Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner
Music provides a multitude of benefits to the classroom teacher, even if she isn’t at all musical. It can teach, calm, redirect, and testify to your students.
In the adult class, music can soothe tired and stressed students, who may have just finished battling several small children in Sacrament Meeting or wondering what to fix for dinner when they get home. When you have a particularly challenging concept to teach, a song can get the message across more deeply than can words. The church website has the majority of its music online and is free to download, so you can easily incorporate a hymn into any adult or teen lesson.
While the music plays, you can display pictures to illustrate the music or just allow students to sit quietly and absorb the message. Before you play the music, give them a specific assignment. “This hymn teaches me something very special about the Savior. When it ends, I’d like to invite some of you to share your thoughts on the message of this song.”
Children love music. You can play quiet music as the children enter the room to calm them down. If they become too excited during a lesson, putting on music will settle them down. You will probably need to give them something to look at while they listen, so prepare a small number of packet pictures that illustrate the message. As with adults, invite them to listen for something special. “Listen to this song as see if you can discover who taught Nephi to love the Lord.”
If you’re teaching a song, make sure it isn’t just entertainment. The song should reinforce the lesson, and this means you need to do more than just have the children sing it. Go through the song line by line, explaining the words they might not know. Be certain they understand the meaning of the song and how it applies to the lesson. “We just learned that reverence isn’t just about being quiet. This song helps us remember why we want to be reverent. Let’s sing it together and then we’ll talk about it.”
When the song ends, tell the children how they can apply this song to their own lives. “Sometimes when I’m feeling wiggly in Sacrament meeting, I sing the words of this song in my mind and then it reminds me to listen to the speakers and be truly reverent.”
Help the children learn to turn to music for comfort, calming, and reminders. Use them in your own class. “Oh, we’re so silly today. Let’s sing a song about reverence to help us remember how we really want to act. Who can remember a song about reverence?”
This works just as effectively with adults. “Oh, goodness, ladies. I think our minds are more on our problems today than on the gospel. Let’s try a hymn to put our minds back on track again.” Said with a smile, it sends the message without a lecture. You can even drop a song into the lesson without any behavior comment at all. Just have a song or two on your CD player ready to go if they need one. They can sing to the CD if you want them to participate and don’t want to put your pianist on the spot. If you have an enthusiastic pianist, she can be prepared to play those songs, with the understanding that they might not be used.
Nearly every lesson in every manual has an appropriate song or two. Whether or not you have musical talent, music can be a critical part of the perfect lesson.
We Shall Make Music: Stories of the Primary Songs