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.