Friday, March 23, 2012

I Think When I Read that Sweet Story - song about Jesus for April selection

The primary song for April was an optional song about Jesus. I wanted to sing one that I have heard less often, but that is beautiful, so after combing through the Children's Songbook numerous times, I felt good that  "I Think When I Read that Sweet Story" was the appropriate choice.

I have been so excited to teach this lesson ever since I decided what I wanted to do for the activity, a couple months ago. I had too many other songs on my agenda that I needed to get to first, though, so I had to be patient. In fact, I am still going to need to wait until after General Conference but I thought that this might come in handy for primary choristers that are ready to introduce the April song. Therefore, if you teach this lesson before, please give me feedback so I can make adjustments!

In short: a giant book for the whole class, and miniature books for everyone!

This is what the mini book looks like:


The obvious idea for this song is to create a theme around a storybook since the song starts out, "Tell me the story," so of course, I wanted to make a giant storybook by printing large pictures and text. I liked the idea of an over-sized book the best but I also wanted to keep the budget and time in mind so I also had three-ring binders in mind that would do the trick. I also thought about gluing into an existing book that was of no value (e.g., an outdated manual, a poorly written book, etc.).

I haven't made the giant book yet but I have the pages ready. Here's a sample, which I saved as a PDF for fellow choristers to use.

The part I'm super excited about is that I thought, "Why not give the children each their own book?" I did some research and learned about how I could use a simple 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, and with the proper folds and a few simple cuts, turn it into an eight-page book. The trick was knowing which direction to print the pictures. I pulled the art off the church free art sites so this art is legal to use for appropriate personal and church use. That means, print it free for your primary and your family but please remember this is for personal use.

I plan to pre-fold these for junior primary, but in senior primary, part of the fun will be letting them fold their own books. Some of them will struggle, but I will just take it slow and help the ones that are struggling. Then, we'll sing using our little books, which I will send home with them. I hope they will play with their new books and that it will help them memorize this song.

What do you think?

Here's how to fold it:

1. Fold it the long way (like you are about to make a standard paper airplane.)

2. Now fold it again, so that you now have two images on each fold.

3. Fold it again so that you now have one image on each fold. Don't worry, the pictures will not be in the right order at this point.

4. Unfold your sheet. You should now have eight rectangles.

5. Fold your sheet as shown below, and then place one cut down the center so that it goes between the images shown below.

6. If you cut your sheet according to instructions, you should now have a cut in your paper like below. Note that the cut goes between two sets of pictures.

7. Here's the part that can be a little bit tricky. You want to fold your book so that the pages are now in a certain order. All you need to remember is that some of the folds will need to be folded in a different direction then you originally folded them, so you might need to crease them in the other direction. This is really easy once you get the hang of it. The first time I folded it, I thought I messed up on my template. Just hold your paper like below and then slowly push the book so that the creases go the right way.

8. Do this first, then fold again to "close" the book so that these two pages make the front and back covers.

9. Your finished folds should be in the order seen below.

You can print this sheet to turn it into a book and share it with your primary kids and your families.

  1. In the document at the bottom of this page, click on the arrow in the upper right-hand corner to open the image in a new window.
  2. Once the image opens, click on the Print button in the new Google document window that will open. The print button will be at the top of the page that opens (NOT THIS PAGE).

3. A Google printable document will  then open after you click on the print button. It will look like the below image. Just click the word Print to print the document.

Okay, here's the embedded PDF file. Go ahead and start your print job by clicking on the little white on black arrow in the corner of this image:

If you want the full-size flip chart as well, please send me your email address so I can send you an invite.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Singing Time Activities to Learn the Songs Better - "Conducting Elephant" and "Helmet Hero"

I had fun with Singing Time today. Then again, I always do, but I love when everything goes more smoothly than expected. I highly recommend these activities when you want to review and reinforce songs that you have been teaching.

Scroll down to learn about:

  • Junior Primary - Conducting Elephant
  • Senior Primary - Helmet Hero

Junior Primary - Conducting Elephant 

I drew an elephant onto a piece of cardboard, then cut out a hole for the trunk. I added some grey paint later when I happened to have some Acrylics out for a different project. I am glad I ended up adding color, but in hindsight, I would just use a piece of gray poster paper and a black Sharpie.

I demonstrated the Conducting Elephant to the children with the first song we sang, by putting my arm through the hole and conducting through the hole so that it looked like I was waving the elephant's trunk around. I then told the children that if they sang the song very well, they would get to wear the gray sock (the elephant's trunk) and conduct the song.

