Saturday, January 29, 2011

About the Master List

In a recent post, I told about adding a new activity to my master list. Emily left this comment and asks a fair question.  "I love this idea! I'm sure my kids will too. I know you've shared a lot of items from your master list, but have we ever seen the complete list?"

The answer to Emily's question is - "not exactly." I know I've referred a number of times to this list and it is only fair that you should see it. The problem is trying to figure out how best to share it. I could take a picture. I could just type it up. But, in reality, the blog really is the list. I guess I haven't really been very clear on that.

From the beginning, my purpose for this blog has been to create a vehicle to share the list. I wanted to make a resource for my daughter/s, in case they ever have this calling. The list, as a list, really isn't much good without an explanation of the individual activities. And pictures, really are worth a thousand words. Hence, the blog.

With some obvious exceptions, most of my posts have been taken from this master list. I simply choose an activity and write an explanation. I try to take a picture, if possible. I try especially to include ways to adapt the activity to other topics and I do try to think of different situations, because I know my daughter/s will be in different circumstances.

So, if you were to write down the titles of the posts under the three major labels - "reviewing songs," "teaching methods," and "choose and review," you really would have most of the activities on my list. In some cases, I've changed the name of the activity. This is only because the name on my list just doesn't sound good, although it may remind me of what the activity is. "Numbered Sacks" is a good example. On my list, the actual title reads "Pass the Sack" but as I typed that name, it just didn't sound quite right. However, it does give me a good visual when I'm scanning the list to decide what activity to use. LOL.

If you think it would helpful, I'd be happy to share the list, as a list. If I had enough time, I could make it link to other parts of the blog. But, I actually do my blogging at the public library, so I'm not sure how practical that would be, in terms of time. Someday we may be connected to the Internet at home.

I say you would have most of my list because I am actually coming to the end of it. I still have some activities that I haven't posted, but then, frankly, I'm not sure what I'll talk about. When I started this project, my children asked if I had enough to say about Primary music to blog about it. I teased them that I could talk for forever! We'll see. You may have to help.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Choose and Review - Numbered Sacks

Numbered Sacks is a fun activity for choose and review. The original idea came from the sharing time ideas in the July 2003 issue of the Friend magazine. A variation of the game was published in the July 2004 issue.

Prepare paper sacks, numbered from 1 to 8 or 10 and make a small numbered card for each sack. The number of sacks would depend on how much time you have available. Put the small cards in a can or basket. I also write several instructions on how to pass the sacks and put these strips in another small can or basket. Examples would be: “Pass the sack three persons to the right and one person forward.” “Pass the sack to the person sitting in front of you.” “Pass the sack two persons to the left.”“Pass the sack to the person sitting behind you.” “Pass the # ___ sack to a Sunbeam.” “Pass the sack one person to the left and one person back.” “Pass the sack two persons to the left.” “Pass the sack two persons to the right.” “Pass the #___sack to your teacher.”

The activity is very adaptable as to the content of the sack. I can simply use the titles of songs along with a way to sing it, or I can use small pictures or objects connected to the theme or to the songs I wish to review. I have several music aids that go with specific songs, like the puppets for “In the Leafy Treetops” or “Rain is Falling” or colored banners for “Our Primary Colors.” This activity provides a fun way to choose these songs. I just put the visual aids for the songs in the sacks. I could also write brief case studies that match the theme, use objects for service or missionary work, find pictures of ways to be obedient, etc.

Whatever I use is placed in a numbered paper bag, along with the title of a review song. Then I distribute the bags among the children. We begin singing a song and pass the sacks along as we sing. At the end of the song, I draw both a number and an instruction to pass that particular sack. The child who ends up with the sack opens it and reveals the next song. If there is an object or a picture relating to the theme, we discuss it before we sing. The children holding the remaining sacks continue to hold them until we sing again.

You could use this activity with Christmas bags and pictures or objects representing gifts we receive from Heavenly Father. You could use colorful birthday bags and objects used for service to celebrate President Monson’s birthday in August. I’m going to use this idea with colorful gift bags in February after I teach “I Will Follow God’s Plan” to extend the concept that my life is a gift. I’ll use objects and pictures representing the gifts our Heavenly Father gives us, such as a beautiful world, a loving family, gospel ordinances, etc. We’ll sing an appropriate review song for each gift.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Song Review - Who is Singing?

Thanks to Sofia at, I have added great new song review activity to my master list. I'm not sure what Sofia would call it, but I've used the title "Who is Singing?" You can read Sofia's ideas in this post.

