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 ...