This worked well, as the children sang more and more with each time a child went up to conduct. Each time I called a child up, I reminded them that I was looking for good singers so that I could have them come up, and by the third time through, almost everyone was singing. However, even the children that weren't singing at first was very intrigued and attentive. I am not sure why it took some of the children a few times through to start singing, but they were reverent until they decided to sing, and did eventually join the rest of the children, so I consider this a win.

I had also planned to give a very brief conducting lesson, which I forgot to do, but the children were great with finding a rhythm and gamely trying to conduct on their own. I actually stayed up front and conducted with them, or in the case of a little CTR4 girl, helped to hold her elephant while she conducted.

I first heard the idea for the Conducting Elephant at the Idea Door in a 2010 post. The blogger could not remember where she heard the idea but I have since seen it listed on other websites. The earliest reference I can find is in 2008 at j e n n y s m i t h . n e t

Senior Primary - Helmet Hero

I was originally going to make a game modeled after a show that aired for a short time, that I loved, calling "Singing Bee." In this game, contestants had to perfectly quote the next line of a song after the game show band stopped singing the lyrics. I was going to modify it so it was child-friendly (in other words, so children wouldn't feel bad if they messed up), but then I stumbled onto Headband Hero, which was the same concept, but way less complicated, at

"A great one for when the kids are needing to repeat a song over and over, but to help it not be monotonous. Invite 1 child to come to the front of the room and wear a ‘sweat’ headband on their head. The singing leader has a bucket of words. She pulls one out and shows it to the pianist and the other children and places it on the sweat band, where the 1 child can’t see it. Begin singing the song. As you come to the word that is stuck on the headband, the primary doesn’t sing that word. The child with the headband on has to try and tell us what word comes next - that we didn’t sing. Sr. Primary loves this one."

I made some modifications that I felt worked very well:

  1. I did not have a headband so I made a hat out of foil. I just used the simple origami of a paper hat, but I used foil instead of paper.
  2. I took words from several songs I wanted to review, but I assigned a color to each song to help me keep track of which words belonged to which song.
  3. I let the children choose the word themselves, but not see it, as I attached it to their helmet. 
  4. I sang each song through to the end before I asked the child to guess the word that we had skipped over. This helped cement the song in the children's minds.
I was super happy with how well this activity went. I have some older boys that really don't like to sing, and they were really into it, especially because they kept hoping they would have a chance to wear the "helmet." I used the Singing Time jar to fairly choose someone to come up. We did this our entire Singing Time without having to change up the activity.

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Follow the Prophet" Flip Chart for this month's theme

Since this month's theme is about prophets, I want to spend a little bit of singing time, or either the opening or closing song, on "Follow the Prophet." I love the amazing prophets who have sacrificed so much and been so courageous in honoring our Father in Heaven over the years.

The children know some of the verses of this song already, but not all of them. I made a flip chart of some of the verses that I like, as well as to incorporate some other verses that are not in the songbook, but that I found in the Friend magazine.

Here's an example of two of the pages of my flip chart, using images from the Gospel Art Kit.

I wanted to emphasize the last verse of this song this month, especially:

You can download the flipchart here, or send me your email address if you have problems with that link.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Watching for SIGNS - "Stand for the Right" by being TRUE!

My goal for this Sunday is to review "Stand for the Right," placing special emphasis on teaching them what the song means when it says to "Be true, be true and stand for the right." I also want time to review the other songs we have been working on since January, "Choose the Right," "As a Child of God," and "I Often Go Walking."


What Does it Mean to "Be True?"
Introduce the activity/lesson for the day by talking about "Stand for the Right," and asking if someone can explain what it means in the song to "Be True." Talk about what it means to be true, and about how if we listen carefully, the prophet guides us and gives us ways to help us be true.

Put an image of a road up on the board, as well as a picture of the prophet. Then, add signs around the road. While doing this, talk about how there are signs everywhere, and that signs often protect us and guide us. Point out some of the signs, for example, the "Children Walking" sign that reminds drivers that there are children in the area. Talk about how President Monson gives us instruction that works as signs for us to help us "Be True, Be True."

Talk about how President Monson lists six road signs for our safety (from "Come Listen to a Prophet's Voice: Follow the Signs").

Read the quote, where President Monson says, "May I offer you six road signs which, when observed and followed, will guide you to safety."

