Showing posts with label movement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movement. Show all posts

Monday, July 30, 2018

Using Primary Music in Other Callings


Pioneer Sunbeams sing as they walk.
Confession time: I haven't been a Primary music leader in years. I've forgotten how many years, actually. But Primary music is so much a part of me that I take it wherever I serve, so I don't feel as if I've ever left! I wanted to share with you a few examples of how I've used Primary music to help me in other callings. 

If Primary music isn't your current calling, I hope this gives you some ideas. If Primary music is your current calling (as I expect is the case for most of you!), then please consider whether this post could be useful for your friends and ward members. Then feel free to share the post, so as to fill the world with more music. :)

Seminary


I love using Primary music in seminary! Here is a short list of ways I've had it work well.
  • Take a month and focus on Primary songs for the opening hymn.
  • Ask them their favorite Primary songs, and ask them what gospel truths they've learned from them. See my post on this activity here.
  • Have them write their own verse to Book of Mormon Stories or Follow the Prophet, as a way of sharing which scriptural personalities they connect with. See my post on this activity here
  • Bring in Maori sticks to learn the memorization song for your current book of scripture. (For example, The Books in The Book of Mormon). Sharla has a great post with a video of how to use Maori sticks. It's complex enough that my seminary students loved it!
  • Show a video of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing a Primary song in General Conference. Here is one of my favorites, "He Sent His Son." I have done this numerous times with different songs to help the Spirit testify of a principle we're learning.


Course 12/13 Sunday School


Youth Sunday school might seem like a harder stretch for using Primary music, but remember, the point isn't to make Primary music fit. The point is to help the youth think about the principles, feel how important they are, and then want to live them. Primary music is fantastic for helping accomplish those objectives. Here are some ways I did that with my 12- and 13-year olds.
  • Show a video of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing a Primary song in General Conference, as described above.
  • Bring in Primary song books and have the students find a song that teaches the principle you're learning.
  • Write their own verse, as described above.


Sunbeams


Ok, guys, I've been in this calling for one month now, and I have to say, this has got to be the easiest calling for including Primary music! The manual already gives suggestions of songs almost every week, so all I have to do is choose a way to make the songs really engaging. Hint: most of the time the children won't sing with you, but that's okay. :)
  • Sing "Families Can Be Together Forever" while the children put together 4-piece puzzles of pictures of families. (Full post on puzzle pictures here.)
  • Sing "Pioneer Children Sang As They Walked" while the children wear simple costumes and walk around the room. (See the picture above. Aren't my Sunbeams just the cutest?!) Stop and do appropriate actions when the song talks about Sunday activities. 
  • Sing "I Am a Child of God" while using hand scarves.
  • Sing "I Love to See the Temple" while the children put pretzel sticks on the outline of a temple. Bonus: snack time with a purpose! 
  • Or choose another activity with any song the manual suggests. 

I truly love Primary music for the way it helps me feel the Spirit. No matter the age of my students or the setting in which I teach them, I want them to be able to feel the Spirit in every class. Primary music is one way we can help them do just that.


Happy singing!


Thursday, March 8, 2018

"If the Savior Stood Beside Me"-Helping Children Connect with the Meaning Through Actions


I love the song, "If the Savior Stood Beside Me" (find it here). It has a pretty melody, and the words are peaceful and hopeful. I find it challenging, though, to help my Primary learn all the words. This activity helps the children take part in the memorization experience by coming up with actions to represent individual lines of the song. I would only do one verse in a given week, but if the kids show they really like the activity, you could review the following week and then add on the next verse.

Preparation


Learn the song really, really well. Then, think about the size of your Primary. How could you best divide the verse, so that each row or class could be assigned a line or two of the song?


Presentation


Ask the children, with their teachers' help, to come up with an action or two for a line of the song, which you will assign them. Start singing the song, walking by each row and pointing to them when you sing their line. When you finish the song, repeat--again walking by each row and emphasizing their line, so they can hear the words again.  

When each group has had enough time to create an action, ask them to show the whole Primary. Sing just one line, and then copy their action. Sing that one line again, asking the whole Primary to perform the action with you. Repeat for each group, and then put the whole thing together!


Benefits


This activity taps into several different learning styles:

  Movement:  The obvious. They get to do each action.

  Visual:  The children get to see each group perform each action.

