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

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Hand Patterns: a Versatile Activity for Any Song

Hand actions keep the kids engaged
Hello, my friends!  I obviously didn't post last month. My excuses are--in descending order--I moved; My mom, sister, and niece came to visit from out of town; and we threw the most epic Harry Potter party ever. :D

Let me make it up to you with an activity that you can adapt to use with a multitude of songs. I've been using hand patterns to teach the memorization songs for the books of scripture during prelude, in both junior and senior Primary.

For Junior

With your younger ones, simple is the key.  There is still an age gap, though, so here's a way to address both your Sunbeams and your 8-year olds.  Start patting your hands on your lap, with 8 repetitions. Then switch to clapping 8 times.  Tell your older children that you'll up the difficulty in just a minute, so they need to be able to do the pattern really well.  Sing your chosen song through a time or two, checking to make sure the Sunbeams are able to follow. 

Once they get it, tell them it's time to switch things up. Change to 4 pats and 4 claps. If you want to add another variation, try 3 pats and one clap.  The little ones will be lost, but you caught them earlier, and the older ones will love the added challenges.

For Senior

Your older classes will definitely require a different pattern than the younger ones.  8-count patterns are better than 4-counts, as the added variety will help maintain their interest longer. Here's one pattern idea: stomp, stomp, pat, snap, clap, hold, clap, hold. Don't give any intro to this activity. Just start singing and stomping away, and they'll pick it up. Once they have it down pat, here are a couple variations:

1-Instead of the hold:  hold while circling hands away from your body and back to your chest

2-Instead of the hold:  reach hands out to both sides to clap your neighbor's hands.  
This will be a bit tricky, so it's best to demonstrate it first with a couple volunteers.  

Feel free to come up with your own patterns, of course!  This activity is great for any song with a strong beat.  Try it with "Follow the Prophet," "Book of Mormon Stories," "The Church of Jesus Christ," or others. Have fun with it!

Happy singing,

Looking for more?    For another simple activity that incorporates movement, try "Marching With Scripture Power," here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Our Songs Are Powerful--Use Charades to Encourage Application

Charades help reinforce the principles
I've recently been inspired by some other Primary Music Leaders as well as the Church's fantastic new teacher improvement manual, Teaching in the Savior's Way.  They've reminded me that our calling is not to teach children songs.  Our calling is to teach children the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we just use music as our medium.  “Music can help you draw closer to your Heavenly Father. It can be used to educate, edify, inspire, and unite” (Pres. Thomas S. Monson).  With these thoughts in mind, consider charades as a Singing Time activity that can drive home the point that we're trying desperately to make:  Children, this gospel is for you.


Think of the songs you're teaching and reviewing.  Which ones call the children to action on an ongoing basis?  In the past, I've used "Follow the Prophet," "Come, Follow Me," and "I Will Be Valiant."  This year, you could use "If I Listen With My Heart" verse 2 and "Stand For the Right." 

Next, think of simple applications of the song for the children, which could easily be acted out as charades.  Some ideas are reading the scriptures, praying, sweeping the floor, rocking a baby, comforting someone who is sad, or inviting a lonely person to play. They should be everyday occurrences, with no more than two actors needed. Write the clues on paper strips, and place them in a bowl or bag.


Tell the children you're going to play charades--actions only, no sounds!  Give them a general category, such as "Things the prophet wants us to do."  Instruct the children to raise their hands when they have a guess, but to wait for others to figure it out, too.  Immediately start singing your chosen song, and offer your container to a child for him to choose a paper strip. 

Let the child read the paper silently and begin acting, while you keep singing.  Pause to read the paper to young children, or to explain if a child needs a partner to act, naturally. :) When you finish singing your song through, pause to take guesses from the children. Offer help if needed, and then sing and repeat.

Why It's Powerful

The children are hearing words like, "At work or at play...stand for the right," "I hear the living prophet speak the things that Christ would say," or "Then let us in His footsteps tread."  Over and over, they're hearing the words, as they see their peers modeling righteous behavior. They can learn through movement, if they are acting, or they can learn through engaged watching, since they're being asked to think about what they are seeing.  Either way, they are both hearing the song and seeing how the principles apply to their stage of life.

Happy singing!

