Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tutorial - "Title Toss" for Program Songs

I wanted to do a “Title Toss” to review all of our program songs, but I didn’t want the poster to look like my other one. So I decided to do it by hand and in color. I thought I would take pictures in case anyone is interested in the process. After my daughter saw the finished poster she commented that it was a little weird that we were singing "Hinges" and "Once There Was a Snowman" in the program. I just laughed and assured her that those were rest songs, not intended for the program! BTW, the "wild" spot is useful as a favorite song spot, or to repeat a song that you want to sing again. Yes, I know it shows a LOT of songs. I was presented with the program list a couple of weeks ago, and am kind of scrambling to have them all ready before November. We are singing more than we are talking this year. I think the kids will enjoy it. We'll just do the best we can.

These are the materials I used for the poster: song titles printed in different fonts, poster paper, scissors, pencil, eraser, markers and colored pencils or crayons.

I wanted the song titles to look different from each other on the poster, so I used the computer to print out titles in different fonts. I cut the titles out and arranged them on the poster paper.

I used an ordinary pencil to scribble on the back of the title, laying down a nice layer of graphite. Don't scribble with the paper on the poster or you'll accidently transfer some of the computer ink onto the poster. Do this step off to one side.

Then I turned the paper over and made sure it was in the right spot. I lightly traced over the title so that I could see a graphite impression on the poster paper. My mother taught me this handy transferring trick.

I used a colored marker to trace over the graphite impression.

I drew small freehand illustrations for some of the song titles with a pencil and then traced over the pencil lines with a marker. If you hate the way you draw, you could copy and trace clipart images the same way you did the song titles.

Once the marker ink was dry, I erased all the extra pencil marks.

I used colored pencils to put a little color shading on the illustrations.

I can use the song title poster on the floor and have a child toss a beanbag to choose the song. On another week I could hang it with magnets on the chalkboard and play “pin the note on the song.” The poster will be useful next year as well, so that the kids won’t forget this year’s program songs.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Choose and Review - Missing Word Puzzle

Choose a word from the monthly or weekly theme. Or use a general word that describes what you are thankful for like primary or gospel. Write each letter from the word on a piece of construction paper. Select several songs to review. The number of songs should match the number of letters in your chosen word. On a slip of paper, write a line from each review song, but pick a key word to leave out. Find a picture that matches the missing word. For example, the phrase “I have a family here on ________" would go on a slip of paper and you would find a picture of the earth to illustrate the missing word. Attach the letter papers to the back of the pictures. Put the phrase slips into a can or basket.

When you are ready to sing, randomly post the pictures on the chalkboard. Invite a child to choose a slip, read the line (or read it for them), find the right picture and hold it while you lead the song. Then return the picture to the chalkboard with the letter side facing out. After all the pictures are chosen, challenge all the children to unscramble the word.

If you are clever, you noticed that my picture shows words on the back of the pictures instead of letters. I wanted to use this “Missing Word Puzzle” for a program review in October and couldn't think of a word with as many letters as I have songs to review, so I am using the words from the scripture for October instead.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Program Practice

I feel real sympathy for the kids during the practices for the sacrament meeting program. I know it is necessary, I just wish that it could somehow be easier on the children. It must seem like a nightmare to them. Think about it - two hours of sitting in chairs that don’t fit while watching adults talk to each other and shuffle children, with intermittent breaks of singing songs that you’ve sung over and over and over again. And sometimes getting reproved, with love, of course. It feels like a ordeal to me too.

So I am anticipating some restlessness, and trying to think of ways that I can redirect attention and forestall problems where I can. I’m not much into bribery and treats, so my ideas are pretty simple really. Our practices happen on Sunday during primary time because everyone lives too far to come in on an extra day. So I need quick reminders that are themselves reverent and appropriate for Sunday. I have my reverence feather, a couple of secret pictures, and some reverence riddles prepared (see this post) for one of the weeks.