  Words:  The children have to listen carefully to the words in order to create their actions. Also, for younger children, having something concrete to represent the lyrics is especially helpful.

  Cooperation:  Each class/row has to work together to choose an action, and then the entire Primary has to work together to fit the actions to the entire song.



Happy singing!


Looking for more?      
The above activity would be great with lots of songs. See my post here, where I used it with "Did Jesus Really Live Again?" 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

DIY Rain Drop Craft


DIY Rain Drops
So we’re wrapping up the Primary program season. If you haven’t had your program yet, you’re probably in the last couple weeks of review. Hooray for not stressing anymore (even though you're trying not to anyway) about whether or not your kids will remember all the songs! This sounds like a great time for a Primary music-centered craft project. :) 

Yes, yes, normally I like simple, fast activities like you do. But every once-in-a-while you just itch to make something fancier, right? Ok, if not, then you might not want to attempt this. Cuz it's not a five-minute project. But it's fun, the product is adorable, and they'll make lots of tiny kids happy. Reason enough for you? Then read on. :)


Using the Rain Drops


This is not an original, folks! I saw Sharla Dance (http://teachingprimarymusic.com/use these at one of her workshops, and I loved them so much that I had to make my own. (Disclaimer, my awesome mom and sister helped me figure out how...) 

These rain drops admittedly have a limited use. I mostly use them in Nursery or Sunbeams, as they don't hold the interest of the older children. I like to pass one out to each child (you really have to have one for each child!) and sing "Rain is Falling All Around." You just hold the end of the yarn and dance the drops around like they're raining. These youngest kiddos are still trying to learn about where their bodies are in space. So, slowing down the last line of the song, "Rain is falling on my nose, on my head and hands and toes," and having the rain drop touch each body part when mentioned is a fun challenge for them. 

Making the Rain Drops


Materials Needed

  • card stock or cardboard
  • blue felt
  • blue yarn (I chose different shades of felt and yarn for fun.)
  • googly eyes
  • rice
  • fabric glue
  • Fray Check
  • Sharpie marker
  • scissors
  • sewing machine or needle, thread, and patience ;)


Instructions


1. Cut out a rain drop-shaped template out of the card stock or cardboard. Size really is just your personal preference. Mine are about 2 1/2" tall. 

2. For each rain drop, trace and cut out 2 pieces of felt, using the template as a guide. 

3. Sew the 2 pieces of felt together, sewing only around the edges to make a kind of tiny bag. Leave the area by the point open, as you will need to put rice in through this hole. 

4. Put rice in through the hole. ;) I don't know how much. 2 teaspoons, maybe? The idea is just to add enough weight so the rain drop will hang down nicely.

5. For each rain drop, cut 1 piece of yarn to your desired length. Mine are about 12" long.

6. Insert one end of a piece of yarn (maybe 1") in the hole of your tiny, rice-filled bag.

7. Sew a lateral line across the top of your rain drop to keep the yarn in place. Sew around the tip of the drop to keep the shape of the drop intact.

8. Glue on the googly eyes wherever you'd like them.

9. Apply fray check to the exposed end of the yarn, so it will last more than one singing time. 

And now you're ready to sing, sing, sing! The consumable materials required for this project are super cheap, so it didn't bug me that it took a little while to make. You could even grab the Primary music leader from the ward next door and help each other get these whipped out in no time.


Happy singing!


Looking for more?      
Here is a sample Nursery music time that utilizes these cutest of rain drops. :)

Friday, June 30, 2017

"The Wise Man & the Foolish Man"--Teaching more than just the hand actions


Pictures can add meaning to this action song.
The song of the month is "The Wise Man & the Foolish Man." We all love it, but isn't it kind of simplistic? And, it doesn't really take a month to teach, does it? This song is great because with the repetition and hand actions, children learn it really quickly. It would be easy to leave it at that. If, however, you take the opportunity to explain a few eternal truths, you can help this simple song really strengthen the faith of your children.

All I really do to teach eternal principles with this song is 1) bring a picture or two and 2) pause and explain. You can do variations for age with junior, senior, and even nursery. Actually, I love bringing this explanation and song into nursery the same month the older siblings learn it, as it's a great way to encourage gospel learning as a family.

