Saturday, August 31, 2013

An Oldie But Goodie: Red Light, Green Light

I'm going back to an oldie but goodie for Singing Time on Labor Day weekend:

Red Light, Green Light, which I used for Singing Time almost exactly one year ago. It's super easy and super fun, and a great way for the children to think about lyrics.

If you haven't already made yourself a Red Light, Green Light prop, DO IT! It's a great go-to that requires no prep time after the first time you make it!

Junior Primary has only had one week to work in "A Child's Prayer" so depending on how the children are participating tomorrow, I might also have them make up motions for that song ...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Teaching "A Child's Prayer," continued

I want to focus on a few aspects of "A Child's Prayer" that are tricky - a few sections where the notes drop or go up in melody, somewhat unexpectedly, and a few sections where the rhythm speeds up or slows down.

I'll play my usual clapping game - simply sing while clapping to the rhythm. Stop the children and show them a part if they are not clapping in sync - which means they don't have the rhythm right. If they get this down, then you can divide them up and have one half clap to the rhythm while one half claps to the beat. I love playing variations of this game with my primary, especially my Senior Primary. They seem to really enjoy it, and more importantly, it really helps them to get the words and rhythm down fast, in a fun way.

Pitch Leading
I've pitch lead them before and even made up motions for one of the program songs where for a tricky part, the motion is a pitch lead of three notes. However, I've never had the children pitch lead. So, I'll have them put their hands up, and follow me as they pitch lead.

Pitch Lead Game
I looked at "A Children's Songbook Companion," to see if they had any new ideas and they mentioned the perfect idea to go with this week's focus - melody pictures! This isn't an exact science but these four sheets of paper represent the melody of the second verse. I put shapes in the corners so that I could have children raise their hand and tell me which paper goes next. Focusing on the dots will help them think about the pitch as they sing. The book I referenced had some other activities around this that are fun but as this is a copyrighted book, you'll need to go check out the book yourself to see the rest of the ideas. (I purchased this book two years ago. I would say that I hardly ever use it, but even being able to refer to it once or twice a year when I am stuck or haven't had time to plan, has made it worthwhile for me. There are plenty of awesome ideas on the Internet but the think I like about this book is that it's just good, plain, basics.) 

Also, I'm going to have the Junior Primary at least, hear the song on before I have them trying breaking the song up into a duet themselves.

Next up
I'll probably bring out my rhythm sticks and/or bells next week but I didn't want to do that until we had this song down better. I haven't been working on this song for as long as this blog implies, since we have had Stake Conference and other things come up that threw off my plans. Otherwise, I would switch to reviewing songs next week, to keep things from feeling too much like we are spending every Sunday drilling on one song over and over.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Song Review Game - Mrs. Potato Head (a new twist)

My primary kids don't have "A Child's Prayer" down pat yet, but I never want them to feel like they are just drilling and drilling on one song over and over, PLUS I had stake conference coming up and didn't want them to forget more than they learned when they take a two-week hiatus from singing time ... so it was time to take a fun break and review the songs already in their repertoire. We'll get back to Week 3 of "A Child's Prayer" later ... and if you missed it, here's Week 1 and Week 2.

I re-used the Mrs. Potato Head I made for a song review over a year ago, with a new twist.

Here's how I did it the first time, and below is the variation I did last Sunday.

First, the objects:
I drew Mrs. Potato Head and her parts free-hand and then colored them in. It was a bit of a pain, but totally worth it. If choristers are interested, I'll scan the colored drawings for you to print and cut out to use with your primary kids. Just leave a comment and let me know if there's some interest in printing out these parts! If choristers find this helpful, I'll try to post them to print out by Saturday afternoon.

You can let children use tape or magnets to attach the pieces to Mrs. Potato Head. I used Velcro stickers since I went to the trouble of laminating. If you want to make something yourself, another variation is to use a 3D object: I did something similar to this last year, with letting children decorate a real, live pumpkin for Halloween but you could even tell them that you have a box and it's pretty boring - and then have them decorate the box ... or decorate a cake (but they'll want to eat it) ... etc.

Second, how I played:
The object of the activity was to complete Mrs. Potato Head before Singing Time ended. Neither Senior or Junior primary was able to accomplish this task, but they sure had fun trying. I think this is one of my primary kids' favorite activities in Junior and Senior primary because it is very participatory.

I put a diagram on the wall showing what each body part or accessory represented:

Hair - 2-3 - I am a Child of God
Hat - 142 - Every Star is Different
Eyes - 228 - My Heavenly Father Loves Me
Nose - 103 - When I am Baptized
Mouth - 86 - An Angel Came to Joseph Smith
Hands - If the Savior Stood Beside Me
Clothes - Families Can Be Together Forever

If after we sang the song, a child drew the same type of item out of the bag, we sang the song again, but in a different way. I drew another name out of the name jar to decide in what way we sang a song. If I felt the song was too reverent for the way they chose, I just told them that and had them draw again.