Then, have the children match the road signs specifically made for quotes from the prophet. There are so many ways to do this but for this Sunday, I think I will go with:

  • Junior Primary - Put the signs up on the board but away from the quote. Read a quote out loud and ask for volunteers to match the quote to the sign. Write songs on the back of each song that the children will sing after they choose that correct sign.
  • Senior Primary - Pass out the quotes. Ask a child to read their quote. Then ask children to find the matching sign on the board. Sing the song listed behind the sign. Write songs on the back of each song that the children will sing after they choose that correct sign.
  • Bonus - Have children choose one of the "real" road signs on the board, which will have a fun way to sing the long listed behind the sign (staccato, crescendo/decrescendo, clap it out, etc.)

I am using the following songs for the following signs:

  • good friends - "Stand for the Right"
  • parental guidance - "I Often Go Walking" 
  • study the gospel - "Choose the Right" vs. 1
  • obey the commandments - "Choose the Right" vs. 1-2
  • serve with love - "As a Child of God"
  • pray with purpose - "Love is Spoken Here"
I saved the quotes and matching signs (to cut out) in a PDF, which you can download here.


Credits for this Idea
I stumbled onto the "Follow the Signs" article I read above and came up with the road signs lesson, but I originally was planning to go with conversation bubbles only, which is an idea that was inspired by posts on multiple blogs this week. The idea morphed from blog to blog (including mine!) but originally revolved around using conversation bubbles to discuss the ways the prophet has taught us to "Be True." This fit in perfectly with my desire to share another story about what it means to "be true," but was so much better.

I realized that the idea is from an October 2001 Friend magazine article specifically for this song, as quoted here:

2. Music Presentation: Review the song “Stand for the Right” (CS, p. 159). Display a picture of President Hinckley (GAK 520). Give each older class a different statement from his October general conference addresses. Give young classes a picture representing something the prophet asked us to do. Have each class choose a spokesperson to explain what the prophet said. Post the quotes or pictures under his picture. Sing “Stand for the Right.” Explain that whenever we choose to do what the prophet asks us to do, we are being true and are standing for the right.

However, I do want to credit where I found the first recent version of the conversation idea, which was listed on by Jessica Dahlquist, who morphed some great ideas from Kathleen Mower of The Children Sing blog - I followed the trail back to the October 2001 Friend.

Friday, March 9, 2012

"Stand for the Right" Take Home Sheet

I am still working out how I want to teach this Sunday's lesson but in the meantime, I am probably going to pass the below drawing out to the children in Junior Primary. I drew this onto a standard 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper in ink, so pardon the mistakes. I hope you can tell that the below image is for the the words/pictures to "Stand for the Right."

I will still have some activities around this but I am hoping that this is something I can take home to encourage the children to sing during Family Home Evening, and to help the new Sunbeams learn the song that the rest of the children have already learned.

If you would like a full-size copy, please send me an email or post your information in the comments below.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

"Stand for the Right" Song Review

The primary children already know this month's theme song, "Stand for the Right," (they learned it last year) so I treated it as more of a review today. I spent most of my time on "I Often Go Walking" (see previous post.) In fact, I ran out of time in junior primary so I will cover "Stand for the Right," with them next week instead. The Sunbeams have not yet learned this song so I actually will spend some time teaching it to them, not just reviewing it. Fortunately, it is a short, easy song.

I changed my mind right before sacrament started about how I wanted to review this song, so I grabbed a permanent marker and sketched out some images that represent each line of the song. I think if I had more time, I would have attached magnets to the backs of them or for that matter, found some color pictures on the Internet. I think I will do the magnet part anyway, since I haven't reviewed this song with the junior primary yet. I think for them, I will draw a little scene on the chalkboard so that as I am putting up the pictures, they are fitting into the scene. I will draw the house open, like a dollhouse, so you can "see" into the house and see the children during their chores "At work or at play ..."

I am also tentatively planning some sort of take-home sheet, specifically with the Sunbeams in mind, but that I can give to all children in Junior Primary. I already made something for "I Think When I Read that Sweet Story," which I will be reviewing in April, if I can wait that long. Sigh. I am planning to share a downloadable PDF once I introduce it to the class - I am super excited and may break down and introduce the song earlier.

Anyway ... In junior primary, I will talk about what each picture represents as well as give the message that I gave to senior primary today. In senior primary, I told the children today that they know this song, and that I wanted them to hold up their hands as they recognized what song the pictures represent. A few hands went up with the first two pictures, but by the time I reached the end, almost all of the hands were up. I then called on a child to identify the song.