Bring in a picture or two


Kids love stories. (And so do I!) You can tell the children that today, you'll be telling them a story, but you aren't the one who told it first. Who did? Show them a picture of the Savior teaching, and let them fill in that blank. (In the picture above, I used The Sermon on the Mount by Carl Heinrich Bloch, found in the Gospel Art Book on p. 39.) For nursery, you may want one picture for each child to hold.

After you sing the song through, you could show a picture of crashing waves and rocks, or a rainstorm by a house. (In the picture above, I used a photo from the inside cover of the July 2015 Ensign magazine, but you could find or draw your own.) Some children learn best through visually connecting with what they're hearing.

Pause and explain


Then you could ask, "Why does Jesus care where we build our houses?" Keeping in mind the age group you're teaching, you can help them understand that the song is a symbol for what Jesus really wants for us. He wants us to be strong when there are hard times, just like the house can be strong when there are hard storms. 

Sing the song again, and then older children may enjoy thinking of what the storms, sand, and rock represent spiritually. In this way, they can connect at their level with a song we usually categorize as being for younger children.



Happy singing!


Looking for more?  For an explanation of these symbols:        , visit my page on the 8 learning styles.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

4 Good Ways to Recognize Bad Ideas--a Guest Post


I'm pleased to have a guest post today by Bryce, a long-time Primary music observer (and my husband). I love how he shares his perspective. He just says it like it is!   -Michelle



Repeat after me--being on Pinterest does not make it credible.
Bad ideas are everywhere.  They saturate the news, Facebook feeds, your kids’ every action, and even lurk in the dark recesses of your own mind.  Some are easy to spot, like mixing household chemicals into explosives that produce lethal chlorine gas without proper ventilation in the room.  Others are a little subtler, like choosing a primary music activity set that doesn’t teach or engage the kids in your primary.  So how do you spot these bad ideas?  I’m not a professional, but I’ve sat in enough singing times to recognize a few trends:



1.      Does the activity support only one learning style (or none at all)?

Sharla Dance, our go-to expert on all things music teaching, classified childhood learning as fitting into eight basic styles: physical action, words, visuals, nature (whatever that means), spiritual, logic, cooperation & teamwork, and… wait for it… music. Check out her blog here.

Each child in your primary class benefits from one or more of these styles.  Because every star is different and so is every child (I dare you to read that without singing it in your head), you’ll need to include multiple learning styles within each activity.  I recognize that there’s a school of thought that it’s okay to address only one learning style per activity, so long as you have multiple styles in the overall music time. Those people are wrong.  That’s just how it is.

The prime example of a bad idea—one of the worst ideas you could possibly do—is to simply draw names from a hat and make the kids sing it. (This includes derivatives like flipping over pictures on a chalkboard and singing the song underneath.)

The problem here is that this engages none of the learning styles.  For example, there’s either no visual reference or the pictures are too small to be seen from the back of the room. Having one kid from the primary come up to draw a song leaves everyone else sitting still, so there’s no motion element. The word learners aren’t given any associations or interesting connections to make in order to internalize the lyrics. Even worse, blindly flipping cards or drawing songs replaces logical progression with chaos, making the whole experience deeply uncomfortable for logic learners.

Some people learn best through natural processes--like natural selection.
Always focus on teaching kids the way they need to learn—not based on the first Pinterest board you find on Saturday night.  No matter how cute the board or bucket for the activity may be decorated, do not be deceived, those people are trying to lead both you and the kids you teach down to hell.

Let me repeat: If you structure singing time around drawing songs from a hat, you should be darned to heck (because let’s face it, actual hell might be a little extreme).

2.      Does the idea offer variety?

Anyone who’s ever had kids knows they have short attention spans. However, those with older kids or whose children are freakishly patient may have forgotten just how short this attention span really is.  I’ve seen goldfish with longer attention spans than my own children’s.  So unless you’re practicing some sort of witchcraft or hypnosis to keep them riveted, you will need to switch activities several times.

Along those lines, be very sure to mix up which learning styles you’re using each time.  You could involve four learning styles in every activity, but if you never engage the kids who really need to learn through logic, then you’re a horrible person (albeit not as horrible as the ‘hat’ people) and it will be all your fault when the child apostatizes later on.

When switching activities, keep focused on your core learning.  People seem to default to a singing random wiggle song, followed by an unrelated main activity.  Instead, try choosing what you want the kids to learn that week and structure several short activities around the theme to engage them from a variety of learning styles.

