Sunday, January 27, 2013

Teaching "My Heavenly Father Loves Me" - Giant Earth Visual Aid

I am super excited to start teaching "My Heavenly Father Loves Me." This is one of my favorite all-time primary songs. I have sung this song with the children before, using flip charts, but this time, thanks to a wonderful idea by Wendy Olsen Buchanan (well, her mother actually), I created this rotating earth flip chart:

But first, I want to share the flip chart and idea from Wendy that I knew I had to duplicate. This line cemented the fact that I would make it, too: "It's always been a favorite visual aid  of the primary kids."

Wendy shared, "I can't take any credit for the visual aid because my mom made it years and years ago. (Lucky me, she laminated all her amazing visual aids and now I get to use them!) It's two poster boards, cut into circles and held together by a brad. The back poster is divided into 8 sections, 4 for each verse. She drew the pictures freehand. It's always been a favorite visual aid of the primary kids-- maybe because it's different from the normal posters or flip charts."

For my version, I used acrylics instead of markers since I knew I would have to paint a lot of blue onto my poster. I did this entirely with supplies I already had on hand.

I used green poster board (because I did not have any blue or white poster board) and painted in the blue ocean. First, I traced giant circles onto my green poster board and onto a piece of cardboard for my two sides. I wanted to make sure to use cardboard to make this visual aid stronger, so that it didn't flop around when I was holding it.

Next, I painted my cardboard blue, using a sponge brush so that I could do this part quickly.

While my blue paint dried, I cut out the wedge from the earth, sketched out some land masses, and painted a blue ocean onto my green poster. I had some thin packaging paper on hand so I cut out a third circle, folded it in quarters, and used that to find the center of the circle so that my wedge was somewhat even. Make sure not to cut your wedge too close to the brad or the brad will tear out of the center.

Then, I used a pin to poke a hole into the center of the two circles, and attached them together with a brad. This way, I knew I wouldn't mess up how much space I had to draw. I drew all my pictures freehand onto the cardboard, spinning the top circle as I went and drawing within the wedge. I then separated the pieces of cardboard again to paint everything.

Then, I painted everything, let it dry, and reattached my circles. That's it! I fit in eleven pictures overall. The acrylics worked beautifully. I think I could have done this in one hour if I had cut out pre-made pictures instead of painting everything. I was thinking that a person could even purchase colored paper for the earth, and cut and glue that on the earth. For me, painting was the most satisfying route but I can picture all the lovely vivid images I could have cut out from magazines or printed out.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I Am a Child of God - Lesson 3

My tentative plan for Singing Time, week three of January:

Junior Primary

  1. Today's "wiggle" songs will be "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" (stand up every time they sing "Sunbeam" -with a reminder to do it reverently), and "Hinges," complete with the obvious, matching motions.
  2. I have also started incorporating a fun birthday candle idea that someone shared with me - all the children pretend to be candles while we sing Happy Birthday to the child. The birthday children get to "blow out the candles." (I do this in Senior as well - am just planning to do it for 2013.)
  3. Junior Primary is a bit behind Senior Primary on learning the sign language for "I am Child of God" so I will finish teaching them verse 2 and 3.
  4. If there is any time left over, I am going to have everyone form a circle so that they can see each other while they sign the song. This will be fun for them because they get to enjoy the excitement of standing up and forming a circle, while encouraging them to sing the verse another time.
  5. Pass out the drawings to go with the signs that I have taught them (shared in my previous post).

Senior Primary

  1. Ask the children if they feel like they can remember all the signs that they learned. If they feel they haven't, review some of the signs with them. Maybe "pop quiz" them a little bit.
  2. Have all the children stand up and form a circle around the room. Tell them we are forming a signing circle so that we can see each other sign the words of the song.
  3. Have them "listen" to "I am a Child of God" the way a deaf person hears the song. I will choose either verse 2 or verse 3 since they have sung verse 1 so many times.
  4. Singing time bells. I will let them play my hand bells, choosing a child that has not received a bell yet for each verse of the song. I have had them play the bells 2-3 other times, and every time, I try to do things a little bit differently so this time, to mix it up I wrote out the chords instead of just the melody. I will teach them a little about what a melody is and what a chord is in a song, and then have them try playing chords instead of just the melody. I know this will be tough because the children won't all play their bells at the same time, but it will be fun to try, and a nice way to teach them a little more about music theory.

