Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Teaching Method - Action Substitutes

If I put my finger to my lips, what word comes to your mind? “Action Substitutes” is another way to add movement as you teach a new song. For each phrase of the song choose one or two actions that will substitute for words in that phrase. For instance, pointing a finger to your head could replace the word “know.” Folding your arms could replace the words “pray” or “prayer.” Two steps in place could stand for the word “follow,” etc. Learn the song, substituting the action for the word. Practice singing it this way so that you can sing it without making too many mistakes. Believe me, this can be more difficult than you think!

When you’re ready to teach, sing the song and challenge the children to identify the missing words. Depending on the complexity of your actions, you may need to be ready with some clues! Teach each phrase, in turn, and invite the children to do the actions with you. Then challenge them to sing the phrases as well.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

“Come Unto Me” by Singing

Jesus says to us “Come unto me.” Do you ever wonder how to do this? How can we actually do this? Of course we can pray. It is natural and instinctive to pray and doing so will bring us close to God. But don’t forget that we can sing as well as pray.

Psalm 71:23 declares: “My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed.”

I know two things. We come close to the Lord as we feel the spirit and that the Spirit is always near when we sing songs of praise. This means that we can come near to the Lord as often as we sing. My soul, which the Lord has redeemed, will rejoice when my lips recognize this truth as I sing.

Not too long ago I taught our kids the simple song “Jesus is Our Loving Friend.” The first verse talks about how we can know that Jesus is our friend. I then explained to the kids that friendship is a two-way deal and asked them how Jesus could know that we are His friends. The answer is in the second verse. “Reverently and sweetly now, we, our voices raise. Jesus is our loving friend and we sing his praise.”

Psalm 104:33 proclaims: “I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord.”

What a blessing to have a calling where I can sing! What a gift to help others do it as well.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Teaching Method - Actions

It is a fact that movement helps children learn. While we know this fact, for some reason teachers seem to favor the methods which rely on visual aids. Learning music is naturally an auditory process and yet, when faced with a new song to teach, we choristers immediately write out the key words and almost automatically begin looking for pictures to match the phrases.

I was reminded recently in a comment on one of my posts, that actions are often a more effective way to teach a song. How true! Actions appear on my master list of teaching methods, but I am glad to reconsider whether I use them often enough as I teach. Movement activities during singing time are especially useful for the junior primary because it gives everyone a chance to participate and be involved. It gives the children a break from all the listening and keeps their wiggles “organized.” Even the littlest ones who won’t sing will often enjoy doing the actions. Children in senior primary still enjoy movement activities. “Hinges” is one of our favorite songs! Older children do seem to need actions that are a little more sophisticated.

If you are not already accustomed to adding actions to Primary songs, the nursery and Sunbeam manuals are great resources to learn how to do this. In fact, the Sunbeam children sometimes add actions spontaneously as they sing because they are used to doing this in class. I would suggest that you read these manuals to find out the basics and then just think about how you can increase the sophistication of the actions for songs that would require it. Often the words of the song will suggest actions that work and sometimes non-specific actions work well too. When I was considering actions for “I Know That My Savior Loves Me,” I could easily visualize the gathering action of my arms for the phrase “children were gathered round Jesus.” After some thinking, I came up with the opposite action for the phrase that comes before. I began the song by sweeping each arm outward as I sang the first phrase. My arms were then in place to slowly sweep back in for the “gathering” phrase.

You can also challenge the children to think of the actions for each of the phrases of the song you wish to teach. Sing the song phrase by phrase and come up with the actions as a group. Try different suggestions until the children are satisfied with an action for each line or phrase. Or, write the phrases on slips of paper and divide into groups. Teachers and other leaders can help the children develop an appropriate action for their assigned phrase. Then, as you sing the song, have each group teach their action to the rest of the children.

Suggestions for using actions are found in the Sharing Time Ideas in both the August 2002 and April 2004 issues of the Friend. An additional note in the August issue reminds us that hand actions are appropriate for Primary singing time but are NOT appropriate to use in the sacrament meeting presentation.

edit - My own thinking is that ASL signs would surely be considered as separate from creative "hand actions".

