Saturday, December 28, 2013

Learning "He Sent His Son"

Our primary sang "He Sent His Son" for the Christmas program last year so they actually learned this one fairly recently. I also ended up having our bishopric 1st Counselor introduce the song last year. I was not in primary that Sunday, but he told me that the primary already knew the song fairly well. So, I never used Week 1 of my lesson plan from 2012. Here's what I planned out last year to prepare this song for the Christmas program:

Week 1 - "What Song Am I" followed by an image-matching activity

Week 2 - Traditional "Cover the Flipchart" game and the bell game

I really did not spend much time on this song last year because they knew it so well!!

This is a great song though, for using the two sides of the room - one side sings the questions, and the other side sings the answers. You can do this a few times, then swap sides, etc.

My biggest win last year was successfully encouraging the Sunbeams to participate during singing time, with my "latch board" activity. I was super excited by how well this activity worked, and would use it again to kick off 2014, but with new hints and pictures behind the windows and doors for the new song.

Hints for What Song Am I? game:
1. This song was written by Mabel Jones Gabbott, who was born in 1910.
2. The music for this song was written by Michael Finlinson Moody, who was born in 1941. President Moody has served several missions for the church.
3. Moroni 7:48 talks about this song. (Look up the scripture.) ... or for the easier hint: John 3:16
4. This song was written in 1982. This means that in some cases, you parents weren't even born yet when this song was written!
5. The same two people who wrote the music and words for this song also wrote the music and words for "Sleep Little Jesus" and "Have a Very Merry Christmas." (This clue is significant for our ward because we did not knowingly pick two Christmas songs to learn that were written by the same two people!)
6. Play the first two notes of the song.
7. Play the first three notes of the song.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Primary Song CDs for the Primary Children

If you're just looking for a song idea, and have not done Mad Gab with your primary yet, it is sooo fun. To visit my Mad Gab post from last Christmas, go here.

Christmas Music CD gifts
I'm putting the finishing touches on these Christmas presents for the primary children today - CDs with the main program songs that the children sang in 2013, as well as next year's songs. (I left off songs that were too specific to Father's Day, Mother's Day, or Christmas.)

I like having the past and future year on the CD since the children will already have a sense of familiarity with half of the songs on the CD, in other words, they will be more excited to listen to and sing along with the music. This will in turn help them to listen to and sing next year's music.

I used two different types of CD cases (the clear ones and the cardboard envelopes pictured above) because I was trying to save money, and use up a previous supply of cases.

I did not purchase CD labels because, wow, they are expensive!

If you want to make your own CDs, here's some things I did:

1. Purchase Avery labels. Make sure to buy InkJet labels if you have an InkJet printer (if you have a small, personal printer that cost a couple hundred at most, it's most likely an InkJet.) If you have a LaserJet printer, then buy LaserJet paper. Otherwise, your ink will smear.

2. Google for design programs to make your CD cover if you don't want to go to the trouble of changing margins in a Word document. Microsoft Word offers free CD templates. I found this black and white picture on because I wanted something that would not be expensive to print if I needed to make as many as 80 copies.

3. Invest in a paper cutter. I use mine all the time for primary. You can print off a 40% off coupon for Joann's or Hobby Lobby and buy one for fairly cheap. I am a big fan of Fiskars.

To burn your own LDS music CD (these instructions assume you have iTunes installed on your computer and know how to create a playlist):

1. Go to for the Children's Songbook or for the Hymnal. The Children's Songbook landing page (or Hymnal landing page) will appear.

2. Either click on the song from the list on the left, or search for the song in the column on the right.

3. Download the song by either placing your mouse over the Down arrow circled here, then choosing "Vocals and Music," or if you went to the song's page, clicking on the Down arrow on that page, on the right side.

4. Create a playlist for your Primary Music CD. Then, drag and drop all of the songs you just downloaded into this playlist. 

5. Insert your CD into your CD player. A dialog box will appear.

6. Click on your playlist so that iTunes knows what you want to burn. Then, go to File --> Burn Playlist to CD. The Burn Settings dialog box will appear.

7. Select the "Audio CD" radio button, then clicked "Burn." The CD starts to burn.

8. You can view the read-out at the top to see how long it will take your CD to burn.

9. When your CD is done. Go to Controls --> Eject Disc to safely remove the disc from your computer.
I quality checked myself by playing every 10th CD in a separate CD player to make sure I had burned everything properly.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Singing Time with a Nativity Cut Out.

I found this great nativity cut-out in the LDS Media library.

Scavenger hunt, anyone?

** 12/16/13 update in red below. :) More ideas.

A few ideas for this one (first, cut out the four pictures).

Option #1. Hide the pictures around the room, but so that they are visible. Sing a Christmas song that talks about the nativity, and have the children point around the room as they sing the song. For example, if you were to sing, "Sleep, Little Jesus," then you would have the children look for and point to the baby Jesus for "Sleep, Little Jesus, Lord of the earth," then point to the shepherds for "Shepherds will come to thee ..." etc.
Update: My new chorister did a version of this activity on Sunday, but instead of having them point, she had them stand up and turn toward the picture. It was so fun to see all their bodies turn, and because the pictures were on all four walls, they turned all the way left, all the way right, all the way back - it was great participation; loved the idea!