Looking for more?  Check out this Singing Time plan for ideas of other activities to pair with charades.  Or, for another good reminder of our purpose as music leaders, read Why We Do What We Do.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sway and Freeze with "I Lived in Heaven"

After prayer and much flipping through the Children's Songbook, our ward chose "I Lived in Heaven" for our song of choice this month.  This Sunday, I'll introduce the song to the Junior Primary in a super simple way, with an activity called Sway and Freeze, which I learned from Sharla over at


"Everyone stand up, and see if you can make your body match what mine is doing!"  I immediately start singing the song, having prearranged with the pianist to only play the melody line.  As I sing, I sway right and left and swing my arms side-down-side, side-down-side, as shown in the video below.


The first time through, I sway with no pauses, unlike in the video. My video shows how I would change for the second sing-through.  The first, repetitive time gives my tiny Sunbeams a chance to get the movement down pat.  The next variation is to call, "Freeze!" at different times, and then check to see if the children's arms are pointing the same way as yours before continuing.  You can also sing again and have your pianist surprise you and choose when the music will stop, and you can all freeze then.  The children love this playful interaction with the pianist.

Why It's So Great

  • It gets the children up out of their seats.
  • They get to move to a reverent song in a reverent way.
  • Movement across the midline of the body and being called on to freeze are developmentally fantastic for young children.
  • The children become familiar with the melody of the song without being asked to sing right away.

Happy singing!

Looking for more?  See my post, "How to Plan Your Singing Time," for tips on how to pair this activity with contrasting ones.  Also, find ideas in my post, "4 Steps for Planning a Year of Songs," for choosing a song for this month, if you haven't already.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

"Did Jesus Really Live Again?"--Child-led Actions

"Did Jesus Really Live Again?" is one of my favorite Easter songs.  It tells the story of the resurrection in a simple way.  This activity helps the children, both younger and older, interact with the story and think about what happened.


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


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!


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 Easter, and happy singing!

Looking for more?    I'm pairing this activity with a silent video. I'll play one of the Bible videos with the sound off, and I'll sing "Easter Hosanna" while it plays, pausing my song at times to comment on the video.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

"Stand for the Right" with Ribbon Wands

Let them stand for the right!

3/4 time.  Upbeat tempo. Lilting, swaying, rocking. These descriptions come to my mind for the song, "Stand for the Right."  I love to get my kids up and moving with doctrinal songs, too, not just with the fun wiggle songs. This song gave me the perfect opportunity to bring in my ribbon wands.

Demonstrate First

Even my youngest Sunbeam kiddos can catch the feel of this song when they use ribbon wands.   The little ones feel more comfortable participating in an activity when they've had a chance to see it first, so without preamble, I take out one ribbon and start singing, waving my ribbon side to side in time with the beat.  Each time I sing, "Be true," I bring the ribbon straight up in the air (on "Be") and then down sharply to rest on the ground (on "true").  When the next note starts, I pick back up with the side to side motion.

Below is a video showing this movement.

Immediate Participation

After singing the song through once, I remind the children of the rules ("Please treat my special ribbons gently, and please don't touch your neighbors with them!") and ask a couple older children to pass them out.  As soon as they start to pass out the ribbons, I start singing and moving my ribbon, so the children can follow me right away.

Repetition That's Fun

I don't know about your kiddos, but my Sunbeams could do this for ten minutes straight, no problem.  My 6- and 7-year olds, however, get bored if something doesn't change.  So after each sing-through, I change up something slightly.  One time, I'll challenge them to move their ribbons exactly with the beat.  Another time, I'll ask how high they can get their ribbons on each side. Or, I might say, "Freeze!" at a couple points in the song, and then comment on the words (like, "Isn't it amazing that we have a living prophet? We'll get to listen to him at General Conference!"), and then I'll pick back up with the song where I left off.  *Note:  it's especially important to work well with your pianist for starting and stopping activities like this. I have been blessed with the most helpful and patient pianists ever!

For the Older Crowd

My older kids love ribbon wands, too.  I just have to take the difficulty up a notch.  Or two. ;)  I come up with a more complicated pattern (I normally just sing the song by myself at home and play with a ribbon until I come up with something I like), and then I invent simple symbols to write on the board (squiggles, circles, waves...) to denote each action.  See the video below for one example.  

Whereas in Junior Primary I only have two actions, for Senior I choose at least four, and sometimes more.  The symbols on the board can be a code for them to decipher when you first demonstrate the activity, and they're also useful in helping them remember which action in the long sequence comes next.  The "Freeze!" add-on also works well with this age.

