Monday, February 27, 2012

Music Mix - Reviewing "Choose the Right," "As a Child of God," and Mother's Day Songs

This last Sunday, I planned the music lesson with three objectives in mind:

  • Review "Choose the Right"
  • Review "As a Child of God"
  • Start practicing songs to sing on Mother's Day
In addition, our ward has a "Missionary Month" every February where every Sunday in February has a special missionary theme, so I wanted to incorporate that missionary theme into the lesson to help support and lead into the sharing time lesson. You could just say the shirts represent reverence in church though, which would also be appropriate for helping to set the tone for the rest of primary.

I think both the children AND the teachers found quite a kick out of the little shirts (judging by some of the responses). The point is to grab their attention, so mission accomplished, right?

Here's what I decided to do:

1. I chose six songs I wanted to work on and hid them inside little missionary shirts I made out of origami. I found a tutorial for how to make a dress shirt that was quite easy and quick. I then glued on the little missionary tags.

2. I told the children that there are many ways that music can help us prepare for a mission or help us to serve a mission. I hid these ways inside the origami tie that I made for each shirt. The ties were easy to make and took very little time. I used a paper clip to attach the tie to each shirt. Each tie had one of the following items on it:
  • Music can help us by inviting the spirit of the Lord into the room.
  • Music can help us to build our testimony and faith.
  • Music can help us to learn and remember gospel principles. I gave as an example that when we sing an Articles of Faith during opening exercises every week, we are memorizing the article that we sing.
  • Music can comfort us.
  • Music can give us a way to sing praises to the Lord.
  • Music gives us a way to express ourselves in ways we cannot always do with words.
3. I used the "Helping Hands" jar (a jar with all the primary names in it) to fairly choose a name to come up and select from one of the six shirts that I propped up against the chalkboard. The child's selection determined what song we worked on next. In junior primary, we only had time for four songs. In senior primary, we just barely managed to squeeze in all six.

These are the six songs we worked on, and what I did to make each unique:

1. Page 239, "Choose the Right." I had this song listed twice.

First time - I had the children move to the next chair (in senior primary), or spin (in junior primary), based on this idea from Teaching LDS Children and Monica Hudson as posted on SugarDoodle. Honestly, though this was a lot of fun, it was also chaotic, and children weren't singing very much when I had them move to the next chair during senior primary. I ended up revising the activity and just having both senior and junior spin after suffering through two verses of watching senior primary switch chairs and have so much fun with that, that they weren't really singing.

Second time - Since I had the children learn this song in sign language, I had them "sing" the entire first verse without singing aloud or using the piano. I told them I wanted them to "hear" how deaf people experience this song. I reminded them that since it was sign language, that means I shouldn't hear any sounds. This was my favorite singing activity of the day, and it was fun to see them reverently and quietly signing with me. They were very participatory. If you choose to teach the children a song in sign, I think it would be great to have them do this last so they are very quiet and very reverent when the teacher begins her lesson.

2. "As a Child of God"

In Junior, I passed out sticks that represented lines of the songs and let the children hold them up.

In Senior, I discussed how many of the signs I had taught them for "Choose the Right" (see the previous week's post - this was a VERY successful activity with the children for having them learn, and keeping their attention) were also in "As a Child" and had them see if they could pick out the signs.

3. Page 169 - "I Hope They Call Me on a Mission"

I used a badge, a tie, two rulers, and two sets of scriptures. I called children to come up and hold these items up and then had them sing this song with these reminders.

4. Page 202 - "I Often Go Walking"

I had children help hold a flip chart and sang this one time through. We did not have time for more than a cursory introduction of the song.

5. Page 190 - "Love is Spoken Here"

I made a poster board and reviewed the words with the children, then sang this one time through. We did not have time for more than a cursory introduction of the song.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Choose the Right Sign Language Activity - February 2012 - Week 3

I decided for this week to teach the children "Choose the Right" in sign language. In Junior Primary, I started by just showing them the phrase "Choose the right," but they picked it up so fast and sang so well that I ended up teaching them all three verses. The children were really into this activity, so participation was high.

In Senior Primary, the kids learned the song so fast that I threw in another activity, which made them a bit more rowdy, but which they greatly enjoyed. I had them pass a stick that said "CTR" on it, and asked the pianist to randomly stop playing at certain points in the song. Whomever was holding the stick had to finish the line of the song. To take pressure of the children, I said they could ask for help from the person on either side of them. I said the teachers were also included in this activity. Children were flinging that stick fast, because they didn't want to be caught having to say the next line of the song, even though they did really well. It was a lot of fun but definitely more rowdy than the signing part of the activity. I had to remind them that they couldn't just throw the stick to get it out of their hands when the song stopped. I also told the children that if they missed the line, we would start over from the very beginning. We never started over though, because they did pretty well.

Regarding the sign language, I studied the sign language for the song from several different sources, because of course, there are many different ways to sign a word and phrase.