Option #1. Hide the pieces around the room and play the hot/cold game with Christmas songs until all four pieces are found. Obviously, this is a slightly different take on the hot/cold game, so once the child has left the room, you'd have to tell the rest of the class where the item was hidden. You could always have another child hide the item after the first child leaves the room, but wrap the picture to add to the mystery of what they are actually looking for when they play this game.

Option #2. Play a matching game with these four pictures and four scriptures. This is a great way to make them think about the scriptures. When they find a match, sing a Christmas song you have associated with the picture.

Option #4. This week's lesson is about how we can prepare to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus again. To tie this into the Christmas-themed nativity, cut out the four pictures above, as well as four blank sheets of paper. The object of the activity is to build a nativity. Children choose from eight envelopes. They will either end up with a piece of the nativity, which they get to put up on the board, or they will end up with one of the four sheets of paper. If they choose a nativity piece, the class sings a Christmas song. If the class is working on a song for the Christmas program, then they sing the Christmas program song, but maybe in a fun different way (staccato, legato, etc.). If they choose one of the pieces of paper without a picture on it, then if they are working a program song, they have to answer a question about the next line of the song. If the class is not working on a program song, then if they choose the piece of paper, they have to name one thing they can do to prepare to live with Heavenly Father again. If they don't understand the question, give them an example, like, "Be kind to others."

Option #5. This week's lesson actually specifically calls out a number of songs in the primary book and is a particularly easy week to combine singing time and sharing time. You could do the same thing as #4 except behind every sheet of paper that is not a nativity, list the song from the lesson plan - I Will Follow God's Plan 164-5; Keep the Commandments, 146-7: Kindness Begins with Me, 145; 103 - When I Am Baptized. Then, ask the children after each song to explain how the song reminds us of things we can do to prepare to live with Heavenly Father again.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

How to choose children to participate - and encourage reverence

Last week, I dressed some of the children who were being reverent in some tunics, to represent prophets. This week, when the sharing time teacher asked what we learned about last week, I was pleased to see that among the raised hands, was every child who was chosen to put on a prophet costume, even the super shy one who NEVER raises her hand. I love that she enjoyed being chosen enough that her hand shot up today.

I usually prefer to pick one of three ways to ask children to come to the front of the room for an activity:

1. I make a big deal about someone that was really reverent and call them up. I try to do this with the next few children, so that I'm not just choosing children who are suddenly being reverent because they see a reward, but because they are genuinely striving to be reverent and were already being reverent before they realized there was a big "reward."

2. I ask each teacher to choose one reverent child in their class, one at a time.

3. I use the "Helping Hands" jar and choose a name - but I tell the children that if the name I pull belongs to a child that was not reverent, I am putting the name back in the jar.

Our new chorister introduced a fourth way that I am enjoying:

4. She stops in the middle of the song and has children raise their hand if they know the next word of the song. She then chooses a child, and they can go up to the front of the room to participate in the activity.

Some of the younger children don't yet understand that they have to take turns and share, but I rarely cave if they complain that they aren't being chosen. I tell them to try to be really reverent and maybe they'll get a turn. If they really try, I try to give them an opportunity to come up.

If a child waves his or her arms and jumps up and down, I'll eventually remind the class (without drawing attention to the child) that I'm looking for children that are reverently raising their hands.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas Singing Time

Idea #1 - Prophet Matching. This week's theme is around how the prophets foretold of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. To tie that into singing time, use pictures of the six prophets that foretold of Jesus' birth. As children turn over a new prophet, talk about that prophet and what they foretold. This is what the sharing time lesson is about so you either need to coordinate with who is teaching that day, or just have them identify the prophet and don't talk too much about each picture. I've collected pictures for the matching game on the other tab of this blog. When children make a match, sing a Christmas song in the songbook, though "Follow the Prophet" would also be a good one to add in.

Idea #2 - Unwrap the Nativity. I think I do something along this line every year but I just love this one so much. Wrap each nativity piece along with the number for a song. Children have fun unwrapping presents, and it is a good reminder to them about the real gift of Christmas. In order to make sure they unwrap Baby Jesus before Singing Time is over, don't wrap too many of the extra pieces. Or, at the end, just call several children up to unwrap what remains to manage the time. To add some spice to this activity, you could also have children pretend to be certain pieces that they unwrap, but you have to be careful to be appropriate. For example, if a child unwraps Mary, have the children sing very, very softly. If a child unwraps a lamb, have them drag out the words like a lamb or even do a soft staccato like an animal walking.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thanksgiving Fun (Build-a-turkey, etc.) and a Not-Quite-Goodbye

Thanksgiving Fun
I love when appropriate holidays tie in so well with the lessons for the month. I have been talking to the children quite a bit all year about how all the beauty in the world around us reminds us that our Father in Heaven loves us - as we sing "My Heavenly Father Loves Me," and "I Think the World is Glorious," among other songs.