*Stand for the Right 
Our prophet has some words for you,
And these are the words, "Be true, Be true,"
At work or at play, 
In darkness or light,
"Be true, be true, and stand for the right."

(*Song can be copied for noncommercial church or home use. Please see link above for source information.)

I quickly ran through what each picture represents (since the children already knew) and then spent some time talking about what it means to "Be True."

One child thought it meant to not lie, which is a very good answer, but not the full story.

I shared (summed up of course, rather than reading the entire thing) the prophet's story called "Dare to Stand Alone" that was in the November 2011 New Era preparing for General Conference:

Dare to Stand Alone

“I believe my first experience in having the courage of my convictions took place when I served in the United States Navy near the end of World War II.
“Navy boot camp was not an easy experience for me, nor for anyone who endured it. For the first three weeks I was convinced my life was in jeopardy. The navy wasn’t trying to train me; it was trying to kill me.
“I shall ever remember when Sunday rolled around after the first week. We received welcome news from the chief petty officer. Standing at attention on the drill ground in a brisk California breeze, we heard his command: ‘Today everybody goes to church—everybody, that is, except for me. I am going to relax!’ Then he shouted, ‘All of you Catholics, you meet in Camp Decatur—and don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!’ A rather sizeable contingent moved out. Then he barked out his next command, ‘Those of you who are Jewish, you meet in Camp Henry—and don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!’ A somewhat smaller contingent marched out. Then he said, ‘The rest of you Protestants, you meet in the theaters at Camp Farragut—and don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!’
“Instantly there flashed through my mind the thought, ‘Monson, you are not a Catholic; you are not a Jew; you are not a Protestant. You are a Mormon, so you just stand here!’ I can assure you that I felt completely alone. Courageous and determined, yes—but alone.
“And then I heard the sweetest words I ever heard that chief petty officer utter. He looked in my direction and asked, ‘And just what do you guys call yourselves?’ Until that very moment I had not realized that anyone was standing beside me or behind me on the drill ground. Almost in unison, each of us replied, ‘Mormons!’ It is difficult to describe the joy that filled my heart as I turned around and saw a handful of other sailors.
“The chief petty officer scratched his head in an expression of puzzlement but finally said, ‘Well, go find somewhere to meet. And don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!’
“As we marched away, I thought of the words of a rhyme I had learned in Primary years before:
Dare to be a Mormon;
Dare to stand alone.
Dare to have a purpose firm;
Dare to make it known.
“Since that day there have been times when there was no one standing behind me and so I did stand alone. How grateful I am that I made the decision long ago to remain strong and true, always prepared and ready to defend my religion, should the need arise.”

I talked about thinking about how we can listen to the prophet's words to BE TRUE and that, like the words of this song, "Choose the Right," and "As a Child of God," if we prepare in our minds TODAY what we feel is right, that we will be able to stand for what is true when the time comes, without hesitation. I then had us sing the song, and told them to think about what those words, "Be true, be true" meant. I was impressed at how reverent the class became for this portion of singing time.

I think I might tell them ANOTHER "Be True" story next week and sing it again - and in that way, give some quality attention to this song. I want them to truly understand what it is that they are singing. I might even talk about how in choirs I participate in, it is not uncommon for the chorister to talk about the song and how understanding it will help us sing with more conviction and honesty to truly convey the beauty of the lyrics and music. I think I will use a different story for Junior Primary though ... guess I'll have it figured out by the next post. :)

Learning "I Often Go Walking" - Mother's Day song

I wanted the children to memorize "I Often Go Walking" today to prepare for Mother's Day. The plan is that after today, they know the song pretty well so I can pull it into practice once in a while. This way, I will have more leisure and less stress to fine-tune this song, as well as to work on introducing other songs, including hopefully a second Mother's Day song and Father's Day songs. 

I also spent a little bit of time on this month's theme song, "Stand for the Right," but I'll talk about that in a separate post.

The activity
Assign each class a line or two of the song from "I Often Go Walking." Give them objects (NOT flat pictures - this makes it more exciting for them) that help represent their line of the song. Have the teachers help them decide how they are going to act out that line of the song. Remind the children that they need to sing while they are performing the line (and then of course, sing with them to help prod them along). Then, have the entire primary sing the line again with them while they act out the line.

Objects you need
  • Fake flowers - mostly blue ones for "armfuls of blossoms of blue" but also colored ones for "all blossoms remind me of you"

    Cut these up so you have more flowers to pass around without spending too much money. I checked a few stores and finally bought four bunches for $1 each.

