Sunday, December 30, 2012

Maintaining Reverence During Singing Time

I recently joined a new Facebook group for primary choristers. Recently, someone asked:

Rachel A.:
How do you encourage reverence or at least some sort of calm/order when you are doing a fun activity with singing time? We have JR/SR combined so that means a lot of kids to keep reverent. I want to do fun activities but sometimes they just get too excited about the activity.

My junior and senior primary is not combined, but as a reverence question in general, this was a great question. I contributed some of my initial thoughts, but this is not something I could fully answer in a Facebook post so I wanted to share some of the things I do, and some of the things the primary presidency does to encourage reverence.

1. "You don't get a turn if you're not being reverent."
I usually use our "helping hands" jar to call children to the front of the room for an activity, but I warn them that if they are not being reverent, I will not call their name, even if I pull their name out of the jar.

2. I stop and fold my arms. 
If the noise level gets too great because of a particularly exciting Singing Time activity, I stop and fold my arms and wait for them to notice and do the same. Then, I continue with the activity. This used to work a lot better when I was a new chorister and they did not know me as well, but it still works because the teachers pay attention, and draw their students' attention to my folded arms. Eventually, the room quiets down. If one particular child is not paying attention, I will gently call them out.

3. Enlist the help of the teachers.
I sometimes turn to a teacher and say, "I need someone to come to the front of the room. Brother so-and-so, can you choose someone that has been reverent today? I don't warn the children that I am going to do this in advance so it is nice to remind them that they are not being bribed to be reverent, so much as enjoying special privileges because they were reverent. Their teachers already know who has been reverent, and I can count on them to be aware of a child that might not be the most reverent in their class, but was trying better that day. I have other things I do but those are probably the three that happen the most frequently. All three work very well.

In addition, if the teachers are singing and participating, they are setting a good example for their children. I have encouraged teachers to participate in the silly actions before, as I really think the children love it and respond to having their teachers participate. They also help me to maintain reverence in the room, and if they don't, a few very rare and discreet times, I have specifically asked them to help.

4. Hotel bell
Our primary keeps a bell on the podium; one of those bells that you use at businesses to tell someone you need some service if there's nobody in the room. They rarely use it, but they always have it on the podium as a reminder. I have used it twice, ever. The key to making it effective is to rarely use it.

5. Point and copy
I have never done this personally, but our primary presidency will have the children copy them and touch their eyes, nose, etc., all with motions, to get the children to quiet down and show they are paying attention.

6. Keep a few tricks up your sleeves
I have some back-up activities to switch to or incorporate into other activities on days when things aren't going according to plan, from singing time activities that other choristers have shared over the years. These work better for junior primary, but I rarely have a problem with senior primary.

Things like: Singing Time glasses - I keep a pair of giant glasses in my bag. I can pull them out, put them on, and tell the children I am looking for a Super Singer to come to the front of the room, wear the glasses, and help me to pick out the next Super Singer.

7. End with a reverent song
I try to work on singing time activities that support the day's lesson as well as the song for the month. However, sometimes if I feel like the class is not properly attuned to the spirit to listen to the lesson, I will end with a reverent song, before turning the time over to the presidency member. I also try to close with my testimony, which is something our stake primary chorister recommended.

Last, I wanted to share what other Facebook post-ers said in response to the question that triggered this post:

  • Kietra Stokes You have to be prepared to "shut it down" if it gets out of hand. It only takes once of stopping a fun activity to help them calm down- and I mean stop as in totally put it away for the rest of the day. I try to explain to them before hand if its a particularly exciting game that we are still in church but can have fun if everyone cooperates.
    6 hours ago · Edited · Like · 3
  • Tara Bigler i give a warning and ask them if they can show me they already know how to be reverent because if they don't, i am going to put everything away and we are going to spend the rest of the time "practicing how to be reverent" AKA sitting there with arms folded and no talking = boring! (did it once...only had 3 minutes left so it wasn't a big deal...but they shape up quick now that they know i mean it!)
  • Christina Marriott I say very softly, "If you can hear me, touch your nose." Then I get quieter and say, "If you can hear me, touch your head" I keep doing this until I am hardly audible at all and I have all the kids attention. It works well, but with junior I do have to do it MANY times in any given singing time.
    4 hours ago · Like · 2
  • Wendy Olsen Buchanan Be sure to never try and talk over them-- wait until they are listening and ready before going on.
    3 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Leslee Hardy Edward I usually just count out loud and holds my fingers up too. "1-2-3-4-5" Usually by "5" they settle down.