  5. If there is any time remaining, I will teach them a bit about descant and possibly have them sing those lines of the song.
  6. Pass out the drawings to go with the signs that I have taught them (shared in my previous post).

I Am a Child of God Sign Language Supplement

I drew the signs I have been teaching to the children as a supplement to help them stay excited about learning and remembering the sign language for "I Am a Child of God."

You can't learn or teach the sign language just by using these images but if you have already learned the signs (from my previous two posts), then it provides a nice memory refresh. Feel free to print these for personal use and to share with your primary.

I have now taught the junior primary the entire first verse and chorus of the song in sign language, while the senior primary has already learned three verses and the chorus of the song in sign language.

Therefore, this Sunday I will finish teaching the junior primary the second and third verse, and then in senior primary, we will review the signs at least once, but mixed with another activity, which I am still working through ...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Teaching Sign Language for "I Am a Child of God" - Singing Time - verse 2, 3

For those of you who read my previous post about teaching how to sign "I am a Child of God" verse 1, I have posted how to teach signing a simplified version of verses 2 and 3, below. (We signed "Choose the Right" for the primary program last year, and the parents and children loved it.)

Last week, I had volunteers come up, 3-5 at a time, to sign verse 1 with me after we learned it. They loved it, and it helped with learning the sign for the song by repetition. I think I had 3 groups come up and sign with me.

As I explained before you have to be careful not to be too literal when translating the spoken word into sign or you will inadvertently change the meaning of the song (really, just like translating in any language). That's actually a really good thing to talk about with the children to help emphasize the meaning of certain words of the song. I have added links to the words that the children will learn, choosing the websites that best depicts the correct translation into sign. To help guide me, I compared my selections to the official signing on (choose "ASL" from the link on the right), and the majority of the time, went with what she chose.

Verse 2nd

I am a child
(as explained with the sign language for verse 1 of this song, although he explains two pats, only does one pat)

of God,

And so my needs
(also, find a good explanation here)

are great;
(You can explain here that that the sign shows something big by going from smaller to bigger, and talk about how our need for our Heavenly Father is great. You want to use the sign for "large" or "big" here, as the sign for "great" means "wonderful" and is not the meaning intended by the song. See explanation on why I chose that form of "big" over other ways to do it, here.)

Help me (explained here)

to understand
(Love his light bulb explanation for helping children to remember how to do this sign)
(another good visual here)

his words,
(you are taking the sign for the letter "g" and bringing it toward the index finger of your non-dominant hand)

Before it grows,
(Notice there are four ways to sign "before" - the second one is the appropriate one for this song. There are a few other versions for this same meaning of "before" that are also corrected but I checked against the signer, and she chose this same option.)

it grows too late,
(Note that on, the woman signing uses both hands in the same motion to give it more emphasis. She does the motion at a slightly slower and more respectful manner conducive to the meaning of the line of the song.)

[chorus - explained in previous post, here]

Verse 3

I am a child
(as explained with the sign language for verse 1 of this song, although he explains two pats, only does one pat)

of God,

Rich blessings
(Sign this twice to indicate more than one blessing since this is a plural word - this is a good opportunity to talk about the meaning of the song here, and how our Father in Heaven has blessed us with many blessings, not just one.)

are in store;

If I but learn
(I love the explanation for this one, that provides - "Think of grabbing information from a book or piece of paper and placing it in your head." )

to do
(The kids will have already learned "do" from the first verse. I taught this sign previously with "Choose the Right," and I can tell you it's one of the childrens' favorite signs.)

his will,
(This one is important - there are several ways to sign "will," but this particular method mean's "God's will" so it is very appropriate for the song. I noticed that in, she angles it just a tiny bit above showing it's from God, rather than just straight toward herself like in this video.)

