Saturday, May 9, 2015

Silence is Golden, Even In Singing Time

Rhythm Stick Roll with a partner
Kids love to make noise and move. We love to let them!  Sometimes, however, a song has a quiet, slow, more reverent feel, and you want to tone things down.  That doesn't mean that you can't incorporate instruments and movement, though.  Most children learn better if they can move their energetic bodies, so it's our task to find a quiet, slow movement to fit those types of songs.  Enter the rhythm sticks.  I talked about how to use them as traditional instruments in an earlier post, but now let's take a look at how to use them in an entirely new way.

Rhythm Stick Roll

Right palms balance the sticks.
I first participated in this activity in a Primary music workshop presented by Sharla Dance, over at  It's unique, it's challenging, and I didn't want the song to end!  The movement is quiet, deliberate, and intense, so this activity should always be paired with a song that has that same tone.  For example, this week I'll use "Help Me, Dear Father" (Children's Songbook p.99), which is about repentance.

To introduce the activity, I invite a child to come be my partner. We each hold one rhythm stick in our right hand, balanced on our open palm.  Facing each other, we extend our hands so that our right fingertips barely overlap our partner's left fingertips.  Simultaneously, we carefully roll our rhythm sticks into our partners' left palms.  My left hand closes around the stick, and I bring it behind my back, passing it off to my right hand. I bring the stick around front and place both my hands in their original position, as my partner does the same.  Repeat. After a couple repetitions, I pass out the rhythm sticks and ask teachers to help make sure everyone has a partner.  I remain at the front with my partner, demonstrating the movement the entire time I'm singing.


Don't rush things!  I generally take one measure of the music to roll the stick and then a second measure to bring the stick around to starting position.  For this song, it would go like this:

"Help me, dear" (roll stick into partner's hand)
"Father to" (bring stick around to starting position)
"freely for-" (roll)
"give..." (bring around)

Extending the Activity

If you have a lot of time, ask the children to sit and watch how you're upping the difficulty.  Invite a pair of children to come up front and join you and your partner.  Stand in a circle and hold your hands out to your sides, rather than in front of you as before.  Demonstrate how you can roll the stick from your right hand into the waiting hand of the person on your right, while your left hand is receiving a stick from the person on your left.  Bring the new stick around behind your back, and repeat. Have the children all form groups of four, and sing the song again.

*Note:  I use Rhythm Stick Roll only with senior Primary, as it requires more coordination than my junior Primary can muster.  As you'll notice in my post showing my Singing Time plan for this week, I have an entirely different activity for this song for junior Primary.

So, don't shy away from using movement with the slower songs, too.  Just find a movement that matches. :)

Happy Singing!

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