Showing posts with label logic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label logic. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Guest Post: "The Lord Gave Me a Temple" in a Melody Map

I'm excited to feature a guest post today!  Rachel, the Primary music leader in the next ward over, presented this activity at a stake music training, and I asked if she'd share. Enjoy! -Michelle


Melody maps are a wonderful tool for both junior and senior primary. They help the children visualize the song. Adults read music to learn a song. A melody map is essentially the same idea. Young children incorporate the same skills reading melody maps as if they were reading sheet music. It’s a wonderful preparation for eventual sight singing. The amazing thing about using melody maps is that they can be used in a variety of ways, thus allowing flexibility and versatility when teaching different age groups.

Initially I was nervous to teach the junior primary with melody maps. I decided to give it a try. I taught the first part of the song without the melody map, and then taught the second part of the song with the melody map. I noticed that in weeks following as we reviewed the song, the children were more confident in singing the portion of the song that was learned by using the melody map. They had memorized it quickly.

Senior primary will catch on to melody maps relatively quickly. To keep them engaged, you may want to mix up the pages and have them place them in the correct order as you sing the song. You can also cut out symbols and images which the children can place on the map when they sing certain words.



-Large poster board or sheets of easel paper

-Thick sharpies or markers – black and other colors

-Picture cut-outs or symbols that you desire to use that correspond with words often sung in the song.

     Some good pictures to make would be…

     Body = faces of children

     Temple = small picture of a temple

     Spirit = cut out shape of a white body

-Magnets to hang the maps on a white board or chalk board

Construct a melody map as shown in the pictures below. I happened to have several small squares of construction paper already cut out, so I used those. You can simply draw the symbols using different colored markers. You can also use different symbols such as triangles, circles, etc. Make sure to have the sheet music in front of you as you are constructing the map so that you can accurately represent where the notes are placed. Spacing is very important. There are four phrases in the song, so I constructed a map to represent each of the four phrases.

"The Lord gave me a temple to live within on earth."

"Once in Heaven I was spirit, but I left my home at birth."
"I'll make my temple brighter. I'll keep my spirit free."

"My body is the temple my Father gave to me."

I used the following symbols for different note values:

Quarter note = yellow square
Eighth note = black square
Half note = blue rectangle
Dotted half note = large red square

Presentation-first week

Place the maps on the white board in random order.

Ask the children to look for the map that best represents what you are singing and raise their hand when they know the answer.

Sing the first phrase of the song a few times until most of the hands go up.

Ask a child to come to the front of the room to choose the correct melody map. Have them hold it in front of the classroom.

Ask the children to sing that phrase with you a few times while pointing to the symbols as you sing.

Repeat this process until all phrases of the song have been sung.

Presentation-second week

Bring out the melody maps again and place them in the correct order on the board.

Hand out various small pictures that you cut out previously to some of the children.

As you sing the song, ask the children to come up one by one and place their picture on the map that corresponds with the word sung. 



Looking for more?  For an example Singing Time that incorporates a melody map, see my post here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Adventures with Activity Days: Part 1 of 2

This post is the first of a 2-part series describing ways to bring Primary music into a weekday Activity Days meeting. Look for part 2 next week.

Create a word search on poster board
I love being with my eight to twelve year old girls! Their weekday Activity Days leaders occasionally reach out to me for help incorporating music into their activities.  One thing they wanted was help memorizing the Articles of Faith.  We decided to focus on learning the songs for the first four Articles of Faith.  I split the girls into four small groups (this worked well for our class size of 12), and they rotated through four stations.  Here's how it worked:

The Flow

I had each group choose one of the stations to start.  All the supplies, along with written instructions of the activity, were in separate corners of the room.  The pianist and I started playing and singing the first Article of Faith, while the Activity Days leader helped the girls understand the instructions and work on their different activities.  I basically just sang the song over and over for 10 minutes, with short pauses to answer questions, until I called out that it was time to switch stations.

Each station was focused on a different activity. We changed to the next Article of Faith song when we rotated stations, so that each group was working on the same Article of Faith at the same time, though they were working on different activities.  

Station 1:  Create a Word Search

I prepped a blank word search for each Article of Faith on poster board.  My local department store had poster board with grid lines already drawn, and that made my life a lot easier. :)  I chose key words from the Article of Faith and wrote them at the bottom.  Working as a group, the girls wrote the chosen words in the empty boxes first, and then they added random letters in the remaining spaces.

