Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Tell a riddle. Say "I'm going to give you some clues to a riddle. Can you guess who (or what) I'm talking about? That's right. We're talking about that today. We know a different song about this. Let's sing..." Some people are good at doing this kind of thing off the cuff. If you aren't one of them you can practice doing it ahead of time. Or, you could prepare a few riddles on slips of paper and keep them in a small can or basket to draw from when needed.
Begin humming a song. See if the children can guess the song. Then carry on with what you were doing.
Show the children a scarf, feather, paper snowflake or something similar that quietly floats to the floor. Say, "I'm going to drop this feather. Before it hits the floor would you all try to think of one way you can be reverent?" Ask for an idea and then say, "That's a good idea. Let's all fold our arms (or smile, or keep our feet still, etc.) while we sing..." You could expand this idea into a full singing time if you wish, by continuing to take ideas and singing reverence songs.
Keep a "secret picture" on hand. One related to the song you are currently teaching, or a general picture of Jesus or a reverent child. Put it in an envelope. If the children become restless, stop and say "I have a secret picture. Joseph, would you like to see it? Would you show it to everyone?" After everyone has seen it, make a brief comment about what you like about the picture, then return to your presentation.
Keep a large, medium and small sized button nearby. When you need to redirect attention show the large button and ask them to listen to hear it hit the floor or the table. Ask if it makes a big sound? Ask them if they can hear the medium sized button and then the small button. Use other small objects on different weeks.
This is an idea adapted from the Sunbeam manual. Cup your hands in front of your mouth and begin to blow, as if you are blowing up a balloon. Let your hands and then your arms spread out into a big circle in front of you and then over your head. Then make a shushing sound as you let all the air out of the imaginary balloon and gradually bring your hands down into your lap. Don't explain anything to the children, just let them watch you. The little ones will copy you right away. If your singing time is combined, count on the bigger boys being silly. Tell them that the balloon has to stay in the chair.
"Clap your hands, clap your hands, clap them just like me." Softly clap your hands as you chant and then change and clap them on your shoulders, knees, head, etc. This works really well with the Jr. Primary. You can find the longer version with actions to touch your shoulders, tap your knees, and shake your head in the Primary 1 manual on page 55. If your Primary is combined, it can work with the Seniors also, but you may have to increase the difficulty of the motions. Look for two more activity verses on pages 127 and 128.
Some choristers have a "church mouse" small enough to keep in a pocket. If things get out of hand the church mouse peeks out enough for the children to see and then hides again. The chorister explains that the mouse is very shy, but loves to hear children singing. Tell the children that maybe this shy mouse will come out to listen if they sing more reverently and do not scare her away.
I think one could adapt the story "Primary Manners" from the December 2009 issue of The Friend into a great singing time focusing on reverence. I would just use the chalkboard illustrations, maybe drawing them for the children and asking for their ideas and singing an appropriate reverence song after the ideas.
Some of these ideas are adapted from the Primary 1 manual. There are a number of activity verses and suggestions for wiggly children in there. The Primary 2 and 3 manuals also have ideas. Don't be put off by the age designation. If you study these books with a little imagination you'll think of ways to adapt the suggestions for the older kids. Activity verses are really good to give the children a little rest and get them moving a bit. Everyone can participate! I think this is why the activity songs are always so popular with the kids. They like to move!
Monday, January 25, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
This is my "emergency" singing time. I've been in the Primary presidency a number of times and I think it is really nice to have something prepared so that you don't have to scramble quite so much. So, I prepared the gifts, chose the songs and typed up the directions. I even made a separate list for the pianist. Then I put everything in a ziplock bag and put it in the Primary closet in case I can't get to church. The Primary presidency knows where to look. I hope that it will be helpful in case I'm not there.
Here are the directions for this singing time. It's just a basic choose and review and is pretty flexible as far as theme. I only offer this an an idea of what could be done. The idea came from the Sharing Time Ideas in the December 2008 issue of The Friend.
Briefly talk about gifts in our lives and how much it means to us to receive a gift. Show the children the wrapped gifts and explain that Heavenly Father has given us special gifts because we are members of the church. Have someone choose one of the gifts. Have the pianist play a few notes of the song and ask the children to guess the song. After they have guessed the song, help them guess the blessing. They may need to sing the song before they will be able to discover what the blessing is.
The number on the back of the gift is keyed to a song on the list for the pianist.
#1 ---Priesthood ---"Love is Spoken Here" (CS90)
#2 ---Scriptures ---"The Golden Plates" (CS86)
#3 ---Baptism ---"Baptism" (CS100)
#4 ---Holy Ghost ---"I Know My Father Lives" (CS5)
#5 ---Prophets ---"Follow the Prophet" (CS110)
#6 ---Temples ---"I Love to See the Temple (CS95)
This just might be the week someone will have to substitute for me. We've had snow and it is always possible that we won't be able get down our road. We live about 7 miles down an isolated dirt road. The road also gets bad if it rains too much. This is kind of challenging since we are active members of a church with oodles of activities! But I love where we live, so we, and I guess everyone else, just have to put up with it.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
We've had lots of snow this week so I'm planning to take my snowflake "How to Sing" sticks to use with a few seasonal pictures to choose rest songs. The sticks have the usual phrases like "boys sing", "you conduct", "sing softly", "stand to sing", etc. I'll write the titles of rest/wiggle songs on the back of the pictures of fun winter activities and post them on the chalkboard. One child can pick a song and another can choose how to sing it.