Kyle Bev Brierley on its got one I will be doing for the new year. Its called "Primary Five" look it up. its something like: 1 eyes on the speaker, 2 mouths closed, 3 folding arms, 4 feet together and still, and then something else, anyway, after they learn it you say something like PRIMARY 5 and they know! I am also going to try this, I saw it somewhere, I have an EMPTY squirt bottle that has is called "reverence spray" and if they are being noisy they will get a pretend squirt to quiet them down, just something to get their attention on you. hope this helps, We have 150 kids so its hard to keep them reverent 

Choose the Right board game

I revisited the "Choose the Right" board game that I played in January last year, to draw 2012 to a close but I changed some rules, and I added new cards to incorporate, the songs that we had learned over the year, as well as the lessons that have been taught.

Basic rules:
1. Instead of using color cards to move forward (like with Candyland, which is what I did originally), children just choose a "Choice" card. I had simple choice cards like, "You washed the dishes without being asked. Take one step forward," but I also had specific ones from the lesson manual, like the examples below. Depending on the choice (and sometime they were "bad choices") the child could move a piece forward or backward on the board.

2. Rather than having the two sides of the room compete against each other, I told them the object of the game was to get as many of their pieces home as possible. They could move any of three pieces. This made them a lot more reverent. In senior primary, they also managed to get three of their pieces home.

3. If they landed on a music square or depending on the card they drew, they could take a music card. This gave them extra points to move forward faster on the board.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Mad Gab and Choose the Right Cup Singing Time!

Update: This went really well and was super fun for both the senior and junior primary activities. I highly recommend! The senior activity is not my most quiet activity since the children have to sound the words out to hear the titles, but it's a lot of fun and can still be done in a reverent manner. I mentioned previously that I was debating how to choose the child and song for the Senior Primary Mad Gab game. I decided to just use a jar to pick a name and call a child up. The child then chose from a stack of papers, each with a different song on it. I then let everyone try to figure it out and raise their hands as they guessed the song title. It was fun to see how well the children participated in both the singing, and the activity to pick the next song. I think it really motivated them.

I have a different activity for Senior vs. Junior primary this Sunday, since the Christmas program will be running into Junior primary time, and since Junior primary children aren't as advanced with their reading skills.

Senior Primary - Mini Mad Gab

This game is loosely based on Mad Gab, where players try to identify the "real" phrase, for example, the Mad Gab example I found on Wikipedia was figuring out that "These if Hill Wore" is really "The Civil War." (Say the first phrase aloud if you're confused, and I think it will start to make sense to you.) I have seen some funny commercials about people mishearing the lyrics of songs, too, so it will be great to start this activity by giving an example and explaining that the reason we focus on enunciation is that a line in a song that sounds familiar to us will sound very different to the people listening if we slur the words.

The premise for this game is simple: once children correctly interpret a song title, they sing it.

I am debating on different ways to uncover the songs right now. I might turn over a few at a time and let children raise their hand as they recognize a song. Or, I might let children choose an image to turn over the missing word. Or, I might let each class turn a song over, then confer together to figure out the song title. There are so many fun ways to do this ...

Here are the "Mad Gab" versions I came up with for each song (with help from my clever husband, on whom I tested each version). I would love your suggestions if you have any other ideas too - some of these song titles went through four or five different versions.

Away in a Manger (#42)
A weigh inn uh main jeer

Christmas Bells (#54)
Chris muss bails

Have a Very Merry Christmas! (#51)
Half a varied Mary Chris Must

He Sent His Son (#34)
Eave scent hiss sun

Little Jesus (#39)
Lid doll Jesus

Once within a Lowly Stable (#41)
Won swift thin hello least able

Picture a Christmas (#50)
Pick sure a crisp muss

Samuel Tells of the Baby Jesus (#36)
Saw mule tails dove dub bay bee Jesus

Sleep, Little Jesus (#47)
Sleep lid doll Jesus

Stars Were Gleaming (#37)
Stares war glee mean

The Nativity Song (#52)
Thud nave it tees gong

The Shepherd's Carol (Round) (#40)
Thud share pearls care 'ole

When Joseph Went to Bethlehem (#38)
Window soft wind tuba the hem

Thank you to Primary Singing Time, a "retired" primary chorister who posted the below "Mad Gab" Christmas song titles in 2009. I made up all of the above Children's Song Book versions but she covered the bases for me (and inspired this Sunday's Singing Time) with her 2009 hymnal versions, below:

201 - Joint Tooth a Whirled - Joy to the World
202 - Oak Hum Haul Leaf Eighth Full - Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful
203 - Aim Jail Sweet Half Her Dawn Eye - Angels We Have Heard on High
204 - Sigh Lent Knight - Silent Night
204 - One Sinner Oiled Hay Fit Sit Tea - Once in Royal David's City
206 - A Weigh Yin Hum Age Her - Away in a Manger
207 - Hit Cane a Pawn Thumb Hid Mike Leer - It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
208 - Ho Lit Tall Down Dove Bed Luck Hem - Oh Little Town of Bethlehem
209 - Heart Duh Hair Old Day Gels Seen - Hark! The Harold Angels Sing
210 - Whisk One Drink Caw - With Wondering Awe
211 - Wild Shape Heard Swatch Sheriff Locks - While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
213 - The Fir Snow Well - The First Noel
214 - Eye Herd Thud Elf Song Crisp Messed Hay - I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Junior Primary - Your Favorite Christmas Song

I am expecting to have about 10 minutes in junior primary at the most, since the Sacrament Christmas program will go long so I am going to keep it simple by modifying a game I have done before:

I will have three cups and three different colored pieces of paper, wadded up. One color represents that I pick the Christmas song that we will sing next. One color represents that the child's teacher will pick the Christmas song that we will sing next. One color will represent that the child will pick the Christmas song that we will sing next. I will call a child up to the front of the room, remind them of what each color represents, then cover each color with a cup. I will then move the cups around very quickly and then ask the child to choose a cup. Then, based on what color he selects, either the child, one of the teachers in that child's class, or I will choose a Christmas song to sing. That's it!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Unwrapping the REAL Gifts of Christmas

This Sunday will be a review of our songs for the Christmas program, including practicing the songs with the musicians that will be playing along with us. I will introduce this activity by sharing that I love Christmas including wrapping presents and putting up Christmas lights, but that I never want to forget about the real gifts of Christmas, and why all the symbols of Christmas bring me joy. I will share that I have wrapped up some of these real gifts to remember today. These are just some of the gifts that we can give to our Heavenly Father and some of the gifts that he has given to us.

If I had more time during singing time, I could have simply used scriptures and had the children look them up, but instead I will wrap up the following quotes that I researched and found on (below) (so I can focus more on preparing for our Christmas program).

Update: This was an amazing, spiritual lesson and singing time. I could have heard a pin drop! I called children up that were singing reverently to pick another present to unwrap, and simply used the "presents" to motivate them to sing well, but to also help teach them to pay attention to and appreciate the beauty of the music they were singing.

To keep it simple with preparation, I just cut out the below quotes, rolled them up, tied a ribbon around them, and put them under a little Christmas tree. We read the first quote, and then I likened it to "He Sent His Son" and asked them to think about what that song really meant - how it was about gift our Heavenly Father gave us, while we sang. Normally, I would have attached a song and even a special way to sing the song to the present they selected. This time, I just called out what I wanted them to do, and likened the quote to the selection. This worked amazingly well and allowed me to focus our songs on preparing for the program next week.

The Christmas season is a time to reflect and act upon the blessings and opportunities we have because of the birth, life, Atonement, and Resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. As our Heavenly Father “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16), we express our love toward one another and toward God and his precious Son by giving of ourselves.

Gifts we give to our Heavenly Father
We can give our Heavenly Father joy by repenting and making sacred covenants with him.
How to Gift Gifts to Christ by President Henry B. Eyring 2010 First Presidency Message

Gifts we give to our Heavenly Father
We can give our Heavenly Father the gift of doing for others what He would do for them. For example, we can feed the hungry, visit the sick or more simply, help our parents do the dishes without being asked, write a letter to a missionary … (Matthew 25:37 – 40)
How to Gift Gifts to Christ by President Henry B. Eyring 2010 First Presidency Message

Gifts from our Heavenly Father
He sent his son to be a perfect example for us, so we could learn about “how to reach out to those in trouble or distress, wherever they may be.”
(President Thomas S. Monson, 2011 First Presidency Christmas Devotional)

Gifts from our Heavenly Father
“Because He came, death has lost its sting, the grave its victory. We will live again because He came.
(President Thomas S. Monson, 2011 First Presidency Christmas Devotional)

Gifts from our Heavenly Father
He has restored the Church of Jesus Christ in the latter days.
The Gifts of Christmas by Henry B. Eyring, Christmas 2011 devotional

Gifts from our Heavenly Father
He has called prophets and apostles to guide us to safety in this life and eternal life in the world to come.

The Gifts of Christmas by Henry B. Eyring, Christmas 2011 devotional

Gifts from our Heavenly Father
“Because He came and paid for our sins, we have the opportunity to gain eternal life.”
(President Thomas S. Monson, 2011 First Presidency Christmas Devotional)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Choose a Bell and Create a Nativity!