Station 2: Create Rhythm Patterns

I tasked the girls with working as a group to create their own rhythm patterns to go with the song. I had been thinking something like pat-pat-clap-snap/pat-pat-clap-snap, etc.  One of the groups did something similar, but the others were wildly creative. It was a lot of fun seeing what they came up with!  Lesson learned:  encourage them to choose actions that match the reverent tone of the song....:/

Station 3:  Make a First Letter Code

This activity is one I've used a lot in my Primary, so the girls were familiar with it.  You can find the description in my previous post, here.  This time, I had the girls work as a group to make their own codes by listening carefully to the words as I sang.

Station 4:  Draw the Melody

This station was very simple. I had paper and markers, and I asked them to individually draw a line to show how the melody goes up and down. Then they showed their papers to their group members and traced the line as I sang.

The Wrap-Up

After the girls had been through each station, they demonstrated their hand motions for each other, and we sang each Article of Faith as we did the motions.  Then we put the word searches up on the board, one at a time, and took turns solving them while we sang, until it was time to go home.  The first letter codes we saved for another day.  I had been worried about being able to fill the time, but the hour flew by!  I hope they call me to come visit Activity Days again. :)

Happy singing!

Looking for more?  Take a look at my post for a rhythm band activity, which gives older children the challenge they crave.  Or try some of these suggestions for having older children play prelude for Primary.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"I Will Be Valiant"--a Sand Block Activity

Sand blocks are always a hit.
 There's something special about Singing Time during the last couple months of the year.  Without the pressure to focus on program songs, I love choosing songs that support the Sharing Time theme of the month.  November's theme is, "When we serve others, we serve God." So this week I chose to sing "I Will Be Valiant" (p.162), one of my favorites that we don't sing as often anymore.  Because this song has a bouncy rhythm, I decided to pair it with sand blocks. 

Where do I get sand blocks? is my go-to for kids' instruments.  Here is their quick list of sand blocks.  A word of caution on the Basic Beat brand ones:  they are the cheapest for a reason.  A friend of mine owns several sets, and the handles on some fell off after less than a year. I don't have experience with any other brands, as I made my own.  A lot of work?  Yes.  A lot of money?  No.  It was a very simple project, and you can find my tutorial here.  

Do I present this activity the same in both Junior and Senior Primary?

 Absolutely not. See my post here on ways to keep it simple for the youngsters (while still providing them age-appropriate challenges) as well as more complex rhythms for the older kids.  If you have a combined Primary, take a look at this post about ways to adapt playing with instruments.  

What if the children don't know the song?

Not a problem. :)  The children can be entirely engaged in the music as they play their sand blocks, and they can listen to the words as you sing.  This is the perfect kind of activity for a song that the children don't know, but that you'd love them to hear.  

Happy singing!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Circle Code: A Senior Primary Activity

Cracking the Circle Code

     Here's a closer look at Circle Code, the new activity I mentioned in my SingingTime post earlier this week, here.  I got the idea from Sharla over at, and then I changed it to meet my needs.  (You can read about her original Color Code activity here.)

A New Code Needed

In Sharla's Color Code, she created the code for the first verse of "Come, Follow Me" (Hymns #116).  My children already knew that verse, so I wanted to use the code for verse 4, instead.  As I sat down to apply Sharla's code to verse 4, I quickly realized it wouldn't work.  She had circles of different colors stand for words that started with a certain letter. (eg. Orange circles for words that started with "C.")  That worked well for verse 1, but in verse 4, only the letter "W" was used with any frequency higher than twice.  So I set out to develop my own code, using her basic idea of one circle per word.

Interpretation of the Circle Code

My Circle Code

Here's what I developed, after looking at the song and verse I wanted to highlight.  You can use a similar process to adapt Circle Code for any song.

Dark blue circles=baseline, one syllable word
Light blue circles=one syllable word starting with the letter "W"
Shadow=add to a circle to indicate the note is longer than a quarter note
Small white circle=add to a circle to indicate the word has more than one syllable

So, the first line of the poster corresponds to this line from the song:  "Not only shall we emulate..."

Making the Poster

The pictures make it hard to see how simple the poster really is.  It's truly just poster board with paper circles glued on.  I used a plastic cup to trace the larger circles onto construction paper, and I used a depleted roll of scotch tape for the smaller circles.  The shadows are just large black circles that I aligned a little lower.  

I lined up all the circles before gluing them down, so I could double check their placement and my coding.  My favorite glue to use is a dot glue runner, as I've found that liquid glue will pucker the paper, and a glue stick doesn't have very good staying power.  

