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

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Remembering General Conference with "If I Listen With My Heart"

Choosing word strips
Hooray for a living prophet!  I love teaching the children songs about the blessing of having a prophet today.  Even more, I love helping the children see how that teaching comes to life.  I present this Singing Time activity after every General Conference, choosing one prophet-focused song.  The second verse of "If I Listen With My Heart" is a natural choice this time, since we're already learning it for the program this fall.


Listen to General Conference!  Take special note of the commandments, challenges, and invitations that we are given, especially by President Monson.  After Conference, get the exact quotes for several invitations from and type them up.  Print them and cut into strips of paper, placing them in a jar.


Remind the children that the reason we're so happy to have a living prophet is because we can hear what Jesus wants us to know.  Sing the first line or two of the second verse of "If I Listen With My Heart," while offering the jar to a child to choose one paper strip.  Let the children know that these are things the Lord just asked us to do, through his servants. Either you or the child can read the quote. Then sing the next line or two of the song, while offering the jar to another child. Repeat until you've sung the whole song a couple times, or until your kiddos start getting restless. ;)

This activity works for both older and younger kids.  I find the younger children can listen best when I purposefully choose short, understandable quotes to share with them, and when I read the quotes with an animated voice and face.  Throughout the whole activity, you will have opportunities to bear testimony that this is the Lord's prophet and the Lord's church. And who doesn't love that? 

Happy singing!

Looking for more?  To see what types of activities pair well with this one, see a Singing Time plan that incorporates this idea, here.

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 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 

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, January 27, 2016

5 Tips for Teaching ASL in Primary

  When I was in Primary, I learned "As I Have Loved You" with ASL (American Sign Language).  I can still sing and sign the whole thing!  Something about combining music with representative actions really helped me retain what I learned.  Now, every year I choose a song to teach in ASL to both my younger and older Primary children, so they can have a similar experience. Here are some tips to consider, if you'd like to teach ASL in your Primary, too.

1.  Choosing a Song

Take a look at the list of songs you want to teach your children this year.  (For tips on how to plan your year, look here.)  Cross off any songs that are very fast, as it would be difficult for the children to sign that quickly.  

For the slower tempo songs that remain, think of the following questions:  Do I want to teach ASL for more than one verse? Do I want to include ASL in a song where I already have a small group or solo planned for the Primary program? (Again, see my previous post on yearly planning and deciding verse assignments early.) Which songs might be harder for the children to learn, so ASL could be a help? Are ASL videos available for these songs? (Find the Church's ASL videos on, here.) 

2. Simplify

Since I'm a music teacher, not an ASL teacher, I've decided to focus on teaching my children the song, rather than on teaching them precise ASL.  I don't change the signs themselves, but I cut out some signs and reorder others, focusing on key words, in order to make it easier to sign in the time the song allows. The result is more like signed English, distinctly different from ASL.  Young children are very literal, and this style of teaching helps them better relate to the signs I present. At the right is a video of me, showing the version of "I Will Follow God's Plan" that I simplified for teaching my Primary this year.  

3.  Teaching Yourself the Signs

Although with any song it's important to know it yourself before attempting to teach it, this principle is especially true with teaching ASL.  The handy part is that you only have to be one step ahead of the kids. When I'm learning a new song in ASL, I teach myself one or two lines at a time--just the portion that I'll be teaching the following Sunday.  That way, I'm not overwhelmed by how much I have to learn. 

To learn the signs, you can either watch a video over and over, signing as you go, or you can work with your stake's ASL interpreter. I've done both. :)

4.  Teaching the Children the Signs

The best idea I ever had about teaching ASL in Primary (inspiration, perhaps?) was to start in the middle.  The main idea is to help the children feel confident in their signing.  Start with a section that has a lot of repetition (the chorus, or a phrase with repetitive words, like "I will work, and I will pray. I will always walk...")  The repetitive signs will help the children feel successful right away. As you add on bits of the song and it's harder for the children to remember everything, the most familiar part will come later on in the song, when they most need help remembering. 

When teaching individual signs, I try to think of ways to explain the motions. For example, I say, "This is the sign for God. Notice how we point up to heaven, where He lives!"  Teaching signs in this way helps the children match their movements to the words.

5.  The Big Picture

I take several weeks to teach a song in ASL, reviewing each small section from the previous week before moving on. After the children know the entire song well, I'll challenge them to close their eyes as they sign, only opening them when they need to check on a sign or two.  Throughout the rest of the year, we'll periodically sing and sign this song for the opening song for Primary, to make sure we--both the children and myself!--don't forget what we've learned. 

I can't say enough good things about using ASL to teach children songs. My younger kids, my older kids, my special needs kids, my inactive kids, even my nursery kids! can learn these signs and the song that goes with them.  If you've never given ASL a try in Primary, then, you know...consider giving it a try. :)

Happy singing!

Looking for more?   ASL is a perfect activity for combined-age Primaries (see my post on combined Primaries, here) or for taking Primary music into the home of children who don't often come on Sundays (read more about this here).  Simple ASL signs can also be a powerful way to teach nursery-aged children (read more about their musical needs here).

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Focus on the "I"s--Learning "If I Listen With My Heart" With Your Senior Primary

The first verse of "If I Listen With My Heart" has six "I" statements.  This song is practically begging us to liken it to ourselves! I adapted an idea from Sharla, over at, to tap into the word-based learning style for this older-child activity.

Unscramble the "I" word strips


Take note of the six "I" statements found in verse 1:  I had, I would, I search, I can, I listen, I hear.  Write each phrase on a word strip, large enough to be read by everyone in your Primary room.  Mount each word strip on colored paper, one color for "I had" and "I would," and a second color for the remaining strips, as shown in the picture at right.  

Before Primary begins, tape up the word strips around the room, in visible locations.


Tell the children that you will sing them a song that is about all of us.  "If you see a word strip from this song, raise your hand, and I'll motion for you to bring it up front and help put it in order."  Immediately begin singing, and continue singing until the word strips are all in song order on the board, repeating the song if necessary.  If the children need help placing the word strips in order, you can heavily emphasize the appropriate phrases as you sing.

Ask the children to help you check, to make sure they're all in order.  Sing again, pointing to each word strip as it comes up in the song.  Have a child come up to make corrections, if needed.  

Let the children know that you have another challenge for them with this song.  "I chose different colors for these specific word strips for a reason.  Listen carefully as I sing the song again, and see if you can figure out why they're grouped separately."  My kids got it without any clues, on the first sing-through.  The first two statements talk about what WOULD have been, and the rest talk about how things ARE.  

Now is a perfect time to briefly share how you know the scriptures help us learn the words of the Savior.  The children have been engaged mentally, so they're actively listening to what you say.

Happy singing!