Friday, February 26, 2010

Singing Statues

Just look at what else I found while shopping at Party City! I think these little guys are darling. As soon as I saw them, hanging next to the clown glasses, I was reminded of a game we used to play called "Musical Statues." This game calls on a child to strike a pose and then everyone else copies it and holds it while singing a song. I think these dolls are perfect for this game. An obvious advantage is for me to be able to choose the pose instead of the children. I see this as an advantage because some of the children can be really silly. It is kind of hard to invite a child to pose and then have to modify it.

Obviously I would have to be a little choosy about the songs. I wouldn't use these with songs that have a reverent message because the kids will likely still get a little silly. I admit they are a bit bright and kind of absurd looking. But I think they would work great for cheerful, upbeat songs like "Give Said the Little Stream: (CS-236) and "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" (CS-60) or "I Hope They Call Me on a Mission" (CS-169). The kids sometimes express boredom with some of these old favorites and some of these songs have developed actions and ways of singing that I don't care for. If their hands and bodies are in a pose that I choose, the children won't be bouncing up out of their seats when they sing the Sunbeam song or do a goofy dance while singing "Follow the Prophet!' I also would not have to use the whole bunch of them at once. I could just slip one into the pocket of my apron along with a song to sing or put one into my surprise sack.

I can see one more caution. In my experience, kids find it hard to stand on one leg. However tempted I might be to get creative, I have to make every position easily doable or I'll end up with kids on the floor. Believe me - my Primary presidency would not be proud.

But -I did a little informal market research this last Sunday. I asked three of the older boys and the Primary secretary what they thought. The boys thought that the "little kids" would be too irreverent to use them. The secretary agreed, but thought they would work great for an activity day. True, they really would be perfect for that. I didn't dare ask anyone else. If you read this post, would you please leave me a comment and tell me what you think? Is it because they are so bright and goofy looking? I am anxious for some feedback on this.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Singing Time Shopping

Primary choristers everywhere love singing motivators. I've read in a number of places about using enormous clown glasses to look for super singers. These children can then choose the next song or be a helper in some other way. If so many people use this I'm thinking that it must work pretty well. So, off I went on a shopping trip to look for clown glasses. I found them at Party City for $3.00. Matilda has a picture on the sidebar of her blog of some giant ears as well to listen for excellent singers, but I couldn't find any of those. Maybe I'll find them online or when the store restocks their costumes this fall. It's probably just as well. I developed some major inhibitions while serving as Relief Society President. ;) It may take me some time to shed these. The glasses definitely feel more conservative than the ears!

I also found a nice pair of big plastic dice. They are about three times as big as regular dice and made of a soft rubber so they are kind of bouncy. Dice are useful for many things. Just make a numbered key of about anything like songs or phrases or pictures, etc. I try to have a variety of things because the kids like it when you bring out something different. I have several different kinds of dice and these will be great for my little collection.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Choosing Wiggle Songs - wiggle sticks

These are my wiggle worm sticks. They have wiggle songs written on the back and the children can pick one of the worms to choose a wiggle song. They are easy, easy to make - just paint the sticks and glue the wiggly eyes on them. I keep them in a "bait can" and they are handy on the weeks that we're working hard to learn a new song.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Song Review - Keyword Actions

I've planned this review activity to use as I begin to review program songs. Start with three or four key words from the song and write them on the chalkboard. Use pictures, if possible, for those who don't read. Write action directions (stand up, raise hand, hands on hips, hands on head, turn around, hands together, etc.) on slips of paper and put them in a can or basket to draw from. (You can also put the keywords on slips of paper in order to give more children a chance to choose something.) Invite a child to choose an action slip and then write the action next to the keyword on the chalkboard as a reminder. Explain to the children that every time they hear the keyword in the song they should do that action. Continue to choose and add actions to the key words, repeating the song each time. The more keyword actions you add, the more challenging it becomes. Stop before it gets frustrating.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Using a Wiggle Worm Puppet

Teaching the melody of a song is lots of fun with this Wiggle Worm puppet. He shows a bit of wear, but I hope you can see some possibilities in a puppet such as him. I use this puppet with a "follow the leader" kind of game. He is perfect for teaching the melody of a song because the kids can simply hum and move with the music. If you use the puppet with review songs, the children will need to know the words pretty well because this game requires some concentration.