Yes, teaching this way takes more effort and planning, but that’s just part of the cost of magnifying your calling.  If you think that load is too heavy, remember that you could have been called as Primary President.

3.      Is the activity exactly the same for both junior and senior primary?

While the trunky 11 year-olds in senior primary may have the same attention span as a new sunbeam, their actual needs couldn’t be more different.  If the activity you come across online is identical for both junior and senior primary, leave a nasty troll-ish comment and move on.

In one ward, I saw a very well-intentioned music teacher try to engage the junior primary by sitting them in a circle and having them do a complex wood-block clicking pattern, complete with passing the blocks left and right as part of the pattern.  Half the kids didn’t want to share their blocks (surprise there), and the other half couldn’t figure out which way was left.  In this music leader’s defense, she really is fantastic but was just having an off day.

4.      Does the idea support on-the-fly adaptation?

There’s an old saying from some philosopher guy with a Latin-sounding name that goes “It is a bad plan that admits no modification”. If this ‘fantastic’ idea you found on the internet doesn’t allow you to adapt on-the-fly, then it’s probably a bad idea.  If the kids aren’t responding well to the activity, then adapt your lesson immediately.

The hapless music leader in the previous example responded quickly to the kids and adapted her wood-block patterns to their skill level, shortened the activity, and then moved on to the next one that engaged a different learning style.  Nice recovery!


Here’s what a good example looks like:


Let’s say that I need to help junior primary children learn the lyrics to Book of Mormon Stories.  Most of them can’t read, sit still, or focus on anything for more than a minute at a time. Challenge accepted.

My first thought is to use Pinterest.  Then I think better of it.  I hate Pinterest. A lot.  Instead, by expending a little mental effort, I come up with a plan that involves…

1.       Multiple learning styles: I decide to use a visual to help create a memory trigger for the lyrics and engage visual learners.  However, just slapping some laminated pictures on the board only engages the visual learners (assuming they can even see it from the sides or back of the room). I need to get the visuals to the kids. So I prepare bookmarks with a picture of the story on one side and a key phrase from the verse on the other.  One learning style, though, isn’t enough, so I add elements:

If you don't learn to recognize bad ideas, you
may not be able to recognize good ones either.

I engage the motion learners by getting them out of their chairs for the whole singing time.  As I sing the verse a capella to the kids, each class sits cross-legged in a small circle.  Their teacher will have a Book of Mormon with a picture bookmark inside for each child.  The kids take turns leafing through the Book of Mormon to the page with the pictures inserted.  When they find it, they can take one to keep in their own scriptures.

The collaborative learners can be engaged by helping their classmates recognize the words printed on the back of the bookmark—a key phrase for the verse.  If we’re working on the Alma verse, my key phrase would be “Alma was rebellious, and he fought against the light”. As they learn from their peers and teacher, they can join in singing that phrase with me each time I repeat the song.  The word learners are also engaged by having a specific phrase that connects their scriptures, bookmarks, and the verse of the song.

While all this is going on, I continue singing the verse on ‘loop track’.  To keep the interest of the music learners, I can alternate between singing the full verse, whistling softly, and omitting words to keep things changing enough that it doesn’t fade to the background.


2.       Variety: As kids get their bookmarks, I keep them engaged by giving them new directions.  If we’re doing the Alma verse, I use it like a wiggle song.  When I sing “fought against the right”, I have the kids stand up and throw a couple punches into the air—specifically where another child is NOT standing.  When I sing “an angel came”, they stand imperiously, and stretch out their hand as though speaking emphatically.  When I sing “struck before his brethren”, I instruct the kids to collapse to the ground, as though unconscious.  This will get a bit loud as they moan and wail dramatically.  Remember: the noise is part of the kids getting invested in the activity; it’s okay.

Notice that I just transitioned activities here but never had to announce it.  They blended together and kept the kids focused on the song they need to learn.

3.    Different for junior and senior primary: I’ve focused my plan here on junior primary, but were I to adapt this for senior primary, I would get them out of their chairs to come and get the bookmarks first.  Their next task would be to find the place in their scriptures where the bookmark should be placed. (With some guidance, of course.)