I’ve also prepared a “secret sack” with different pictures of body parts to point out reverent actions. When needed, a child is called on and he or she takes a picture from the bag and asks, “What should you do with your _______ to show reverence?” Allow everyone to respond by showing the action and then move into the song. I’ll just do one when it seems necessary.

Suggested points: Mouth or Lips - speak quietly, smile, sing songs, remain closed when someone is talking, etc. Eyes - Look at the one who is talking, close during the prayer, watch my face during the song, etc. Hands - Keep still, raise to take part, keep in your lap, folded or at your sides while we sing, etc. Arms - fold during the prayer, keep still, raise to take part, etc. Feet - walk quietly, remain still, etc. Ears - Listen to what is being said, etc. Head - Turned toward me, bow during the prayer, etc.

I’m also going to try Matilda’s measles idea one week. I expect the kids will want to sing well enough to get a spot. How does your primary handle the program fidgets? Our program isn't until November so I have a couple of weeks to make plans or to change my mind. Does anyone have any other good ideas for me?

I know something like this takes a bit of time, but it surely doesn’t take much more than stopping to scold every few minutes.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Choose and Review - "50 or Less"

"50 or Less" is a cute variation of "Name That Tune" and comes directly from the Sharing Time Ideas (#3 on pg. 57) in the May 2002 issue of the Friend. List ten songs you need to review on the board. Some kind of illustrative picture or drawing will help the juniors who don't read. Invite a child to suggest how many notes the primary may need to guess one of the songs. The pianist then chooses a song from the list and plays that number of notes. If the children don't recognize the song, the pianist should add one note at a time until the children can identify the song. Write the number of notes it took next to the song and then sing the song together. Repeat with the other songs. The goal of the game is to keep the total number of notes at 50 or less.

The "bidding" on how many notes it will take to guess the song gets easier as you get to the last few songs, because the children can see which ones are left on the list. You can make the game a little more difficult by simply listing numbers from 1 to 10 on the board and have the children guess the songs cold. This keeps them guessing until the end of the game. It is also a bit more of a challenge for the older kids who are more familiar with the songs. Try it both ways and see which your kids like best.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Choose and Review - Scrambled Scripture Puzzle

Honestly, I am so thankful to the folks at The Friend magazine for all their wonderful ideas. I was recently browsing through my old issues and ran across this Funstuff puzzle by Rosie Centrone (February 2007 issue, pg. 26). It will work perfectly for a review singing time this next week because it matches the monthly theme so well. The scripture “Let the affections of thy heart be upon the Lord forever” is a beautiful reminder to the children. This thought comes out of Alma’s wonderful counsel to his son Helaman about obedience in Alma 37:35-37. I especially love this scripture passage and can easily testify to the children of the blessings that come from obedience and trust in the Lord. I have many fun song review activities that I could do, but I love it when I can make the activity match the theme.

I will make a heart for each word in the scripture to post on the board and assign one of our review songs to each heart. There may be too many words in this thought to have time to sing a song with each one on a normal week, but since I'm beginning now to review our program songs, I will have some extra time. I could post the cards randomly on the board and then we could unscramble the phrase at the end. Or, I can post the heart cards in the right order to begin with and let the children simply turn the cards over.

To adapt this idea in the future, I would just use a scripture that matches the monthly theme together with an appropriate symbol such as autumn leaves, stars, flowers or Christmas ornaments. If the scripture was long, as this one is, putting a song randomly on some of the symbol cards would work just as well. The children could turn over more than one at a time and we could stop to sing if a song appears. Or, I could also double up the words on some of the cards. I’ll write this idea on my master list as “Scrambled Scripture.”

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Leaf Puppets for “It’s Autumntime”

I made these puppets last year to use with the song “It’s Autumntime” and the kids loved swirling them around in the air while we sang. Even our big kids participated willingly. I used silk leaves so that they would be sturdy and look good. I used a yarn needle to pull a length of yarn through the leaf near the stem. I tied a knot at the end of the yarn, underneath the leaf. I tied a small bead on the other end of the yarn for the kids to hold onto. I made enough for everyone in Primary to have one to use. I demonstrated to the kids how to swirl and swish the leaf puppet and then had them spread out around the room to sing. I’m anxious to bring them again this year when the leaves begin to change.