Put the puppet over your hand and down your arm a bit. While the music plays, or while you sing, move your arm with the music and invite the children to copy your movements. Don't ham it up too much or you'll just invite hamming up later when the children use the puppet. If the music is fast, your motions can be a little faster or slower if the music is slower. Large and small arm movements can help indicate dynamics also. Younger children will not be able to follow your gestures exactly but they will enjoy the movements. Older children can concentrate and follow you more precisely, especially if you challenge them to think of a mirror.

Decide on rules that are appropriate for both Jr. and Sr. kids and explain the rules beforehand. My rules include staying in your seat and not touching another person! If you have the room, you can stand and spread out just a little. As with all music aids, I gently remind the children that I need to depend on them to use the puppet respectfully. If using these fun things causes problems I just don't feel like getting them out. Some of the older primary kids can't help but goof off when they are in front of everyone, but they are able to understand this message.

You or the children can also use this puppet to simply direct the singing. This puppet also works especially well for pitch-level conducting. Just follow the melody with up and down hand movements.

This is a really easy puppet to make. Find a knee sock and glue or sew two eyes on him. That's it! If you use glue, use the permanent fabric kind so that you can wash the puppet. If the foot length is large you may need to cut off the toe and gather it up or sew it closer to the heel, so that the sock fits a child's hand better. The heel should fall somewhere close to the wrist. I hope you'll let me know if your children like to use such a puppet.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Another Idea

Another idea from this month's Friend occurred to me as I read the story "Learning to Listen" about Elder Jose Teixeira on page 23. I was struck by the phrase "I had a feeling that I should tell my mom and dad where we were going." His statement describes a common experience with the Holy Ghost which many of us have felt as well. Elder Teixeira reports "The Holy Ghost tried to tell me that I shouldn't go fishing without telling my parents." How many times have we said something similar to ourselves. If only we would learn to listen to these feelings!

I think this quick true story about fishing would be a great introduction to the old reliable "Fishing for Songs" choose and review using songs about the Holy Ghost and obedience. Or, fish for the questions that will help the children listen as you sing and teach or review the upcoming song "The Holy Ghost" (CS-105). You've probably already got a fishing pole, but if not, just make an easy one. Tie a magnet onto one end of a string and tie the other end to a dowel rod. If you want to be more authentic use a willow stick. Then, use metal paper clips on several paper fish with songs written on them.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Singing Ideas in the February "Friend" Magazine

I found some great ideas for singing time in February's issue of The Friend. The "Armor of Righteousness" on page 17 is an obvious choice for a singing time, especially as we have a prophet theme coming in March. There are a couple of things one could do with this page. I could use the riddles as is and just write them on cards to play an easy "What Am I' guessing game, singing appropriate songs after solving each riddle.

Or, I could take it a step further and enlarge the illustration. I could make letters to match up the riddles with the illustration or, put the riddles on paper arrows to point at the proper object. I could also write riddles of objects that children use today to follow the prophet that would match these riddles in theme. For example, "John kneels by this every morning as he asks for strength and power from God." "Sarah wears this on her finger to remind her to be brave in standing up for her beliefs." "Katie uses this to sweep the floor as she willingly helps her family." I could write a riddle to match each one illustrated and set up a matching game, or just add two or three to the guessing game to help the kids discover that they can also be righteous and be used by God as were prophets of old.

The poem "The Sacrament" on page 16 is another possibility, especially if I have a little time to fill after teaching or reviewing a song. I could read the poem and show a picture of Christ and ask the children what they think about during the sacrament. Singing a song or two and thinking about the message of the song could help the children identify things they could think about. With more time, I could post the picture of the reverent girl with thought "bubbles" around her head and sing songs about Christ, gratitude or prayer songs with each bubble.