I just wanted to share the pictures that I painted (water color) and laminated for last week's Primary Singing Time activity. This was my original art, and I have not used water colors in about a decade, so I was pleased with the way it turned out.

For the bells, I printed this free download, two per sheet. You can find free nativities to print yourself. I chose a few to share in last week's post, but you could always just use a real nativity. I did that last year, so this was my way of changing it up.

I did not have time to set everything up quite the way that I had planned but basically, I told the children that I had painted something for them, and that they would earn a piece of the painting to put up on the board after they completed the task on each bell. The tasks were either questions about lyrics of the song, or to sing a certain song or verse of a song. That's it!

I did not have time to finish this in junior primary so we will continue this activity next week. In senior primary, we completed almost the entire nativity so I put up the few remaining pieces so that they could see the finished painting. I used velcro stickers so that the children could attach the pieces to the nativity board by themselves.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Three Options for a Christmas Singing Time Activity

Update: I posted pictures for a combo of the first two activities below, here.

I am debating a few different options that will combine a Christmas-themed game with reviewing some songs for the Christmas program, as well as singing other Christmas songs in general.

Find the Nativity game
Put a grid up on the board with a picture of a Christmas bells (or some other Christmas illustration)  in each square. Children choose a bell. The object of the game is to find all the pieces of the nativity.

As children find the pictures depicting the nativity, they can put it on the board and try to assemble the full picture on the board.

I am designing my own nativity but you can find some free ones online to cut out to use for this game. I found two good options here and here.

If children choose a bell with a nativity piece, they get to put it on the board to build it. Otherwise, the bell will have two other possible options behind it: a fun way to sing the primary Christmas program song, or just a different song from the primary singing book, related to Christmas.

I am considering having the nativity pieces also have an activity, whether it is answering a question about the birth of Christ, looking up a scripture related to the nativity story, matching a phrase related to the review song to one on the board, or answering a question about the review song that we are singing on Christmas Sunday.

What's Behind Each Christmas Bell game?
Put a grid up on the board with a picture of a Christmas bells (or some other Christmas illustration)  in each square. Children choose a bell. They will find one of three things on the flip side of the bell:

1) Questions asking them about the song that we have been working on for the Christmas program.
2) A fun way to practice the Christmas program song:
---- a) four corners echo review game
---- b) echo game from one side of the room to the other
---- c) since I am reviewing "He Sent His Son," I'll have the teachers and primary presidency sing the question, and the children sing the answer
3) A picture that depicts one of the songs in the primary music book

Christmas Tic Tac Toe
I've never played Tic Tac Toe with my primary kids before so I thought this would be a good way to review the songs for the Christmas program, but also incorporate other Christmas music.

Instead of Xs and Os, I'll use Christmas Trees and Bells.

When a child chooses a spot in which to take a turn, they have to answer a question about the song "He Sent His Son" in order to earn the spot on the tic tac toe board. If I was not reviewing a song, I would have the questions be about the birth of the Savior. This way, I can instead focus on the meaning of this lovely song that we will be singing during the Christmas program.

If the child gets the question right, they earn the spot, and we will sing a Christmas song that is attached to the song. If they get the question wrong, we will ...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Incorporating Cookie Cutters (or Ornaments) into a Christmas Singing Time Activity

This Sunday I want to spend a little bit of time on three songs (two of which are in the upcoming Christmas program) ... if time I have other Christmas songs in mind but three is probably ambitious, at least in junior primary. To keep it interesting, and because I have a bunch of cookie cutters that I have been trying to incorporate into an activity, this will be a cookie cutter Sunday.

Ideas for ways to incorporate cookie cutters into a Sunday activity. A little bit of brainstorming:
You can substitute this with ornaments or something else you have in a decent quantity - seasonal preferred.

