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.