One problem with these puppets is that the strings will tangle when they are together. Before I pass them out, I wrap each string into a coil around my fingers and tuck it up close to the leaf and then place it in a flat basket. This makes it easier for the kids to pick them up. After primary is finished I take the time to wrap the coils again before I put them into the bag to store. Believe me, it pays off the next time I want to use them.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Teach the Gospel - By Singing

Our doctrine instructs us that teaching the gospel is fundamental to the structure of the church. We come together, first and foremost, to learn the gospel. This fact underscores the value of teachers and the importance of the call to teach.

It is easy to imagine that being the Relief Society president is a more important calling than being the Primary secretary. It is easy to reason that teaching and leading the youth is somehow more significant than teaching Sunbeams. We all know some in Primary who are merely marking time until a more important calling comes along. I do hope it isn’t you.

I acknowledge that it is easy to think or feel that some callings are more important than others, but in reality, every calling is a sacred opportunity to serve, no matter where or what it is. I know that you all understand this on a logical “brain” level, but do you really feel it in your heart? The Spirit is present in all of the Lord’s work, to teach and testify of the truths taught. We can choose to believe in the divine nature of our calling or not, but that choice will affect our attitude towards the work we do. The Lord needs laborers in his vineyard. He needs pruners and diggers as well as foremen. While we grasp this in a rational way, it doesn’t always sink into our hearts far enough to be of use during the heat of the afternoon when our job in the vineyard is to shovel the manure. Because I grew up on a farm, I readily understand what is involved in the parable of the olive tree when the Lord of the vineyard “digs and dungs” about his olive trees. It is tempting to wish for a more glamorous job. But truly, the most needed laborer in God’s kingdom is that of teacher. All of God’s children, no matter their age, must learn of Jesus Christ and of the doctrines of his gospel so that they may properly and fully exercise their agency. Because of this, the job of teacher exists, along with all the other callings that making the teaching possible.

We can sign on to help. D&C 6 promises us that if we have a desire to help, we are called to the work. I think this invitation goes beyond a formal calling to teach a class. I think it goes clear down to our emotional desire to give ourselves to Jesus Christ, and to promote His gospel and lead others to Him.

It might seem apparent that our job as a Primary chorister is to help the children enjoy a break from all the teaching and talking and have a little fun. It might seem that our job is to make sure that the kids know the monthly songs and are prepared to sing in the sacrament meeting presentation. In reality, I believe our job is to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are simply called to do it by singing. Think about it.

This is a difficult time of year for the Primary Chorister. One can become discouraged over a number of different issues, mostly related to the sacrament meeting program. I just want to encourage you all to remind yourselves of what we are really trying to do. Remember that programs come and go. We really want the children to know that our Savior loves them. Music can help them know that. It may seem a small and simple thing, but you are doing a great work.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Teaching Method - Hidden Pictures

Hidden Pictures is a teaching method adapted from the second idea in the November 2006 issue of the Friend magazine (pg.16).

Collect 2 or more small pictures that illustrate each phrase of the song. I have a collection of pictures that I've printed from the illustrations in the Friend. Collect several more pictures, similar to the phrase pictures, to make a random background and post these on the chalkboard. Have the pictures for each phrase handy and in the right order. When you are ready to sing, ask the children to close their eyes and listen to the song. Tell them that when they hear the piano pause for a long time they should open their eyes for a moment to see a picture. The pianist should be prepared to pause at the end of each phrase. When the piano resumes they should close their eyes again until they hear the next long pause.

Sing the song, pausing after each phrase to show a phrase picture. While the children have their eyes closed, post each phrase picture among the others on the chalkboard. If your children are very clever, you may need to mix things up a little each time. After the final picture is posted, sing the song again, phrase by phrase and challenge the children to find the picture to match each phrase.

