Sunday, December 18, 2011

December - Week 3 - Practice for Christmas Program and JOY

Our ward primary kids are going to sing "Silent Night" and "Samuel Tells the Story of Baby Jesus" to the congregation beautifully next week, on Christmas Sunday. I have to admit that I felt a little teary when the senior primary was singing "Silent Night." I really felt they were singing the words with their hearts, and hope that I am not wrong. I tried to convey this feeling to them after they sang and remind them about how this song really welcomes Christmas. They will sound so beautiful next week. I really think children can bring the spirit into the room faster than most adults. They were with their Father in Heaven so much more recently than us. They have such deep levels of sincerity.

I have a book that chronicles the history and meaning of all the songs in the LDS hymnbook so I looked up "Silent Night" and shared some interesting facts with them. One, the song is about 200 years old. Two, the song was written in one day, and yet it is one of our most beloved songs. 

We had string instruments come into primary to practice "Silent Night," as well as sang "Samuel ..." with the pianist that will be playing next Sunday. By the time we did the "wiggle" songs for junior primary and practiced the two songs, we were out of time. The junior primary was really wiggly today so I let them sing the songs several times to get all their wiggles out.

For Senior Primary, I had time to use this wonderful idea that Colette shared on SugarDoodle in 2008:

For a Christmas singing time I wanted the children to learn just how fun it is to give. I went to the store and bought 6 small little gifts: gum, candy bar, pad of paper, pen, etc. Then I bought 6 of the small gift boxes. On the bottom of each gift box I wrote a song. On Sunday, they got to pick a present out of my bag and then put the present in one of the gift boxes (they now know the gift and they have wrapped it). Another child then goes into the hall and picks ANYONE to come in. It was so fun because none of us knew who was coming in. 

Colette goes on to give some additional details but in short, I let three children bring in three different adults, we sang a Christmas to them, and then we gave them a gift that a reverent child had helped select and put into a gift box. 

It was perfect because in sacrament the counselor talked about JOY this Christmas season and how it stands for Jesus, Others, and Yourself - the order in which you should be thinking about things. So, I asked for hands to see who remembered what JOY stood for, talked about it a little bit, then went into the activity. I think the children really loved it, and it was fun for the three very surprised adults. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

December - Week 2 - Practice for Christmas Program

The primary has been invited to sing the first verse of "Silent Night" in sacrament, as well as "Samuel Tells the Story of Baby Jesus." They know both songs very well so I worked a bit on dynamics with them. I used a puppet in junior primary to remind them about singing more loudly and softly, and also talked to them about the words in the song and how singing them a certain way would make them more meaningful. That was all it took to run out of time in junior primary.

In Senior Primary, I also added a flip chart of "When Joseph Went to Bethlehem," and also had kids bring up nativity pieces for "Picture a Christmas."

December - Week 1 - Unwrapping a Nativity

In an effort to incorporate Christmas (Christ's birth), the lesson, and songs that needed to be practiced to be sung in sacrament on Sunday, the lesson on the first week of December offered:

1. An overall Nativity theme.
2. "Silent Night" melody game, inspired by
3. A "He Sent His Son" "guess the picture" game inspired by all the wonderful flip charts out there (I made my own but it used many of the same pictures as other flip charts ... they were just the best fit for the song.)
4. "Samuel Tells the Story of Baby Jesus," sung in several different ways to teach them some basic music formats as well as help them practice this song further.

This was a lot to cram into one lesson so I wasn't able to do everything in junior and senior primary. This is the highly condensed summary of what I taught. There was way too much material here but it's hard to resist all the beautiful Christmas songs that we only sing for one month of the year.

Nativity Theme
I wrapped the individual pieces of a nativity set. I wrote on most of the pieces of wrapping paper with either the name of a song, or the name of a song and a special way to sing it. This gave the children an ongoing theme to work toward. I also made a big deal of telling them I was looking specifically to call on reverent children and asked the teachers to help me choose the children that would come up to unwrap the nativity pieces. I wanted to do this early on so that I could use the Nativity for other activities later in the month, but start with the unwrapping activity. I did not spend too much time talking about the individual pieces because I wanted to save that for later.