I'll live

(this is a super long explanation. The quick video is here but I chose to link to the other one because I like doing the signs without using letters, since that is the more controversial method. Therefore, you do the sign but with hands in a fist, not in the "l" shape. This sign shows up in verse 1 as well.)

with him 
(I debated how I want to handle this one so I didn't link it since I need to explain it. The two best options for me are to either do the sign for "God" again (above) or do a respectful sign for "him." The versions I found to share were all more casual versions. If you watched the signing video, she simply stretches out her hand by her head, palm up, to indicate a respectful him. It's almost the sign for "God," anyway. I will do it that way.)

once + more
(I also debated simply signing "again" but ultimately, I decided to follow the signing on again, which is that she signs "once" and then does the sign for "God" but gently moves her hand twice in a circular motion clockwise.)

[chorus - explained in previous post, here]

I'm debating whether to teach verse 4 because I think I might need to mix it up and introduce a new activity to keep it interesting. I have some ideas about that which I will share later, once I've finished formulating them. If I receive a bunch of feedback that folks would really like verse 4 in sign, I'll post it, but otherwise, I am probably not going to do it. In the meantime, I am also thinking of fun ways to mix up teaching the sign. Any ideas would be appreciated!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Choose the Right Sign Language vs. 2-3 to be posted by Saturday early morning!

Argh, crazy busy week. As in, I'm-running-out-of-milk-because-I-don't-have-time-to-get-to-the-grocery-store-busy.

I made it 90% through verse 2 last Saturday and will finish verse 3 tonight, then post both together late tonight.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Teaching the Sign Language for "I Am a Child of God"

Although the video of "I Am a Child of God" in sign language is beautiful, it is hard to learn to teach it from that video, and I really have not been able to find a great resource for learning it online. Therefore, I compared it against several sign language instructional sites and came up with this version, which is a simplified version of what you see on

I taught "Choose the Right" in sign language last year, and it went over REALLY well. The children loved it, and learned the song quickly after I started teaching it with sign.

The below lyrics are linked to show how to sign the words that I chose to highlight. I have also included some comments about the words of the song that you can explain to the children. Please note that I do have some experience with sign language and understand many of the concepts that can make a sign incorrect, but I am definitely not an expert. I selected these words after careful comparison and consideration (see Sources) section below. I plan to work on the other verses (update: verse 2 and 3 here) as well, but the first verse took me quite some time to research so it was as far as I could go for the time being.

Please Note: One of the websites I linked to for specific words of the song won't allow me directly link to the word of the song, but if I felt that I was the best version, I linked to it anyway - so once you go to the site, you have to do a search for that word.

I am a child
(although he explains two pats, only does one pat)

of God,

and he has sent
(This should be done gently, not abruptly, because of the context of the song - I will explain that we express it gently in this song. Compare with the signing on to see how gently she does it.)

me here,

Has given
(make sure you do the "give me" version instead of "give you" version - check cuz it shows it coming from above as if from God)

me an earthly

(love the explanation to think of "where you eat" and then "where to sleep")

With parents 
(I love being able to explain that you sign "dad" and "mom" back-to-back to mean "parent")

kind and

(this is a good time to explain that this is not the literal sign of dear but is a concept of "precious" or "love" - see explanation),

Lead me, Guide me, ("lead" and "guide" are basically the same)

Walk beside me,

Help me (explained here)

find the


Teach me all that


must do,
(I love being able to explain to the children the explanation that I liked to: "The sign starts near your head and moves out.  Imagine taking information from your head and putting it into someone else's head." See the video version of it here.)

To live
(this is a super long explanation. The quick video is here but I chose to link to the other one because I like doing the signs without using letters, since that is the more controversial method. Therefore, you do the sign but with hands in a fist, not in the "l" shape. This sign shows up again in verse 3.)

with him (do the sign for "God" - seems more appropriate and looks like what they did on some 



The above selections were based on about five intensive hours of comparing the sign language for each word that I wanted to learn across about five major sign language sites. Sign language is that just like any language in that it does not translate straight across to English word per word. In addition, there are a lot of schools of thought on how to do specific signs. In other words, there are many ways to sign something incorrectly, but there are also many ways to sign something correctly! That is why I chose each sign based on careful reading and comparison.

