Saturday, September 23, 2017

Download a General Conference Primary Activity Packet!

** Update: I had this activity packet on two different downloads and combined them into one today.

Hi Friends,

I like to make a General Conference packet for the Primary kids every year. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers amazing activity packets if you've never used them before but since I use them every year, this is my way of trying to add variety to the packet. I like to include the church's "Bingo" pages with my packet (they don't actually call it Bingo). Also, following a long tradition in my ward, we also attach a packet of Skittles or some other candy they can use as game pieces for some of the activities in the packet.

I also always make a point of having at least one page focus on the Primary songs that the children have been learning that year.

You can download my 2017 General Conference Activity Packet here or from the widget below.

Here is a preview of some of the pages:

 I'd love to know what you think. Or if you have any suggestions for pages that I should include in the packet next time! 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

My Nativity ABCs by Esther Yu Sumner

My Nativity ABCs

by Esther Yu Sumner

Giveaway ends October 10, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Win a free book!

My publisher, Cedar Fort, is giving away ten free copies of my new children's book through Goodreads. Enter to win! The drawing runs through October 10, 2017.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

My Nativity ABCs by Esther Yu Sumner

My Nativity ABCs

by Esther Yu Sumner

Giveaway ends October 10, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Visit "My Nativity ABCs" on Goodreads to enter now!

And, if you're in Salt Lake City this weekend, you can visit the artist for this book, Alex Worthen, at his booth in Artist Alley.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Primary Program - Where Should You Stand? Tips for getting the kids to sing with volume.

Where to Stand
When our primary was large, and we had to squeeze folding chairs into every empty space in the choir area, we found that it worked to choose a spot a few pews back in the chapel, and stand on a stool. We set the easel for the music in the pew area directly in front of that spot, which meant that I reserved a spot on a bench and then the spot on the bench directly in front of me. This was my favorite place to stand with a large choir.

Another year, the primary had shrunk enough that we tried having me direct so that I was up on the stands too, and the microphone was directly behind me when I was facing the children. The children responded better to requests for more volume, with me so close to them. It felt less intimidating. This was my favorite place to stand for a medium size choir.

For Mother's Day and other programs, when the children just come up from where they are sitting with their families, instead of being in the choir seats, I stood in front of the very front-most pew or sometimes even stayed seated. This was a great spot because I was right there in front of the kids, and proximity made them more comfortable.

I have seen choir directors stand in the center of one of the aisles, and that's not a bad spot, but I like to be centered in front of the kids.

Also, make sure that wherever you stand, both the pianist and if you need an organ, the organist can see you, too.

Sing out Loud
I realized pretty quickly as a primary chorister that the louder I sang, the louder the kids sang. They really do follow us so if we sing the wrong words, they sing the wrong words with us. If we sing forte, they sing forte with us.

I have been involved with the Primary Program and all times that the children sing in sacrament for eight years now, either as a chorister or primary president. It's noticeable that every time the chorister isn't comfortable singing loudly, the primary kids are a lot more quiet.

In addition, if the primary kids feel isolated from each other, they also have a tendency to sing more quietly. So, if you have a primary that is so small that they don't fill the primary seats, consider having them stand just behind the microphone and have them squish in close together. All of this stuff makes a big difference in volume and confidence!

Lastly, simple movements, like cupping my hand behind my ear helped.

What I don't recommend is having someone else hold up volume cards. The kids should be looking at you, not someone else.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

My Nativity ABCs by Esther Yu Sumner

My Nativity ABCs

by Esther Yu Sumner

Giveaway ends October 10, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Saturday, September 9, 2017

10 Song Review Ideas to Get Ready for the Primary Program

It's that time of the year when Primary choristers and leaders are preparing for the Primary Program.

Here's a round-up of my favorite song review activities that I've personally seen be very effective for the kids - not just singing every song over and over again, but finding ways to identify problem areas and strengthen them in a way that is fun and effective.

These activities are highly engaging so everyone is paying attention, plus someone gets the honor of coming to the front of the room so there's high participation all the way around.