  • Option #1 -- Children will reach reach their hand into a sack and pull out a cookie cutter. The shape of the cookie cutter that they pull out will determine the song that we sing so we will go back and forth with different songs. I will have different activities planned for each song in advance.
  • Option #2 -- Fishing for cookie cutters. I realized a bunch of my cookie cutters are not magnetic so I can't do this one (unless I tape magnets to each cookie cutter), but I would have loved to have the children fish for cookie cutters. Each cookie cutter would represent a fun way to sing the song. 
  • Option #3 --  Look under your chairs! I will have someone come up and choose a cookie cutter without looking. Then, I'll ask everyone to look under their chairs, where I will have attached a shape that matches the cookie cutters. If their shape matches that of the cookie cutter (and there will be multiples of each shape so more than one child should have the matching shape), then I will have an extra activity for them. I'm trying to do what that extra activity will be - one option could be that there's an extra drawing for the extra activity. Another option could be that that if they have the matching cookie cutter, they have to recite a line of the song to show how well they have memorized it, or something.
  • Option #4 -- When I was a piano student as a child, my piano teacher gave everyone a cookie cutter ornament as a present. She attached a ribbon to the cookie cutter and wrote on it "cut out for greatness." I still have my ornament. I could incorporate this into the lesson and talk about what it means to be great ... then add in one of the activities from the other options.
  • Option #5 -- Find the cookie cutter. I will hid cookie cutters throughout the room. Each time we finish singing through one song, a child will be called up to point out one of the cookie cutters. We will take the cookie cutter down that the child selects, then ...
  • Option #6 -- (This is what I ended up doing.) I drew the cookie cutter patterns onto sheets of paper, and gave each child a pattern. I then had children come up and draw cookie cutters out of a bag. If their cookie cutter matched the pattern, they were asked to participate in a special activity for that pattern.

The main songs and ways that I want to work on singing them:

Samuel Tells the Story of Baby Jesus
I'll keep this one simple and throw up the flip chart I used last year just to review the song with the children.

Joy to the World
Practice the verses we learned last week and see how well we learned them. I had the children help me make up motions to the song last week so I'll ask them to help me to remember the motions.

He Sent His Son
Since this is a question and answer song, I want the kids to go back and forth this week, asking one side to sing the question, and one side to sing the answer. I think I will do this, and then have the children swap turns so that the other side sings the question and answer.

I will also sing this song with them in different "fun" ways ...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Choose the Right Children" - Plans in progress for a Christmas Gift and Singing Time Activity All Rolled Into One

This is not for this Sunday but I wanted to share the preparations I am making for a Singing Time activity / present toward the end of December.


In 2010, I stumbled across a great blog post about making "Happy Girls." The blogger used green for the felt dress, which reminded me of the green "Choose the Right," theme. The image above is from her blog. Two years later, I am a primary chorister, and the theme for the year in primary is "Choose the Right," so I couldn't resist making these little people as an end-of-the-year Christmas present and activity.

Of course, since I have a lot of boys in the class, mine are "Choose the Right Children," and the felt children are simply wearing clothes, not a dress.

These are super easy to make. I bought all the supplies I needed at Wal-Mart for about $15 (green felt, wood beads, hemp string, glue). Everything was in the same aisle. I really try to support the smaller businesses, like the craft shops, but I was in a hurry that day, and I pass Wal-Mart on my regular travel route. Sigh. You need to go to her blog for instructions on how to make this, and then you can see what I did with the activity below. The one thing I would change from her instructions, though is that I tried double-sided sticky tape and did not feel it was super sturdy. Also, it seemed a bit more expensive to me to go the tape route. I then tried Elmer's glue and fabric glue, and found the felt didn't stick together well with either of these because they tended to absorb the glue and then thicken the felt rather than sticking the felt together. I switched to hot glue, and it worked great! I did all of this with one stick of hot glue - about 15 cents worth of glue, I think.

Since I bought my wood beads in a variety pack, I had an assortment of different types of heads.

I will give each child a "happy child" (this is a gift for them to keep) to remind them to remember the theme for the year and always to choose the right. I will then proceed to use the Happy Children as part of an activity. Since my Happy Children each have one of several varieties of head shapes and colors, I can do fun things like tell the children with pieces that have a square head to make a certain motion, or tell the children with dark brown vs. light brown heads to sing another way, for example. I will figure that part out later but wanted to share the idea with you now, in case you want to take the time to create these.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Welcoming Christmas with "Joy to the World" - A Gift Wrapped Song

Our primary has been asked to sing two songs during the Christmas program. We started learning "He Sent His Son" last month. This Sunday, I want to introduce the second song- the first verse of "Joy to the World." The children will sing the first verse, and then the choir will sing the additional verses, so I want to teach the children all four verses, but only the first one is critical.

I expect the children will be very familiar with verse one of this song so it's almost more of a song review than learning a new song.

I plan to "gift wrap" the song to introduce it and to introduce the season when we remember the birth of our Savior. I won't tell the children what song I am introducing but will have them unwrap the pictures to try to see if they can identify the song initially. Some of the objects include:

Joy to the World
Joy to the world, the Lord is come;
[1. star over a globe] , [2. the nativity piece for baby Jesus]

Let earth receive her King!
[3. a crown]

Let ev-'ery heart prepare him room,
[4. a heart]

And Saints and an-gels sing,
[5. picture of the early saints + picture of the angels trumpeting]

And Saints and an-gels sing,
[6. the musical "repeat" symbol, which looks like this:   :||  ]

And Saints, and Saints, and an-gels sing,
[7. the musical "repeat" symbol, which looks like this:   :||  ]

The children that I call to the front to pick a package will unwrap the package, and then place it in the order that the number indicates for the item. After each present is opened, I will ask the children to raise their hands if they think they know what song we are singing. I will do this each time until all the presents are opened. Then, I will ask children to keep their hands raised if they want to guess the song.