"I Am a Child of God" on
Click the ASL link on the right-hand side to open the video of the woman signing.

Signing Savvy Sign Language Video Dictionary

ASL Pro Sign Language Video Dictionary

Life Print Sign Language Video Dictionary
Life print includes a detailed description below the video of the person demonstrating the sign.

Sharing Through Primary Songs 2008
This is a Singing Time instruction book that you can buy online for about $4, but you can also view the sign language pages for "I am a Child of God" for free.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Fun Song Board! Great for the New Year and Sunbeams.

I am so excited at how well Singing Time went today, in both Junior and Senior primary. I loved this new activity.

I mentioned in my previous post that I was debating on how to approach the "What Song Am I?" game this week. What I ended up doing today would be great for other activities besides introducing a new song. It would be great for song reviews and for other clue games.

My inspiration was from the Melissa and Doug latch board (a popular educational toy brand), which looks like this:
Melissa and Doug Latches Board, Ages 3+
My version looks like this: (I was not looking at the latch board at the time I drew this, otherwise I guess I could have just copied it. It's a cute board. Or, if you own the latch board, you could always just bring that to Primary.)

This was easy to make. It took about an hour, tops, and if you are not comfortable free-hand drawing a few houses, you could easily do a Google search for large images of homes, and just cut them out and paste them to a poster board instead. I was trying to save on ink, so I just used a pencil and some markers.

Each window and door opens. I used a razor blade to cut the openings and fold back the windows and doors. (Be sure to put some cardboard beneath your poster so you don't cut into your table.) I then taped pictures of gospel principles behind the doors so that the children could look forward to opening the window or door and seeing the image behind it. I only taped the tops and bottoms of each picture, so there was room to easily slide a clue between the closed door/window and the picture.

I used a tiny piece of tape, which I folded back on itself so that it made a bit of a latch, to hold the windows and doors shut until the child pulled the piece of tape up.

The child would open the window or door, pull out the clue (as described in the previous post), then read it (or I read it it if they were too young). I asked children to raise their hand as they thought they knew the answer to the clue.

We had four new Sunbeams that joined the primary today, so I started by giving each Sunbeam a turn. They loved it! I then used the Helping Hands jar to call up the rest of the kids that participated.

This was so much fun. The children were so excited to take turns, and so reverent. The clues ended up being an excellent set, where some kids guessed the song right away, but all guessed the song by the end of the game. I then called on someone to share the answer. I can see using the windows and doors to house what song we sing next on a song review day, or a fun way to sing a song.

I also want to share that the Sunbeams (and the rest of the Junior Primary) loved holding up giant sun pictures and waving them back and forth with the song. I was really pleased that the opening lesson for Singing Time 2013 went off so beautifully.

I had a tiny bit of extra time in Senior Primary after we played "What Song Am?" and did the other stuff I planned last week, so I also taught them a little about leading in 4/4 time. It was a fun way to use up the extra time and sing "I Am a Child of God" one more time. They know the song too well for me to want to do in-depth flip charts, but I am excited to start teaching them sign language for this song, next week.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Introducing "I Am a Child of God"

[Before I jump into teaching, "I Am a Child of God," want to mention that for junior primary, I am also going to have a little extra fun with the new Sunbeams. I am going to sing the Sunbeam song with them, but pass out little "suns" that they get to hold up as they stand up and say "Sunbeam." I will do a few extra wiggle songs and hopefully help them feel more comfortable.]

I am excited to introduce "I Am a Child of God," the January theme song for the primary. I will stick to some simple principles that will be fun, but also help the children to learn. I except most primary children know this song fairly well, so we will start with a "What Song Am I?" game.

