Not only do the kids LOVE this, but boy do they SING! Here's what I do.
JUDGES: Invite three fun personalities to be the judges. It helps to have people that aren't usually in Primary, but in a bind you could just grab some teachers.
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SIGNS: Make three signs on 8.5x11" cardstock for each judge. One big red X, one smiley face and one star. Click here to download mine.
INSTRUCTIONS: Explain to the children (and the judges) that the judges will be watching to see how well they stand together, sing, smile and then sit quietly (or whatever your criteria is.) Make sure the judges know to show the sign while they are singing so they get immediate feedback. This is especially important with the younger kids, otherwise they forget all about trying to get a star!
One of my judges would throw up her X sign every time they didn't stand well together or if they were talking after the song. It was great because it had an immediate effect!
I ask the judges to be really honest. If they give a star for everything, then the children don't try very hard. If all smiley faces are given then I beg the judges to give us another chance, telling them I just know we can do better. The kids know I'm on their team, that we work together.
SCORE: Last year we kept track of how many stars we earned by drawing stars on the board. Beforehand I talked it up, "How many stars do you thing we can get? 10? 12? 20?" I built them up and let them know I thought they could do it. Then for Senior Primary all I had to say was "Junior Primary got 20 stars, do you think you can get that many? More?" They love it.
This year we got scoops of gumballs. 1 scoop for each smiley face, 2 scoops for each star (small scoops.)
FLOW: It's important to me that we get through most, if not all of the program songs on this Sunday so I do everything I can to make it flow and eliminate extra time. 1.)I just tell them what the next song is, no picking or guessing. 2.) I don't always ask the judges for comments. I tell them beforehand that we want short comments if any. If they gave an X or smiley face they tell us what we could improve on. If they all give stars then one judge can usually sum up their collective thoughts in a phrase or two.
WHAT WE LEARN: Although it's important to have short comments from the judges, it's so valuable to get an "outsider's" opinion. Someone who hasn't heard these songs every week has a fresh perspective. Here are some of the comments/suggestions the judges made: "Screaming isn't Singing." (Yep, that's on Nephi's Courage. And Choose the Right.) "Look at the soloists when they are singing." "I believe that you are trying to choose the right when you sing Dare to do Right." To the Senior Boys' Choir singing Called to Serve "Can I take you all home with me?" "I can feel my Saviors love when you sing I Feel my Savior's Love."
OPTION: You don't have to be preparing for a Sacrament Meeting Program to use this idea. Let the kids pick favorite songs to be the "song contestants" and see which songs "move on to the finals!"