Thursday, April 29, 2010

Name That Tune -By Rhythm

This musical game gives the children an opportunity to remember the rhythms of Primary songs that they know. Use a percussive rhythm instrument like sticks or wood blocks. A tone block with a wooden striker makes a clear sound. Whatever you use should make a sound loud enough that the children can hear it well.

Start by tapping the rhythm of a familiar song and ask the children if they recognize the song. This might be harder than you think because many Primary songs have similar rhythms. The kids will have to concentrate, and might just guess. Help them out if they need it. After they guess the correct song, invite them to sing it with you. After a few examples, give the children a chance to come up and tap out a song. The point of this game is not just to provide another way to choose review songs, although it does do that, but rather to help the children pay attention to and remember the rhythm of the songs. If the song you are teaching has many different rhythms in the phrases, you can also use this game to help review. Tap out the rhythm of a phrase and ask the children to guess which phrase. Have the children sing the phrase.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Song Review - Surprise Sack

When I have a list of songs that I want to review, I bring the surprise sack. I put a number of my song review aids in here and have the children draw one out to use with each of the songs we sing that day. I regularly use the bell, the baton with a fancy on it, the glove, the color cube, the slinky, rhythm sticks, puppets, and always a wiggle worm or a wooden heart for choosing a favorite song. I've explained these aids elsewhere in the blog. You can look under the music aids label or the reviewing songs label.

I also use the surprise sack on the weeks I'm teaching a song. I can put few fun things in the bag for when the children get restless or need a change of pace. We can stop and pull something out of the surprise sack.

I made my sack many years ago out of rugged corduroy fabric and it has held up well. You could easily substitute a sturdy gift bag instead.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Random Tip - Magnets

I love these little magnets. They are very thin and won't hold much more than a piece of paper, but that's just what I need them for. I have lots of little pieces of paper that I want to post -- word strips, pictures, cut-outs. I just stick these small, thin magnets on the back and away I go.

I'll never forget the day I discovered that the chalkboards at the church were magnetic! I was accustomed to using the flannel board for almost everything. I still like the flannel board. It's small and portable. It feels good and you can get up close. But the "pieces" are so much easier to prepare with magnets that I now use the chalkboard like a flannel board. There is so much room to spread out and the magnets usually stick better.

I buy these at a teacher's store. They are very thin and come in a package of 100 for $4.00. Four cents apiece. I'm not endorsing any particular brand. I'm just here to tell you that magnets make my life easier.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Song Review - String Singing

String singing is another variation of "who sings". The idea is to tie different colored string or yarn together in varying lengths, roll the string into a ball and put this into a can. Then pull the string out through your fingers. Different children sing according to the color changes. This is a fun way to review a song several times.

The picture shows the can for boys and girls singing. The blue string instructs the boys to sing, the pink indicates girls singing and the green color represents everyone. I've made the string start with green so that everyone begins singing. The children have to watch closely and keep the song going in their mind to be ready to sing when their color comes up.

One advantage to the string idea is that because you control the length of the string you have some control of the timing. Even though the children are manipulating the string, the singing can be more smooth and the review is more effective. When the children use the boy/girl puppets, for example, they love to shift quickly from one to the other and it can become a little confusing. While this is fun for the kids, it obviously doesn't review the song as well.

I also have a ball with green, yellow and red string. The green yarn indicates that everyone should sing, the yellow yarn tells us to hum and the red yarn says to stop singing. The piano continues to play, so the children need to keep the song going in their mind in order to come back in on the right words.

There are probably other ways to set up the colors. If your primary assigns class colors you could have the classes sing in turn.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Smiley Beanbag

This is my smiley beanbag. I have lots of beanbags (see this post) and some are made for specific choose and review activities, but this is just a generic beanbag. There are a number of ways I use a beanbag.

"Pass the Melody" is a musical game that you can play with a beanbag. I think it is best played with a smaller group, so it works pretty well in a small primary. Or, it works in a class. There may be some time to fill while waiting for a substitute teacher to arrive! Gather into a circle and start off singing a song. After a few words, pass the beanbag and the song off to the person beside you. That person sings and then passes the song and the beanbag to the next person. On around the circle it goes until the song is finished. Repeat the song so that everyone has a turn. Emphasize to the children to keep the transitions as smooth as possible. Use familiar songs until everyone is well acquainted with how to play. Then the game could be used to review a new song. Remember that young children often don't have a singing voice yet, so they can just pass the beanbag along if they don't wish to sing.

I often pass a beanbag up and down the row while we sing a song. At the end of a verse or when the piano stops, I can ask a question of the one who is holding the beanbag, or invite them to share their thoughts about something or other. I could ask them to answer a question or tell something they can do to get ready for family night, get ready for church, help a neighbor, etc. Then sing another appropriate song and pass the beanbag again.