Introduce the Song- "What Song Am I?" Game
I will talk about a new song that we are working on this month and then ask the children to guess the song by playing a little game. There are of course many ways to play this game. In my first "What Song Am I" game I had them throw a little ball at something, and depending on where the ball landed, they saw a different hint. I have had them pop some balloons with hints inside. I have had them go fishing for clues. I have had them dig through "sand" (I used rice) for clues. This time, I  may have them select images from a poster for the hint behind it, or choose pieces of paper that have already been cut up, to assemble a picture. So many fun options! (Note from the following Sunday: This is the way I ended up playing the game.)

Either way, the point of the game is to offer hints, and I don't want to take too long to get to the actual hints so I want the game to be fun, but also very simple.

The game will have the following hints:

1. Play one note of the song. (If they've already pulled this hint, then they get to combine it and play two notes total.)

2. This song is about what all of these people have in common. (Show a picture of several different people with different ages, ethnic backgrounds, and other unique characteristics.)

3. This is the very first song in the Children's Songbook.

4. Play one note of the song. (If they've already pulled this hint, then they get to combine it and play two notes total.)

5. This song was written in 1957. The fourth verse was added in 1978, though!

6. This song is about Psalms 82:6.

7. Play one note of the song. (If they've already pulled this hint, then they get to combine it and play two notes total.)

8. The lyrics were written in 1957 by Naomi W. Randall and have been translated into over 90 languages.

9. Naomi W. Randall composed the first three verses of this song at the request of some Primary leaders. The board wanted a song that could teach children about LDS Church teachings on the nature of a child's relationship with God. Randall described how she composed the song:
I got down on my knees and prayed aloud, pleading that our Heavenly Father would let me know the right words. Around 2:00 a.m., I awakened and began to think again about the song. Words came to my mind. … I immediately got up and began to write the words down as they had come to me. Three verses and a chorus were soon formed. I gratefully surveyed the work, drank of the message of the words, and returned to my bedroom where I knelt before my Father in Heaven to say "Thank you!"[1]

10. The song was first performed at a stake Primary conference in 1957, over 50 years ago.

11. This song has four verses. The fourth verse was not added until almost 20 years after it was first written.

I expect the children to guess the song before I even make it through half the hints. To get through more hints, I tell the children to raise their hand if they think they recognize the song, but then we keep going through the hints, since the hints are really learning opportunities. If we make it through all the hints and the children still do not recognize the song, I will have the pianist play more notes of the song.

Song Activity
My experience is that if the Primary organizers put in a specific suggestion for introducing a new song, it is well thought out and worth following, so I am going to go with the suggestion in the Primary 2013 Sharing Time Manual, at the bottom of Page 3. (I really feel it helps to teach the music well to read the lesson for that day and the theme for that month.)

Ask the children to sing the chorus of “I Am a Child of God” (CS, 2–3) with you and listen for
words that describe what they would like someone to do for them. List their responses (lead,
guide, walk beside, help, teach) on the board. Ask a question about each word. For example, “Who
leads us?” or “Why would you want someone to walk beside you?” Testify of the blessings of having parents, teachers, leaders, prophets, the scriptures, and the Holy Ghost to help us find our way
back to Heavenly Father.

The questions I will ask:

1. Who leads you? (Our Heavenly Father through prophets, scriptures, etc; our parents, our teachers ...)
2. What does it mean to be guided? (Someone that shows you the path, give example of a tour guide)
3. Why would you want someone to walk beside you? (You are never alone, even when it feels like ...)
4. When this song says, "Help me find the way," what do you think it asking about? What way? (We are put on this earth to be tested and to find our way back to our Heavenly Father)

We will then sing the chorus together again (repetition, repetition to learn a song well!). If they know the first verse of the song, which I expect many of them will, we will sing the first verse as well.

Sign Language
If there is time remaining, which I definitely don't expect in junior primary, especially on Fast Sunday, then I will start teaching them the sign language for the chorus of the song. I think this is a good song for sign language, and will refer to the ASL video that the LDS church provides in the links on the right of the I Am a Child of God song page.