I will then review what each item represents, then sing the song with the children.

I will then ask the children if they know the song well enough to sing it without all the objects. If they don't, I will only remove a few objects at a time to continue practicing the first verse.

As an interesting FYI about the song, I will also tell the children that the song was written about 300 years ago and that it was not intended to be sung only at Christmas time!

Once the children show me they know verse 1 very well, we will move to verse 2. To learn verse 2, I will ask the children to help me invent motions for each line of the song. I don't expect to have time to work on any lines past verse 2.

Samuel Tells the Story of Baby Jesus
If I do have time though, I will put up the flip chart I made last year for "Samuel Tells the Story of Baby Jesus,"  a song we worked on last year that I love. This song lends itself so well to flipcharts that there are several really great ones on the Internet, like this one or this one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thomas the Thankful Turkey ... or if you need something fast, The Thanksgiving Basket

I'm so excited to bring back my "Thomas the Thankful Turkey" for Singing Time this Sunday.

This was one of my favorite Singing Time activities last year. I want to re-cap what I did last year, but I've also added some thoughts on a less time-costly way to prepare for the same activity.


First, Thomas the Turkey
I went nuts last year and and drew a poster-sized turkey (my original turkey design) that I colored in with markers. I then cut colored paper into feather shapes. I cut the top of the turkey away from the poster so that there was a slit in which to insert the feathers, but then also added Velcro stickers to help the feathers stay in place. Each child came up, chose a feather, and then we followed whatever instruction was on the back of the feather. Usually, the child was asked to share something they were thankful for in relation to a certain topic, then we sang a related song that was noted along with the thankful topic.

The children really loved this. I was able to ensure that more children had an opportunity to come up by not assigning a song to every feather. 

You can buy velcro stickers in craft stores or fabric stores.

If you don't have time or energy to make a turkey and feathers, you can still give children the fun visual effect by putting together a Thanksgiving basket:

Stuff a cornucopia (or if you don't own one, just use a "Thanksgiving" basket) with fruits. Write a page number for a song on each piece of fruit, or attach a song number with a sticker. Each child that comes up shares something they are thankful for, then chooses a fruit. The class sings the song associated with the fruit. Choose songs under the "gratitude" section of the Children's Songbook. I made some quick, simple, flip charts for songs that I did not think the children knew that well.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Memorizing "He Sent His Son" - Singing Time Bells

The first counselor in the bishopric taught Senior Singing Time for me last week so that I could attend the annual special Relief Society Visiting Teaching conference. He said the children knew "He Sent His Son" (the song that I wanted them to work on) quite well, so I debated about what to do this Sunday, since I wanted to spend two weeks on this song, without boring the children. We are singing the song during the Christmas program. I wanted to make sure they knew it very well by early November so that we would have plenty of time to sing other Christmas songs for fun.

So, this is what I am going to do:

In Junior Primary:
I will play the game where children pick which words and pictures on the board to cover, until they are singing the entire song from memory. This is a long song, but it should go by fairly quickly, since the children already worked on the song last week. If we have time, we will then move onto using the bells.

In Senior Primary:
In Senior Primary, I am going straight to the bells. I looked at the song, and it has a nice, easy range that I was able to write onto packing paper that came with something I ordered.

I have used bells twice before in Singing Time, once I used the bells for a Father's Day song, and one previous time, though I can't remember the song for my first attempt at using bells.

Here's what I've learned about using the bells in a way that the children can follow. This may seem obvious but there are a lot of subtle things I had to learn the hard way, in front of the whole primary. Fortunately, the children offered helpful advice as they were trying to figure it out:

1. Write out the words of the song that correspond to the bells so that children can see their bell AND the words of the song. Use a different color for each bell, or some other distinguishing things for children that may be less advanced with reading, or are dyslexic.

2. When you are singing the song with the class, make sure to point to the bell symbol as you sing, so that the child holding the bell knows when to make their ringing tone. Don't assume they can follow the words and music and keep up. Obviously, you need to sing with them, too.

3. Put the words high up, and use a stick to point.

4. Make sure to remind children that if they play with their bells when it's not their turn, they will have their bell taken away. They need to play only when it is their turn to play.