I had a little extra review time on a recent Sunday so I tried Sofia's idea of blindfolding a child and challenging them to identify singers. I didn't have a blindfold with me so I just turned a child to face the wall at the front of the room. I then tapped the shoulders of two children who stood up and sang the first verse of the song with me. Then I challenged the first child to identify the children who were singing. Even though we had already sung the song several times already, the children willingly sang again and again as each one in our small group had a chance to listen for who was singing. I think I'll make a cute blindfold and then I will have a music aid to use with this great new review activity. Thank you, thank you, Sofia!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Music Aid - The Grab Bag

The Grab Bag is another simple aid for choose and review. I use it with pictures or objects connected to the theme. For instance, I use the topical index in the songbook as a guide and choose several small pictures; the scriptures, ordinances, commandments, service, nature, family, etc. then I place all the pictures into the sturdy paper bag. Without peeking, I have a child pull a picture from the grab bag and show it to the children. Then I ask the children if they know a song that matches the picture somehow. We sing the song. The grab bag is essentially like the Surprise Sack or the Apron or the Everyone Can. It is just another aid for choosing. The more of these options I can design, the greater variety I can offer the children.

For my choose and review week this month, I’m using the Grab Bag with pictures that match the scripture theme. I chose the songs I wanted to review and used the scriptures listed with the song at the bottom of the page in the songbook. I typed out the verses and attached them to the pictures. When a child chooses a picture, I’ll have them read the scripture and challenge the other children to think of a Primary song that matches that scripture. I think I can predict which songs the children will think of. If someone names a different song, we’ll sing that song instead. I just want to reinforce the idea that we learn the gospel from the scriptures. These are the scriptures and songs I am using:

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (New Testament / Matthew 5:16) Shine On

6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. (Old Testament / Psalms 82:6) I Am A Child of God

56 Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men. (Doctrine and Covenants / Section 138:56) I Lived in Heaven

23 Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me. (Doctrine and Covenants / Section 19:23) Come, Follow Me

14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. 15 And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence. (New Testament / Matthew 19:13 - 15) When He Comes

18 For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin. (Old Testament / Psalms 38:18) Repentance

2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. (Doctrine and Covenants / Section 8:2) The Holy Ghost / Listen, Listen

34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (New Testament / John 13:34 - 35) Love One Another

12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation... that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, it shall have no power over you to drag you down... because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. (Book of Mormon / Helaman 5:12)The Wise Man and the Foolish Man

17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee. (Old Testament / Deuteronomy 16:17) Give Said the Little Stream

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Paint the Melody

These are dollar store paint brushes that I keep on hand for an activity called "Paint the Melody." With a brush in hand, the children can follow the melody line as they sing, "painting" the rise and fall of the music. This is another way for the children to explore how the melody moves in the song. The movements of the children can be less precise and more fluid than when they use the pitch sticks. It is a more free-form, interpretive kind of activity. "Paint the Melody" is also a good way to help the children see interesting rhythms and how the rhythm and melody combine in a beautiful way. It gives the children an opportunity to move.

Just take a paintbrush and demonstrate how to follow the melody in smooth, fluid motions. You can dab here and there on short notes and add large flourishes as the music rises to the climax. Then pass out the paintbrushes and invite the children to follow what they hear in the music. Really, it just adds fun and creates another opportunity to review the song.

P.S. - If your primary is extra large, buying even cheap paintbrushes would be prohibitive. In this case, you could ask the children to pretend they have a paintbrush. If you are dramatic enough, you could probably pull it off!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tutorial - Wonky Bean Bag

I made this wonky beanbag to increase the challenge of tossing beanbags. The beanbag is simply a large, stuffed yo-yo. I made it somewhat rounded, like a ball, so that it would not land flat. This increases the challenge, because you can’t completely predict where the beanbag might roll. I added rice for weight and flattened it some, so that the beanbag wouldn’t roll right off the mat.

I first cut a large 7-inch circle out of fabric.

I used a running stitch or gathering stitch around the edge of the circle. I didn’t bother turning the edge under, because I knew that I would glue a button on top of the gathers to cover the raw edges.

Next I pulled up the edges of the fabric circle to form a cup and collected a handful of polyester fiberfill and about 1/3 cup of rice.

I shaped the fiberfill into the cup shape inside the fabric circle, leaving space in the middle of the stuffing for the rice.

The rice goes into the middle of the cup.

I put a small amount of fiberfill on top of the rice.

Then I pulled the string tightly and secured the gathers with a knot.

I finished the wonky beanbag with a button. Then I flattened it a bit and played with it, to break it in. ;o) It works really well. It generally behaves like a beanbag, but has just enough roll to be unpredictable, thus increasing the challenge.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Riddles for Snowflakes

Here are the riddles on the back of the snowflakes. I should have thought to include them with the original post.  Just use these as examples and write something similar for the songs your primary likes to sing.