I've added a "prep work" level so you know if you can prepare this the morning of church or if you need to do some work in advance.

1. For Senior Primary: Helmet Hero. For Junior Primary: Singing Elephant.
Prep work: Moderate for Senior, High for Junior
What: Children get to come up to the front of the room and fill in the blank to finish the missing lines to a song. This is difficult for Junior Primary because they can't read so I have them play Singing Elephant instead.

2. Red Light, Green Light
Prep work: Moderate
What: The entire class is forced to think about lines of the song when they stop singing and then start singing again in random spots depending on what color thread is pulled out of a canister. Let the kids pull the thread out!

3. Echo Chamber
Prep work: None
What: This is a no-prep activity and it really drills the lines into children's heads without them feeling bored about it, as children split into each corner of the room and take turns echoing one line at each other before moving to the next line. You need to give your pianist a little bit of warning though! The other fun way to do this is to have the two sides of the room echo each other, but I like four corners better.

4. How Loud Can You Sing?
Prep work: Low
What: (Same link as previous post so you have to scroll down a bit for this one.) I do this one last because once the kids can show me they are confident that they know the words, we work on their confidence in being able to sing loudly but beautifully while in the big chapel.

5. Singing Olympics
Prep work: High
What: This is if you want to "go big" and if your president will let you have the entire hour for singing time. Prepare fun activities that lead to choosing a song, then the judges review your for how well you know the lyrics, how loudly you sang, if you were watching the chorister, etc. It's a really great way to identify where the children need help singing. Oftentimes, it's the second verse of the song that's a problem. This is also best as a two-week activity. But, it's so fun!

6. Judges Song Review
Prep work: Low
What: If you want to do something similar to #5 but with way less prep work, prepare some simple but themed signs like these ones, put the songs for review in a jar, and ask a few judges to come in at the end of the song, hold up signs for how the children did. You can make it fancier if you want by having a progress bar up on the board that shows how the judges ranked each song.

(If I get at least 10 requests for these guys, which also includes Proud Pumpkin and Say What Werewolf. I will re-draw them and scan them for folks to print out.)

I made a fancy progress bar several years ago for Pioneer Day but you could even just draw bars on the chalkboard and color them in:

7. For Junior: Pop-Up Puppet
Prep work: Low
What: The kids in Junior primary LOVE this puppet that slowly creeps out of a box and looks around if the children are doing a good job with singing. So this is also a good way to test lyrics and volume. I love this because all I did was put wrapping paper around a box and put my arm through, using a puppet I owned. If you don't own one ask your neighbors. My friend that was a chorister before me had a really cool homemade one that was attached to a stick and sat inside what I remember as being an ice cream cone shaped funnel. But I can see using a Pringle canister.

8. Hot Potato
Prep work: Low
What: This is another great no prep activity. Grab a potato, a pom-pom, something easy to pass from one child to the other. They sing the song and when the music stops, whomever is holding the item has to tell everyone the next line of the song. A few caveats: I don't like to make kids too uncomfortable with being put on the spot so they are allowed to ask the neighbor to the left and right of them for help with the words. Also, they are not allowed to throw the item. They have to pass it gently.

9. Pretend It's the Day!
Prep work: Low
What: Pretend it's the day of the program. Have them come in, talk to them in low voices, maybe describe the scene. Ask them if they are at the edge of their seats. Have them slowly rise. Make them sit back down and stand again if they did this poorly. Sing the song, etc. This one isn't going to be as fun if you don't get into all the extra moves and I wouldn't do this until the end. It's more of performance preparation than song review so I saved this one for the end.

10. Follow the Leader
Here's another end-of-the-line prep one but it's also so great to work on dynamics with them. You could even have a child come up to the front and get to try doing the moves and having everyone follow that person.

And finally, on a related note, but not one that will help with song reviews:

I have a little announcement! I have a new children's book coming out that I wrote for my Primary kids. From now until October 10, 2017, you can enter to win one of ten free copies here!

