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.