet. I plan lessons ahead of time and rarely open the manual. I have tried games and various other activities but nothing seems to get their attention. I have tried lecturing when they are noisy but they don't seem to care. They have this "I am too cool for this" attitude.

4 of the boys, who are pretty much the ring leaders, will turn 12 before the end of the year and they will move to a new Sunday School class. Does anyone have any advice besides just riding it out? This seems like a cop out to me and its not fair to those who are quiet and paying attention.

  • Talk to the Primary president. She should be made aware of exactly what is going on. She might have suggestions, or she might just come in to help at times (or send someone in). In any case, she should be in the thick of this.

  • If you cannot get the kids to quiet down, you MUST get the parents involved. This probably will mean that the parents sit in class with their little darlings, or might mean that when they misbehave you take them to their parents. This is fundamentally the parents' problem.

    Admittedly, if the parents are sort of borderline inactive or otherwise shaky, this might not be the best thing to do. But it is their responsibility, whether or not they're up to the task.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I taught this age group also -- my very first calling in fact -- talk about being stretched! Yes, the boys are the worst and sometimes the girls would rather whisper to eachother which is still not good. I was excited about teaching the gospel and I wanted them to learn. I often used the fact that I was a new member and that they knew more than me. They liked the fact that they were smarter than the teacher -- and so I would play on that and get them to teach the lesson (with guidance, of course). It didn't always work but it did settle them down most of the time.

The other thing I would do is focus on the purpose of the lesson as stated in the manuel. I would write that on the board and throughout the lesson ask them if we were understanding the purpose. At the beginning of class I would put some of the scriptures on the board for them to look up -- I would ask them questions about the scriptures, "what principle is being taught" "how can you apply this in your life" etc. I would give them paper and pencil to write their answers. This worked to quiet them down and invite the Spirit. Then we would go over everyone's answers (if they didn't want to share, I would have them hand it to me to read to myself). Most of the lesson and purpose would be realized in those few minutes. I also tried to use a lot of visual aids -- thank goodness for computers and printers!

I had a couple of the kids who were very difficult -- it amazed me when I would have them come sit beside me and help with the lesson, that would be the thing that worked. I used hangman this way -- 'if you're quiet and we get through the lesson, then we'll play hangman.' Worked! (a good part of the time)

I found that giving them activities that apply to the lesson works well.

And last but not least -- some days, nothing works -- thank goodness class time is short!

I agree with Ram -- get to know the kids individually -- it will help with how to teach each of them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some good responses so far. However, after I was called the primary president told me specifically that we could not have any activities outside of class on Sundays (no parties). We were also told we could not bring candy unless it pertained specifically that it pertained to the lesson.

I don't know that I have the time to really get to know them, most will be gone in just over a month. I like the idea of getting the primary president involved. I had considered getting parents involved as well. I have never been a big fan of public humiliation, but in this case it may be the answer. I also considered having my dad sit in. He is in the bishopric.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had considered getting parents involved as well. I have never been a big fan of public humiliation, but in this case it may be the answer.

For the record, getting the parents involved really and truly is not about public humiliation, although at this age that might be a side effect. This is about the parents taking responsibility for their children's discipline and the children experiencing the consequences of their actions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are ways to get to know the kids on Sunday -- talk to them in the hallway, outside before or after. I learned a lot about my kids just by visiting with them a little. Kids are very open and love to talk about their interests -- that in itself wins points and helps you know how to relate to them. Having a relationship with these kids is the bottom line to being an effective teacher.

I have mixed feelings about having parents in the classroom. Yes, the kids are quiet but they also don't want to participate as much in the discussion. Sometimes I would have my husband come and help me with the boys -- I would just introduce him as 'having the priesthood visit today', so no one felt fingured out. I don't know -- it's trial and error.

Edited by candyprpl
wanted to add one more thought

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some good responses so far. However, after I was called the primary president told me specifically that we could not have any activities outside of class on Sundays (no parties). We were also told we could not bring candy unless it pertained specifically that it pertained to the lesson.

I don't know that I have the time to really get to know them, most will be gone in just over a month. I like the idea of getting the primary president involved. I had considered getting parents involved as well. I have never been a big fan of public humiliation, but in this case it may be the answer. I also considered having my dad sit in. He is in the bishopric.

Well, they might be "gone" in a month, but then the next teacher will have the same problem. OK, it is not YOUR problem any more, but it is still a problem and it would be good to do something about it.

If there is a chance to visit these kids during the week, one by one and talk to them eiter at home or in an icecream parlor, that could be a good idea.

Getting parents involved, is definitely the rigth way, getting them into class or bringing the kids them. But don't just threaten (or better: don't threaten at all), just do it! It might be embarassing to the kids, but the parents should really know, what their little darlings are doing!

Your dad would be a good decision to, being in the bishopric he should be a person of authority to these kids.

I have taught kid of this age too, it is a hard job, especially if you have these boy gangs... but patience, love and time is it. Unfortunately you don't have much time anymore.

I liked this advice above, making them teaching part of the lesson, I did that with older ones and it worked out great.