My Nativity ABCs
is available for pre-order now on Amazon and will be in bookstores in mid-October. I'm so excited. Thanks for all the support of my primary chorister blog over the years. After years of putting together creative ideas for the children my mind has been so full of ideas for the children. I'm so excited to share this with the Primary kids. I actually have this book to a tune in my head (it's a rhyming ABC story).

Friday, September 8, 2017

I wrote a children's book and it's coming out next month! "My Nativity ABCs."

I wrote a book for my primary kids and it's available for pre-order on Amazon!

My Nativity ABCs goes into publication on October 10, 2017.

I love the Christmas songs in the Children's Songbook and I always tried to start singing them with the children as soon as it was remotely appropriate (November 1) until it was time to move on (second week of January). This ABC story focusing on the Nativity is written as rhyming text, inspired by my years as a primary chorister. I've put the story to song in my head.

"My Nativity ABCs" focuses on the nativity story from my perspective of what I want to share about it to the children, as a primary president, primary chorister, and primary teacher. This is largely influenced by recent annual primary themes that are established by church leaders for each year, that we actively think about all year as we work to help the children understand how much God loves them.

1. Choose the Right
2. I Know the Scriptures are True
3. I Know my Savior Lives
4. Families are Forever
5. I Am a Child of God

I tied these themes and other inspiring lessons from the scriptures into this book. For instance, F is about family and faith, which focuses on Theme #4 above.

The talented illustrator Alex Worthen did such a fantastic job with the art for this book. I'm excited to see it hit the shelves next month!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

General Conference cards

This is not a singing time post but I'm so excited to share this project that I am going to share it here on my Singing Time blog as well as my other more general Sharing Time blog that I haven't posted on quite as intensely as I did when I was a primary chorister.

I made General Conference cards that feature each speaker and a key learning from their talk. I have learned so much in studying intently to make these cards. I'm so grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and for a loving Father in Heaven who has blessed us with righteous leaders that are willing to spend their lifetime dedicated to serving others.

I loved the story of Yoon Hwan Choi learning about the gospel from his fourteen-year-old brother, of Ronald A. Rasband listening to promptings to speak to the people of Ecuador and give them comfort after a devastating earthquake, of Joy D. Jones talking about how we can prepare our youth for this world, of Gary E. Stevenson's wise father preventing him from jumping on a rock with a snake on it, and so many more. I could go on and on! I'm grateful for our prophet. I love our first presidency and the love they have for us.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

General Conference - All God's Critters Got a Place in the Choir - There is Sunshine in my Soul - Song Review

I loved General Conference last weekend!

I thought in particular that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's talk, called "Songs Sung and Unsung," about how we are all unique and all irreplaceable was so fitting for a singing time activity. I was so touched by his thoughts on that line of the song from "There is Sunshine in My Soul," about how "Jesus listening can hear the songs you cannot sing."

So, the fun part of this for Primary is using "critters" as the fun visual element of the story. I drew a little visual of what popped into my mind as I was thinking about this:

(*Note: For a version of my notes that encompasses 11 of the speakers from General Conference this year please visit my Sharing Time blog post about a General Conference sharing time.)

1. Intro activity
Put up a picture of six of our general authorities, including Jeffrey R. Holland. Ask the children if they can guess which leader gave this talk using the following the hints. You can mix up the hints by hiding them under objects that the children can select, putting them in a bag for a child to draw, hiding them under chairs, or just reading them off one by one.

> He started out his talk by talking about one of his favorite songs, "There is Sunshine in my Soul Today."
> He is one of the twelve apostles.
> He said, "All God's critters have a place in the choir."
> He said that just like the song says in "There is Sunshine in my Soul," if sometimes we don't feel the sunshine we can remember that "Jesus listening can hear the songs [you] cannot sing." (I would stop at this point and discuss this with them and make sure that they understand what it means.)
> When we sing, sometimes we might stand next to someone that knows the song better than us, or here in Primary, we look at Brother/Sister [chorister's surname here]. This general authority reminds us that this is just like life, we were stand as close to the Savior and Redeemer of the world as possible, and we take courage from him.

