Showing posts with label the spirit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the spirit. Show all posts

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.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Guest Instruments--a Spiritual Analogy for "If I Listen With My Heart"

Different instruments will capture the kids' attention
Does your ward have a few people who can play different instruments? I had a couple guests come into Primary to play their instruments for the children, and we played a guessing game to see if they could identify each one by sound only.


Reach out to a few instrumentalists in your area.  Most musicians are thrilled at the chance to share their talents in Primary!  I arranged for flute, guitar, and glockenspiel (the metal xylophone-like instrument pictured at right).   Give them the sheet music for the song "If I Listen With My Heart," found here.  Ask them to prepare to play the melody of only the last, repeated line, "And if I listen with my heart I hear the Savior's voice."  I also asked my pianist to prepare to play the same line.


Sing the first line of verse 3 of "If I Listen With My Heart":  "I feel the Holy Spirit as He teaches truth and right," and pause. "Boys and girls, did you know that everyone feels the Holy Ghost a little bit differently?"  Explain briefly that although the Spirit teaches the same truth about Jesus, people feel it in different ways. You could give some examples of ways you feel the Holy Ghost.  "That's why we need to listen with our hearts." Sing, "And if I listen with my heart, I hear the Savior's voice."

Tell the children that you're going to help them understand how the same message could be shared in different ways.  They will hear different instruments play the same bit of song, but each instrument sounds a little different from the others.  Challenge them to pay close attention the first time through, as you will quiz them afterwards!


One at a time, ask the guest musicians to play their line of the song.  In between each one, either cue the children to join with you in singing the same line, or make comments such as, "Could you hear how this time, the music was higher? But it's the same song, isn't it?!"  

Once each instrument has been played, grin and tell the children it's time to see how well they listened.  Ask the children to close their eyes and see if they can hear which instrument is being played.  Silently point to one musician, so he can play his line.  Invite the children to open their eyes, and then take their guesses. You'll be surprised by how well they listen!  Give each musician a time to play for the children again.

As you finish, remind the children that just as they had to listen so carefully to hear the difference in the instruments, they also have to listen carefully with their hearts to hear the Holy Spirit speak to them. I can think of no better skill for us to teach our children.

Happy singing!

Looking for more?     For another thought-based activity, try Nature Daydream, here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Inside Camera--Focusing on Mothers in Your Ward

Use family pics from your Primary
Superlative alert:  this is my all-time favorite Primary music activity. Ever.  Probably because it's my kids' favorite activity, too. :)  The base idea I got from Sharla over at, and I just tweaked it a bit.  I dare you to give this a try, and see if your kids don't beg you for more when Singing Time ends!


Ask each family in your Primary for a family picture.  My Primary secretary quite handily sent out a group email for me. The families emailed me their pictures, and I printed them out on cardstock.  Yes, this takes quite a bit of colored ink, but these pictures can be used over and over, so I was okay with the cost.  

The odds of your receiving a picture for every family are kind of slim. You could send out personal emails a few days afterwards, or you could just use the photos you received. If you're ambitious, you could even arrange a time at church to snap photos of the remaining families.  


Tell the children you're going to play a game. Ask them to pretend they have cameras inside their heads, and you want them to take an inside photo of the picture that you will hold up.  Tell the children to memorize the picture as much as they can because you're going to hide it and then quiz them on details. 

Hold up the first family picture and start singing your Mother's Day song of choice. This year, we're learning "I Often Go Walking," but this works equally as well with any family-focused song.  (I do this activity for Father's Day, as well!) Sing the song through once.  You'll probably be singing a solo, but that's okay, since the kids will be learning as they hear the song repeatedly.  As I sing, I walk across the front of the room slowly, giving all the children a closer view. I pointedly bring the picture close to whichever child is in that family, to make sure he notices.  

After singing the song once, hide the picture and ask 2 or 3 questions.  Some good example questions are "How many girls are in this family?" or "How many people are wearing glasses?"  You can base questions off of the individual pictures. 

For each picture, the last question I always ask is directly to the child in the picture, and it is, "What is special about this mom?"  

Then, I pick up the next picture, and we repeat the whole activity. I normally have time for 4 or 5 pictures, but that's never enough for these kiddos! I can repeat it week after week, as we prep for Mother's Day, using different family pictures each time, and they never get tired of it, even my tough-to-impress older kids. ;)

Happy singing!