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Song Review - I Spy Game

“I Spy” is a singing time game that reviews several songs in a fun way. A couple of weeks ago, using this month’s theme about miracles as an example, I looked for pictures of miraculous events in the Gospel Art Picture Kit (GAK) and then assigned one of our review songs to each picture. You can adapt “I Spy” to almost any theme, providing you can locate pictures. The game would work just as well with the upcoming themes of obedience, missionary work and service to others. When you’re ready for singing time, post the pictures on the chalkboard. Demonstrate to the children how to play the game by giving clues to one of the pictures. “I spy with my little eye a picture with lots of yellow. There are people in the picture and small black insects and white birds everywhere.” (Miracle of the Seagulls) When a child correctly guesses the picture, sing the song and then let that child give clues to the next picture. Here are examples of pictures that could be used with miracles as the theme.

100-Creation or 600-The World
112-David Slays Goliath
116-Three Men in the Fiery Furnace
117-Daniel in the Lions’ Den
210-Jesus and the Fishermen
213-Christ Healing a Blind man
214-Stilling the Storm
222-Jesus Raising Lazarus from the Dead
233-Mary and the Resurrected Lord
243-Christ Walking on the Water
302-The Liahona
314-Samuel the Lamanite on the Wall
318-The Brother of Jared Sees the Finger of the Lord
403-The First Vision
413-Miracle of the Seagulls

Saturday, August 21, 2010

My Advice to a New Chorister

I asked you all to give advice to a new chorister and your comments were so good! There is some great advice here, thoughts about being prepared, listening to the Spirit, building confidence and having fun. I thought I should respond to my question as well, though I don’t know how you all will take it. This advice might seem a little awkward because most of us are heading into the program season, but I’ll say it anyway because you probably won’t hear this from anyone else! If you were a brand-new chorister and I could sit down with you and, heart to heart, offer my best advice, this is what I would say:

You are going to feel enormous pressure over something called the Children’s Sacrament Meeting Presentation. You’ll be given a list of songs for the children to sing as part of this presentation and the pressure you’ll feel is to have them prepared to sing. Sometimes the children already know a couple or even several of the songs. If so, shout hooray! You will need to schedule time to teach the ones they don’t know. The pressure will come from a couple of directions. Members of the Primary presidency and other leaders, teachers or parents sometimes feel anxiety for the children to do well in this presentation. This pressure might get passed on to you if there is worry that the children are not learning the songs adequately or fast enough. How well the children perform may also be important to you if you somehow think this reflects on your ability to teach or lead them.

My most dearly held advice has to do with this presentation. Don’t let the pressure to perform in this program drive what you typically do for singing time each week.

If you allow yourself to feel and respond to this pressure you’ll end up spending an excessive amount of time, most of the year really, teaching and reviewing a few songs at the expense of being able to sing a wide variety of primary songs. You’ll feel obliged to find another creative way to sing those same songs. You’ll constantly feel the need to motivate your singers to “do better.” This sends a subtle message that what they are doing is inadequate or that they should get a reward for singing, even if it is compliments. You’ll feel frustrated and unhappy if you cannot make the children co-operate. Children seem to have an uncanny knack for resisting pressure from adults. If the children are constantly aware of the presentation they may come to feel as though singing time is one eternal choir practice. They may even learn to hate those songs or to dislike singing entirely.

On the other hand, if you succeed in resisting this performance pressure, you’ll create a more natural, enjoyable singing experience for the children in your primary all year long. There will be time to teach and sing songs that are not on this year’s list. There will be time for musical activities that are simply fun. There would be space for the musical abilities of everyone, including the very young and the “musically challenged.” Of course you still need to teach and review the program songs, just don’t tell the children which ones they are! When it comes time for the sacrament meeting presentation you can help the children polish the designated songs. You can emphasize that these songs are another way we can all teach and testify to the congregation. When you believe it yourself, you can legitimately teach them that they are NOT performing. Whatever anyone else says, part of this job is to help the children understand and feel that music in our church is about worship rather than accomplishment. Without this subtle performing pressure your primary could be free to genuinely “feel the joy that comes through singing.” This is clearly chorister heaven! Having finally realized it, I will never willingly go back.