    I also made a bunch out of origami as that was even cheaper; tutorial for flowers here.

  • Drawings of clovers or use fuzzy wire to bend clovers, etc.

  • "Mom" items - e.g., apron, mixing bowl and wooden spoon, purse, pearl necklace or other "mom" jewelry
  • Green poster board or green plastic table cloth or fabric to represent meadows
Here is how I divided up the song and what information I passed to each teacher. The classes then conferred while I went around the room and talked to each class to help make sure they understood what to do and were prepared. I had each class teach their line, then sing it with the class 1-3 times depending on how well the class was listening. I then sang the song one time through with them and had the class get up very quickly one after the other. In senior primary, I also had time to sing the song through without any props to see how well they had done.

Group 1
v1, line 1. I often go walking in meadows of clover,

Items: meadows, clover

Suggestions:: Choose people to walk, to hold the meadow, and to hold clover.

Group 2
v1, line 2 And I gather armfuls of blossoms of blue.

Items: blue flowers

Suggestions:  Choose people to gather blossoms. Some could hold the flowers and pretend to be part of the meadow.

Group 3
v1, line 3 I gather the blossoms the whole meadow over;
v1, line 4 Dear mother, all flowers remind me of you.

Items: meadow, flowers, “mother items” – a purse and a necklace

Suggestions: Choose people to gather blossoms. Some could hold the flowers. Some could be “mother.”

Group 4
v2, line 1. O mother, I give you my love with each flower

Items: flowers, giant heart, “mother items”

Suggestions: Choose someone to be “Mother.” Choose people to hand hearts and flowers to “Mother” (could have all do this and stand in a line)

Group 5
v2, line 2 To give forth sweet fragrance a whole lifetime through;

Items: Perfume bottles, flowers

Hints: Have people act out smelling fragrance


Group 6
v2, line 3 For if I love blossoms and meadows and walking

Items: Blossoms, Meadows

Suggestions: Act out enjoying blossoms, meadows, and walking (a few different people would do each one)

Group 7
v2, line 4 I learn how to love them, dear mother, from you.

Items: Book, Heart, Mother items
Suggestions: “Learn” by reading from book, Hold out hearts, point to someone dressed as “Mother”

Evaluation and tips
Overall, I think this activity was a success and am glad I did it. The children memorized the song pretty well and from all appearances, had a lot of fun. Singing should be fun! Reverent, yes, but also, fun. When I had them sing the song without any of the objects, they sang the song through without any problems, so I feel that I did accomplish my main goal of ingraining the song in their memories.

I did have some worries at first. I wasn't sure if they were truly learning the song until the end. In addition, the noise levels were a bit high for a while, but mostly when children were preparing their lines, which is not surprising. In hindsight, I wish I had asked the teachers to make sure the children were all engaged, and suggested they have the children fold their arms when the class was done discussing what they were going to do. 

The noise level went back down once the classes began coming up to share their lines. I had a small problem with inattentive children playing with their flowers/meadows/etc. for the first line or two in junior primary, but I just made sure the children knew that I would be taking their props away if they didn't pay attention and participate. That generally did the trick. I also specifically asked a couple of children, by name, to turn around and face the front of the class. I made the children sing some of the lines more than once if I felt like I had less than 90% participation (and told them why we were singing it again) for a particular line, at which point they improved. 

Some thoughts around my activity choice

I briefly introduced "I Often Go Walking" last Sunday using a flip chart that I found online. I am not sharing it here because the children complained that the pictures (thought absolutely gorgeous) were too similar to each other (lots of pictures of blue flowers).

I am sure some of them know it but they haven't sung it in sacrament for over two years, since they didn't sing last Mother's Day. I also tried to be sensitive to the fact there may be children in the room that have special situations, for example, an absentee mom, a divorce, a death, etc. I encouraged all children to come up but didn't push it if they didn't.

2018 Update

Hi everyone,

I hope you have been enjoying my blog. I still receive and respond to requests even though I was released as a chorister 4.5 years ago. I still serve in the Primary though! I am excited that our chorister is going to lead this song this year. After years of serving in Primary, I've written a book that is available at Deseret Book and Costco during the Christmas season. Or year round, you can find it online. It's called "My Nativity ABCs." I have a second Primary-oriented children's book coming out this fall. You can pre-order "My Nativity 1-2-3s" on Amazon!

I also recently began sharing my General Conference cards that I make for my Primary kids on Etsy. You can download your own digital copy for $4 and then print as many copies as you want to make for your Primary kids!