Sometimes I will pass more than one beanbag so that more children can participate. I may also have to be prepared for the kids to manipulate who gets the beanbags. I have used a beanbag to play a "hit the target" kind of game for choosing songs. I can use the beanbag with pictures and an assigned song. The kids toss the beanbag to choose one of the pictures.

Matilda recently had a post about beanbags. I really don't think Primary could function without beanbags. Does anyone else use them for singing time?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Song Review - "Crazy Singing Scramble" - A Link

Bridgette has a cute idea for a song review and I wanted to share it. Go to The Ordinary Adventures of a Primary Chorister to read about "Crazy Singing Scramble." I think if I take it slowly at first, it could be really fun. Once the kids are familiar with the game I can use it to review any of our songs. As long as the song has a fairly limited number of phrases. :o) If it gets too complicated I know I will start goofing up and look really idiotic. The pianist may have a bit of a hard time too, so they should be forewarned. They should mark their music and generally get used to the idea!

I like new ideas for reviewing songs, since we have to do so much of it. This one will go on my list. I certainly appreciate all of you who blog and share such great ideas. Thanks Bridgette.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Puppets for "In The Leafy Treetops"

These little puppets have been in my primary music box for ages. I made them years ago to use with the song "In The Leafy Treetops" (CS-240) and I am so anxious for spring! The bird puppet is used by putting the thumb and forefinger through the holes to make a beak. You can then move your fingers to make the bird "sing." The flower shape is simply taped to a green chenille stem and, as you gently move it back and forth, the flower "nods."

These would be fun to put into the surprise sack to pull out when the kids are ready for a rest song. It would be pretty easy to make enough of these for most of the littlest children to use. Puppets are such a fabulous music aid. Children just love them and they will always pay attention when you bring a puppet out.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Singing Time Puzzle - Scrambled Phrase

I like to use puzzles for singing time review because it involves thinking on the part of the children and keeps them at it for the whole time. Everyone who wants to can participate at the same time. Obviously some puzzles involve more thinking than others and some are more suited to Jr. or Sr. Primary. The very easiest kind of puzzle to prepare for singing time is a scrambled phrase puzzle.

Choose a phrase that states an eternal gospel principle, a scripture phrase, or a phrase related to the monthly theme. The picture illustrates a phrase related to the theme for April. Write each word on a card large enough to be viewed by the group. Assign an appropriate review song for each card.

Put all the cards into a bag and have the children draw them out one at a time. Post the card on the board and sing the song. When all the cards are posted, invite the children to unscramble the phrase. Take a minute to testify of the principle and help the children find the application.

Depending on how familiar the phrase is, the children will solve it before you're finished. Be prepared to praise the ones who figure it out, but encourage them not to solve it out loud before others have a chance to figure it out on their own. If your group is combined, as mine is, this will take some self-discipline and cooperation on the part of the older kids. You might try two different phrases with the cards in different colors and paper-clipped together so they are drawn out at the same time. This way, the olders and youngers can solve each puzzle at the same time.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Song Review - "Pop Quiz"

In the last couple of posts I’ve written about using discovery questions to teach a song. These kind of questions also work well to review the songs we’ve been learning. The “Pop Quiz” is a cute way of asking questions that help review the song.

Write several discovery questions on slips of paper. Roll up the slips and drop them in an empty pop bottle. Shake up the bottle and tip out a slip into a child’s hand. Have them read the question. Sing the song and answer the question. Since the littlest kids can’t yet read, have them help you shake the bottle and pour out the questions.

The color of the paper could match the type of pop bottle. Use orange or purple paper for Crush or brown for A&W root beer. It might even be fun to use printed scrapbooking paper, if you have any lying around. The strips should be about 1 inch in width so they will pour well from the bottle. You can use questions for just one song, or review several songs with different colored strips-- “Hawaiian Punch” style.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ideas for Using Discovery Questions

Because I like to use questions to teach a song, I’m always looking for creative ways to ask the questions. In some cases it works best to ask questions in a particular order. So, I just ask them without having the children choose them. Or, one or two questions may need to come first and then the rest can be random. These are some ideas I have used.

The easiest way (other than just asking, of course) is to write them on index cards or slips of papers and have the kids choose them from my hand or from a can or basket or the pockets of my apron. Sometimes I write them on the back of a seasonal shape or picture or even just on cut-out questions marks and post them on the chalkboard. Once I made little scrolls with toothpicks glued to the end of the paper strip and rolled them up. I can’t remember which song I was teaching, probably one about Jesus, but I remember making the scrolls.

When I taught “I Know That My Savior Loves Me” I used cutouts of children gathered around a picture of Jesus.

I often put the questions on the back of parts of a puzzle, building it up as we sing. This picture shows a puzzle of a sun which we built as I taught “Shine On.”

