“Simple Steps to Reverence,” Ensign, Jan. 1997, 73
Teaching children to be reverent during Primary, whether in opening exercises or in the classroom, is often a challenge. Since children look to their teacher for guidance on what kind of behavior is expected and tolerated, a few simple guidelines can help.
Be a Good Example. Often the actions of adults teach children more about reverence than words alone. Raising our hand, speaking in a reverent voice, folding our arms, and refraining from chatting during Church meetings demonstrate to children the kind of behavior appropriate in Primary.
One Primary president stood reverently with her arms folded at the front of the room before the opening song was sung. Her peaceful demeanor radiated to everyone in the room.
Set the Stage. Make sure the physical arrangements are conducive to reverence. Whenever possible, teachers should be on time or early. This prevents unsupervised activity that may become disorderly. Be sure the room is neat and tidy, with adequate space between rows or chairs as needed for children to walk through. Consider low-volume prelude music as children enter the classroom.
Some teachers have found it helpful to occasionally use a reverence chart. Each child judges his or her own performance and chooses between placing a star or a check mark on the chart at the end of a class. Perhaps after earning several stars, children can put a sticker on the chart. But a desire to inculcate reverence should not overtake the importance of putting our major emphasis on providing effective and impactful gospel instruction.
Establish Simple Class Rules. Children often cooperate when they know clearly what is expected of them. Some rules might include these: Do not bring toys to class. Stay seated unless directed otherwise. Raise your hand and wait to be called on before speaking. Show respect for the teacher and other students.
Be Consistent. If one child is ignored when he or she breaks a class rule, then children assume that such guidelines are flexible and unimportant. When the guidelines are followed consistently, children quickly learn that everyone in class is expected to behave appropriately all the time. One teacher kindly reminds children to raise their hands by asking a question and then surveying the class while saying, “Who has a hand up?”
Treat Children with Respect. Teachers should speak to children kindly. Avoid belittling or sarcastic language. Never strike, hurt, or intimidate them. Listen carefully to what children say and refrain from showing amusement at their awkward attempts at expression.
Be Well Prepared. Plan a “change of scene” during lesson presentations for younger children. This can include moving the children from sitting in a circle of chairs to sitting around a table, then to sitting on a quilt on the floor. Activities should also change, for example, from listening to expressing ideas to coloring or creating a handout to take home. Keeping the pace moving with several planned activities will help solve problems with reverence and attention span.
Children and teachers alike feel good as they see reverence improve in Primary. And when reverence increases, the Spirit can be felt more readily by all in attendance.—Delores DeVictoria, Antioch, California