I just have to say that I think both you and the children in primary will have a much more positive experience throughout the year if you can focus on singing activities apart from the pressure of the sacrament meeting program. This is my best advice. Take it and ask me further questions if you have any. Or leave it and I won’t mind. I guess I’m happy enough to know it for myself.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Choose and Review - Objects for Miracles

For one singing time coming up, I am using objects to represent miracles. The objects will go into my apron with an appropriate review song to sing. I have a nice collection of small objects and am always on the look out for other things. I'll give the children a chance to pick an object from my pocket and guess what that object has to do with a miracle that happened. I'll have a picture handy so that I can remind them of the story and testify of miracles. Then we'll sing the song.

  • Liahona = Lehi's family is directed
  • Whale = Jonah and the whale
  • Lion = Daniel and the lions
  • Earth = Christ created the earth
  • Stone = Stones turned to light for the Jaredites
  • Cricket = Seagulls destroyed the crickets
  • Tomb = Jesus rose from the dead
  • Fish = the loaves and the fishes
  • Frog = the plagues of Egypt
  • Sun = the sun that didn't go down

I love using objects. This kind of singing time is fast so I can review lots of songs and it is easy! It also keeps the kids thinking about what they know. Here is another post about using objects.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Song Review - Before and After

Write each phrase of the song on colorful papers. Fold them up and put them in a basket or can to choose from. Locate a large coin to use with this activity. I have a large, lightweight plastic coin and every time I use it I think I need to replace it with something heavier! When you are ready to review the song, have a child choose a slip and read it. Flip the coin. If the coin shows “heads,” ask the children to sing the phrase that comes before the phrase on the paper. If the coin shows “tails,” have the children sing the phrase that comes after. If the first phrase is chosen, the phrase before would be the last phrase of the song. If the last phrase is chosen, the phrase that comes after would be the first phrase of the song. The kids have a lot of fun with this activity and it really requires them to think.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Give-away Winner!

Well, that was fun! Congratulations Jamie, you've won the owl magnets. If you'll send an address to my email (kathleenmower@gmail.com), I'll send them out to you. My grandest thanks to everyone who responded. Your comments were all right on the mark and I appreciate you.

In case anyone wants to make the magnets, I purchased the felt owls at Hobby Lobby in the seasonal aisle. Then I found some silk greenery with the leaf triplets and also magnets. If you look at the picture you can see that I simply glued the leaves under a magnet on the back of the felt owl. I used a hot glue gun (a tool that I practically carry around with me). I tried to put the leaves in a couple of different positions so that the owls wouldn't look exactly the same on the board. Then I drew a branch on several cards and colored them with chalk.

If you can't find the felt owls, but still like the owl idea, you could just cut them out of construction paper and laminate them (or not). Then put a thin magnet on the back to post them on the chalkboard. If you made them big enough, you could even write the clues on the back of the owl and save the card step. Easy!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Music Aid - Monkey Hat

This is a fun foam Monkey hat that I found in a dollar store while I was on vacation. I'm putting it in with my other nursery singing time stuff to use with the song "Do As I'm Doing." I could use it with the Jr. Primary kids also, but our group is combined and I'm not sure how far I could push the older kids and I'm afraid it might become a reverence issue. But, for the little ones, I think this guy's pretty cute!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Teaching Method - Drawing the Phrases

I still need to teach the song “Faith” for our program. Some of our kids are kind of familiar with this song, but it sounds like I should teach it again. I’m going to use a teaching method on my master list called Drawing the Phrases. This idea is from the sharing time ideas in the May, 2003 issue of the Friend.

The suggestion is to help the children learn the song by using discovery questions about each phrase. For example, for the song "Faith," I could ask something like, “Faith is something that grows. Can you identify a word in the song that means something is growing larger?” When a child answers correctly, have them draw a picture on the chalkboard that helps illustrate something in that phrase. While they draw, have the rest of the children sing the phrase. Repeat the process of having a child draw each phrase while the children sing it.

I like this teaching method, but it doesn’t apply easily to all songs. The phrases for “Faith” (at least the first verse) can be easily illustrated by the children, so I think this method will be fun for this song. It certainly makes a change from the usual flipchart or pictures.