I have had the children come up each time I do this, but I think I will try passing the bells out to the children in their seats. After one try, the children will pass the bell the someone that has not had the opportunity.

5. If I have notes in the song for which I don't have corresponding bells (which happened a few times during this song), I just draw a dash beneath the lyrics.

6. I have the piano play with the bells. It helps the children to know when to sing and to ring the bells, and does not take away from the bells.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Learning "He Sent His Son" (Christmas Program preparation)

We are singing "He Sent His Song" for the Christmas program this year, so I am going to start teaching the song today. My original idea was to put pictures that correspond with the lines of the song on the board and to have children identify which pictures went to which lines of the song, but apparently, I did that idea last year, ha-ha. I guess certain songs lend themselves to certain ideas.

I want to do something different this year, so here's this year's version for learning this song. First, you need a flipchart for this song. If you send me your email address, I'll send you my flip chart, but there are several really great ones online already (this song lends itself to great flip charts). Just do a search for "He Sent His Son flipchart" and you will find a good flipchart within your first five search results.

1. First, play "guess that song." To minimize on prep work this time, I will just have the pianist play the first few notes of the song and ask hands to go up as they recognize the song, until every hand in the room is up. Then, I will ask children to raise both their hands if they want me to call on them to name the song. (Update: I added more "guess that song" clues in a 2013 blog post.)

2. Next, tell the children we are going to play a little game with the pictures for this song, so they need to pay careful attention to how each line of the song is shown in pictures. Put up the song again, but this time show the words for the teachers. Sing it one time through.

3. Before primary, cut out several copies of each picture that correspond to the lines of the song. The quickest way to do this is by opening your flipchart, and then in  printer settings selecting to print 4 pages per sheet so that you can print multiple versions at a consistent miniature size.

It will print out one page like this, with each pic area about a 4 x 6 in size (these are the first four pics from my flipchart).

4. Tape each picture under a chair so that different children in each class receive different pictures. This makes it fun for them because they get to look for a little surprise.

5. Ask children to listen carefully so they know when to hold up the picture that corresponds to the line of the song.

The idea here is that children will listen closely and participate because they want to hear their part of the song and hold up their papers. I tried this with holding up the CTR shield when we learned "Choose the Right," and the kids really paid attention, so I am expecting this to work, from past experience.

6. If there is time, have the children trade pictures with someone nearby them, so that they are now listening for a different line of the song to hold up.

Another, easier alternative to the same activity is to give each class the same picture, and teach them their line. This way, the rest of the class hears the line and is "accidentally" learning it, and we'll learn the whole song! I learned the trick about teaching each class one line at a time from my neighbor, Melanie, who has been a primary music teacher.

In the following weeks, I will detail this out more, but I plan to continue to include this song in the music/lesson plan and implement:

  • The standard, cover up a picture as you go game, which I have not done in a long time, and works great.
  • Discussing the lyrics of the song, including looking up scriptures that go with each line. I want to find stories about our Savior that have pictures that I can talk to, to help the children remember the significance of the words they are singing. I will tie that into being thankful for Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Sunday Before Halloween - Choose one of THREE activities!

Oct 29 Update:
I took some pictures after Singing Time on Sunday to share what we did:

Before I Talk about Tomorrow's Activity ...
I was so thrilled about how the primary program went last Sunday. Our primary president did an amazing job of incorporating all of the talks, children's lines, the placement of the kids and teachers, and with some very limited input from me, the placement of the songs. The program went very smoothly. The children were so reverent and wonderful. I am so impressed with these children and their beautiful hearts and testimonies.

I want to share three special things I did that I think went very well. I never paid attention to all the special thinking that went into this for the primary chorister, before this was my own calling.
  • "As a Child of God" - I had the girls sing the first verse before the boys joined in for the choir, and then did the opposite for the second verse. Everyone sang the third verse.
  • "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus" - I had eight girls (6 and 7) come up to the podium to sing the second verse of the song before the primary joined in for the chorus. This had a beautiful effect and enhanced the words of the song.
  • "Choose the Right" - The children signed all three verses of the song with me, then the congregation joined in for the last verse of the song, and we made this the closing song of the program. It was perfect. 

Singing Time Activity ... so many Halloween ideas ...

Idea #1 - Costume Clothing

I was tempted to work on the Christmas program songs with the children this Sunday, but they have been working so hard on learning new songs all year, that I went to my favorite singing time blog, The Crazy Chorister, for inspiration. The Crazy Chorister is retired, but I looked for her past October activities, and found one that I loved, where depending on how children sang, either their teacher or the chorister would end up wearing a bunch of costume clothes. What a cute idea. She did not reference Halloween but I like the subtle tie-in.