Silent Night
Using this recommendation for "Joy to the World," I "drew" the melody lines for "Silent Night," as a series of curves and dots. I then asked the children if they could identify the mystery song. This was a fun introduction to the song. The children knew it really well so I had someone come up and trace the melody lines for me while we sang the song again. I only tried this in senior primary but I want to try it with junior primary next week.

He Sent His Son
I made another flip chart for this beautiful song about how our Father in Heaven sent Jesus Christ to earth to teach us. However, since this song is a series of questions and answers, I put question marks about each question (which was in the form of a picture) and a happy face above each answer (which was also in the form of a picture). In junior primary, I put all the pictures up on the board, then read/sang each line one at a time, and asked children to raise their hand and identify which picture went to that line. For senior primary, I handed out all the pictures and had the kids come up and put them on the board as I read or sang that line for them. I also stopped inbetween for both songs to have the children sing parts or say parts back to me. I did this one a little too fast because we were short on time.

Samuel Tells the Story of Baby Jesus
We will be singing this song on Christmas Sunday, so I wanted to make sure the children had the song well memorized and also sang it well. In junior primary, we practiced singing the song loudly and quietly by crescendo and decrescendo. In senior primary, we practiced singing the song staccato style and allegro (fast) and largo (slow) style. I held pictures up to remind the children how to sing when we varied between allegro/largo and loud/quiet. I was impressed by how well the children did. I plan to practice this with them again next week, this time putting the dynamics where they make the most sense, and maybe talking to the children about dynamics a bit first. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November - Week 4 - "I'll Walk with You" and "Picture A Christmas"

I wanted to do something that took minimal planning, since this was the Sunday after a very busy Thanksgiving weekend.

I ended up making my own flip charts for two songs. One was "I'll Walk with You," which I had read in the lesson manual and knew that the teacher would be having the children sing to discuss, but which I also knew was a song they didn't know. So, I planned to teach them that song right before their lesson about it.

The second was "Picture a Christmas." I actually planned to play "Name that Tune" to get an idea of how well the students knew the various Christmas songs. However, it because very clear to me very fast that they knew the songs, but didn't remember them very well from the previous Christmas. I'm glad I had made a "Picture a Christmas" flip chart "just in case."

I used this idea from Primary Singing Ideas because the blogger was so kind as to let her readers know that it was a big hit. She was sooooo right. The children LOVED it. We sang it over and over because they were so eager to get a turn with holding the frame and positioning it over the picture. The first child struggled a little bit (I helped by pointing to the correct picture). The second child struggled a little less. The third child framed every picture perfectly. This wasn't a reflection on the children's individual abilities, so much as a confirmation that they were learning the words better and better each time. It was so great! I used a mixture of whatever pictures I could find that were relevant. I found some off a Google Images search and some in a primary picture packet that I had purchased at the distribution center. You can see the frame I used on the left.

I made "I'll Walk With You" a very interactive experience for the children. First, I held up each piece while I said the words of the song to them. Then, I brought up volunteers. In junior primary, I just had the most senior class in the group come up because I was worried it would be too difficult for a younger class to follow. In senior primary, I brought up a mix of reverent volunteers, then had them hand their pieces to all new kids. This worked out really well because everyone that was too shy or didn't have an opportunity to go up the first time really wanted to go up the second time.

Most of these pieces have a back side with a different but related picture. Also, many of the words in this song get sung more than once throughout the verse. So, children had to pay attention to know when to hold up their piece, or flip their paper to the other side.

For example, these are the first lines of the song:

"If you don’t walk as most people do,
Some people walk away from you,
But I won’t! I won’t!
If you don’t talk as most people do,
Some people talk and laugh at you,
But I won’t! I won’t!"

