Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Singing Your Way Through the Christmas Story

Let them help with kid-friendly nativity sets
There are more beautiful Christmas songs than we have time to teach in our Primaries. And let's face it, we don't have time during the holidays to think of the perfect way to teach all of those songs, anyway! Here is a super simple idea to get your kiddos some exposure to a song they may not know. Bonus: it takes almost zero prep time. ;)

What You Need

-Several kid-friendly nativity sets with separate pieces (ideally one per class)
-A song that lists several of the figures in the story of Christ's birth. "The Shepherds' Carol", "Picture a Christmas", and "The Nativity Song" all work well.

Modeling the Activity

First, model the activity yourself (or with one of your own children, if that works for you). Have your pianist play just the melody line while you start singing the song by yourself (or some kids can join in if they know the song). When you reach the point in the song where a figure is mentioned, take that piece out of a bag and set it up on a table in the front of the room. For example, here's "Picture a Christmas." Add each piece when the bolded word is reached.

"Picture a stable in Judea. Picture a sacred, silent night.
And can you hear the angels near, and see the star so bright.
Picture a little baby Jesus, think of His life and works so dear..." etc.

Ask if anyone would like to help you this time, and then repeat with a few responsible children in front of the Primary.

Involving the Entire Primary

Ask if anyone else would like a turn, and then go over your rules briefly. Have teachers supervise their classes at stations around the room with tables and nativity sets, and tell the children they have 30 seconds to decide which classmate gets to hold which piece. If there are not enough to go around, tell them you'll repeat it so everyone gets a turn. Then start singing again!

This activity will not fill a whole Singing Time, but that's okay. It gets the children out of their seats, and it gives everyone a turn to participate. 

Happy singing!

Looking for more?          
For some other posts about Christmas ideas, try chimes or a full Singing Time plan with a sampling of Christmas songs.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

"The Shepherd's Carol"--a Pipe Chimes Activity

Pipe chimes in Primary
Pipe chimes just sound like the perfect instrument to use during Christmas time, don't they? That's probably because there are so many carols about bells.  (By the way, if you didn't catch the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's performance of "Carol of the Bells" earlier this month, watch it here!)  I borrowed a set of pipe chimes from a friend in the next ward, and I'm bringing them into Singing Time this Sunday.

Fantastic Chimes and Where to Find Them

My friend's pipe chimes set was homemade by a relative. The idea of cutting metal is daunting to me, but if you're braver than I, you can find detailed instructions for making them on Sugardoodle, here.  If you prefer to purchase them, check out the ones on my wish list, on Etsy, here.  These particular ones cost $30/set of 23 chimes.  Way better than the cost of hand bells! (See my post on hand bells here.  Their usage is very similar to chimes.)

Different Ways to Play a Song

Each chime plays one note when hit with a striker (a long, smooth piece of wood or metal, typically).  There are two basic ways to play a song with chimes: 1-play each note of the melody, or 2-play background chords while you sing the melody.  

I prefer playing the chords, as I can have the song go faster, and then as we repeat with new chime players, more children get a turn.  (That's especially important in my large Primary!)  I specifically chose "The Shepherd's Carol" (Children's Songbook p.40) because it only uses two chords.  That makes it easier when I'm conducting the children.

An Intro to Chords

If you've never used the chord notation in the Children's Songbook before, open up to the song in another window and take a look. Above the piano music is written the abbreviated name of the chord. "The Shepherd's Carol" only uses Dm (D minor) and A7.  I'm not well enough versed in music theory to know what notes those are, so I look them up. :)  I like the site, but there are lots of similar ones.  For this song, these are the only two chords you'll need: Dm=D, F, A.  A7=A, C#, E, G.

When you look at the piano music, the placement of the chord name above the staff indicates when in the song you should switch to the listed chord. It does not mean that you can only play the chord at that moment. When I conduct chime players, I have them strike on the syllables "Mar-"(Dm), "hush" (A7), "child" (Dm), and then I repeat the Dm again on "Jo-," since I don't want to leave the silence that long, and there hasn't been a chord change yet.  I follow that pattern throughout the song.

Presenting Chimes to the Children

When I bring out pipe chimes in Singing Time, I dramatically play one note before giving any introduction. Wow, that's a surefire way to get the children's attention! :) Their eyes are on me, and they all immediately hope they'll get a turn.  With that attitude in place, I give the rules about treating the instruments gently and only playing when directed.

I choose players to come up front, giving each child a chime and a striker.  I divide them into two groups, one for each chord.  I have them practice playing their chord when I point to their group, and then we launch immediately into the song.  Since the pattern of chords in this song is so simplistic (Dm-A7-Dm; Dm-A7-Dm; etc.), I don't use a chart at all. I just conduct the two groups, signalling each on their turn to play.  After one play-through, we trade out chime players and then repeat.  Since there is no chart, I find that this style of play is simple enough for my Junior Primary, unlike the more complicated way I use hand bells.

Added Challenge for Older Children

If your children in Senior Primary know "The Shepherd's Carol" well enough, you can sing this song as a round. Helpfully, the chords follow the same pattern through each phrase, so you can play chimes with the round, and the chords will match both parts.  Enlist help from a confident singer or two (either child or adult) to lead a second group, and have fun with it!

Happy singing,

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Singing Time Plan: A Christmas Sampler

This is the most wonderful time of the year! I love singing Christmas songs with the children, but I do find that most don't remember the songs from year to year.  So, I like to acquaint them with several different Christmas songs, in a way that allows them to participate without knowing the words.  Sharla Dance, over at, had some wonderful ideas that I'm excited to use!

  Junior Primary

Sharla Dance's actions for "Samuel"
"Picture a Christmas"  (p.50) 
Set up nativity.  First you set up a child-proof nativity as you sing, and then you let the children take turns doing so. Sharla gave me this idea here.  
"Samuel Tells of the Baby Jesus"  (p.36) 
Actions and paper plates.  You suit actions to the words of the song, and then have the children join you. Next time through, repeat while holding paper plates. This is Sharla's idea, and you can find her full description here. :)
"The Nativity Song"  (p.52)   
Magic chalkboard.  Tell the children you brought your magic chalkboard today, and it will make pictures of your song appear as you sing. Sketch quickly while you sing, then act surprised to see the pictures there. The little kids eat this up. :) Ask for details you could add, then repeat. 

  Senior Primary

"Picture a Christmas" (p.50)   
Set up nativity. See description above.
"Samuel Tells of the Baby Jesus" (p.36) 
Act It Out.  Before Sunday, contact a few children who already know the chorus and could act as angels. Bring simple costume pieces for yourself (Samuel) and the few children (angels). Stand on a chair or box as you begin singing and gesturing. Step back to let the angels sing. Ask for volunteer replacements, then repeat. 
"The Nativity Song"  (p.52) 
Hand bells.  I like to use chords, as I find them simpler for the children to follow. I use the movable chart I created, described here.  

Happy Christmas singing!