Options included:

  • Staccato (good for pronouncing enunciation)
  • Volley (each side of the room switches off singing a different line of the song)
  • Sway (sway while you sing)
  • I love the options that the Crazy Chorister suggests for ways to sing a song here.
  • Backwards (face the back of the room)
  • Flamingo style (one leg up)
  • Teachers only
  • Children only
  • Hum
  • Girls only / Boys only
  • Clap (I have them clap to the rhythm. Incidentally, they love this one.)
  • In the dark (turn off the lights)
  • Every other word (this one was hilarious because it's SO hard to do but it was fun for the kids to try, and it made them think about the words)
  • Hot (pretend you're really hot and sing like you are sweltering)
  • Cold (pretend you're really cold and sing like you're freezing
  • Mouth Open (sing with your mouth wide open - I used this as a teaching moment to explain that if they don't enunciate, that's how they sound when they sing during the sacrament program)
  • Sport (I did this for the Olympics and made up a bunch of different sports that had different ways of singing, like pretending you're ROWING, or LIFTING WEIGHTS, or SWIMMING, etc.)

I love making different ways for children to sing how to sing a song, whether it's choosing an object, playing a game like spin-the-wheel (see upcoming post!) or plinko, or turning over a piece of paper. This time, I did the last item and just put items on paper, because I did not want the kids to deliberate too long over different objects to choose.

We sang several songs and had a lot of fun - and then, to make sure the children were ready for the teacher (a member of the stake primary presidency this time), we ended with a reverent song. The teachers really appreciate this :)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Child's Prayer, Week #2 - Secret Word Game (A little-to-no prep time activity!)

I was going to save "Secret Word Game" for Week #2 of "A Child's Prayer" but because Testimony Meeting went long last week, and I only had about seven minutes to work with in Junior Primary, I instead played this game with "Families Can Be Together" Forever - rather quickly too. This is what I would have done this week if I had not felt the need to switch things up at the last minute, last week.

When I first introduced Secret Word Game to my primary about a year, I used it to review all the songs in the program that we had already learned, and had children watch for the same recurring secret words throughout all the songs, as many words that are important repeat throughout (e.g., pray, love, listen, choose, right). I loved playing it this way, but for "A Child's Prayer," I was going to instead focus on using the secret word game to help reinforce words they didn't know super well yet, so much as to use a fun game to keep them interested in a song review.

The key to playing this game well is to look for words that are both meaningful and repeat more than once. You then assign the word and action to each class. While you sing the song with the class, every time the class hears their secret word, they perform their action. The object is for the other children to notice and be able to identify all the secret words by the end of class.

The beauty of this game is that it makes it fun to sing songs over and over again.

Last Sunday, because this was a very quick last-minute switch due to lack of time, I just asked the class to make up their own actions, which works just as well. I had fun making up their actions for them last year though because the movements I chose ended up being funny but still respectful (one class would stand up and sit down, and then the next class would immediately stand up then turn around then sit down, because of the timing of where the two words were said in several of the songs).

Recommended words/actions:
I've included a quick count of how many times each word is sung if you sing both verses. If you're not ready to teach verse two, then this still works great for just working on one verse. For older children, you can also combine words that are sung less frequently and give them two words.

Father - Stand up and sit down (sung 3 times)
Child / Children - Stand up and touch your toes (sung 4 times)
Heaven - Stand up and raise your arms above your head (sung 3 times if you ask children to only do this action to "Heaven" not "Heavenly")
Pray / Prayer - Stand up, spin around once, then sit down (sung 5 times)
You - Clap your hands once (sung 3 times)
I -  ... (sung 3 times)
Kingdom - ... (sung 4 times)
Love - ... (sung 2 times)

I try to pick an "easy" word and action for the sunbeams and CTR4 children, or even combine the two classes to share one action, depending on the size of the class and attendance, as they have a harder time following what they need to do.

When I did this last week with my impromptu switch, I asked the children to raise their hand if they saw all the secret words, than half of the secret words, etc. When I had confirmed that the children had missed some of the secret words, I told them we were going to sing the song again so they could look for the secret words they had missed, etc.

End by either asking one class to identify another class' secret word, or by pointing to a class and having children raise their hand if they saw that class' secret word.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Teaching / Introducing "A Child's Prayer" for Singing Time

I'm so excited to start teaching "A Child's Prayer" next week. I love this song, both the words and the music, but I'm also energized because I know how much the children enjoyed singing "Love is Spoken Here" together (also a duet song), when I taught it for Father's Day.