I ended up relying the most heavily on these sources and using a mix:

1. Debra Woods' YouTube video about teaching the children "Choose the Right."
2. The official "Choose the Right" video. The church has all the Hymns and Children's Hymns in sign language online.
3. A friend who is not deaf but has an extensive deaf community of friends.
4. My own, more limited experience. I had many friends growing up that knew sign language because of a deaf girl in my stake, with whom I was also friends at one point, but when I was much younger.  I taught myself the sign alphabet in grade school out of the back of a Helen Keller book after reading it to myself. ;) I also know numerous other signs from having memorized many songs in sign over the years. I have enjoyed recognizing signs in various songs but refrained from overdoing it with showing children too many signs and songs at once, even if I know the signs to other songs. I want to keep things fresh for them.

I highly recommend this as a singing time lesson - it made learning these verses go by fast. When children forgot a line of the song, I hinted it by showing them the sign for it, and then they remembered it fast. It was great!

I should add that I had a couple of sunbeams and the next age up lost interest occasionally. For those children, I focused on just trying to get them to at least learn the phrase, "Choose the Right" and a few other signs that they tended to enjoy, like the action for "Peace in righteous doing" (signing the swinging of the arms for "doing"), by spending more time on those areas. I also found that if I walked right up to them while signing, they noticed the attention and began singing and signing again. The Sunbeams are so new to primary right now, that compared to past weeks, I felt they were quite intrigued overall.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Choose the Right Memorizing Game - February 2012 - Week 2

I am debating a few different ways to review Choose the Right since we really sang it pretty fast last time before we ran out of time, and then we had a "break" from primary because of Stake Conference. This is also the Sunday before Valentines, so I would love to incorporate some sort of "heart" theme. I obviously don't want to take away from the gospel here but I also found some great Valentines ideas at for which I might use bits and pieces. For example, there's an idea there about talking about how Jesus Christ can mend our broken hearts, and about having children match half of a heart to another half on the board.

I want to take that broken heart idea, but instead have children try to draw matching hearts out of a box. If they match the heart ups, they get to choose a song. If they don't, we since Choose the Right and cover up as many pieces on the chart as each heart is worth, assigning points to the hearts. The children then have to memorize more and more of the song.

That might be too complicated though. I could just draw hearts that tell children how many pictures to cover.

**2/17 - What I ended up doing was cutting hearts into styrofoam. The kids had to pull the hearts out of the foam, and then cover up as many pictures were under the year.

So right now, to incorporate the Valentine's theme, I am thinking I will let children use big hearts to cover up the CTR poster board I shared with them the week before, one or two pictures at a time, until they have the whole song memorized.

I don't think there will be much time to do much else besides that but I think I also want to take hearts and split them in half, one for each side of the room. I'll have one child pick a heart out of each side. If the hearts match, then they get to pick a song to sing. If they don't, then they pick from a different bucket that tells them which verse to sing and how many pictures on the board to cover.

I think I will mix it up with this one about sending a child out of the room to see if they recognize what line was removed, though, from www. j e n n y s m i t h . n e t

"For old times sake, I thought I would share with you all what I did to review “As a Child of God.”  I put the phrase pictures up on the board and asked a child to leave the room. I asked another child to choose one of the pictures to remove. We shuffled the remaining pictures around a bit to make it harder to spot, but if the guessing child is young, you may want to leave the pictures as they were. When the child came back into the room, we sang the song again to help them discover which picture was missing. Naturally, I asked the child to give the answer in the exact words of the song...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

January 2012 - Week 5 - Learn "Choose the Right"

I made a poster board to introduce "Choose the Right" this week. I started first with a "guess that song" game.

Guess that song game
I wanted to make sure not to duplicate a "guess that song" game that we had already done before. I poured some rice into a glass container, then hid some hints about the song in the jar. Since our ward  introduced missionary month this Sunday as well, it worked out perfectly that I shared that my parents are on a mission in Taiwan right now, and that Monday was a big holiday. I had them guess the holiday (Chinese New Year) and then said that they eat a lot of rice in Taiwan so I hid the clues in rice. They had to reach into the jar and dig around to try to find a slip of paper.

I used the "helping hands" jar to give children a fair turn coming up for hints, including: that the song was in the hymn book, that the song was about using free agency to make good decisions, having the pianist play two notes of the song, and more.

Poster board.
I printed pictures that I found on the Internet, as well as a few that I drew when I couldn't find a good match, to create a poster board that lead them through each verse of the song. I always love putting together the art to represent a song.

I also felt it was a good opportunity to talk a little about each of the pictures. I talked about Samuel Smith, Joseph Smith's brother, and how he worked hard to support the family while Joseph was trying to share the gospel with Hyrum. That picture represented the line of the song, "In all labors you're pursuing."