When they find the picture have them post the picture in the proper order. Invite the children to sing that phrase. Repeat, using the other pictures you chose to match the phrases, mixing the previous pictures into the rest of the background. Finally, invite the children to choose the pictures they think best represent the phrases and sing the whole song together. This method also works as a way to review a song you've already taught.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Just for Fun - Mystery Word

When the songs you are reviewing for singing time have a common word, like “Savior” or “follow” in several of our program songs, you can have a little extra fun by playing Mystery Word with the children. Write the word on a piece of paper and post it in the corner of the chalkboard. Challenge the children to listen carefully during singing time to see if they can detect a word that is the same in all of the songs. Then just continue with your plans. At the end of singing time, help the children discover the word and testify of the principle involved.

"Follow the Prophet," "Come Follow Me," "The Church of Jesus Christ," "I'm Trying to be Like Jesus," and "I Know That My Savior Loves Me," all have the word follow. The kids had a hard time until the end when I threw in "Do As I'm Doing" and then they guessed it. Once the kids know the game they love it and you would be surprised how many of our songs have these common words. Try it!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Song Review - "Hotter/Colder"

Primary choristers have been using the "hotter/colder" game for many, many years for song review because it just works so well. I like to hide a lamb and have a child imagine that they are the good shepherd while they look for it. You can just as easily use any other object, maybe one that relates in some way to the monthly theme (see this post.) Have the child leave the room while someone hides the lamb. Then, invite them to return and begin looking for it. The other children give clues by singing a song louder as the seeking child comes closer ("hotter") to where the lamb is hidden and softer if the child moves away ("colder") from the spot. Keep singing the song until the object is found and then hide it again. You can repeat the same song again or use another song that needs review.

I know this idea is an old one, but they just don't come any better. It's easy and the kids never seem to tire of it. If you are new and haven't tried this game, don't wait too long. It will immediately move up on your list of effective review games.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Teaching Method - Song Scramble

Song Scramble is a fun way to teach a song. This is adapted from the fourth idea in the Sharing Time Ideas in the March 2004 issue of the Friend magazine (pg. 16). The idea requires reading, so it really only works well with the older kids. With my combined group I assign the older children ahead of time to work with younger children who cannot read, but the involvement of these little ones is pretty much limited to manipulating the cards. It works for me because our group is small and the little ones are generally cooperative. You might want to be prepared with something else if yours are not. The bigger kids love it!

Write each word of the song on a wordstrip and put a thin magnet on the back. When you are ready to teach, post the wordstrips in an orderly way, but mixed up. Ask the children for their help in "fixing" the song. Begin singing and tag one of the children to come up and exchange any two wordstrips. Keep singing and tag another child. Repeat until the words are in the correct order. Invite the children to sing with you, removing two wordstrips at a time until they can sing the song well.

When I use this method, I explain to the children that we'll go down the rows and take turns so that the children will be ready to move. This keeps things going along more smoothly. You'll end up singing the song several (many) times so be prepared for that. But don't worry because the children will begin singing with you pretty quickly. I usually sing the song once, giving everyone a chance to look at the words and get "oriented." Then I call on the first child to come up. Sometimes it helps the kids to sing slowly or even to repeat the phrase you're working with, just to give them a little clue.

When I taught the song, "I Want to Live the Gospel," I began by teaching the chorus first with the echo method. Because the one phrase repeats it was easy for them to learn. Then they could sing with me on the chorus the first couple of times through the song. Then I taught the first verse with the wordstrips. You could also use this method for reviewing a song that you've taught and haven't sung in a while.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Choose and Review - Three in a Row

Three in a Row is a really easy review activity. Choose which songs need to be reviewed and then choose three words in a row from each song. Fold a strip of paper into thirds. Write the words on the sections of the papers and fold them back up. Put the papers into a can or basket to be chosen. Invite a child to choose a paper and read off the first word. Ask the other children if they can guess the song from just one word. If the children can't guess, have the child read the first and second words. Finally, read three in a row. If the songs are familiar, the children will guess right away. You can make things easy or hard, depending on your group.

You can play this game with just a few papers when you have a bit of time left over. Or, make it a full singing time and add in a few rest songs as well.
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