Oh, and one thing: my husband was teaching a group of boys once (I can't remember if there were any girls in that group) and he started using rather drastic examples... like opening a tape recorder with a screw driver and closing it with a hammer to explain the Word of Wisdom -- they ended up destroying the recorder with that hammer, but he got their attention! Or he explained the influence of the Holy Ghost with a babyphone (a brother with a deep voice at the other piece nextdoor).

Edited by stormwitch

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest

My husband is the 11-year-old scout leader. And man, he's had a handful of unruly ones (he's had this calling for almost 2 years). But, usually, they are unruly for only about 2 sessions and they shape up. My husband is a no-nonsense kinda guy. It's different with scouting because a lot of the lessons are activities. He can keep them busy the entire time. But, when they do have sit-down lessons, the kids behave too. He used to teach the 7-year-olds in primary a while back. And man, that was worse than the 11-year-old-scouts because they have to stay inside a small room and 7-year-olds are not designed to withstand 50 minutes of sit-down time.

But, what I have noticed about my husband (I have to be in the classroom when he taught because of that new church rule about men teaching kids...) he is very strict. Almost military-like. He has no problem singling out a misbehaved kid. When it's not your turn to talk, you are expected to be quiet. You raise your hand when you want to say something. Of course, when he asks a question to everybody, then everybody can answer without having to raise hands. You don't move out of your chair unless you are told you can... that kind of stuff.

He breaks up the class into 3 or 4 mini-activities. His lessons move fast.

First thing is they do stretching exercise from head to foot and they are allowed to go a bit crazy as long as they don't bump against anybody else and they don't make too much noise. Then they sit down and that's the end of craziness.

Then he would teach the lesson. He always has a task for everybody (there were only 8 kids in his 7-year-old class at the most), i.e., holding up a poster, reading a passage, writing on the board, etc. His lessons are interactive - he always asks kids questions every so many sentences. Like, when he is relating a story he would ask, "do you think that was cool?", usually answered by yes or no. If a kid misbehaves, he asks that kid a question, or make it his turn to hold a poster. If more than 1 kid misbehaves (always happens that they egg each other on!) they are moved to opposite sides of the room. If they continue to misbehave, they are given warnings. He has done it before where he puts each kid's name on the board with a magnet-picture of an apple for everytime they do something good - like answer a question, and the apple removed if they misbehave. If all the apples are gone and they still misbehave, they get to stand infront of the class until they earn an apple. A lot of his lessons involve some kind of object. The best one I really loved was the chocolate cake one. He brought a big slice of chocolate cake to class (he was teaching about missionary work) then he said the cake is like the gospel, you want to share the gospel with others. Then he smashed the cake with his hand to take a piece of of it and tried to give the smashed up piece (frosting all sticking to his fingers) to somebody. Of course, nobody wanted to take it. Then he took a fork and another plate and cut up a nice piece of cake and handed it to somebody. He equated it to missionary work and how we need to share the message positively and such. There was also one time where he used 2 straws and a cup of juice. He gave each kid a cup and 2 straws and asked them to sip from both straws while one straw is outside the cup... somehow they coudn't get juice out... i think that's how he did it... anyway, both straws had to be in the juice for them to be able to sip out of it. It was a lesson about how you couldn't be obedient when one side of you is not doing the right thing... basically, it's just having some kind of object to use to teach the lesson. He had a big spotlight once to teach about holy ghost, he had a candle and a can once to teach that you cannot hide your talents... but the lesson is very simple and brief. Usually around 30 minutes.

Then they would do some craft thing - sometimes as simple as coloring, sometimes something more complicated like puzzles.

Then they always end with hang-man after closing prayer until the bell rings. ALWAYS. They love hang-man. And so, the more behaved the kids are, the faster the lesson goes, the more time they have for hang-man.

So yeah, kids just start to learn to behave after a while. He always has the same general structure in the lessons, so kids know what to expect.

Hope this helps.

My husband doesn't want parents in the class. He thinks it is more distracting than helpful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Give the kids jobs and assignments. Praise the good ones like crazy. I find that some kids have to "tell their story" before anything can get done. Set the timer for 5 minutes and go around and get them to tell their stories and when the time is up, you say it's your turn to talk. It's cool because they get stuff off their mind, you get to know them more and they know when its teacher time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I taught Primary and was Primary President, I didn't like having parents in the classroom as well. I found the parents were more distracting telling Junior to quiet down or else he wouldn't get to play his video games after Church than they were to begin with.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Give the kids jobs and assignments. Praise the good ones like crazy. I find that some kids have to "tell their story" before anything can get done. Set the timer for 5 minutes and go around and get them to tell their stories and when the time is up, you say it's your turn to talk. It's cool because they get stuff off their mind, you get to know them more and they know when its teacher time.

I also did this when I taught 10-11 year old and I found it pretty effective. It gave me a chance to teach them about respect.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It was the strangest thing. I taught my class yesterday with more kids than the previous week and it was one of the best classes I have ever had. Everyone participated and even answered questions when asked. I didn't do anything different in preparation, in fact this week I only had one activity to start the class. Last week I had two. I don't know what the difference was.

I do think having activities is the way to go. I try to have some kind of activity or object lesson to start the class each week. I don't think having my 11 year old boys, who are already too cool for class, color would go over very well. Although it might be more effective to record the lesson on my computer, save it as an mp3, then make it available as a podcast. lol

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this