Tips for teaching Cub Scouts the Scout Law

Looking for the lyrics to “Trusty Tommy”? Click here to jump to the lyrics below.


Read more about the “One Oath, One Law” policy effective in May 2014 for Venturers and May 2015 for Cub Scouts.


Memorizing the 12 words of the Scout Law (16 if you count “A Scout is” and “and”), and getting them in the right order, can be tough for Webelos Scouts working on the Arrow of Light. To make it easier for boys, here are some learning strategies that work better than rote memorization.

Roll ’Em
When Kevin Devin was a Webelos leader in Pack 584 in Bothell, Wash., he won a pair of large dice for placing first in the adult division of his pack’s pinewood derby. The dice didn’t go on Devin’s rearview mirror; instead, they went into his bag of tricks. He created a simple game with them to test his Scouts on the Scout Law.

Here’s how it works: Roll one die and have a volunteer (or the whole den in unison) recite the points of the Law up to the number that comes up. If you roll a one, they should say, “A Scout is trustworthy.” If you roll a five, they should go all the way through courteous. Once the boys master the first six points, add the second die.

Sing It
Joyce Romito took a more musical approach as a Webelos leader in Pack 436 in Richmond, Va. She taught her Scouts “Trusty Tommy,” which is sung to the tune of “Yankee Doodle.” While the song has a lot more words than the Scout Law, she says her boys actually found it easier to learn. “At least in our den we found that the boys preferred singing than repeating,” she says. (Click here to skip to the lyrics to “Trusty Tommy.”)

It also helps to challenge the boys by making them sing without the printed lyrics.

Divide and Conquer
Another popular technique is to divide the Law into four triplets: trustworthy-loyal-helpful, friendly-courteous-kind, obedient-cheerful-thrifty, and brave-clean-reverent.

Work on learning each triplet at a couple of den meetings. Once the boys have memorized all four, you can test them by calling out a letter from the acronym TFOB, comprised of the first letter of the first word in each triplet. The acronym helps boys remember the order of the triplets.

Relay It
As Baden-Powell says, “A boy is not a sitting-down animal.” By turning the Law into a relay race, you can let Scouts burn off some energy while learning something in the process. Here’s how:

Make two sets of 12 cards where each card displays one point of the Law.

Put the cards in each set in random order and place them in two piles at the front of the room.

Divide the den into two teams and have each team line up facing one pile of cards.

When you say “go,” the first boy on each team runs to his team’s pile of cards, picks what he thinks is the first point of the Law and sticks it on the wall using masking tape. He then returns to tag the next player, who runs up, chooses the second point, and places it below the first. Continue in this manner until one team has all the points on the wall in the correct order.

If a team has the points in the wrong order, let them take extra turns, moving one card per turn. The first team with all the points posted in the right order wins.

Define It
Understanding what the words in the Scout Law mean is just as important as learning the words themselves. Evetually, you can expand your relay game to include the definitions. To do so, create new sets of cards showing the definitions from the Webelos Handbook. Have the boys race to put the right definition beside each point of the Law on the wall.

You can also include Scout Law discussions and memorization practice in other parts of your program, such as games, service projects, or campouts. And pretty soon, the Scout Law will take.


Trusty Tommy Lyrics

Trusty Tommy was a Scout

Loyal to his mother,

Helpful to the folks about,

And friendly to his brother.

Courteous to the girls he knew,

Kind unto his rabbit,

Obedient to his father, too,

and cheerful in his habits.

Thrifty saving for a need,

Brave, but not a faker,

Clean in thought and word and deed,

And reverent to his Maker.”

 

17 thoughts on “Tips for teaching Cub Scouts the Scout Law

  1. HOORAY! At last, the words to Trusty Tommy! I taught this song to “my boys” years ago when they were first printed. As the years passed I neglected to do so and consequently I forgot most of the words. The past few years I thought about them and wished that I could find the song. (Yes, my husband and I have been in scouting for quite a few years.)

  2. A song seems like a crutch that makes it harder to really know the Law later. I can see a First Class Board of Review where the Scout closes his eyes and starts humming the tune. Sigh.

    I learned it in four sets of three. Anybody can remember just three, “Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful”.

    It can help to start from the end and work forwards. When they start on the first three, the last nine are already solid. Instead of getting harder as they go through the Law, it gets easier. That is great for confidence.