This month, as the sharing time lessons focus on our spiritual blessings, temporal blessings, and how we can be grateful for them, I have loved the idea of bringing out my thankful turkey (shared earlier this month), and other fun things. Some new twists that complement the lesson:

Option #1 - Build a Turkey Snowman
Rather than add feathers to a turkey, build the whole turkey with cut-outs for the face, body, etc. I'm envisioning a turkey snowman so it's kind of silly and fun. Since this week's sharing time lesson is on how we thank Heavenly Father for our blessings, each time they are called up, each item will have one scenario, like "My parents," and they have to name one way they can show gratitude for that item. If they get stuck, give them an example, like "I show my mom gratitude by planting flowers for her in the spring time." Every other item also has a song about gratitude on the back (can be subtle, like "My Heavenly Father Loves Me"). This way, you can sing a variety of songs but make sure they are thinking about gratitude and learning while they sing.

Option #2 - How Does this Song Show Gratitude?
Place 10 songs on the chalkboard behind 10 different pictures. Children stand 5 feet back and thrown a bean bag at the chalkboard. Whichever item they hit or comes closest to, is the item they have "chosen." You can either have the songs out so the kids can see them and aim at them, or hidden so it's a surprise. If the song is hidden, you can even have the children guess the song based on the picture. Either way, once you name the song, either ask the child to name one way this song is about gratitude or that you can show gratitude to the subject of the song, or you can ask the question so the children are all thinking about it, and then have them raise their hands after they sing the song. I like the latter option better because it helps them to concentrate on the words and meaning of the song.

Option #3 - I Waited Until Sunday Morning to Plan for Singing Time
All right, didn't plan ahead? Throw 10 items from in the house into a bag - a wooden spoon, scriptures, a bottle of dish washing soap, scriptures, a picture of the temple, etc. Children can pull the item out of the bag, then they have to identify one way they can show gratitude related to the item. If you have a cornucopia sitting around, find items that will fit inside of that for a better presentation. Better yet, wrap 'em. Something as simple as a paper bag will do though ...

And Lastly ... A Not-Quite-Good-bye Message
Last week was my first Sunday in my new calling. I am no longer the primary chorister for my ward! I am going to deeply miss being the primary chorister because I have loved teaching the gospel through music to these wonderful children. I love the gospel. I love the children. I love to sing. I love being creative. This was a great calling for me. I love how I was uplifted every week.

Thankfully, I do not have to grieve too much because my new calling has some similarities. I am super happy to say that I will still be in primary with these wonderful children. I was called to be primary president, because I conducted last week, I can already say that there are some similarities that made it feel like "home."

Hopefully as choristers you are providing your presidency with support anyway, and singing reverence songs when you feel they are needed, and helping the children recognize when they need to be reverent. As a chorister, if a teacher was late coming into sharing time, and the children took advantage of it, I would get up and sit with that class. I know the presidency appreciated my help, and now as president, I am seeing how having "practice" with that kind of participation will aid me in learning the best way to carry on the work in the Lord's primary.

I have to add that the departing president is a good friend of mine and a wonderful example to me. I am sad that we will no longer be in primary together but I'm excited to watch her hasten the work in other callings. The new chorister has been my visiting teaching partner for years, and I already know she is a gifted musician and very creative. She has a wonderful heart and will be a great addition the primary. I am excited for the children to get to know her.

I have loved watching readership on this little 'ole blog grow - and I don't think I can part with it, so I'm going to try to keep sharing ideas. With that said ... as long as you keep visiting, I'm not likely to quit posting!

Monday, November 11, 2013

All you need to know about teaching music in primary

All of the creative musical things we do in primary ultimately point to the same basic guidelines the church gives us, or I feel like it should. You can build your creative ideas on these basic building blocks:

The link above specifically calls out:

1. Ideas for prelude music.
2. Ideas for inviting reverence into the room.
3. Ideas for how to teach a song
4. Ideas for reviewing songs.

Additional ideas for teaching music:

There quite a few new resources about teaching music on, both for music leaders and for other leaders in the primary.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Teaching "Sleep, Little Jesus" for Christmas Program (plans for two Sundays)

I love this beautiful primary song, and I received feedback last Sunday when I taught it that most of the adults had never heard it before but loved the beautiful new words and tune as well! I think this is one of those songs that parents will catch their children singing by themselves at home. It is just beautiful, reminds me of "Samuel Tells the Story of Baby Jesus," in terms of the kind of primary tune that sticks in your head in a good way.

This is how I taught the song today:

1. I had the pianist play the song today and asked the children to raise their hand if they recognized the song. Very few hands went up. The purpose of doing this is not only to make a game of recognizing the song (an attention-getter activity) but also to have the children become familiar with the tune.