Presenting the Activity

Place the poster on the board and ask the children what they notice.  Receive their answers.  Ask them to crack the code while you sing.  Point to each circle as you sing the corresponding word, and after the first sing-through, ask what their guesses are.  Sing through a couple more times, emphasizing different words as necessary.  

Now you're all set!  Prepare to be amazed at how quickly your children rise to this new challenge. :)

Happy singing!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Rhythm Band: Recycle Bin Edition

    Confession:  the first time I tried this activity with my Senior Primary kids, it totally flopped.  I realized--after the fact--that I hadn't given them enough experience with a single rhythm instrument to be able to follow the more complicated instructions given with a band.  So I rolled it back, giving them symbols on the board to correspond to actions and rhythms with a single instrument.  (See examples of this in my posts on egg cartons and sand blocks.)  Once your children know how to follow this style of notation, they'll be ready and eager to try it in a band setting!

The Instruments

The makings of a rhythm band
You could use any rhythm instruments you like, really, as long as you have enough for every child.  I normally choose 4 of my recycle bin favorites:

Ice cream buckets (to use like a drum)

Egg cartons (with a rhythm stick for tapping)

Pairs of paper plates (to use like cymbals)

Paper cups (for tapping and clapping)

Sheets of paper (for both patting on your lap and shaking quickly)

I tend to shy away from my nicer instruments for this activity, since those are more interesting in their own right. Also, this is the only way paper can be interesting.  Also, buckets are only tolerable when there are less than 20 of them going at once.  (*cringe* Yes, I learned this one the hard way!) 

The Patterns

Now that you've chosen your instruments, you need to choose a short pattern for each one.  Using simple symbols, write each pattern on the board on separate lines.  The following picture shows how I write the patterns on the board, so that the symbols vertically line up for the same moment in time.  Here, each instrument's pattern takes four beats to complete.  I've added vertical lines for you (which I won't use for the children) to show where the four beats are.  

Rhythm band patterns

Here is the interpretation of my symbols.  Please note that you don't have to use mine! Use whatever symbols and rhythms make sense to you.  This is just one idea.

Paper plates:  The long arc represents a cymbal crash where they make a large circle with their arms extending up, then out.  The two diagonal slashes represent one paper plate crossing to tap the opposite shoulder.

Buckets:  The first two beats represent syncopation with flat palms hitting the drum:  eighth, quarter (hold your palms there!), eighth.  The tiny zigzags represent light finger tapping, using two alternating fingers on both hands. I have them tap sixteenth notes for the first of those beats and eighth notes for the second beat.

Paper:  The two flat lines are eighth-note taps on their laps, then they rest for one beat.  The wavy line represents holding the piece of paper in both hands, letting it hang down and shaking it very quickly.

Egg cartons:  The pointy swoops represent scraping the carton back and forth with a rhythm stick.  They then tap with the stick, two eighth notes and one quarter note.

Presenting the Activity

Demonstration:  To teach the children how to do this activity, I start with all the instruments up front.  I demonstrate each one individually, singing as I do so, and I invite them to follow my hand movements, even though they don't have instruments yet.  I let them know that we'll be trading around instruments periodically, so they should learn each part.  

Rules:  Right before I ask children to help me pass out the instruments, I remind them that in a band, all the musicians have to follow the conductor.  I try to make it a game, where they have to sit up straighter when I dramatically raise my hands, and they have to instantly freeze when I cut them off. We practice that a couple times, and then it's finally time to begin.

Distribution:  I ask children to pass out the instruments so that each item is scattered around the room.  While they're doing that, I start singing and pantomiming the actions for one instrument.  I don't hold an instrument, so that I can switch quickly between the four.  I'll point to a line of symbols then do those actions for a line or two before switching to the next. 

Breaking it down:  If I see the children are having trouble, I'll use the earlier practiced motion of cutting off the music.  Then I'll break it down, one instrument at a time, to go over the pattern. I sing as I'm demonstrating, so that even as it seems the activity is going slowly, the music learning never stops. 

Shaking things up:  Once they have it, I call out, "Switch instruments!"  Then I hold up ten fingers and begin to count down, to let them know they have a deadline for trading with their neighbor.  As soon as I reach zero, I begin the song again, and we repeat. 

This is one of my favorite Primary music activities.  The kids can tell when you're having fun, and your smile will be contagious. :)

Happy singing!

Friday, May 29, 2015

First Letter Code--a Logic Activity for Senior Primary

Mysteries.  Codes.  Thinking puzzles.  Nothing engages my older boys more.  This First Letter Code activity taps into the logical learning style, which my Senior Primary craves.


