Showing posts with label words. Show all posts
Showing posts with label words. 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, June 28, 2018

Prepping for a New Songbook--Write Your Own Song!


Writing Primary Songs in Seminary
I'm excited for the Church's new hymnbook and Children's Songbook! (Read the announcement here.)

I also love the idea that anyone can submit songs they've written. The announcement came at an especially fun time because I had just had my seminary students, for a year-end lesson, write their own verses to Book of Mormon Stories.


Here are a couple they wrote:

1. Aft’ they left the tower behind, the Jaredites embark. 
Jared’s brother brought some stones to take away the dark. 
To the promised land so that the people could be free. 
Followed God, with the light righteously.

2. Enos was a bad hunter, he couldn't shoot a deer
But his father prayed for him and asked that he would hear.
The words of God forgiving him as he fell to his knees
Through day and night, he asked in faith, righteously.

And a fun one:

3. Laman and Lemuel weren’t so bad after all
Sure they complained a lot but followed Moses Law
They tied up Nephi but eventually set him free
Mmmmh, no, they were psycho, righteously.


Aren't these youth fantastic!? I love their thoughtfulness and creativity. Something similar to this could also be a fun challenge for your senior Primary. Then, if they wanted, they could submit their new verses to be considered for the new songbook! 

I gave my students the following pattern to write their verses in groups:


Line 1: 13 syllables, rhyme with Line 2
Line 2: 13 syllables, rhyme with Line 1
Line 3: 13 syllables, rhyme with Line 4
Line 4: 6 syllables + "righteously"

We wrote their verses on the board so everyone could sing them, and they were really into it. I love any time we can bring the music of the Church into our lessons, to help students of all ages learn. 


Happy singing!


Looking for other ways to get Senior Primary kids more involved?  

Read how I've used child pianists, here.


For an idea of how to adapt a junior Primary activity to be more interesting for senior, try this one.

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?" 

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! ;) 

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.

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.


Preparation


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?


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 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 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.