Idea #2 - Decorate the Pumpkin
Draw a pumpkin and bring in various pre-cut pumpkin parts (eyes, ears, mouths, noses). Children get to come up and help decorate the pumpkin. Each piece they choose will determine what song we sing. I was thinking it could also be a blooper, where some parts will say, "Oh, no song, but your teacher has to wear a ..." and then pick something from the dress-ups pile. This was inspired by notion of making people dress up from the Crazy Chorister above, but is a way that I would be more comfortable playing the game. I'm not as crazy as the Crazy Chorister!

- OR - 

Decorate a real pumpkin with the same principles. Use toothpick holes already inserted into the pumpkin and pre-cut vegetables. The fun part about this is that you could then put the pumpkin on your doorstep for children to recognize when they come by to go trick-or-treating!

Idea #3 - Trick or Treat?
My stake primary chorister shared this one with me. You have little pumpkins stuffed with pieces of paper, that are either a trick or a treat. (Can be substituted easily with pieces of paper if you don't have little pumpkins, which I don't.) If it is a trick, it will say something like, "Trick! Only your class sings this song!" The real trick, is to make all the pumpkins tricks! Then, at the end, you can tell them that you tricked them, and give them all a treat. 

This can be combined with one of the above activities - if you choose the "wrong" pumpkin it's a trick and your class has to sing the song a certain way, etc.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Snow Storm! Easy, fun singing time activity.

Last week was our annual primary program. I kept the primary activity afterward pretty simple. This is not an original idea; I had about three other parents from other wards share it with me about a year ago, except I think they called it a snowball fight.

The beauty of this activity is that it's fun and takes very little preparation time.

1. Give each child a piece of paper (I had the librarian cut the sheets in half to save on waste) and pen/pencil, unless they are too young to know how to write. In that case, help the teacher that has children too little to write.
2. Have each child write down their favorite primary song and their name on that paper. Tell them to sit reverently and wait once they are done.
3. After a few minutes, get everyone's attention - fold your arms, etc., until the room is quiet. Then, tell each child to crumple their paper into a ball.
4. Tell them to throw their crumpled balls to the front of the room:

We had our first snow storm of the week a few days ago, but when I did this activity, it had not snowed yet, so I said something about how it usually snows before Halloween, but it hadn't snowed yet, so we were going to make our own snowstorm. On the count of three, everyone throw your snowball to the front of the room. "1, 2, 3!"

I then explained that I was going to pick up a snowball at random, read the song and who wrote it down, and that we would then sing the song. That's it! I had a back-up plan to add fun ways to sing the song if the children lost interest, but they loved it.

Junior primary was a little bit rowdy, but this activity was surprisingly easy, and surprisingly fun. The time went quickly. Even my less interested senior boys got into it, because they wanted me to pick their snowball.

Just make sure your pianist is prepared to play anything!!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Sunday Before the Program

We did a mock walk-through the Sunday before our Primary Program, which is this Sunday, so I did not have time to do an actual activity.

However, I brought out my Halloween Singing Time Prompts to help inspire the children to sing better.


I drew some of these last year, but I added the werewolf and pumpkin this year. These are my original doodles - you are welcome to right-click to print them up yourself! Your version would be smaller than mine, but you can cut them out and attached them to sticks to hold up.

I said stuff like, "This is Mumbling Mummy. I can't hear what he is saying very well because his mouth is covered. If [a counselor I asked to hold up the pics] holds up Mumbling Mummy, that means you sound like him. You don't want to see Mumbling Mummy come up."

Bored Bat says "gusto" next to him because when I drew this bat last year, we had just had a singing time activity about singing with more gusto.

"Say What?" Werewolf needs you to sing more loudly because he can't hear you, because you are singing too quietly.

Proud Pumpkin is very pleased because you are singing with volume, saying your lyrics clearly, singing with energy, and watching the chorister.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Identify that Song! Primary Song Review for Program

The children "ooooh'd" and "awwwwww'd" when I flipped the board around on Sunday and showed them these pictures I had put together. Each group of pictures represents a song that we have been working on in primary.

In Junior primary, I chose a name out of the Helping Hands jar and had a child come up and identify a song. Then, we sang it.

In Senior primary, I gave each class a scripture about the song. The class had to identify the song based on the scriptures, then, identify the pictures that went with the song.

With both classes, I then spent a brief amount of time reminding the children about the meaning of the song and why we sing the song.

This was a lot of fun, but I had to watch the time very carefully. In addition, I am glad I went into the primary room early to set the pictures up because it took more time than I had expected.

You can easily go to Google Images to find most of these pictures.