I also studied the unlikely article describing the tour of the North Visitor's Center on Temple Square. Because the theme is about prophets in March, I thought of using pictures of these prophets (and others) on the chalkboard around a picture of Christ, singing review songs that teach about Jesus or testimony and ending with "I Know That My Savior Loves Me." Or, I could use costumes and children to read these short testimonies and then sing a song. I could also put the testimonies and songs on strips of paper and then invite the children to choose them by pulling them out of the scriptures. Using pictures is maybe a little too close to the idea suggested in the outline for sharing time in March, depending on what our presidency member decides to do. Sharing time is first in our branch, so it could reinforce what the kids just learned, or I could use something other than pictures.

Remember my challenge! Look through this current issue and see what else can be found and adapted to singing time. Leave a comment and let me know what you find.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Best Calling

Early this morning I lay awake thinking about why I love being the Primary chorister. It is complicated and I think maybe my feelings recollect memories and affinities that were formed very early in my life. I have always loved music. My mother eternally had music playing in our home --beautiful, rapturous music, like Rachmaninoff, that just made your soul soar. She is highly creative and I could grasp, even at an early age, that the pretty things around me were the result of her hands. The dresses I wore, the painted kitchen cupboards, the drapes in the living room, the little ornaments arranged on the lamp table, all these came from a very deep artistic spring, that just always bubbled and overflowed into the next project. I think some of this has rubbed off onto me. If you could spend time with her, it would rub off onto you too! She's still at it, even in her 80's. This last week she told me about painting a treasure box for one of her grandchildren. Because she is a faithful member of our church, this creativity was concentrated in her church callings. She spent much of my impressionable years serving in the young women organization and I watched (and helped) her put on roadshows, organize crafts for girls camp, decorate and undecorate for dances or a fashion show. What has this to do with why I love Primary music?

I was thinking this morning that one of the best things about this calling is that it allows me to be creative! Sometime today, after I get my kitchen cleaned, I'm planning to make two new puppets for my box. These need to look like Book of Mormon children because I want the kids to use them as we review "I Know That My Savior Loves Me." I'm planning to have an "ancient" child lead the first verse and a modern child lead the second verse as we review the song. I also want to update my costumes with some easy Book of Mormon things. I need something that will go on and off easily since I don't want to take time with dressing! I'll use these props in the same way to review the song.

There is something inside of me that just HAS to be creative. My last calling was filled with organizational issues, solving problems and working with people -- adult people. I actually like to cut things out of construction paper! Making puppets is one of my favorite things to do. I think its fun to look through back issues of The Friend and dream up ideas for singing time. Thinking up games is way more fun than attending ward council. And best of all, I get to spend time with these little people who approve of all my creative efforts. The nicest things just come together in this calling. "Thank you, thank you, my heart sings."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Adapting Ideas for Singing Time

In a recent post I told you about a singing time plan that I came up with after reading an idea in The Friend magazine. I thought I would explain a little further how I make this magazine work for me. I know that some Primary choristers think that the Church has given us very little in the way of resources. Since we are encouraged to use only approved resources, we sometimes feel frustrated that we don't have a specified manual of methods and ideas. Following this counsel isn't as easy as teaching an outlined lesson in a manual. We have the Children's Songbook and we are encouraged to use prayer and inspiration, but some of us struggle because the Spirit doesn't give us ideas out of thin air. Primary music is so much fun, but only if we're prepared! One can't help but notice how relentless this assignment is. Sunday comes up every single week and it just keeps coming. After you've tried every good idea you've ever thought or heard of, there is Sunday again, just around the corner.

How do I find ideas that are creative and fun? The Friend is my very best and favorite resource. It is approved and has enough inspiration to last a lifetime! It has pictures. It has games. It has poetry, stories, and activities. It has messages from our Prophet and Apostles. All of these features inspire and suggest ideas to me. Especially when I've been praying for help. The Church has been publishing this magazine for over thirty years! Back issues for the last nine years are freely available in digital format here at Issues published before 2001 are available on an inexpensive CD.