Sometimes I write the questions on the back of the letters of a related puzzle word, unscrambling the word as we sing. These letters spell “family.”

Its easy to put the questions in a little container of some kind like plastic Easter eggs or the Valentine heart boxes, or the glass snowman.

Maybe you all have some great choosing ideas. I’d love to hear them.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Teaching a Song - "Discovery Questions"

My favorite method for teaching a new song is to use questions. I call them “discovery” questions. These are questions that you ask before you sing. The children need to listen to the song to discover the answer. For instance, I would say “Listen to this song and see if you can discover one way the Holy Ghost will help us.” Then I will sing the song to them and let them answer the question. After asking two or three questions, and singing to them, I will invite them to join me in singing the answers. Soon they are ready to sing the whole song.

I like this method for a number of reasons. First, because children are naturally curious, this method works as a built-in attention getter. They want to find out the answer to the question and so will listen to the song. Also, the questions invite the participation of all the children at the same time. Everyone can listen, even the littlest ones. The question method allows the children to hear the song several times before they are expected to begin singing themselves. This is a very real help to the children. To have the pianist play the melody through once while saying the words, is a common introduction to singing a new song, but this is often not enough for the children to confidently join in. Finally, asking questions is easy and comfortable for me. There is very little preparation. As long as I know the song well, I can teach it at the drop of a hat. So I can take advantage of extra time here and there. And, because I am not juggling or timing a lot of visual aids, I can really interact with the children. I can look into their faces as I sing to them and smile and engage them in what I’m doing. This interaction seems to go a long way toward getting them to sing with me. I love visual aids and I use pictures and flipcharts often, but to introduce a song that is completely new, I usually use discovery questions.

If your primary children are trained to expect a poster or a flipchart to learn a new song, be patient while they get used to this method. It does take a little focused thinking on their part. But this focus is a good thing for everyone. One of the real benefits of asking these questions is that the children learn the process of pulling the principle out of what they hear us teach. This is an important skill. How many times do we read a scripture with the children and ask “What did that say?” This is simply the same method using the message of the songs.

This “discovery question” method is thoroughly taught in the old Primary training video “How to Teach a Song to Children” and in the shortened video clip online at A number of examples of song presentations, using this method, are illustrated in the Sharing Time Ideas in many back issues of The Friend magazine.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Suggestion - Singing Time File

May I offer a random suggestion? I'm sure you all write down what you are going to do each week, if only to give the pianist some idea of how to prepare. I would like to suggest that you keep these notes in a file, and that you keep the file long after you are released.

Many years ago, during one of my terms as Primary chorister, when the singing time seemed to work well, I would stick that weekly planning sheet into a file folder. Over the years, as I've been called to do singing time, whenever I was stuck for an idea I would pull out this file and thumb through it. I've taught "He Sent His Son" several times now, always referring back to the notes of how I taught it the first time, because it seemed to work so well. I just wish I had been more faithful to keep the ideas that I have done in the past. I honestly thought I would remember them.

Fun, new ideas are fabulous and we work really hard to either think of them or to find them. And sometimes it is a real experiment to implement them into a singing time. I think it is important to save these ideas -- the ones that really worked and that we enjoyed doing. Believe me, they will work again sometime down the road --maybe even sooner than you think. Children like doing the same thing again, especially if it was fun the first time!

I'm old-fashioned. I use a pencil, paper, and a real manila file folder. You may have a more modern way of doing this. One reason I created this blog is to make this "file" accessible to my daughters who might be the Primary chorister at some point. Just do it. Someday, you will be glad you did. And others may be also.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Song Presentation - "The Church of Jesus Christ"

This is one of my favorite Primary songs. I find myself humming this song more than any other just because it gets stuck in my head.

The melody phrases are all different and none of them repeat, so this makes it interesting and fun to sing. The rhythms are also interesting and varied in even and uneven beats. So it’s fun to clap or tap the rhythm for this song. The rhythms seem to emphasize the action words of KNOW, FOLLOW, BELIEVE, HONOR, DO, and PROCLAIM. Together with the melody and words, the rhythm supports the powerful, confident message that we actively commit to follow Jesus Christ. This is a testimony song!

I’m going to use a combination of questions and the action keywords to teach the song. I’ll ask the children to listen for the two things that we know and then the six things we do because we belong to the church. As they discover the answers, I’ll continue to sing and post wordstrips for the actions words (2x for KNOW and 2x for FOLLOW.) After all the wordstrips are up, I’ll help them sing it through using the keywords as a reminder. Then we’ll repeat, removing a key word each time we sing.

This song just makes you want to get up and move! I’m going to have to think of some fun movement activities to review it. Maybe a rhythm band of some kind. Do you think I could get away with it? Sofia also has some great ideas that I think will work to introduce and review the song. You might need to scroll down a little way.
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