My basic outline is as follows:
1. Attention Grabber Intro
2. Guess the Song game
3. Follow bullet points #2 and #3 from the primary 2013 Sharing Time outline

Share a story
I will likely use a story from the scriptures or a personal experience for Senior Primary (to be updated to this post) but for Junior Primary, I wrote a little story to help the children think about the meaning of this song, using the lines of the song, from Janice Kapp Perry's lyrics.

Samuel's Prayer by Esther from
Samuel had a bad day at school. While he was eating lunch, he spilled his drink all over his new shoes, and he felt sticky for the rest of the day. He also argued with his best friend. It made him feel lonely.

When he went home, he still felt sad. He remembered what his mom had taught him about talking to his Father in Heaven. She had taught him, "Don't ever forget that you are a Child of a God, and that he loves you. You can pray to your Father in Heaven any time. He is there for you whenever you want to speak to him. He will comfort you and he will answer your prayers."

Samuel thought about all the things that his mom had taught him, and how he was feeling sad, so he knelt down by his bed and said a prayer. He didn't know if it would really make him feel better, though, so he knelt down, and thought carefully before speaking.

"Heavenly Father," he prayed, "are you really there? And do you hear and answer EVERY child's prayer?" 

Samuel's father had taught him that when he prayers, he is talking to his Father in Heaven, not AT him. So, he paused during his prayer to stop and think about what he had just asked his Father in Heaven, and about how he felt about the question. He realized that he felt warm and happy inside. He thought about how, even though he couldn't see his Father in Heaven, he could see his Father's love in all the things the Lord had created for him. He knew that he wasn't alone, and that the warm feeling he felt was the Lord's love close around him as he knelt and prayed.

Samuel ended his prayer thoughtfully.  He said, "I remember now something that Jesus told disciples long ago. 'Suffer the children to come to me. Father, in prayer I'm coming now to thee.' "

(I am thinking about making a giant sized homemade book or illustrating it on a poster board or on the chalkboard, or attaching images to sticks beforehand. Either way, I want the story to be short and simple so that we can focus on the music, which is why I didn't expand this story further, as was tempting to do.)

Post-story questions / Guess the song

1. What do we learn from this story? (Our Heavenly Father loves us and we can pray to him anytime.)
2. Can anyone guess what song this might be?
3. This song is by Janice Kapp Perry. She wrote other well known songs like, "The Church of Jesus Christ," "I Love to See the Temple," "I'm Trying to be Like Jesus," and "As a Child of God."
4. I will have Sister xx VERY SLOWLY start playing the melody of the song. Raise your hand if you recognize it. Don't blurt it out!

5. All right, I'm going to sing this song and I want you to sing it with me if you know the words. Teachers, it's on page xx. I'll follow bullet #2 below for Junior Primary and make it harder for Senior Primary by asking them to listen for the rhyming words.

I'll continue through a modified version of some of the bullet points below, and when I get to the last line of the song, move to #6, here:
6. Can someone tell me when did Jesus tell disciples to "Suffer the children to come to me?" or what that means? (Answer in Primary 2: CTR A lesson manual: Display picture 2-35, Christ and the Children, and show the Bible. Explain that the story you are going to tell is found in the Bible. Tell the story found in Mark 10:13–16Explain that the disciples were afraid that the children would interrupt and disturb Jesus while he was teaching. But the Savior wanted the children to come near him. Read aloud what Jesus said from Mark 10:14 (starting with Suffer the little children). Explain that in this scripture suffer means to allow or let. Reread Jesus’ words, substituting the word let for suffer and leaving out the word to: “Let the little children come unto me.”) (I will add - This song is not just about Samuel. It's about every child, and how you can remember that just like how the savior wanted the children to come to him when he was on earth, our Heavenly Father wants you to to pray to him and talk to him.)

The 2013 Outline for Sharing Time suggestion for how to teach this song (I am using bullet #2 and bullet #3)
To help the children learn “A Child’s Prayer” (CS, 12–13), consider the following:
• Ask the children to imagine being away from their family for a long time and finally coming home; they open the door and are surrounded with comfort and love. Explain that praying is like opening a door to Heavenly Father; He is really there to comfort and love us, and He wants to hear and answer every child’s prayer. 
• Ask the children to listen for the words “there”and “prayer” as you sing the first two lines of “A Child’s Prayer.” Have the children touch their ears when they hear the words. Invite them to sing those lines with you. Continue with the rest of the song, having the children listen for the rhyming words in each line.
• Sing the second verse a phrase at a time, and ask the children to repeat each phrase when you point to them. Then divide the children into two groups and ask one group to sing the first part of each phrase (for example, “Pray”) and the other group to finish the phrase (“he is there”). Invite all of the children to stand to sing, “Of such is the kingdom, the kingdom of heaven.”