I do have some pictures that I made many years ago to help teach “Faith.” I can use these later as we continue to review the song.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blog Give Away! "Whooooo Am I?" magnets

You would not know this, but Tuesday’s post marked one hundred. I am excited! To make it a real event, I am doing a “Whoooo Am I” give-away. Blog give-aways are so fun and I set a goal that for every one hundred posts I would think of a giveaway to match the hundredth post. In honor of the Who Am I? post, I used some felt cut-outs to make nine owl magnets. The magnets hold illustrated cards (blank on the back) on the board. You’ll need to write your own clues, or use the ones I posted. Choose an appropriate review song to go with each clue. Then, just post the owls and cards on the chalkboard and invite a child to choose one and read the clue. Sing the song. You can use the magnets again with variations like Who Said That?, Who Did That?, or Who Was Singing? (There are quite a few instances in the scriptures of people who sang!)

The time limit on the give-away is one week. Just leave a comment on this post answering one of the following questions: “What is the best piece of advice you could give a brand new chorister?” Or, if you are a new chorister, “What is the one thing you wish someone would explain or help you understand?” If you will leave your comment OR send me an email, I’ll put your name into a hat. Because I have readers all over the world, I'm willing to ship anywhere in the world. I will also try to check for comments quicker than usual, but please don’t worry if you don’t see your comment published right away, this is county fair time for us and I may be away from the computer. I’ll close the contest on August 12th, collect all the names and let my daughter draw a name. I'll announce the winner on the 14th. Since I've never done a blog give-away, I hope you'll be patient. Perhaps it is as easy as it seems. :)

Keeping in mind my reasons for creating this blog (see this post), by answering these questions you’ll be helping me with the blog. Plus, everyone else is interested in your comment. You could easily make the magnets yourself but please don’t let that divert you from leaving a comment. See if you can win them first!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Choose and Review - Who Am I?

"Who Am I?" is another easy, fun singing time that you can prepare ahead and have available for one of those weeks. Just write several clues for people or things and assign an appropriate song to sing. Put the clues in an envelope and have the children choose one. Read the clues and guess the person or thing. Sing the song. Although the following clues are already in my box, I think it would be fun to write clues about people involved with miracles to go with the theme in August.

  • I went on a mission to the Lamanites and was put to work tending sheep. I was able to defend the sheep against robbers and the king listened to my message about the gospel. Who Am I? (Ammon = sing Book of Mormon Stories -118)

    Many beautiful things are part of me. I was created by God in just seven days. When people look at me, I can make them happy! What Am I? (The earth = sing My Heavenly Father Loves Me-228)

    One day as I was walking down the road I saw a man who had been beaten. I felt sorry and stopped to help him. I took him to an inn and even paid for his care before continuing my journey. Who Am I? (the good Samaritan = sing Go the Second Mile -167)

    No one believed Noah when he said I would come. For forty days and nights I fell on the earth and caused a great flood. Only Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark survived me. What Am I? (the rain = sing Dare to Do Right- 158 or Rain is Falling -241)

    I am small and round and was made by God to help Lehi’s family get through the wilderness. I can only work by faith. What Am I? (the Liahona = sing Faith -96)

    I was instructed by Heavenly Father to build a boat. My brothers laughed at me because they knew I didn’t know how. I prayed and God blessed me and helped me finish the boat. Who Am I? (Nephi = sing Nephi’s Courage -120)

    I had been taught that I should always pray, but in my country there was a law that said you could not pray. I obeyed the Lord and prayed anyway. I was put into a den of lions, but the Lord protected me and blessed me for being valiant. Who Am I? (Daniel = sing I Will Be Valiant -162)

    When I was young I did many things wrong, but I repented of my sings. With four of my friends, I went on a mission to the Lamanites. We became great missionaries. Who Am I? (Alma the Younger = sing We’ll Bring the World His Truth -172)

    I came down from heaven to help feed the children of Israel when they were in the wilderness. I taste like wafers made with honey. What Am I? (manna - sing For Health and Strength -21)
This makes a good singing time to prepare and leave for a substitute if you're traveling or have an emergency. If you prepare it and leave it in the closet or in your bag, it is also handy if you have extra time for some reason.
Thank you for visiting The Children Sing. Check back soon for more LDS Primary Singing Time Ideas!