This is the primary program issue that comes up year after year.  Will you be using word prompts, flip charts or posters to help with singing during the program?  Or have you been successful in having your kids getting everything memorized?  Which side of the equation do you lie on?  I thought I’d take a minute and pick apart the pro’s and con’s of each…

MEMORIZING: If you lean toward memorizing, do you have enough time with your 20 minutes each week to have the kids learn the new song of the month and all it’s verses, along with retaining what they’ve learned for the entire year?  Do you find yourself drilling songs each month in order to memorize that you don’t have time to sing anything else?  Are you stressing out when words aren’t memorized by the end of the month?  What if you have kids who aren’t regular attendees and are unable to memorize the words because they aren’t always at church?  But will songs be retained to be useful to these kids later in life if they aren’t memorized?

Now, let’s explore posting words, prompts, flip charts or pictures, etc. (because to me, these are all the same thing).

WORD PROMPTS:   Are you going to be fumbling with your papers during the entire program?  Is the whole primary dependent on them and can’t sing the song without their prompts?  Isn’t the whole point of singing time to teach songs to the kids and using the words kind of defeats that purpose?  Can word prompts be displayed so they aren’t a huge distraction to the congregation?  But what if program time comes around and our songs aren’t performance ready?  If I need the words, shouldn’t the kids be able to read them as well?

I’d like to think that I personally lie somewhere in the middle.  Memorization is a wonderful goal but may not always be achievable.  We work all year on learning the program songs, but when it comes down to the actual program, I rely on a little help.  The program just seems to flow a little more smoothly and it eases my stress level about it.

If you are familiar with my blog, what I do for the program isn’t any different than what I do in primary.  I post words in primary A LOT.  I sing a wide variety of primary songs, many of which we will never spend time memorizing and may not sing again for several years!  Check out more details HERE on how I post words.
Camille's Primary Ideas: posting words for singing time, singing time flip charts
Now, that said, it doesn’t mean that I don’t work hard all year to try to get the songs learned for the program.  I spend 2 weeks each month on the song of the month and then another week reviewing all the program songs for the year.  Then in September we review, review and review all month long up until our program in mid October.  I have a more detailed post on all this information HERE
But once we begin practice for the actual program (1 or 2 weeks prior to the program), I post the words on my music stand just like I do in primary.  There are several benefits I’ve found from doing this:
1.  When we stand to sing during the program, all reading eyes are on me.  The kids are focusing on reading the words and appear to be intensely watching my every move.  It’s great!  They know what song is coming up because the words are right there in front of them.
2.  We have several kids from split homes who are only occasionally able to come to church.  They haven’t been able to memorize all the words with the rest of the primary.  This way, when we sing, they can participate and are not isolated.
3.  The words are small enough that they aren’t a huge distraction (as opposed to a big poster board I have to hold).  If the kids can see me, they can see the words.  The congregation doesn’t even know they are there.  You can see how I arrange my binder HERE so I know when to turn pages.  What the kids see is what I see – it’s my music too!  So now I’m not fumbling with pages in my songbook.
4.  Come program time and we are still struggling with various verses or certain measures of songs, I don’t sweat it.  If we don’t eventually get it, it doesn’t matter.
I know that everyone comes to this calling with different experience and ideas about how things should be run, especially come program time.  And that’s the beauty of the gospel and this calling!  Do what the spirit moves you to do and what works best for you and your primary.  There is no right or wrong way.  This is simply how I’ve tackled the to-memorize-or-not-to-memorize dilemma!
What have you found that works best for you?  Leave a comment to help give others some ideas who may be struggling with this!

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1 thought on “To-Memorize-or-Not-To-Memorize”

  1. Hi Camille! I LOVE your blog and use it all the time.

    Our stake presidency has asked that we not provide words when the primary sings in sacrament meeting – for the program or for special occasions. So, I have found that spending one week on each verse of the song that month (4 verses = 4 weeks, etc), doing one review Sunday each month and using one month to focus on program songs is sufficient for most of what we learn. With the others, if they don't know the words really well, I don't sweat it. I think it's more important to understand the gospel principle behind each song and feel the spirit in Primary than drilling words into their heads. I've found that the kids naturally memorize the ones that are the most meaningful to them.

    I am experimenting with providing key word clues in ASL for songs that the kids know, but get tripped up on which phrase is next. For instance, they can sing If the Savior Stood Beside Me perfectly if I remind them which phrase to sing with the ASL signs for "do", "think," "follow," "live," etc.

    Thanks for all you do!

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