Monday, September 3, 2012

Helping Children Memorize Scripture

As a teacher by trade, I know that memorization is NOT the most important thing in teaching or learning.  I'm also really bad at it myself, so I try not to put much emphasis on it in school or at church.  But there are times--like learning the 13 Articles of Faith or scripture mastery--where memorization not only is required but it can really come in handy.  Having a favorite verse committed to memory is truly knowing it "by heart," and we can call on these things in times when we need comfort or words beyond our own as we teach others.

So how do we help our children memorize scripture?  While there are a TON of great ideas out there, these are some of the principles that have helped ME learn and teach scripture "by heart."

RULE #1:  Make sure children understand the doctrine/ideas BEHIND the scripture first. 

I cannot stress this enough!  Before you set out to commit anything to memory, you have to understand what it means.  Especially if there are big words in it that maybe children don't understand.  Spend time teaching the principles and vocabulary FIRST, and the memorization will come more easily afterwards.

RULE #2: Make it FUN!

There are a PLETHORA of ideas out on "the interwebs" about games to help kids learn.  Some that are tried-and-true for me are:
(1) Setting it to music.  Many children learn best through music and rhythm.  The Articles of Faith, the Books in each of the scriptures, the order of modern prophets--these all have songs in the Children's Songbook for a reason!  USE THEM!  If you are trying to set a scripture to music that doesn't already exist, enlist the children's help!
(2) Have visuals handy.  Whether it's pictures to match or words/first letters to each word, start with lots of visuals that you can slowly take away as you recite.  Repetition is a lot less dull when you have visuals to help you.  Let the kids help make them for an extra activity!
(3) Play games!  There are some great Articles of Faith mazes/word searches/etc. all linked up at Sugardoodle HERE.  One of my primary kids' favorite games to play when I was teaching the Articles of Faith was Pass the Spoon--just grab a wooden spoon from your kitchen and hand it to the first child, who says the first word in whatever scripture you are memorizing.  They pass it to the second person, who says the second word, and so on.  If kids get stuck on a word, they can ask their neighbors, but if they can't figure it out, they are OUT of that round!  Another idea is to have the words/pictures to the scripture all scrambled up and have the kids put them in order.  Or have the more kinesthetic learners play pictionary with the key words, march around as you recite, or pop up like popcorn when certain words are repeated.  There are as many different games to play as there are people who are learning!

RULE #3: Practice makes perfect.

If your kids are only reciting these things at FHE or in primary/seminary, they will NOT learn all the scriptures they need to in time...and if they do, they certainly won't STICK with them for long. One of my fondest memories is my brother and sisters and I challenging each other throughout the week--in the car, on the schoolbus, at the store, wherever--to recite scriptures and songs and other things we had memorized.  Because of that constant repetition, we can still sing a handful of songs from elementary school almost 2 decades later, and recite all 50 states, and the 9 planets, and the 7 dwarfs, and even important things like all 13 articles of faith.  :)  So make time for practicing these things constantly, and post the words in places where they will be viewed frequently--whether it's making a pocket-sized verse to carry around or writing them on the bathroom mirror!

RULE #4: Don't be afraid of incentives!

I know a lot of people think of incentives as "bribes," but the truth is that most people wouldn't do anything they do without a little push or reward at the end of the day.  Especially for our children who aren't intrinsically motivated to memorize or learn, incentives can be your very best friend.  Have them work toward a party, a special treat or gift, date night with Mom or Dad, bragging rights, ANYTHING that motivates them.  When we were children and the world wasn't so political about its food, we had a big 13 Articles of Faith Ice Cream Party in my primary.  We earned a scoop of ice cream for each AoF we memorized.  I still remember that party 18 years later!  But obviously that isn't the most healthy option.  You don't have to use food--we have Article of Faith "Keys" (found on Sugardoodle) that our primary kids are earning as they pass off each one, and let me tell you that earning a full set of those paper keys is JUST as motivating!  The key is to find out (even if it means you have to ask them point-blank) what will motivate your children to TRY.

What are some of your favorite ways to learn new scripture?  Or what have you seen done in primary/nursery to help children memorize?  I'm always looking for new ideas.  :)

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