2. I had the children look up scriptures that went with each flip chart, which I shared in my previous post. I asked the children to tell me about what they had just read with each scripture, then I held up the matching picture and lines and we briefly discussed how the image went with the scripture, before going to the next image in the flip chart.

3. I sang the song for them and asked anyone that wanted to, to join in. The general rule of the thumb is that the children need to hear and sing the song three times to start to truly learn it.

4. I had them learn the song one line at a time.

5. Since this song has a tricky rhythm, I had them clap with me as we sang the song, one line at a time. I had them listen to hear how the lines of the song were "long, long, short, longer, long, etc." I said if they were hearing the rhythm properly, then we should all be clapping at the same time. At first, we were a little off, and I stopped them a few times to point out where they were having difficulty. By the end, we were all clapping in sync. In junior primary, we made it through the first verse of the song. In senior primary, we made it through the entire song, and memorized the first verse and most of the second verse of the song.

I turned over a line of the song as they learned it, and asked children to raise their hand if they thought I should turn the song over, etc.

6. I will draw a chart on the board this Sunday for Junior Primary (if I had thought about it earlier I would have done this today) to help us work on and understand the rhythm even better. Something like this, with longer lines representing half notes, shorter lines representing quarter notes, etc. The children don't need to see the words, I just wrote them on there in tiny letters in case we have to stop and I lose my place. I think there are a lot of fun things to do with this:

1. Point and have children follow along or clap.

2. Have children bring their arms out wide and then small again, etc. to show different length of the notes.

3. Put long sheets on the board and ask children to identify which length of sheet to use for that song. They can get up one by one to choose a short, long, or longer piece. There are actually some other length notes in there but I don't want to get too complicated, and sticking with the main three lengths will work. If you are not comfortable enough with reading music to do this, then just clap with the pianist and practice by listening to the song on

Otherwise, it would go something like this:


Long (medium-sized strip of paper or a clap and hold)
(short sheet of paper or a quick clap, no hold)

The children have a lot of fun with this, plus it helps them concentrate on words and rhythm so it's really a win-win method. I'm not a professional music teacher so some might disagree with me - but it works in primary - it's fun, and it helps teach them both lyrics and tune.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Christmas Music: "Sleep, Little Jesus" Flipchart

I am so excited about this beautiful song that I discovered while reviewing the Christmas music in the Children's Songbook. I don't think I have ever memorized a primary song this quickly - it is just so beautiful and intuitive that it cements into the mind quickly and easily.

I intended to find some fun, new way to teach this song but I really feel like a song like this is best conveyed through the individual stories that each line of the song tells so I'm at least going to start with a flip chart to introduce and talk about the special message in this song.

You can download a copy of this flipchart. If you have difficulty with downloading from, you can send me your email address and I will send it to you if I have access to my files.

“Sleep, Little Jesus” from Children’s Songbook, p.47. Text by Mabel Jones Gabbott. Images take from Flipchart by

Free Time: The Two Months of Sundays Between the Singing Time Program and the New Year

We had our primary program last week, and it was beautiful, amazing, and wonderful. I am so grateful to an amazing primary presidency, her wonderful and supportive counselors, two talented and supportive primary pianists, the teachers, and the parents and siblings who have all been a part of helping to teach these thoughtful, loving children. I absolutely love all of them.

I've had so many ideas brewing about the next two months.

I have an annual Thanksgiving Singing Time that the children LOVE and that is probably my personal favorite, and some other holiday-themed singing times planned. I also want to teach the children two songs to sing in the Christmas program so that means that I need to plan wisely so that I'm not trying to teach two songs at the last minute.

I have already discussed the Christmas Program with our amazing Ward Music Leader. She asked me what songs I had in mind, then was pleased to tell me that one of the songs I had picked in particular fit perfectly into the narration and spot in the program that she had been considering! Wahoo!

To decide, I went through every song in the Children's Songbook, reviewing both the tune and the lyrics. There are way too many excellent Christmas songs in there to even consider looking elsewhere. I narrowed it down to six, eliminating ones I have done in the past because once again, there are way too many amazing songs to become fixated on the same song.

The next day, one of the songs that had been fourth on my list kept coming into my mind all day. I chose that as one of my two songs, and I'm so excited to teach it!!

The two songs I have tentatively selected:

Sleep Little Jesus


  1. 1. Sleep, little Jesus, Lord of the earth.
    Angels are telling the news of thy birth.
    Shepherds will come to thee, bringing thee love.
    Bright shines the star in heaven above.
  2. 2. "Sleep, little Jesus," softly we sing.
    Earth long has waited her Savior and King.
    Heavenly hosts sing, "Alleluia,
    Peace to all men, Alleluia!"
  3. Words: Mabel Jones Gabbott, 1910-2004. (c) 1981 IRI
    Music: Michael Finlinson Moody, b. 1941. (c) 1981 IRI

I expect this one may be a little to teach because it's not as intuitive. Too many similar words in a row. Challenged accepted ... ha ha. More to come.