So, two children holding the pictures of the children walking would pretend to walk the "walkers" away from each other. Then, the child holding the "I won't" sign had to remember to hold it up every time we reached an "I won't" part of the song. 

I was worried that this would be too complicated for the children but it turned out to be a lot of fun. It worked better in senior primary where the children caught on faster, but it was a success in junior primary too. Well, I think it was anyway. I don't think the children entirely memorized the song this time, but they could at least keep up with it pretty well. There was a lot of rustling while I gave the children their pieces and organized the song so there was also more prep time than usual. However, I think this was a good post-Thanksgiving activity because the children were definitely more wiggly than usual. It is better for senior primary as well ... but worked okay in junior primary.

November - Week 3 - Thanksgiving Weekend - Tom the Turkey and his Gratitude Feathers

I have been super excited for a few weeks now to do this activity. I actually started working on it before I started the previous two activities, and I'm pleased to say that it went over about as well as I had hoped and anticipated. I plan to pull this turkey out again next year.

I was inspired by Mindy Byrnes' Thankful Jar but instead of a jar, I turned it into a turkey instead of using a jar. This turkey (as with pretty much any hand drawing you see in this blog - everything else was printed off a Google Images search or from a chorister's blog) was my own creation, not copied from anywhere. I'm glad I finally have a good excuse to draw because it's so much fun. I sketched the turkey out onto the poster board, then colored it in with markers. I only had six colors to choose from, but fortunately, they were appropriate colors for a turkey. Since this is a poster board, keep in mind that this is a big turkey. It made it fun for the children to pick giant feathers to add to the turkey. I could only fit two feathers per sheet of paper when I was cutting them out.

I cut the poster board along the top of his wings, up his back, and around his head. I put velcro stickers on the backs of the feathers and on the poster board so that children could tuck the feathers in behind the turkey, then velcro them to the board.

I told the children that Tom the Reverent Turkey was getting ready for Thanksgiving, but he was missing something (feathers!). I used the Helping Hands jar to select names. Children came up and picked a feather. Each feather had a theme on it, for which they were supposed to share something for which they were grateful. Some feathers also had a corresponding song, which we then sang. One example, is that they sang, "Families Can Be Together Forever," after they answered a question about sharing someone in their family they were grateful for, and why.

I tried to remind the children about what the song had to do with gratitude either before or after we sang each song. I also made sure to add some reverence-related gratitude songs to fit the theme for the month. 

November - Week 2 - Puzzle Activity

I wanted to focus on reviewing "Reverence is Love" and "Samuel Tells the Story of Baby Jesus" from the previous week, as well as focus on the monthly theme of Reverence so I made a puzzle out of a Reverence picture that I found online.

I made a puzzle guide for the junior primary, and then removed the puzzle guide for the senior primary.

I gave each teacher a puzzle piece, and asked them to select someone reverent to help put the puzzle together, to see what picture it would make. As each child went up, their puzzle piece in most cases was co-related to a song with a reverence theme for the month. In some cases, I did not have a song to go with the piece just because I didn't think we'd have time for all nine.

With each song, I tried to talk a little about reverence. I took ideas from the Sharing Time manual and other places to do this. For instance, for "Reverence is Love," I talked about how many times the word "reverence" was said during the song, and asked them to put their hand over the hearts each time they sang that word. For "Reverently, Quietly," I asked them to count how many words ended in "-ly" and reminded them of how this song helps them to be more reverent. 

November - Week 1 - Reverence is Love, Samuel Tells the Story of Baby Jesus, Two Happy Feet

Week 1 focused on learning three new songs:
1. Reverence is Love - p.31
2. Samuel Tells the Story of baby Jesus - p.36
3. Two Happy Feet - p. 270

Reverence is Love

The theme for November was "reverence," so after reading the lesson outlines for the children, I decided to teach them a song that some knew, but most didn't know, called, "Reverence is Love." I was going to make my own pictures to help the children remember the lines of the song, but I actually found two different sets that other primary choristers had prepared, and used theirs.