As they looked up the scriptures, I would also get the kids to alternate whistling along when I sing and then sing words as I either leave blanks or start whistling.

And yes—they still get the death scenes.  I’m pretty sure the eleven year-olds will even pantomime burning one of their own at the stake.

3.       Adaptability: This can easily be rearranged and tweaked to fit the kids’ needs.  For instance, we can start with the pantomiming activity and then migrate down to sit in circles.  We could even skip finding the bookmark in the scriptures portion and hand them out, asking the kids to tell their class something they know about Abinadi as I hum or sing in the background.  As they get their bookmarks, I could even have the pianist play the verse in the background while I dramatically summarize the story of Abinadi for them.  The possibilities are nearly endless.


And I didn’t draw a song name from a hat.  Not even once!

-Bryce



Looking for more?          
Check out a description of each of the 8 learning styles mentioned above.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Conducting With Straws: a Guest Post


I'm thrilled to have a guest post today by a talented friend of mine. Imani has a background in music, and she is the current Primary Music Leader in our ward.  I hope you have as much fun learning from her as I do!




Conducting with Imani

Two of my biggest challenges when teaching primary music are using movement in my teaching style and adapting activities to the Junior Primary. Since I learn best by reading and following instructions, I have to stretch myself to create opportunities for non-readers to learn the songs. I was inspired by my research online to meet both those challenges by teaching time signatures with leading wands.



Materials


A straw for each primary child to lead the music from their seat
A large drawing of a staff to display on the board (You can also draw the staff on the board)

It’s important to set expectations for behavior when you pass out the straws. I tell my primary kids that I am looking for reverent children every time I choose a name from the can of popsicle sticks, and I say it slowly and often so they have enough time to check their behavior and get ready to participate.


Presentation


Explain what the time signature is and where to find it on a piece of music. The number on top is the number of beats in a measure, while the number on the bottom is which kind of note gets the beat. The explanation can be very simple for Junior Primary and more complex for Senior. I have a background in music, but explanations for time signatures can be found online, including in this conducting manual by the LDS church:  Conducting course.  I stick to the different numbers, and how the beat sounds different when we hear it, but I don’t really go into note values or fractions.

On the board, write down the most commonly used time signatures: 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, and 6/8. Demonstrate the patterns for each, which can be found in the hymn book.
Commonly used time signatures



Two patterns for conducting 6/8


I use descriptions like “a fish hook” or a “giant cross.” I also emphasize the downbeat or the “one” as I demonstrate the patterns and have them follow along.

Now for some fun! In the table below are the time signatures of the songs for this year’s program. Have the pianist play a few bars of each song without you directing, and see if the children can guess the time signature by beating the pattern with straws. Call on someone to make a guess, then sing the song together while they join you in directing the pattern.

2/4
When I Am Baptized
3/4
As a Child of God
Stand for the Right
4/4
Nephi's Courage
The Wise Man and the Foolish Man
Choose the Right
6/8
I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus



Finally, choose three or four children to each lead a section of the primary. Space them far apart in the front and see if the primary can sing together with each one conducting at their own pace. Emphasize the need for one conductor that everyone can follow. Next, choose one conductor to lead the primary, but have everyone cover their eyes while singing. Emphasize the need to watch the conductor closely and listen to the piano. You can explain that the piano also follows the conductor so we can all sing together. Choose a child to conduct a song where the pianist cannot see him or her, and see if the primary can sing together. End by leading the primary with all of their watchful eyes on you. (Hopefully!)


Planning to Be Flexible


Colorful straws for everyone!
I usually plan more than can be completed in one Sunday, and this lesson is no different. Often I find myself finishing a lesson the next week, and repeating the parts the children enjoy the most.  If you need to fill more time, try a couple of the challenges below. I like this lesson because it uses movement to learn the songs and is easily adaptable to Junior Primary. I also like that it teaches some basic musical concepts we can build on in the future. 

Challenge #1: See if the children can fit the 2/4 pattern into all of the songs.

Challenge #2: Introduce some less common signatures like these from the hymn book:

     "High on the Mountain Top" 2/2
     "Lead, Kindly Light" 3/2
     " ‘Tis Sweet to Sing the Matchless Love" 6/4


Hope you enjoy singing as much as I did! 

-Imani


Looking for more?     Check out my blog post here for ways I've taught the Activity Day girls to conduct music.