Stars Were Gleaming


  1. 1. Stars were gleaming, shepherds dreaming;
    And the night was dark and chill.
    Angels' story rang with glory;
    Shepherds heard it on the hill.
    Ah, that singing! Hear it ringing,
    Earthward winging, Christmas bringing!
    Hearken! We can hear it still!
  2. 2. See the clearness and the nearness
    Of the blessed Christmas star,
    Leading, guiding; wise men riding
    Through the desert dark and far.
    Lovely showing, shining, growing,
    Onward going, gleaming, glowing,
    Leading still, our Christmas star!
  3. Words: Nancy Byrd Turner, 1880-1971
    Music: Polish carol; arr. by Darwin Wolford, b. 1936
    Words (c) 1930 by Presbyterian Board of Christian Education; renewed 1958; from Hymns for Primary Worship. Used by permission of Westminster/John Knox Press. Arr. (c) 1989 IRI

I am working on a flip chart for "Sleep, Little Jesus," coming soon.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Finally - Mrs. Potato Head for Singing Time

I asked back in August if it would be helpful to post my Mrs. Potato Head parts.

I'm sorry this took me so long but first I wanted to see if there was enough interest to take the time to scan them. Then, I had to make the choice between finding time to cook and pull weeds ... or scan parts, ha ha.

I only scanned about 2/3 of the pieces that I have drawn but it is enough to keep you busy for a full singing time, I promise.

I used Velcro stickers, which you can find in the "velcro" section, usually in crafts or office supplies, in office supply stores, sewing stores, and even super centers. Make sure to be consistent with which texture you put on the "potato" vs. on all the other parts, e.g., if you use the fuzzy side on the potato, use the sharper side on all the "pieces."

To print, right-click on the image. A menu will appear. Click "print" from the menu option:

... or, just send me your email and I'll shoot these images straight over to you! (I will send this directly to everyone that sent me their email addresses back in August.)

I recommend you laminate everything you cut it out. I laminated because I colored all of this stuff in with a marker so I didn't want to lose all that effort, but it really does make it last longer against energetic children :)

I did not write my info on any of these images so PLEASE do not post these images elsewhere. Direct them back to my blog if they want a copy. Thanks.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Last Practice Before the Program!

This Sunday is our last practice before the program.

I don't have any special activity planned. I think it's important to just focus on fixing any issues and making sure we run through every song at least once. There are certain songs where the lyrics are a little quieter or weaker, and I'll stop and focus on those pieces as necessary.

I have a few special things planned so we'll work on the songs, fix any issues, and make sure to run through all the special things:

1. For "Every Star is Different" I have some children singing parts of the songs as little mini solos.

2. Most of the songs are being played by children so I will spend extra time on songs where the children play, as time permits. This is a unique and fun thing our ward does, and one I have mixed feelings about - it's difficult to put so much effort into a song and then sing it differently than practiced because the children that are accompanying are not at the appropriate skill level to accompany the song. I figure, the same could be said for a lot of our callings as adults - we learn as we go, so I will work to find ways to be supportive, and am refining my process of how I am involved and how I give input. For one thing, I am going to push back harder next year. My first year, I was completely taken by surprise and it was difficult. My second year, I wasn't asked at all, but since that had happened the previous year, I wasn't as surprised. I didn't express my shock that I wasn't involved in that decision so I guess it was my own fault. Fast forward - and next year, I'm going to take some control, including making it mandatory for kids to accompanying throughout the year, not just at the end of the year, for a specific song assigned to them. If they aren't comfortable and good enough to accompany during primary, they shouldn't be accompanying during the program yet. I'll still let children that aren't at that level yet accompany, but I will at least take control of making sure they are more ready. I want to find the balance between my intellectual understanding of quality playing and not letting intellect get in the way of the spiritual. If the ward music leader prayerfully chooses children, and if the children prepare faithfully, and if I am faithful, I expect at the end of the day things will work out, and they have in past years.

3. We have children playing strings for some of the songs, so we'll also practice with the strings.

4. For "A Child's Prayer," I'm having the primary teachers sing the duet with the primary children, so we'll work on that and see what adjustments need to be made. I have not been able to hear the teachers and children combined between junior and senior primary, so I'll have to pay attention and prepare to make adjustments when we have our practice on Saturday.

5. I'll still focus on volume, lyrics, and singing the song with the energy appropriate to each song. I'll bring a few props that I might want to use - my "mumbling mummy" sign, my "bored bat" sign, etc. that I will have the primary presidency hold up to show them how they are doing. I will bring my puppet, "Shy Samuel," who only responds to beautiful, loud singing, and will hide in his box if the children are singing too softly. I might also bring stickers to put on children to reward them for singing beautifully and with energy throughout the class time. I'm not sure if I will do any of this but I will bring some props just in case. Most of my focus though, will be simply on interrupting them during the song if I need to, to call out specific areas that need to be enhanced.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Review Song Game: Find the Butterfly (or Turkey or Pumpkin) ...

I'm playing a simple "find the butterfly" game this Sunday.