Helpful Hint:  Mother's Day and Father's Day can be tough for some kids.   See my blog post here about special needs Primaries, with a section about children who have special needs when being taught the doctrine of families.

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 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, November 18, 2015

Teacher Appreciation Day

It's Teacher Appreciation Day!
Primary songs stick with you throughout your life.  They become part of who you are.  Instead of telling the children this (they'd probably forget it anyway!), I'm planning an activity that will show them.  This Sunday I'm combining a few ideas I've seen and having a Teacher Appreciation Day, where I highlight the teachers and their favorite Primary songs.  My hope is that the children will not only get to know a little more about their teachers, but that they'll also feel how special these particular songs and their meanings are.  


Over the past couple weeks, I've contacted all the Primary teachers and leaders.  I asked for their favorite Primary song and an emailed picture of their family.  Then I printed out their family pictures on cardstock.


I'll jump right in as soon as Singing Time starts:  "Since Thanksgiving is this week, let's talk about a group of people for whom we should be very thankful. Please raise your hand if you spend lots of your free time every week, getting ready for Primary...." The teachers and leaders should all raise their hands. "Let's learn a little bit more about your teachers today, so you can feel even more thankful for them.  Brother Smart's favorite Primary song is 'Love is Spoken Here.'  Brother Smart, why is that your favorite Primary song?"  After he answers, I'll explain that as I sing the song (the children are welcome to join me if they know the words), we'll be playing the game called Inside Camera.  The children should try to use the camera inside their mind to memorize the family picture of that teacher.  When I'm done singing, I'll turn the picture over and then quiz them. (How many kids does he have? Who in the family has a different color of hair? etc.)

I'll repeat for each teacher, naturally. :)

  -Hearing why it's the teacher's favorite song could be either a spiritual or a word-focused activity, depending on the comments.

 -Inside Camera is a visual activity.

A Change of Pace

The children will undoubtedly start to feel wiggly sometime in the middle. When that happens, I'll pause the Inside Camera game and sing "Fun to Do" (Children's Songbook p.253), using teachers' favorite hobbies.  

*  -Using actions for "Fun to Do" is a physical activity.

Have you highlighted your teachers in Singing Time?  What ideas have worked for you?

Happy singing!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sing a Story: An After-Conference Activity

   When I first participated in this activity in a Primary music workshop by Sharla Dance, I knew I had to provide the opportunity to my Primary children.   I don't use this activity often, so that it doesn't become commonplace, but each time I've presented Sing a Story, I've felt the Spirit intensely.  

How to Sing a Story

The idea is simple:  you tell a story that demonstrates the principle found in your song, and you intersperse lines of that song, singing a cappella by yourself.  The result is an opportunity for the Holy Ghost to powerfully testify of that principle's truthfulness. Once, I sang "I Stand All Amazed" (Hymns #193) with the story of a boy whose dad was in jail, learning about God's love.  Another time, I sang "Help Me, Dear Father" (p.99) about my own experience learning how to forgive my dad after I was angry with him.  

The week after General Conference, I love to sing the President Monson verse of "Follow the Prophet" (p.110) and tell the story of a boy wanting to follow Pres. Monson but not knowing how at first.  As part of this story, I'll include some of the direct invitations that Pres. Monson extended during this General Conference.  Here's how it might start when you put it together (talking in regular type, singing in italics):

Choosing a word strip for Sing a Story.
Something to 'ponderize'?

One Example

Connor bounced down onto the couch, hugging a pillow.  "Make sure you have a good spot," Mom said.  "General Conference is about to start!" --Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to return-- Connor's parents had taught him that Heavenly Father gave us General Conference so we could hear the words of the prophetbut it was hard to listen for so long and figure out what the prophet was actually asking him to do! --He blesses us with prophets who help us to learn.--Luckily, his mom had an idea that really helped him figure out how to follow the prophet. They listened especially closely to Pres. Monson's talks, taking notes on the things he asked everyone to do.--President Monson humbly leads God's church today--After Conference, they typed up his words, put them in a jar, and read them as a family.--As we heed his words we'll walk a righteous way.--Here's one thing Connor heard Pres. Monson ask everyone to do:  [Pull a strip of paper out of a jar and read:] "Let us speak to others with love and respect, ever keeping our language clean."--Follow the prophet--etc...

When I tell the story with an animated voice, the kids are drawn in. I admit that I have to practice a lot, in order to tell the story without looking at any notes!  When I've prepared well, and when I've prayed for help to present the story in the best way, it is always a beautiful experience. 

Happy singing!