Junior primary 
In junior primary, after we had reviewed each verse once (I pointed to each picture and told them what it represented), we then sang the whole song from beginning to end. I incorporated the Crazy Chorister's idea of holding up shields whenever they sang "Choose the Right," because I've read that for that age group, hand motions make a big difference in their interest level and ability to learn. Her idea was a great way to follow this advice. The children seemed to really love it and got super involved with holding their shields up every time we sang "Choose the Right" (14 times).

I even had a member of the primary presidency tell me afterward that the youngest kids suddenly became super interested in singing the song when they were given their shields. I therefore had great confirmation that this really is the case, which is great because I'm working on some other ideas I want to incorporate to involve the children in singing the song so that I can feel like they've really learned it.

Senior primary
In senior primary, I pinned the poster boards to the wall, as well as all the words to the song. I then used the Helping Hands jar to call up different children and have them choose the next line of the song, based on the poster board. Some of them needed a lot of help but I think it kept them focused and interested in trying to figure out what each picture on the poster board represented. I did not have time to sing through all three verses of the song together, and next week there is no primary (stake conference), so I'll be working on more ways to review the song in two weeks.

January 2012 - Week 4 - Choose the Right "play" and holding up CTR shields

The sharing time lesson was a singing lesson where the teacher taught a brief concept, then we sang a song about the concept, starting with our Heavenly Father's plan to send us to earth so that we could have mortal bodies, and ending with how we can return to him by making good choices.

Therefore, it made sense to combine singing time and sharing time. I didn't want the children to be totally restless by the time the teacher taught the lesson. I could just hear them sighing, "mooooree singing?" Generally, the children like singing time when I do it right ... just not necessarily for 45 minutes.

Our sharing time teacher for the day (KS) had the great idea of presenting that we were in a big production and that they were the cast members. She then framed up each song before having us sing a different song.

To keep things interesting, I had us sing the songs in different fun ways. One of the songs was one the children don't know as well, and that I knew we wouldn't have time to teach. For senior primary, wrote it onto sheets of paper, using different ink colors to indicate if all, boys, or girls should be singing. This was an idea I found on another singing blog, and it worked GREAT. I was careful about how I divided up the singing, and it ended up sounding very pretty and very deliberate. I would like to do this at the end of the year during our primary singing program, if I can do it well. We'll see - I don't want to be too ambitious but I would love to enhance the experience if I can do it within reason and well.

I also had them sing a song with crescendo and decrescendo, and other fun things.

For senior primary, I also incorporated some ideas from my favorite singing blog, the Crazy Chorister, where I had them build a shield. I partially did this because I knew we'd end up having more time in senior primary so I wanted to draw it out a bit. However, it also helps to keep the children focused. We also had to cut songs out for junior primary because we ran out of time.

Oh, we didn't quite finish our game from the previous week in time in junior primary, so first, I had them finish playing the game from the week before.

January 2012 - Week 3 - "As a Child of God" - Choice Board Game

I wanted to spend more time working on "As a Child of God" but after two weeks of it, I could tell the children needed a different approach where they didn't know they were practicing the song.

I came up with a board game that is a more advanced, musical version of a childhood favorite - Candyland!

I divided the room into two halves, using the aisle as the diving line. One side was the Blue team, the other side the Green team.

Object of the game
Move their board piece from start to "home," where they could be with their family. Children did this by selecting "Choose the Right" cards to tell them how many steps they could move forward - or backward. I attached velcro stickers to each space on the board and to the game pieces so that I could put the board up on the wall for everyone to see.

Choose the Right cards
If the scenario on the card had them making the right choice, they were rewarded by going forward a certain amount of steps. If the scenario on the card had them making a bad choice, they went backward a certain amount of steps.

This is where the music part came into the game:
1. If children chose the right "choose the right" card, they were told they could draw a music card, too.
2. If children landed on certain parts of the board, they were told they could draw a music card.


Music cards
Music cards were an opportunity for children to move several steps forward in the game. Most of the music cards involved singing a verse of the song. I wanted to force them to think about the song and sing it really well so most of the cards had them counting how many times they sang a certain word in the song. Those were the amount of steps they could move forward.

This game worked great because the children were really singing the songs well and participating heavily because they were so interested in gaining points to move forward. The game worked really well in that the two teams kept getting way ahead of each other, only to have the other team catch up. It was very competitive. I did have to remind the children to be more reverent, as there was a lot of loud cheering or loud groaning depending on what card was drawn.

I used the "Helping Hands" can to make sure children had fair opportunities to come up and take their turns, too. I did have a new sunbeam prostrate himself right in front of me because he wanted another turn but at least he wasn't yelling. He did something similar the following week because we wouldn't sing "Happy Birthday" to him (it wasn't his birthday this month), ha. I let the children come up and move their game pieces themselves too.

I had a lot of fun, and more importantly, I felt it made the children feel excited to sing. I had some of my best participation ever, even with some of the older boys that don't like to sing.