This is from an activity I planned two years ago and never had time to fit in - but modified. I want to share the original way I planned to play this game, as well as the modified version. One version is better for reviewing songs for the program, while the other version is better if you've completed the program and have a little more time.

This can clearly be adapted to any image but I originally made it for a Spring Activity. I've noticed the bright, bold colors tend to appeal to the younger children.

How it Works
Each petal, stem, and each section of grass is attached to the poster board with Velcro stickers. Children can "pluck" an item off the board to determine the next song.

Version 1 - Find the Butterfly and You Choose the Song
  • If a child chooses a petal with a butterfly behind it, they get to pick a song to sing. 
  • If a child chooses a petal with two butterflies behind it (that are attached together), their teacher gets to pick a song to sing.

This is a fun way to sing a variety of songs from throughout the year, not just the songs in the primary program. You can write some of the songs from this year's program and other well know songs behind various pedals and leafs.

Version 2 - Find the Butterfly and Win a Prize

I have given out treats a total of one or possibly two times my entire time as primary chorister because I generally don't want to resort to bribery or bring candy into the room as a way to get their attention. For that reason though, I am comfortable making an exception - because it is so rare.

  • If a child chooses a petal with a butterfly behind it, they earn one Starburst for each child and teacher in the room. I will tell the children that I'll count up how many they earned and give them to the teachers to hand out after the sharing time lesson. Obviously, I don't want them singing with a Starburst in their mouth, nor would the sharing time teacher appreciate hearing rustling paper while she teaches the lesson. I specifically chose the Starburst because of the program song, "Every Star is Different."
  • If a child chooses a petal with two butterflies behind it, they earn a sticker in Junior Primary. I'm not sure what they will earn in Senior Primary but I'm thinking the eleven-year-olds might not be very impressed with a sticker - maybe they get a different piece of candy.
I have to make this modification instead of going with Version 1 because we don't have time to sing extra songs if we are getting ready for the primary program. The children that are playing the piano in the program all need the opportunity to practice with the children so this method ensures I have time to focus on the children and their piano playing.

I plan to stop them and fix issues in the songs where we reach them, and just make a point of making sure each song is fine-tuned and ready for the program. I could do this just by itself but I hope the spring flowers adds a little bit of attention-getting variety without taking too much additional time. It will also encourage them to be reverent and participate because they of course will not be allowed to participate if they are not being reverent.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Happy General Conference Weekend!

Just wanted to wish you a Happy General Conference weekend.

I hope you have been as inspired by me by the amazing people who lead by example the ways of our Savior.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Singing Time Song Review Games

My ward likes to have children that are taking piano lessons play most of the songs in the primary program each year. The ward music director takes care of the assignment - I think she started this tradition. The children usually don't get a significant amount of notice, and their playing isn't quite at the level of the primary pianist, but they do a great job! However, that also means I need to be prepared for slower, choppier playing, and I can't throw any curve balls at the children that are playing during singing time, like playing staccato or having them repeat a line of the song over and over while I am having the children work on a line of the song.

With this in mind, I debated about several options this Sunday to keep the energy level up but contribute to the lesson that day in a very simple way (no creative piano playing allowed), because I really want to get through as many of the songs as possible before General Conference.

So, here's what I debated about to prepare for the program but keep it simple (but appropriately engaging), both in prep work and during Singing Time.

Option #1: Complete a Puzzle
Cut a relevant picture (this month's theme - a picture of someone serving) into a puzzle, and hide it around the room. Reverent children get to go pick up a piece that they spotted, and help build the puzzle. Each puzzle piece will either have a song to sing or if they get a magic piece, they need to give one example of how they can serve others (to fit with this month's service theme).

You can find great pictures depicting service on the service site here:

Option #2: Pick a Leaf
I'll hang leaves (or pumpkins for Halloween or turkeys for Thanksgiving ... you get the picture) from a tree (so many ways to make this, but I actually just own several different tree sculptures). Each leaf represents a song or a question about a song or both. The point of the questions is to make them think about the meaning of each song. I always tell them that these songs are about the gospel and our testimonies, and that we will sing more beautifully if we think about what we are singing.

Questions about the song:

Name one way that you know that Heavenly Father loves you.
(hint: "Whenever I ... I'm glad that I live in this ____________________ that Heavenly Father created for me.")

Name one thing you would do if the Savior was standing beside you?
(hint: "If the Savior stood beside me ... would I follow __________________ would I live more _______________ ...")

Name one way we know that we can return to our Father in Heaven.
(hint: "I am a child of God, rich blessings are in store, if I but learn _______________.")

Who lead Joseph Smith to the Golden Plates?
(hint: "An ________ came to Joseph Smith")

Why is it a good thing that just like every star is different, every child is different?
(hint: "Every star is different ... you're the only person who ...)

Why is it important to try to live like Jesus Christ?
(hint: "I like to look for rainbows ...I want to be the BEST I can to ...")

