I was recently asked an excellent question: “I just got called as the Primary 2nd counselor and I’m super excited, but a little overwhelmed about Sharing Time. I’m not sure how to tailor the lessons to the younger vs. older kids. They seem VERY different, but the lesson outline is the same. Do you have any suggestions?”
Here are my thoughts:
- Plan activities that are picture-based for Junior Primary and word-based for Senior Primary. For example, “Follow the Prophet Tic Tac Toe” has a tic tac toe game board with pictures for Junior Primary and keywords for Senior Primary.
- While children of all ages can benefit from movement and application, this is even more important in Junior Primary. See Teaching to a Child’s Whole Body – resources for reaching children of all learning styles.
- Plan activities that are a little more challenging for Senior Primary. For example, “Women and Service in the Kingdom: a Sharing Time or family night lesson for girls AND boys” has a puzzle activity for Junior Primary and a matching game for Senior Primary.
- Use the teachers in Junior Primary; use the kids in Senior Primary. You can ask the Senior Primary kids hard questions directly. But don’t be afraid to ask the same questions in Junior Primary; just let the teachers give the answers if it goes over the little kids’ heads. It’s good for the kids to be exposed to concepts even if they can’t quite grasp them yet. This has the added benefit of making the teachers feel involved and engaged. For example, in this lesson about families in the scriptures, I would explain that just like families in the scriptures, Heavenly Father has a plan for each child and each family today. I would ask Senior Primary children what that means. In Junior Primary I would ask the same question, but I wouldn’t expect the children to give useful answers. (The default answer for any question appears to be “Jesus,” which is a fine answer to many questions, but not all.) Inviting the teachers to give answers saves me from giving a solid lecture. It also helps to make the teachers feel like they’re in their own gospel learning class. Teachers can also be useful when you need reinforcements. For example, go ahead and use that song that perfectly illustrates a gospel message, even if the little kids don’t know it yet. Ask the teachers to stand and join you in singing it. Any child who knows it can stand and sing too! Teachers can also read scriptures for you in Junior Primary so you’re not doing all the talking.
- Older kids can get into the scriptures themselves! It’s enormously satisfying to see the children begin to become familiar with the scriptures and to feel the power of God’s word. How to do it? See “Raising the bar and addressing the boredom challenge” and “Getting Children to Open – not just bring – Their Scriptures.” While this is particularly valuable in Senior Primary, don’t underestimate the readers in Junior Primary!