When Primary sharing time is presented with the proper spirit and planning, it can be one of the most enjoyable experiences for children during their Sunday meetings, said Ruth B. Wright, second counselor in the Primary general presidency.
"Sharing time, when I have seen it done well, is absolutely exciting because it allows each Primary presidency a chance to interact with the children in a warm and positive way," explained Sister Wright, who oversees sharing time in the Primary general presidency.Sharing time, held each Sunday as part of Primary, helps children learn to live gospel principles by participating in a variety of activities such as role playing or panel discussions in a relaxed atmosphere, Sister Wright remarked.
It provides an opportunity for children to learn by doing - through activity and song - and helps them understand how the principles of the gospel can be part of their lives.
Sharing time is a 30-minute period that includes a 15-minute inspirational presentation, conducted by a member of the Primary presidency, where children learn and discuss a gospel concept through participation. It also includes 15 minutes of singing time.
The Primary presidency coordinates with the music leader to either incorporate songs during the presentation or plan them separately.
Once a month, a Primary teacher and his or her class give the 15-minute presentation. This allows all the children in a class to participate and share the gospel ideas that they are being taught in a class.
In planning sharing time, Primary presidencies should use the materials produced by the Church as resources, Sister Wright counseled. "The scriptures are a wonderful resource for stories and teachings."
The children's sacrament meeting presentations, Primary Sharing Time Resource Manual, class manuals, and other appropriate materials that are produced by the Church should also be used, she explained. Learning concepts and songs for the year's children's sacrament meeting presentation is a major focus for sharing time.
Children in the Country Hills Ward, Ogden Utah Weber Heights Stake, have spent time each month during sharing time learning about this year's theme of reverence through scripture stories, explained Sherrie Craig, ward Primary president.
"When we did our sacrament meeting program on reverence, it was all about the scripture stories the children had learned. They really knew the stories they shared, even the younger children.
"I think it has helped the children gain a greater love for the ancient prophets, for studying and being interested in the scriptures. It is also exciting for us leaders as we study and become really familiar with the stories."
Sister Craig feels that sharing time is very important because "it's a diversion from their classroom atmosphere. Children have had opening exercises and they are reverent there, then they are in classrooms where they sit quietly. Sharing time is a fun, interesting time for them where they are not only learning, but also are doing."
Sister Wright suggested Primary leaders avoid lecturing and competitive games as part of sharing time. "We want them to have fun, but competition shouldn't be emphasized as much as the learning. There are so many different ways Primary children can learn." (See accompanying box of ideas.)
"The children love a good sharing time," she remarked. "They are happy, they are learning and they are feeling the Spirit. Sharing time should be enjoyable for everyone."
Penelope L. Brown, Primary president in the New Haven Connecticut Stake, said sharing time provides an opportunity for children to grow and develop self-esteem and confidence as they participate in class presentations, skits and other activities.
"It also gives the children a chance to be together to share a spiritual experience in an activity setting. Children learn a lot more from doing than just listening. That is why we have them take an active part in sharing time. They remember more by getting up and being part of a skit or a story."
To plan inspirational presentations for sharing time, the following points - from the Primary Sharing Time Resource Manual - have been outlined as general guidelines.
Teach a gospel concept
Sharing time needs to be planned around a specific gospel concept rather than trying simply to entertain the children, Sister Wright explained.
"In planning sharing time, the first thing the members of the presidency should ask themselves is what gospel principle is important for these children and what do we want to emphasize," Sister Wright said. "It should be a very individual thing. Every ward should have their own unique sharing time."
Focus on a theme
The gospel concepts taught each week support a theme for the month, she explained. Themes are suggested in the annual children's sacrament meeting presentation instructions. If the presidency follows these themes, the children will learn well the subject of the presentation for that year. They can use weekly concepts that apply to the children in their Primary.
Provide a change of pace
"To me that means they do not sit like they do in opening or closing exercises," Sister Wright explained. "Sharing time should give the children a chance to get up and move. They can interact with more children than they do in class."
Involve the children
"By involving the children, you get them thinking and then they will try to apply the gospel in their lives," she continued. "Sharing time is not just a time when they are sitting and listening. When they get actively involved the gospel becomes part of them. Sharing time belongs to the children. Don't do anything the children could do themselves. Even giving instructions and leading discussions can be done by the children."
Include a variety of teaching methods
Methods outlined in the Primary Sharing Time Resource Manual can help leaders know how to plan and put variety in their sharing time activities, Sister Wright noted.
"Variety is such an important part of keeping sharing time alive and fun for the children, and keeping it interesting and exciting for the Primary presidency as well.
"We are delighted when we observe leaders who are really challenging children's thinking by getting them involved in a wide variety of ways,"
Fit the ages of the children
If at all possible, the Primary general presidency suggests that Primary children are divided into two groups (older and younger groups) for sharing time because it is easier to teach them on their level of understanding, and to involve more children, Sister Wright recommended.
Require little rehearsal
Presentations need to be planned well, but they should be simple, spontaneous and flexible, according to the Primary Sharing Time Resource Manual.
"The beauty of sharing time is that it is so flexible - as long as you remember that you are teaching a gospel subject and that it's important to focus on a theme," Sister Wright said.
"You don't have to make this an involved production. You only have 15 minutes and if you have some kind of attention-getter, have some active involvement and a summary, your 15 minutes goes very rapidly."
Include music, if desired
"Music is important because music teaches the gospel through words put to song," Sister Wright added. "Music is probably the glue that holds the whole Primary experience together more than anything else."
Conclude with a summary
"This is essential," she noted. "Anytime we teach children we should summarize and conclude with our own testimony of that gospel principle. This gives children an opportunity to have the Spirit touch their hearts. This helps them gain their own testimony and learn to recognize the Spirit in their life.
"Every teacher, every music leader, anybody who talks to children, we would hope would bear their testimony at the conclusion of an activity."
Sister Wright concluded: "When you plan specifically for children to learn, and follow the guidelines, you are going to have a great experience. It is then that the children will love sharing time so much that they won't want it to end."
Sharing Time presentation ideas
- Buzz sessions
- Audiovisual presentations
- Panel discussions
- Readers' theaters
- Choral readings
- Role play
- Scripture chases
- Teaching with objects