What does the gospel teach us about families after we pass from this earth?
(hint: "Families can be ...")

Option #3: You Be the Judge
Have the teachers or children help judge their own singing. I'll have them hold up their hands to vote for if they felt for each song they are perfect, almost there, or needs work for gusto, volume, and lyrics. I was thinking I could either alternate classes to vote, or choose reverent children to come up and take turns being judges. I could print out little signs for them to hold up and help judge. We could write down the comments and see what we need to work on for the following week.

I decided against this one because I'm worried it will stress out the children pianists but I think this would be good for a program review.

Option #4: Silent Leading
I want to stand up, not say a word, and use motions to show that I don't want to hear any sounds (pointer fingers over lips), then swoop my arms up to show them that I want them to stand up or sit down. I want to have the pianist start playing a song without telling them what I am having them play and see if I can get them to start singing - all while remaining totally silent. The point of this exercise is to have a little fun with them while reminding them of how important it is for them to watch me while they sing.

I had laryngitis my VERY first Sunday as primary chorister, and had to call a sub, but I think now, had I had more experience, I would have been comfortable leading singing time (as long as it was songs they already knew of course) with no voice.

Option #5: Matching Game
This version is for Senior Primary only. I wouldn't want to take the time to cut out pictures for Junior Primary the same week I did this activity because part of the beauty of this one is that it's quick to prepare, so with Junior, I would find a different, simple game, like Pictionary or something I've prepared in advance, like my Singing Elephant.

Thanks to Camille's Primary Singing Time Ideas for sharing this post from about a fun take on the traditional matching game. I really want to focus on activities that teach the music, and this game makes them think about the words of the song since they have to match up the titles. You can get really fancy with laminating this and making it reusable but the thing I like about my version is that it required five pieces of paper, a permanent marker, scissors/paper cutter, and it took me 10 minutes to make, total. To do this quickly:

1. Cut up your sheets into four squares per page. Just eye-ball it!
2. Lay out your square so you can see if you have an even number, and arrange the colors in a pleasing manner.
3. Number the squares.
4. Now write the first half of a song title on one square, and the second half on another square. Because your squares are numbered, it's easy to stack your papers up and just skip from one section of the pile to another to quickly add the titles. I put the page number in the lower corner of both squares to easily confirm the kids have made a match and to quickly give the pianist the song number.
5. I had a few extra squares. Since I'm worried about time, I drew pictures on the empty squares. Those can be for "optional" song or whatever, but since I'm worried about time, for me they are bonus - the kids can leave them turned over once they find it, and the get an extra turn!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Another Singing Time Review for 2013 Primary Program: Pictionary

I have some special arrangements I am working on for the Primary Program but I have not talked to the parents yet, so in the meantime, I'm going to work on some trouble spots with the lyrics for Junior Primary. Senior Primary is ready and needs a break so I'm playing the same game with them, but I'm adding in songs from last year for variation.

I will play Pictionary with the class and have the teachers be the artists. I'm not exactly sure how much time I need, and I want the children to be reverent, so I have some tentative rules in mind that I might alter as I see how it goes.

** Update, post-primary. This worked great. I ended up giving teachers about 40 seconds each - that was plenty of time to draw and complete their pictures. I let the winning class choose another class to sing the first verse solo (at the front of the room) and did that whole way through, asking the primary to join in after the first verse for every song. It was so fun, and my primary president gave me feedback that she liked seeing so much participation from the teachers.

I think Junior Primary would enjoy this game too, but since they are behind by two lesson plans, I will play the picture game that I planned for last week with them instead of the Pictionary game that I have below. If I have time later, I will let them catch up with this game on a future Sunday.

1. I will have the names of all the songs in the primary program written on pieces of paper. For Senior Primary, I will mix in other songs form the program.

2. I will call on a teacher of a reverent class to come up (and make a point of explaining that I chose a reverent class).

3. The teacher will draw a song from the "bucket" without showing anyone else. If there are two teachers, they can come up and draw together.

4. The teacher has 30 seconds to draw a picture depicting the words on the paper.

5. The class for which the teacher belongs will whisper together and have one opportunity to guess.

6. The teacher has another 30 seconds to add to the drawing if the children still don't know the song.

7. The class has a second opportunity to guess. At that point, the teacher can have more time to keep drawing, but then the entire primary can guess the song.

8.  If the class correctly chooses the song, we'll sing the song in a fun way.

9. If the entire primary has to help, then we'll choose a class from another bucket and that class gets to sing a solo verse, and then the rest of the primary will join in.

If you have played Pictionary or something similar with your primary before, I would love any input on how you make this game a success. Part of the reason I am having the teachers draw instead of the children is that I think they can help with drawing reverent depictions, and that it's a nice change from having the children come up.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Song Review for 2013 Singing Time Primary Music Program

This Sunday I want to work on reviewing all of the songs in the Primary Program. I will have the children match images to song titles, then we will work on the song that they identified. If we have time in Senior Primary, we will also look up the scriptures that go to the images that I have selected for each song. My main purpose in putting together this activity is focusing on the meaning of each song. I want to remind them that every song we sing teaches gospel principles, and that singing the words of the song while thinking about what the song is teaching will help us to sing more beautifully. Therefore, after a song is identified, I will stop to ask a few questions to ensure that the children truly understand the teachings to the words they are singing.

