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).