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Teaching Multiple Ages in Primary

Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner

As of last week, my Primary class has children from three to five years old. The other junior Primary class has everyone else, ages five to eight. In a small Primary, it's often necessary to combine classes so that one little Sunbeam isn't all alone every week.

I now have seven active children, and one who comes occasionally. As I pondered how to add two little Sunbeams to my CTR-5 class, I tried to consider several issues: One child is very shy and quiet. The other Sunbeam is moving soon, and I want my remaining child to feel at home before that happens. The manuals are different, and we would be using the manual meant for the older children. My Sunbeams are quite advanced, but they are still young, and need more activity and more visual stimulation than the older children, most of whom are entering kindergarten in the fall. Some of the principles are quite sophisticated for three-year-olds.

With these thoughts in mind, I set out to redesign my classroom. I have an aid who handles serious discipline challenges, so I am free to concentrate on teaching. The first thing I did was to divide my class into partnerships. Each child was assigned someone as a buddy, and they are to take good care of this person. I assigned the Sunbeams to my most motherly girls. They sit together in sharing time, class and closing exercises, walk down the hall together and help each other with the craft or anything else at all. They were asked to set a good example for their partner. They all liked this, since I assigned leaders to quieter children. Now that the youngest children have a big helper, I can worry about my lesson, and the children are taking care of each other, teaching them a lesson in service.

Next, I thought about how I normally present lessons. I talk quite a bit to this class, because my students are well-trained in the gospel and like a good debate, as young as they are. I knew I needed to return to a more traditional method if I didn't want to lose my quiet, younger children. As I prepared my lesson this week, I looked for additional places to add motion, pictures and other visual aids.

When I told the story of Jesus calming the sea, I had the children demonstrate the wind and the waves with their hands, let them pretend to shiver with fear, and asked them to demonstrate how happy the people were when the storm stopped. I searched the packet pictures for additional pictures to use in illustrating my points. I found a simple game in the Friend, and altered the rules so any child could play. This game had the children dressing a deacon for church. Instead of using the questions in the magazine, I let each child choose a square and then I made up a question suitable to his age and ability. The child placed the picture in the correct place, and everyone clapped. We did this at the back of the room, which got them out of their seats. One Sunbeam was too shy to join us, but we didn't insist, and he watched from his seat.

I made sure I prepared simple explanations of the principles being taught and quizzed the children several times on these points. I interspersed the more sophisticated material with the simplified material. Anytime I had to spend a lot of time talking, I followed with an activity to regain the little ones. Much of the review could be done through activities, such as marching around the room chanting something.

Moving back and forth between levels of teaching allows you to include the little ones without boring the older students.

Copyright  2007 Deseret Book
Book of Mormon Activity Book: Lehi

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Content copyright © 2013 by Terrie Lynn Bittner. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Terrie Lynn Bittner. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Brenda Emmett for details.

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