When an issue comes in the mail, I immediately sit down and read it. After a day or two I will pick it up again and read it, thinking about the weekly primary themes. I will always have a thought about how I could use something or other. I will see how one of the stories or activities could be developed into a singing time with choose and review songs. There may be a picture or a poem or a quote that I can use as an attention getter to introduce a song. Sometimes I can use these ideas immediately but I may have to wait a couple of months for the right theme to come up. Sometimes I can think of how I can use the framework of what might be published and adjust the content to fit what I need to teach. Sometimes I just make a note of a good idea on a list of ideas to be developed in the future.

In this month's issue there is a beautiful centerfold article called "The Living Christ" with pictures of Jesus and testimonies of the apostles. I thought of developing a musical narrative using pictures and songs about Jesus and reading some of the testimonies as narrative between the songs. This would fit well into February's theme, or I could wait and use this idea with the theme "Prophets Testify..."

I wrote a post about the January 2010 issue of The Friend. Look under the label "Using the Friend" to read it again. I'll challenge you to see what you can find in the February issue. I hope you'll leave a comment.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Just For Fun

Since Valentines Day actually falls on Sunday this year I'm going to do something just for fun. I consciously try to plan my singing time with a purpose so that I take advantage of opportunities to teach the gospel and testify to the children. I don't want anyone to go away wondering what in the world that presentation had to do with the gospel. But, I do tend to be more on the serious side, so I intentionally try to lighten up occasionally.

I've prepared 4-inch conversation hearts with a phrase on the front that matches a song on the back. I'm sure you may have seen this cute idea already. I saw it here. I've had to adjust some of the phrases to match the songs that our children know. I've put lightweight magnets on the back so that the hearts will stick to the chalkboard. I'll use an empty candy bag with a magnet also so that it will look like candy is spilling out of the bag. The kids can choose a heart and try to guess the song. If they can't guess, I can hum or have the pianist play a few notes. Here are the phrases I'm using for the songs. Obviously we won't have time to sing all of these, but there are lots of choices.

Choose Me ---I Lived in Heaven
Wise Up ---The Wise Man and the Foolish Man
Follow Me ---Do As I'm Doing
Happy ---If You're Happy
Fun ---Fun to Do
Promise ---I Love to See the Temple
Shhh ---The Chapel Doors
4Ever ---Families Can Be...
Help Me ---A Happy Helper
Smiles ---Smiles
Love ---He Sent His Son
Favorite ---your favorite song
Pop ---Popcorn Popping
Call Me ---Called to Serve
Shine ---Shine On
Heart Song ---I Am Glad For Many Things
Wiggle ---I Wiggle
The Best ---When I Am Baptized
Angel ---When He Comes Again
Stand by Me ---If The Savior Stood Beside Me

Friday, February 5, 2010

Singing Time Plan

For one singing time this month, I have a plan to build a visual "bridge" from earth to heaven with 6 pictures of Jesus as the "pillars" for the bridge. I have a blue circle representing the world to place on one side of the chalkboard. I'm using a child from the Primary Visual Aids Cut-outs to stand on the world. I have a white circle to represent heaven to put on the other side of the chalkboard. We'll sing a song for each of the pillars and I'll have the children listen for the message of the song and then decide which picture matches the message. We can place it, along with a paper horizontal bridge span, in the space between the earth and heaven and move the child to stand on that pillar. We'll sing each song in turn and move the child forward with spans and pillars. I'll make a very brief explanation or bear a simple testimony with each song. We'll sing "He Sent His Son" for the last pillar next to heaven. It summarizes so well the role that Jesus plays in the process of our salvation. I could also use the scriptural image of a ladder or a staircase, arranging the pictures and moving the cut-out child up each stair or rung. But, I kind of like the image of a chasm between mortality and heaven and the way Jesus bridges this for us. I don't plan to explain any of this to the children. I'm just hoping to put an image in their mind to help their understanding later. Sometimes it's nice to make connections for ourselves, rather than having everything explained for us. It is so much fun to watch when kids make these connections. I just think of it as a favor to some future Seminary teacher.

