Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Those Older Boys...

One of the questions I see all the time, whether it's in a giveaway entry, in the Yahoo group, or just in talking to other choristers, is this:  how do I get the older boys to sing?!  I've been giving this a lot of thought, and here are a few ideas just to get you going.  If you are one of the lucky ones that have the Vienna Boys Choir in the back of your primary room, please share your secrets!

1.  Separate them!  One of the things that was most successful in our primary was to have the boys split up.  Assign them each a younger class to sit with, and they move to sit with that class.  They always felt very responsible for the younger kids, and would sing loud in order to help the younger kids learn the words and music.

2.  Teach them harmony parts.  Often, these boys are going through the awkwardness of voice changes, and it can be extremely difficult (and embarrassing!) for them to sing the high notes.  A great solution is to teach them a simple harmony in a lower key.  They will appreciate the lower notes, and will like to hear themselves blend with the rest of your primary.

3.  Incorporate things that they like to do.  If you have boys in sports, play basketball name that tune, or turn your chalkboard into a football field.  Throw them a ball and ask them the next word.  If they play an instrument, invite them to play for primary if it's appropriate.  If they are a drummer, bring straws and have the kids play the rhythm of the song on the chair in front of them.  If you can appeal to their "worldly" interests, you can surprise them with music and testimony.

4.  Get male substitutes.  I would always invite one of the brethren in your ward to take your place when you have to be out of town!  If it can be the father of one of your older boys, that's even better.  Most men are more than willing to help out, especially if you plan a simple review game for them to play.  This will show the boys that men can sing primary songs and still be macho.

5.  Ask them to help you teach a new song.  This would be a great way for them to complete the Serving Others or Developing Talents requirements for their Faith in God.  Coordinate with their teacher to spend a class time developing a teaching strategy and allow them to prepare the props, sing in front of the other children, and help them teach the song phrase by phrase.  They will feel a huge sense of pride and accomplishment every time "their" song is sung.

6.  Have your Bishop give them a singing "calling."  If your Bishop will agree, have him invite each of the boys into his office and extend to him the special assignment of singing in primary.  Sometimes they just need to feel like what they contribute is important and that Heavenly Father is aware of their sacrifice!  It can be very hard to do an "uncool" thing in front of others.  But if you can twist it arrange it so that it's part of preparing for a mission, serving the other primary children, etc., then they may feel more inclined to participate.  But remember - the call must come from the Bishop - you as the chorister are just not cool enough.  (sorry, but someone has to say it!)

7.  Spice up your wiggle songs.  There are some great cards for Do As I'm Doing and Fun to Do by Divine Secrets of a Primary Chorister.  Print them and use them!  Often!  I always keep these in my binder so I can pull them out when the kids need a break.  The actions are hilarious, and will bring out the silly youthful side of anyone - especially the boys.  Sing Head Shoulders Knees & Toes with changeable body parts and actions.  Anything to get their minds and bodies working together.

8.  Encourage reverent listening.  Let's face it.  Some of us are singers, some of us are listeners.  You yourself might be a listener, but because of your calling as a chorister you are required to step out of your comfort zone.  The boys (and maybe even girls) in your primary might be more comfortable listening to the beautiful songs you are singing.  Invite the spirit and train them on how to listen by bringing an MP3 player or other recording device and playing for them various types of songs - think MoTab, piano solos, a capella hymns, violin concertos, bagpipes (perfect of Praise to the Man), and so on.  Have them close their eyes, dim the lights, use a slide show - anything that can teach them that sometimes the still small voice doesn't speak to us - it sings.  Once they learn to appreciate listening they can work on mastering that art.  It will encourage them to be reverent, and their future wives will thank you for all of those mad listening skills.

9.  Enlist the help of their teacher(s).  If you can win over the grown up, you have a powerful ally.  'Nuff said.

10.  Utilize class time for one-on-...class instruction.  At the beginning of each month, ask their teacher for 5-10 minutes to come into their class and teach them the song(s) you're going to learn that month.  A more intimate setting may help them feel more comfortable, and the heads up on the lyrics and music will help them feel more confident in the group setting of singing time.

11.  Don't take yourself too seriously.  If it stresses you out to let loose in front of the teachers, have your presidency arrange the room so that the teachers sit along the walls with the kids toward the middle.  That way, you look out and see only kids.  Dance with them.  Joke with them.  Take interest in them.  Compliment them.  If you make a mistake, acknowledge it and let them laugh at with you.  If they like you, they will respect you.  And if they respect you, they will participate.

Hopefully these ideas help!  And as always, feel free to share your thoughts and successes!
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  1. Hey - it's me again! I just thought of something else that works with the older boys, especially with program season coming up. If you have the one or two boys left that haven't turned 12 yet, they are probably mortified that they have to participate in the program when all of their friends have moved on to YM already. Instead of having them participate with a speaking part, use them as your assistant or as the assistant to the primary presidency. Let them crouch down by the pulpit and assist the little ones with their lines. Have them pass the microphone or help children to and from their seats. There are many different ways that they can be used in more mature roles that are so important to the flow of the program - they will feel needed, but more importantly they won't feel...well...stupid.

    Food for thought!!


  2. Wow! How long have you been a primary choirster? You're seriously the best EVER! You have so many great ideas. I was just called as PC a few weeks ago and I'm so glad to have found your blog! Thanks for all the help!!!


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