This is a pretty standard plan, but always reliable. I'm teaching the second verse of "I Know That My Savior Loves Me" but I want to leave a little time for something different. I'm sure the children will be more than ready for some rest songs.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Pitch level conducting can be very helpful to children when they are learning a new song. People who are very musical seem to have a natural ability to hear the tones of a melody. The rest of us struggle with this in varying degrees. The Church expects all of us to actively join in the singing. This is especially true in Primary. We sometimes chide the children if they don't sing. Sometimes we observe children just mumbling the words and not singing out as we expect them to. Possibly these children are unsure of the music. As choristers, we often focus on learning the words of the song and expect the children to pick up the music on the fly. If children are not participating as I think they should, I take it as my cue to review the melody of the song. Usually, when the children know the words and the music well, they sing willingly.
Pitch level conducting is not as commonly used as it could be. When I was a child the primary chorister used this method almost all the time, but you don't see it much anymore. Perhaps we just don't think of it. I think maybe it is because we are self-conscious about our ability to do it well. Studying the music ahead of time will help, so that you know how the melody moves. If you don't play music yourself, the pianist can help you. Practicing the technique at home before using it with the children will make you more confident. I also think that it helps to be deliberate. I have a number of methods on a list that I read through as I prepare to teach or review songs. If I haven't done this one in a while, I consciously choose to do it. I have also found that I am more comfortable using something other than my hand. While my hand is "handier" and takes less time, I sometimes use a ruler, and sometimes I hold it between both hands. I have a can with popsicle sticks for the children to use in the same way.
Give pitch level conducting a try. You don't have to conduct the whole song this way, but it can be very useful for phrases that musically complicated or that have abrupt changes in pitch. It becomes easier to do as you actually do it and it will make a big difference in helping the children sing more accurately.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
"For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads." (D&C 25:12)
Too many of us believe that making music has something to do with "talent," and we are relieved that only those with skill are expected to make music. Heavenly Father has revealed in the scriptures and through modern prophets that music is an essential part of our worship. We understand that making music, and specifically singing, is a form of prayer. Music is a tool for praise and thanksgiving. (Psalm 150, Psalm 30:4) Music is also an effective way to help strengthen and instruct others. (Eph. 5:19, Isa 12:4,5) Music is a weapon of great power against our spiritual enemy. Jesus, Joseph Smith and many of us have used music as a strength in facing trials.
The role of music in our meetings is not to entertain the congregation. Being entertained is a passive, secular response to music. The purpose of music in our meetings is to involve all of us in active worship and praise. It is not meant to be left to those with talent or to those who find it easy. It is an essential part of our meetings. Heavenly Father is delighted with the efforts of each of us to make music. He has promised to answer with blessings. (D&C 25:12) In fact, He will sing back to us! (Zeph. 3:17)
We all like cute ideas. But I think that sometimes we develop the mindset that we must entertain the children. We search for the most captivating ideas and we're always looking for a better one for next week. We wish we were more creative, we wish we were talented, we wish our voice sounded better, we worry when the Stake Primary Presidency visits that they will think we are boring, we worry that our children will not learn fast enough and be "prepared" to sing. If we could truly understand how our Heavenly Father loves to hear his children sing, and switch to a mindset where we simply try to create an opportunity for worship, I believe the Spirit will be there. We will have prayed twice.
Monday, January 11, 2010
I've prepared this snowflake as an attention getter and will begin by saying "I'm going to let this snowflake fall. Before it hits the floor, can you think of one way you could be reverent?" Are you ready?" After inviting a couple of responses, I'll teach the song using the "echo" method. Since there are only two phrases I'm sure the children will pick it up quickly. I'll conclude with the snowflake again, this time asking them to think of one thing they are thankful for.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
Thursday, January 7, 2010
My plan for this week is to use the Nephite children cut-outs (from the Primary Visual Aids Cut-Outs, Set 6-People of the Scriptures) and place them on the chalkboard around the picture of Christ and the Book of Mormon Children (No. 84 in the Gospel Art Book). I'll write discovery questions on the back of each cut-out and invite the children to choose them. This will give me an opportunity to sing the song again several times and for the children to listen and then sing the phrases with the answers. Hopefully, I'll be able to begin the second verse as well. The questions are:
- "Where were the children gathered?"
- "What did the children see?"
- "What did Jesus do?"
- "What did the children feel?"
- "What two things did I not do?"
The rhythm of the music is a regular, even beat and suggests walking. I can imagine the ancient children walking to gather around Jesus. I'll pass out the rhythm sticks and let the children tap them as we sing the song one final time.