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.


  1. Does each page of the flip chart have a scriptural reference. I could only find one. Am I not looking in the right places? Thank you so very much for this, by the way. The stake wants the senior primaries of each ward to practice a set of songs to sing at a Stake Christmas activity and this was one of the song. I have never heard it before this. Thanks for helping me out!!!

  2. I'm sorry I just barely saw this note. I did not record the scriptural reference for every image. Let me know if you still need it and I'm happy to write them out for you. I did not have a scripture for every image, but probably for half of the images.