#1 - picture of Jesus as a baby - "Little Jesus" - Jesus loved us enough to leave heaven and come to the earth in humble circumstances - I'll change the word Christmas to Sabbath.
#2 - picture of Jesus being baptized - "Baptism" - Jesus gave us ordinances and the example to receive these.
#3 picture of Jesus serving others - "Love One Another" - serving others helps us become like Jesus.
#4 - picture of Jesus and the children - "Jesus is Our Loving Friend" - Jesus continues to love and look after us and help us with our problems.
#5 - picture of Crucifixion - "Reverently, Quietly" - Testify of the significance of this deed.
#6 picture of Jesus - "He Sent His Son" - Jesus is even now waiting to welcome us and bring us to our Heavenly Father. He will be our advocate and friend.

I thought of this idea as I read the first suggestion in the Sharing Time Ideas in the February 2006 issue of The Friend. You could adapt this idea to any theme with the aspect of "getting from here to there." Keeping covenants to return to our Heavenly Father, living worthy to enter the temple, steps in building a happy home, the growth of a testimony, living the gospel from morning till night, preparing for a mission and so on. I'm so glad we have The Friend. I'm constantly rereading these Sharing Time Ideas, thinking of ways that I could adapt the techniques they use to our current theme.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Jesus is Our Loving Friend"

I am looking for an opportunity to teach "Jesus is Our Loving Friend" (CS-58) because I love the message of this song. I'm personally so thankful that Jesus is always near, that He will guide me and that each one of us is dear to Him. This song is like a testimony for me. Our kids don't know the song and I would like it to be an available song for my choose and review plans throughout this year.

I'm planning to teach it using a picture study with the beautiful picture of Christ and the Children. (#216 GAK) I've always loved this picture. I love how Jesus is looking into the eyes of the child He is talking to and how His arm is around the boy. The other children are also anxious to talk with him but they wait patiently and seem to know that they will get their chance. I love how Jesus looks as if He doesn't have anything else to do but spend time with and listen to these children. So I'll post the picture and ask the children to study it for a moment to see if they can tell whether Jesus is a friend to these children and how they can tell. I'll explain that Jesus loves us as much as he loved the children who lived at that time. I'll ask them to listen to the song to discover 3 ways we can tell that he is our friend. As they respond, I'll list the keywords on the board to the left of the picture (always near, guide us, dear) under a heading "How Do We Know?" I'll help them sing the answers and then we'll sing the first verse together.

I'll briefly discuss that the nature of friendship extends in two directions and ask if one can be friends with someone who doesn't want to be friends. I'll ask how someone would know if we are their friend and extend the question to how Jesus could know if we are His friend. The second verse to the song teaches that we show this by raising our voices and reverently and sweetly singing His praise. As they discover the answers to questions, I'll list the keywords on the right side of the picture (reverently, sweetly, voices, sing, praise) under the heading "How Does He Know?" I'll help them sing the answers and then the second verse together.

When I was a young girl I always wished that I could have lived at the time Jesus lived. I wanted to be with Jesus and sit on his knee. I wished that I could have been blessed and healed by him like those other children. Heavenly Father has gradually given me a testimony that I am loved also. I'm hoping that by singing this reverent song the Spirit will testify to our children that Jesus is, even now, available to us as a loving friend.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Polishing a Song - A Glove

Using a glove can help the children focus on your hand as you lead them in singing. I use the glove most often when I am reviewing a song and polishing it with dynamics and precise singing. You may want (or have already) a fancier glove, this one is really plain. I think too fancy though might just be distracting.

After the children know a song well, I use the glove to teach simple dynamics directions such as raising my hand with the palm up for increasing the volume and lowering my hand with the palm down for softer singing. I teach the children about holding a note (fermata) and to watch my hand for a cut-off cue. I also teach them about watching for a cue to stand up, and about how to begin after an upbeat. After the children have been trained in these kinds of musical cues, they are ready for a turn with the glove. If I keep the glove nearby, I can pull it out to use with any of our songs during singing time.

Sometimes I'll have the kids use the glove in a choose and review activity. Songs are assigned to pictures that are posted around the room. Begin by singing a song with the children. Invite a child to determine the gospel message and point to a picture that matches the message. This picture is keyed to the next song and so on. The songs can be random or related to each other by theme. It can also be set up as a kind of mini treasure hunt, but in one room using pictures.

Thank you for visiting The Children Sing. Check back soon for more LDS Primary Singing Time Ideas!