Happy singing!

Looking for more?   To see how I've incorporated ribbons into a full Singing Time, read my post here on what activities pair well with this.  Interested in how better to work with your pianist?  Check out the guest post my pianist wrote for me. :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

"I Often Go Walking"--Let Your Little Ones Gather Blossoms in the Primary Room

Gathering blossoms of blue
Is it time to start thinking about Mother's Day? If you want your children to perform a song in two months, then yes!  "I Often Go Walking" hasn't been sung in our ward in several years, so that's what I'm planning on doing.  I have a lot of young Sunbeams, and I thought up this Junior Primary activity with them in mind. 


Gather a ton of tiny flowers.  You could do real or silk, if you have a lot available, but I opted for paper.  I have a paper punch that spits out flower-shaped pieces, so I punched out about 150 flowers from different shades of blue paper.  The song specifically mentions "blossoms of blue," so I thought I was being clever. ;)  You could definitely cut out simple flower shapes using scissors and any colors of paper you like.
Paper flowers

Right before Singing Time, scatter your flowers in the back of the Primary room in a more-or-less line, along a path the children will be walking.  


Tell the children you'd like their help to act out a song about gathering flowers.  Ask the teachers to help the children follow you row by row, walking in a big circle around the edge of the Primary room.  Instruct the children to take only one flower, and then to keep walking.  Start walking and singing, motioning for the first row to stand and follow you.  When you reach the scattered flowers, take one and keep moving, pausing your singing if necessary to repeat instructions.  

Loop around to pass the flowers again, this time asking the children to take two flowers, since it's their second time around.  Sing over and over as you walk. If your children are continuing to enjoy the activity, you can collect 3 flowers the third time around, then 4.  

Lead the children back to their seats, and then instruct them to put away their flowers.  I gathered mine back up to use again, but if you want your children to take them home, then I recommend giving them baggies or envelopes, so the flowers won't cause a distraction during the rest of Primary. 

Happy singing!

Looking for more?  Here's a good reminder for teaching Sunbeams, 4 Ways to Help Your New Sunbeams Shine.  Or, try pairing this walking activity with a sitting one that requires concentration, like ASL.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

White Board Colors--An Older Child Activity for Verse 2 of "If I Listen With My Heart"

White Board Colors
I always worry a little bit when preparing to teach wordy songs with several verses. I want to be sure to give my children different experiences learning the different verses, so they can have separate and distinct memories associated with the words. 

After working on verse 1 of "If I Listen With My Heart" with my kids for a few weeks, they knew it pretty well.  So, I decided to introduce verse 2 with White Board Colors, an activity I borrowed from Elise over on the Facebook Choristers group. (Love that place!) This activity does well for a first introduction to a verse, since the children are encouraged to interact with the song in a number of different ways.  

The Prep Work

Virtually nil.  Gather white board markers (or chalk, if that's how your room is set up) in 6 different colors.  Before Singing Time, write the entire lyrics for the verse on the board, along with these 6 instructions:  

Share (in purple)
Draw (in red)
Sign (in blue)
Erase (written in black)
Eyes closed (in orange)
Hum (in green)

The Instructions

Hold up a bag containing your six markers.  Announce, "I have different colored markers in this bag. When I offer the bag to you, choose one--without looking!--and then check for your color-coded instructions on the board."  Offer a brief explanation of each one:

Share=pause the singing to share one way you can listen to the living prophet

Draw=erase one key word, then use your marker to draw a simple picture to replace the missing word

Sign=using your marker, underline one key word, then make up and show a sign-language style sign to represent the chosen word

Erase=take the eraser (left by the board) and erase one word

Eyes closed=using your marker, underline a word or phrase on the board. The entire Primary will then close their eyes during that phrase every time.

Hum=using your marker, underline a word or phrase to be hummed every time

The Presentation

After the instructions, immediately launch into singing.  Walk around the room, offering the bag to various children to choose a marker.  I normally pass out about 3 at a time, and then I wait for space to open up at the board before passing out more markers.  Ideally, you'll be singing constantly, only pausing when a child draws the Share marker.  I find that it's helpful to stop every so often, though, to encourage a child who's confused about the instructions, or to clarify the sign that a child chose.  

The variety of the activities allows you to repeat this song over and over without feeling stale.  I sang this verse repeatedly for ten minutes, until we finally ran out of time.  The kids never did lose interest!