I will cover or cut off the titles for each image below so that the children don't know what each image board is about, of course.

You can print these images below. Just click on an image to blow up to full size on your computer screen. Then, right-click with your mouse, then click the "print" button. If you have trouble with this, send me your email address and I will try to email a PDF file to you. (It's currently 9/14/13, close to 11 a.m. MT so I'll check back sometime this evening!)

I made each board with images I found on




Sunday, September 8, 2013

Encouraging Reverence During Singing Time

My primary children, particularly in Junior Primary, have been a little rowdy these last three Sundays. I blame it on the end of summer vacation, the start of a new school year, the three-day weekend, and the start of a new church schedule (which rotates with the school schedule).

When I stood up today, I did a few things to calm them down and it worked beautifully! I've done these things in the past, but not in a while (because my primary kids are usually so reverent for me) so it was so satisfying to see how effective this was in changing the kids from noisy to reverent.

1. First, when I stood up, I pointed out that I could see they were being noisy and wiggly today and asked them to wiggle their fingers extra hard while we sang the wiggle song. When the song ended, one of the primary children was misbehaving so I said we were going to sing it one more time so xx could finish getting his wiggles out. We sang it again. (I rarely call someone out and I would not want anyone to feel bad. This time, it worked where I was gently teasing him but enough to get him to stop!)

2. I showed them the fun activity we were going to do. Everyone's hands went straight up. I said, "I'd like Rosie to come up. She has been so reverent today. Remember reverence isn't just about sitting still, but about paying attention. Rosie had her arms folded all during opening exercise. She paid attention to the speakers when they spoke, and to the children when they came up to share their thoughts (during a different special activity we had before opening exercise ended)." Rosie felt good, and it worked like a charm to get everyone else to sit still and try really hard to be reverent.

3. For the next song, I called up another child that had been reverent BEFORE I had to remind them to be reverent, congratulated her on the things she had done well to show reverence, and let her take a turn in our activity.

4. For the song after that, I asked a teacher to pick out someone that had been very reverent in their class.

In Senior Primary, I did something similar, mostly relying on teachers to help choose a reverent child. The first child I called up was one that I praised for being so reverent the previous week, and that I knew I had not had a chance to call up last Sunday. I also explained why I had called her up. I still had a few joke-ster boys in the corner, but I lead the music standing directly in front of them and that, as usual, did the trick.

After Junior Primary, the child that was misbehaving (for which we had to single the wiggle song twice), came up to me and said, "I don't like to sing very much." I think that was his version of an apology, and that his teacher may have made him apologize. Not everyone likes the same thing, so I think it's fair to acknowledge that some kids don't like to sing. I don't believe in forcing children to sing if they don't like to sing, though I would say I still have an almost 100% rate both in primary and during the primary program. So, I responded, "That's okay, but you still need to be reverent and not make funny noises during the song."

I have the vague notions for a lesson next week to focus on the music in a way that will further encourage reverence. More to come ...

P.S. For those who asked for the potato head ... I am trying to carve out some time to scan it. I work full-time and just switched to a new job role. The ramp-up has been extremely time-consuming. More to come!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Song Review! Bringing Back Erupting Cups (think baking soda volcanos)

I dreamed last night that I brought the supplies for Erupting Cups but forgot the baking soda. In my dream, I rushed home to collect the missing ingredients, and through a series of unfortunate events, a five-minute trip took 40 minutes, so that Junior Primary was over by the time I returned! It was horrible. In my dream, I was scolding myself, "You know how to switch up the plans at the last minute. Why were you so stubborn about keeping to this one?"

Either way ... I think I will stick to my dream and bring in Erupting Cups tomorrow. The children are still getting used to the start of a new school year, and a new church schedule (our stake switches schedules with the school year) so this will be a fun way to keep them interested and to work on quirks in the song that we need to address.

You can get the full instructions for how to do this activity from the post when I did this last May.

I actually dreamed last night that I molded a volcano for this but that's a little overkill. The kids love this activity as is - no need to make it even crazier.

I will spend extra time on some of these songs.

For example:

For "A Child's Prayer," I still haven't combined the Junior Primary into a duet yet, so I think I will split the children from the teachers and have them sing a duet that way.

For "An Angel Came to Joseph Smith," I never had a chance to teach the Junior Primary the last verse so I will do that.

For "If the Savior Stood Beside Me," I noticed some of the children singing "Reverently" when they should be singing "Righteously," so I will remind them about that and see if we can correct the issue once and for all.

I am also going to start a chart with this review so that we can make notes that the whole class can see about what they need to work on for each song, around lyrics, volume, and expressing the mood of the song (we just call it "gusto" but that is misleading).