Showing posts with label older kids. Show all posts
Showing posts with label older kids. Show all posts

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?" 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Sensory Experience for "My Heavenly Father Loves Me"


Can we bring nature into Primary? This is a hard one for me to figure out. Nature is one of the 8 learning styles I describe in my post here. I believe that it's important to reach all of our children with varied learning styles, but this has been the hardest one for me to put into practice. When I learned that "My Heavenly Father Loves Me" was the Sharing Time song for February, I realized this song--which talks about nature and our senses--is the perfect one to use to tap into this learning style. You're probably already done teaching the song to your Primary, so this is a good activity to review it or help the truth of it sink in.


Bring nature in with a touch-and-feel guessing game

Getting Ready


The Main Idea


The gist of this activity is to help the children have sensory experiences that remind them of nature and tie into the major descriptions in verse 1 of this song. To make it fun and exciting, I turned it into a touch-and-feel guessing game.


Materials

  • Brown paper lunch bags
  • Loose feathers
  • Rose petals
  • Kleenex
  • Floral scent (perfume, body spray, or essential oil)
  • Folded paper fans
  • Several pairs of inexpensive sunglasses
  • Baby wipes
  • Plastic sandwich baggies


Preparation


Make one set of the following bags for each class in your Singing Time, and label the brown paper bags with the following numbers. The quotes in parentheses are the words in the song that correspond to the items.

1. In bag #1, place a feather. ("song of a bird")
You can quickly make several folded paper fans.

2. In bag #2, place some rose petals. ("a velvet rose")

3. In bag #3, place a Kleenex with floral scent on it, and include a note on the bag, "Close your eyes and smell." ("a lilac tree")

4. In bag #4, place a folded paper fan. ("wind as it rushes by")

5. In bag #5, place a pair of sunglasses. ("look at the blue, blue sky")

6. In bag #6, place a baby wipe on top of a plastic sandwich baggie, so it won't soak through the paper. ("feel the rain")


Presenting the Activity


Before Singing Time, give one set of the bags to each teacher, with instructions to hold them back until the appropriate time. To intro the activity, have one different paper bag with a common item inside (matchbox car, spoon, pencil, etc.). Have two children come up front and take turns putting one hand in the bag, to feel what it is. Tell them not to say anything out loud yet, so their friend can have a turn to guess. After they've both had a turn to feel, ask them what they think the item is. 

Explain to the group that everyone will have a turn to play the guessing game, and they will have to listen to the words of the song to get clues. Set up some quick ground rules (no talking, passing the bags nicely down the row, etc.). Then ask your teachers to pass out bag 1, and you start singing!

Sing only the first verse (quite possibly by yourself) as the children take turns feeling the mystery object and passing the bag to their friends. The teachers can help their classes as needed. Depending on the size of your Primary, you might need to repeat the verse more than once in order for everyone to have a turn. When everyone has a guess, stop the music and ask them to compare with a neighbor. Did they guess the same thing? You can take one bag and reveal the item. Point out the line of the song to which it corresponds, and then immediately call for bag #2 and repeat! 

Junior vs. Senior Primary


Your junior Primary will likely not have patience for all 6 bags. That's okay! The bags are numbered to have harder items later in the lineup, so just stop when the children are too restless or when you think the clues are too difficult for them to guess, perhaps after bag 3 or 4.

Senior Primary kids will have both a longer attention span and a greater ability for abstract thought. Make use of that by continuing the activity through bag 6. Tell them that these last items are tricky on purpose, and the words in the song are only clues as to what the items are. Ask them if they can match up the items to the words in the song they represent. 

A Final Note


This activity calls for sitting still and waiting your turn. Since that is tricky for many of our cuties, I highly recommend you do this activity after you've given them a chance to get their wiggles out. ;) 



Happy singing!


Looking for more?    For another nature-focused activity, try this one.

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.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus--Unscramble the "I" phrases


Unscramble the "I" phrases
The song for August (see the Church's Sharing Time Outline here) is "I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus."  To teach it, I decided to adapt an earlier idea I got from Sharla Dance. (Check out her amazing music blog here!) This activity would only be appropriate for senior Primary, as it focuses on written words.

To start, think about how many "I" phrases are in this song. I went through and counted. There are 6 in just the first verse! This song really helps the children think about themselves and what they can do to be like the Savior, and I want to focus on that.

Preparation


I made word strips of the first couple words of each "I" phrase in the first verse and mounted them on construction paper.  (Here is my word strip file, if you'd like to save yourself five minutes.) You could easily extend this activity to include the second verse, as well.

Presentation


Start with the phrases scrambled.
At the beginning of the activity, place the word strips on one side of the board in random order. (Or, for more fun, have the word strips around the room in various places.)

Tell the children that while you sing, you'd like them to unscramble the phrases from the song by putting the word strips in the correct order on the other side of the board. If they know which phrase comes next, they can silently raise their hand, and then you will come around and tap them on the shoulder for a turn. As you continue to sing the song over and over, they can retrieve their word strips and put them into place.

After the word strips are all in order, ask the children what they similarity they notice about the phrases on red paper. They all are about trying. Ask the children to sing the song one last time while they think about why the word "try" is important in the song. After you take their answers, it would be a beautiful time to share your feelings about how our Father in Heaven feels about us when we try our best. The children's thoughtful singing is a wonderful preparation for them to hear your testimony.


Happy singing!


Looking for more?  
The first time I used this idea from Sharla is here. Most of these music activities can be used with multiple songs, thankfully! ;) 

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.