Happy singing,

Looking for more?  Even a great activity like this one shouldn't last your full 20 minutes.  Take a look here for a complete Singing Time plan that includes White Board Colors, as well as a couple contrasting activities.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"The Books in the Book of Mormon"--Let Paper Cups Make Some Music

Older kids love a challenge
I love bouncy, upbeat Primary songs. :D  "The Books in the Book of Mormon" is perfect to pair with physical movement, so I decided to use Sharla's paper cup pop idea.  (You can read about her version for Junior Primary here.)  I wanted a more challenging version for my Senior Primary, so I created a longer pattern that includes switching your cup between hands.

When I first introduce this activity, I normally do it without the cup, just clapping instead of passing the cup.  I don't give any explanation--I just stand in front of the children and start singing and showing the pattern.  After one sing-through, I encourage the children to follow my hand movements, and we repeat a time or two.

By this time, they're ready to up the difficulty by adding in the cups.  I demonstrate once with a cup before I pass them out to everyone.  Here is a video of me, so you can see the magic in action. ;)

Even my too-cool older boys like the challenge this activity provides. :) 

Happy singing!

Looking for more?   Here's another movement-based activity that provides a challenge for older kids, Silence Is Golden. Or, check out my egg carton post, where I offer ideas for both Junior and Senior Primary.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Adventures with Activity Days: Part 2 of 2

This post is the second of a 2-part series describing ways to bring Primary music into a weekday Activity Days meeting. Read part 1 here, about memorizing the Articles of Faith.

Tracing conducting patterns
I love that Activity Days gives our girls the chance to learn how to conduct music.  If you think about it, women and girls in our church have a ton of opportunities to lead music, so it makes sense to help our girls learn this skill.  I've been invited into Activity Days a couple different times over the years to teach basic conducting patterns.  Here are four techniques I've used.

1.  Finding the Down Beat

This is a most over-looked skill. :)  Let's face it, the piano will keep playing, and the congregation will keep singing, even if you don't have a clue what a down beat is.  But we're talking about teaching these kids correct technique, right? So let's start them off right. 

I have the girls sit in a circle on the floor with me, and I ask them to listen to the flow of my singing and try to sway to match it. I try to emphasize the down beat slightly, and I sway and nod my head with the beat, too. Then I ask them if they can feel that there's a stronger beat that comes every so often.  I label it as the down beat, and then I sing a song with a different time signature, so they can identify the down beat there, too. 

2.  Tracing Conducting Patterns

Before class time, I drew the shape of the conducting patterns for 2, 3, and 4 beats onto separate sheets of white paper, making sure to have one set for each girl.  (If you have any left-handed students, make a mirror-image shape for them.)  I also taped the papers onto the wall or chalk board.  Now I let the girls choose a color of crayon. Directing them to start with the 2-beat pattern, I ask them to trace as I sing.  After singing for a minute, I pause singing to say rhythmically, "Down, up, down, up," at the same tempo as the song. Then, I switch back to the song, so they can match their movements to the beat. After they've got it, I have them switch colors, move to the next paper and pattern, and repeat.

Practicing with ribbon wands

3.  Practice with Ribbon Wands

Once the girls have learned the three basic patterns, I change things up to allow for extra practice.   I give each girl a ribbon wand and ask them to spread out through the room.  I ask for favorite Primary songs from the girls, but I also have a few songs in mind of my own, in case their songs don't cover all the time signatures we're learning.  Then we sing and conduct all together, using as many songs as we can until the hour is up.

4.  Provide Opportunities to Conduct Afterwards

Learning a new talent is always more fun if you have a chance to use it right away.  In addition, the Activity Days girls have a Faith in God requirement to teach or share a song with either their family or Primary.  So, after I teach them conducting music, I offer the girls a chance to lead a prelude song in Primary opening exercises.  If they are interested, I let them pick which Primary song they'd like, and I remind them before Sunday.  When they're conducting, I normally sit in the front row and conduct the pattern low in my lap, in case they need a little help.  

It's so rewarding to develop a new ability and be able to share it, both for the girls with their conducting, and for me with my teaching them. :)

Happy singing!

Looking for more?   Learn about the different icons I include, like this one,  , and how they correspond to different learning styles in my post here. Or, if you'd like another activity that includes basic music skills, try my post on using hand bells