However, I started off with a game. This was also an idea that the previous primary choristor had printed off so I don't know where she found it, but it was probably someone else's blog. I put hints under giant musical notes, which were then taped to a poster. I let children throw a hacky sack onto the poster, which was on the floor. The notes had hints about the song. This was a fun way to introduce a new song.

I was worried that this would be too easy because the children all knew the song, or too hard, because none of them knew the song, but in both my classes (junior primary and senior primary), the children figured out the song after turning over two-thirds of the notes/hints. It was perfect.

I then used a flip chart to introduce and teach the song. I didn't play any special games with the flip chart, since I want to do different things with the flip charts each time. I was going to make my own flip chart but there were several that were good out there so I thought maybe I should conserve my energy for a different song, later.

I combined these two flip charts, using the pictures I liked best from each version:

1. One that I found on who found it at "The Ordinary Adventures of a Primary Chorister" 
2. One that I found on Jolly Jenn's site, who I guess makes a ton of flip charts.

This was a good lesson. The introduction easily caught the attention of the children, and the flip chart helped them to memorize the song quickly.

Samuel Tells the Story of Baby Jesus

I had so much fun introducing this song. It is a very catchy song. My primary president told me that her son was singing it during the week following primary! I was also going to make my own flip chart but I found one online that was so fabulous that I couldn't pass it up. There are actually several really good ones for this particular song but the one I chose worked really well with the children. I have been Googling for 10 minutes now because I can't find it anymore, but I keep finding other really awesome ones ... so if I find it, I'll post it. The one I found used five sheets of paper.

I played a game where I put all the pictures up on the chalkboard, then scrambled it. I had the children unscramble it a few times. Then, I had them point to the pictures while we sang (still scrambled) to see how well they knew it. This was a lot of fun, and the children really enjoyed the concept. This idea was a modified version that I found on Primary Singing Time Ideas which I used in Week 4 of November.

Two Happy Feet

This song doesn't need much explanation. I made up a bunch of movements for the song, and sang it with Junior Primary to help them get their wiggles out, and they loved it. I just wanted to draw attention to it because it is a fabulous, fun song. 

October - Miscellaneous

I drew these to hold up if the children were mumbling or if their singing seemed a bit lackluster. I actually think the teachers got a bigger kick out of the picture than the kids. This was during my very first time conducting with them.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

October - Week 4 - Pumpkin Tree

The last week of October was my first real lesson, since the weeks before that, we were perfecting some beautiful songs to share with the congregation during a special Primary-themed program.

I wanted to start out with something simple and fun to involve the children and thank them for what an excellent job they did singing for all the "grown-ups" in the congregration.

I was going to make a tree but realized I had the perfect tree in my Halloween decorations. Instead, I drew little pictures of pumpkins and leaves, numbered the backs, and then hole-punched them, before placing them on the tree.

During the lesson, I asked teachers to help me choose children to come up and pick a pumpkin. Depending on the pumpkin they selected, they were also invited to choose a leaf off the tree. The pumpkin indicated the song we would sing next, and the leaf indicated a special way that we would sing the song. I asked the teachers to help me choose children because they have a better opportunity to see which children are not being called on frequently to come up to the front of the room. I know this because in a prior calling, I was one of those teachers. It's impossible to see all the hands that shoot up when you're in the front of the room calling on people, but when you're sitting right next to the children, you have a closer view.

Overall, I think this went quite well. Some songs didn't have an associated leaf because the song was too reverent for some of the sillier options a child could choose. The children responded very well to singing in "staccato," and "crescendo" and "decrescendo." Some of the pumpkins and leaves said, "teacher's choice" or "child's choice," and in one case, the teacher chose, "marching." That was a very fun way to sing the song. Alternating by boy/girl or eye color, on the other hand, were my least effective "leaves" so I won't be trying those options for some time.