To prepare this activity, select just one verse of a song.  I chose verse 1 of "Tell Me the Stories of Jesus" (Children's Songbook p.57).  Write out the first letters of each word in song order. 

Separate the letters into groups

So, "Tell Me The Stories Of Jesus I Love To Hear" becomes "TMTSOJILTH."

Chunk the letters into groups, similar to this:


Continue for the entire song.  Write one group per paper strip (card stock works well), until the whole song is represented.  

Start out of order


Present to the children with the papers out of order. Tell them the papers are a code, and the key to solving it is in the song. Sing the song through, and then hear the children's ideas for how to crack the code. If they are baffled, help them out by pointing to the first paper as you sing the first line.  Once they understand, they will be excited to place the papers in order.  

The completed activity
Instruct the children to raise their hands when they know which paper comes next.  Begin singing the song again, and silently wave children forward to correctly place a paper strip, one at a time, as you go through the song.  Periodically restart the song, pointing to each letter as you sing the matching word, to check the order.

Reusing the Activity

Credit for this First Letter Code idea goes to Sharla over at  Thanks, Sharla!  This activity isn't on her blog yet; I saw her present it at a workshop.  I've added an idea of my own, so as to use this activity more than one week without it boring the children.  I brought in a stopwatch on the second week and timed how long it took them to put all the papers in order.  A couple weeks later, I brought the activity back in, and the children tried to beat their previous time. Fun all over again. :)

Happy singing!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Turning "Simple" Into a Fun Challenge

Sand blocks. I showed you how to make them. I told you I'd be using them. I even hinted that you could keep them simple for junior primary and then step it up for senior primary.  My weekly outline posts can only have brief descriptions of each activity, though, so here's a more in-depth look at how to make the magic happen.

Starting with Simple

First, let's take a look at how the activity goes for junior primary.  This week, I'm using the President Monson verse of "Follow the Prophet," found in The Friend magazine here.

Tapping the far edges
Tapping the near edges
We start with light tapping, where I touch the farthest edges of the blocks together and then quickly switch to the nearest edges touching. I make these quick (so the children don't get bored), giving two taps per beat.  I use 8 beats ( or 16 taps), for the phrase, "Heav'nly Father loves us and wants us to return. He...."

Scraping on the sandpaper side
Then I switch to 8 counts of scraping the sand blocks against each other, along the sandpaper side, on each beat. This uses the phrase "...blesses us with prophets who help us to learn."

For the rest of the song, I alternate tapping and scraping, in 8 count intervals.  About half-way through the song, when the children are following me well, I change things up slightly.  For the taps, I hold the blocks right in front of my body, but I move the scrapes to different locations.  The first time, I hold the blocks out to my right.  Taps are back in the middle, then scrapes to the left this time.  Taps in the middle, then scrapes up high, etc.  The song ended at some point during all that, but since we're now changing the movement some, the children aren't tired of the activity yet, and we just repeat the song and continue on.

Extender Activity for Junior

If I have lots of time and want to extend the activity further, I switch to only scrapes, and I change the location every 4 beats. I try to trick the children or be silly in some way (holding the blocks next to my belly button or nose, for example),  as kids love it when a lesson feels like play.

*Note: These instruments make a lot of noise.  You will have to sing a LOT more loudly than you normally sing in order to be heard. Not that I learned that the hard way or anything...

Presenting a Challenge

Symbols to match the actions
Now think about senior primary.  Your older children will groan if you present sand blocks in the way I describe above. Instead, consider how they will respond if you place papers like the ones pictured up on the board. Before I pass out the sand blocks, I demonstrate my chosen actions without any explanation.  Then I ask the children to match my actions to the coordinating symbols on the papers.  When my senior primary was new to this type of activity, I put the papers in order. Now, I place them on the board out of order, and the children have to unscramble them before they get any instruments. It normally only takes one time through the song. My kids catch on fast!

However, since you don't have the benefit of watching my actions, here's the interpretation.  One piece of paper shows the actions for 4 beats. The diagonal slash marks are for scrapes; the eighth and sixteenth note flags are for taps at the designated speed; the long flat line is a clap-and-hold; and the apple-ish shape shows them to hold their sand blocks together and circle them around their heads.  If my code doesn't float your boat, then make your own! The important thing is just to have some visual identifier for each action. 

Extender Activity for Senior

Again, if I have more time for this activity, I extend it by changing it up slightly.  I invite a child to reorder the papers any way he likes, and then we all do the pattern again. The children love the movement and mental challenge so much that they don't notice we've sung the song something like 10 times. :)

Happy Singing!