2. Critter activity
So there are of course LOTS of fun things to do with "critters" as a theme.

Just a few quick and easy ideas:

Option A: Make each class a "critter." Have them take turns singing lines of a song you are working on by holding up a picture of the critter that represents the class (or even a few different stuffed animals representing different critters). At the end, have ALL of the critters join in by holding up all the critters. They can see how their combined voices add to the choir. You can have reverent children volunteer to come up and help you by holding up the critters.

Option B: Hide an image of different critters under each primary chair - the larger the Primary the more critters you can do but I'd have at least ten of each critter. A child comes up and selects an object (like a stuffed animal) that represents a song (or just a card with the name of the song on it.) The object/card will have images of one or more critters. The children that have the matching critter come up to the front and sing to the rest of the Primary.

Option C: Match the critter to the song for a fun song review. Each song has clues to what song they are singing. The clues match a critter, and the critters are under the chairs. Or, the critters are in a bag and the child comes up and chooses the clues for the critter. Once the children guess the song, they can all sing it.

I can go on and on with this so maybe I'll add more later ... :)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Mother's Day songs

Our Primary sings in sacrament every Mother's Day. Sometimes, it's difficult to find time to learn a new song in time for the program. So, I've made up some Mother's Day songs using tunes that the children already know. You'll see with "Stand for the Right" that I also deliberately stuck with similar words to the original song. These words can be swapped out for Father's Day as well. Although, I'll share some other versions in May for Father's Day.

Enjoy -

To the tune of “Stand for the Right” on page 159 of the Children’s Songbook

Verse 1
My mother is honest and faithful and true,
It seems that she always knows just what to do,
At work or at play, In darkness or light,
She teaches me always to cho-ose the right.

Verse 2
She makes me feel happy when I feel so blue,
I want to be like her when I’m grown up, too,
At work or at play, In darkness or light,
She teaches me always to cho-ose the right.

To the tune of Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam on page 60 of the Children’s Songbook

Mother is kind and so lo-ving,

She shows her love each day,
I want to be just like Mother,
In all I do and say.

Like Mo-ther! Like Mo-ther!
I want to be just like Mo-ther!
I’ll fol-low, her examp-le,
I’ll be like Mother today!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Singing Time tip: don't be afraid to repeat!

I attended a stake primary training when I was a fairly new chorister. At the time, the stake Primary chorister reminded us not to be afraid to repeat activities, that the children liked some degree of repetition. I love to create new things and come up with fun ideas so my version of repeating things ended up being two or three times a year at most of some of my most successful singing time activities.

We have a new chorister this year who is balancing her schedule with three children under the age of six, including a baby. She is not afraid to repeat and it has been so fun to see how well the children are learning the songs and enjoying the repetition.

In January, she mostly focused on a "right door" vs "wrong door" activity where there was a right way to sing the song and a wrong way to see the song. It was so fun to see the children get excited to pick a door week after week, as she moved from the first verse to the second verse but stayed on the same activity.

In February, she brought in finger lights and turned off the lights while we sang. The kids were so excited the second week when they realized she was bringing the lights back again.

Of course, choristers need to balance repetition with what's working with their primary but for choristers that are overwhelmed or short on time, it's a nice reminder that sometimes, the most effective way to teach a song and still give the children a memorable, fun experience is to do what you did the week before!

Fun Tip:
One of my favorite ways to "repeat" during singing time was to have the children stand in four corners of the room with their class and teachers. We would go through the song line by line, with each corner of the room singing just that line. It created a fun echo effect and was a really quick but interesting way to learn a song quickly if we were having any trouble spots. Children have such quick minds and memorize so easily!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

As a Child of God and other 2017 primary songs

This year's curriculum is the exact same one as the one from 2012. That means I have lesson plans for all of these songs that I shared in 2012! Please visit the archives on the right-hand side of the page for ideas!

As a Child of God music review

When I brought in different fun objects to represent the words of the song and brought a "right" object and a "wrong" object, it was a huge hit with the kids. I had their full attention as they giggled if a choice was wrong vs. right. For "light" I had a Curious George toy with a hat that flipped open and a light on his head. They loved that.