    The most important thing is to really expect the boys to know it. Have high standards. When I was a boy, I didn’t learn the Oath and Law solidly until we moved and the new troop expected all the leaders to have it cold.

    Start and end every meeting with the Oath and Law. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

  3. I love the Trusty Tommy song! So what if they hum the song a bit. How many of us would not know the whole Preamble to the Constitution without Schoolhouse Rock’s “We the People”? Mnemonics are used in school all the time, I still remember the one for the 12 Trigeminal nerves from nursing school (“On old Olympus’ Towering Top) and remember what it means.

    This song goes one step further, helps the boy to understand the meaning of each word. We’ll use this for sure! Thank you!

  4. Webelos Dens should be practicing the scout oath and law at each of there den meetings starting at there first Den meeting.

  5. I printed the oath and laws in large print on paper. Cut each set into strips and tossed them on the table. they boys had to work together to learn the correct order. once they get used to the order them have them beat the clock.

    • I did a version similar to Matt, but I did a poster board with a Scout is at the top and then used a different color poster board and cut strips and printed the individual word on each strip, laminated the strips and the place on the main poster board for them to be placed. We would then mix them up in a pile and each boy would take a turn placing them in order on the poster. The fastest time won a bead for his totem. They had it learned in no time and had fun at the same time. We did this at the beginning of den meetings for a few weeks. It worked!

  6. 4 Square Scout Law. In addition to hitting the ball from square to square when it is your turn you have to name a point of the Scout Law in the correct order. My den liked this game and I could see them getting better as the game went on.

  7. The part of the brain where music is processed is the most secure area of the human brain. It has happened that when amnesiacs hear the “Birthday Song” they state their name!

    Rote memorization is the lowest form of learning, so Hurrah! for Joyce Romito and coming up with Trusty Tommy.

    I will share it with my son!

  8. Breaking into triplets didn’t work for us, but breaking it into three groups of four did. I told my son the first four principles and then had him repeat them as he marched around the cabin we were staying in for the weekend. When he got back around to me again, I had him say them to me. Then I gave him the next four. When he returned again, I had him say all eight….and he did with no problem. I gave him the final four and sent him on his way. When he got back the third time, he was able to say then entire Scout Law without hesitation. He was so proud that he was able to say it flawlessly with the Boy Scout troop we visited the following week and they were duly impressed. Since then of course the real learning began – to learn what they mean and to practice them in his daily life! That was a few years ago and he now uses that technique to teach the new scouts in our troop! They usually come back from their first Boy Scout campout with the entire Law memorized.

  9. wow, this really works! The Song is pretty catchy too, so I sing it to myself a lot! now I can finally remember the oath!!! YAY

  10. I used the cards form my Webelos den, but I made thirteen cards, with “Respectful” added in. I split the den into teams and had them race each other. Having the extra word made them pay closer attention, I think.

  11. I used all these techniques with my Webelos. We did the Boy Scout Oath & Law at every meeting starting during the 1st one of the Web 1 year. They had no issues by the time they needed to have it for their AOL. I also did a free-throw shooting game where if they missed, they had to say the next one in the Law. I used a really bouncy ball so they all missed. If they had trouble with it, they could ask the Scout behind him for help. The Scouts seemed to enjoy the physical activity along with the mental aspect.

  12. These are all good comments. But, don’t forget: now that we have advanced from Webelos having to learn the Scout law to Tigers, Wolfs and Bears, Den Leaders and Cubmasters will need all the tools in our toolbox to help these younger Scouts learn their Law and Oath.

    Songs are good for Tigers and Wolfs; Wolfs and Bears can progress with the relay races and the sets of three. By the time this generation has become a Webelos and is ready for their Arrow of Life, this will be “old hat” and no longer a challenge.

  13. I teach my scouts the Trusty Tommy song as well. I replace trusty with trustworthy, however. We always follow it by saying the Scout Law.

  14. I attended the first session of “Getting the 411 on the NEW Cub Scout Adventure Program” at the Philmont Training Center. A lot of thought, time and effort went into developing the new program. It is, as Mary Poppins says, Supercalli . . . etc. Bob Scott put it quite nicely with “More fun for the boys. Easier for the leaders.”

  15. All great methods for learning. No one method is best for everyone. Use the one that works best for your situation.

    Different strokes for different folks.

  16. The “Scout Law song” by the Croutons helped my entire den learn the Scout Law. It also gives definitions to each of the points. Hum along! :-)

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