I am a two-part song. I remind you to pray everyday and then teach you the 4 steps in saying prayers. What song am I? (I Pray in Faith -CS14)

I teach you to feel glad for the things that Heavenly Father has created. I tell about 5 blessings. What song am I? (The World Is so Lovely -CS233)

I tell you about a special gift and when you sing me even your heart can sing. What song am I? (A Special Gift is Kindness -CS145)

I describe something that you should do when you have to make a choice. What song am I? (Listen, Listen -CS107)

I remind you of something you should remember to do in the morning before you wake and when you go to bed at night. What song am I? (I Love to Pray -CS25)

I tell about some special books and describe three things you should do when you read them. What song am I? (Search, Ponder and Pray -CS109)

When you sing me you will remember Jesus when he was just a little boy. What song am I? (Jesus Once was a Little Child - CS55)

I talk about rocks and rain and sand and men building houses. What song am I? (The Wise Man and the Foolish Man - CS281)

I talk about the words of a prophet. I tell you how to find safety and peace. What song am I? (Keep the Commandments - CS146)

The doors in my song say something special. What song am I? (The Chapel Doors -CS156)

I talk about someone who knows the way. If we want to get to where we should go, we should follow them. What song am I? (Follow the Prophet -CS110)

I tell about a time, long ago, when ancient people crossed the sea to find a promised land. What song am I? (Book of Mormon Stories -CS118)

I tell about a special generation of children who have a special responsibility to do missionary work. They are called an army. What song am I? (We'll Bring the World His Truth -CS172)

I talk about walking and gathering blossoms of blue. These flowers remind me of someone special. What song am I? (I Often Go Walking -CS202)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Music Aid - Pitch Sticks

I refer to pitch sticks in my teaching plan for our new song, “If I Listen With My Heart.” I received a number of e-mails asking about pitch sticks, and thought I should show you a picture.

Pitch-level conducting focuses the attention of the children on the melody of the song and the up and down quality of pitch. Usually I use my hand to show the children how the melody moves up and down and invite them to follow me. This activity can be very helpful to children as they learn a new song, because some of us struggle to hear the melody. It isn’t always easy to hear the piano, which is why singing the song clearly and distinctly to the children is so important. Children find it easier to hear the tones of the human voice as opposed to the tones of the piano. I know this is not good news to those of you who don't link to sing alone in front of other people, but I encourage you to try to overcome your reluctance. Really, the kids will learn the melody easier from a voice. Adding the visual quality of pitch-level conducting is also helpful. Please see this post for an explanation of how to conduct this way.

When I use my hand, I have to be very deliberate in portraying the notes. Each note needs to be clearly separate from the last. The notes will often remain on the same level of pitch. In this case, rather than moving my hand up and down, I move my hand forward in a bouncing motion, one bounce for each of the same note. The children seem to have a harder time being precise, and their movements sometimes become pretty “muddy.” Some children don’t concentrate and others don’t participate at all. I find that when I hand out these simple sticks and show the children how to hold them between both hands, the concentration increases and the children are more willing to participate.

I used the pitch sticks this last Sunday as we worked with the song. The kids could easily see the jumps in the melody. I also asked them to discover the words that came on the quick eighth notes. That was more of a challenge and they had to concentrate. The pitch sticks helped them because they were moving the sticks as well as listening and they could see the sticks move quickly on the eighth notes. When all four words in the first verse were discovered, I had the chance to talk to the children about how to sing these words precisely. So, the pitch sticks can also be helpful for visualizing rhythm.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Choose and Review - Snowflakes

Because it is January, I need to restock the emergency singing time plan that I keep in the closet at the church. These large snowflakes are mounted and laminated with a magnet on the back for posting on the chalkboard. I've prepared a "What Song Am I?" riddle for the back of each and will leave them in the closet in case I'm sick or snowed-in this month. How do you all prepare for emergencies?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Organizing Primary Music "Stuff"

I promised to tell you how I organize all the "stuff" that this Primary calling produces.

Years and years ago I learned a filing system in a Relief Society meeting. I am sorry that I can’t give proper credit to whomever it was that taught it to me. You should know that I didn’t think of this myself. I am not naturally organized! I am also not as careful as I should be to keep up with it, but the system works pretty well, even at a low level. I need to start by explaining the filing system and then show how I use the same system for my Primary music stuff.

The System


One of my file drawers is dedicated to gospel material designed for children. I have the usual alphabetized topical file folders which hold materials that I’ve used in family night and sharing time and in teaching classes over the years. Materials that are flat go into a folder that best represents the topic. If the item represents more than one topic, I write a note with a title or description as a cross-reference on the outside of these related file folders and these notes refer me to the original folder, where the material is actually filed. There is nothing unusual about a system of file folders, but this system integrates boxes as well.


Stories, flannel board figures and pictures are usually flat enough to be kept in a folder, but I have collected many materials that are too bulky for a folder. I use boxes for this type of material. I assign each box a letter code and label the box with this code. If I have a visual aid that is thick, over sized, or otherwise unsuitable for a folder, it gets a sticker with a coded number for a box. This acts as a location number for the item. Then it goes into the appropriate box. I write a note with the assigned number and a short description of the item on the outside of the topical folder to which the material would logically belong. This note acts to refer me to the proper box when I want to retrieve the item. The same material sometimes represents more than one topic. I can make a note of the location number on other topical folders as well. In this way, more than one folder can refer to the same item in a box.

How I Apply This System

I started with just one box, but now I use several lettered boxes. Some of them are smallish, and fit at the back of the file drawer.

Others are bigger and sit on top of the cabinet or on a shelf nearby.

Let’s use an example of a set of felt finger puppets that illustrate the story of Daniel in the lion’s den and one box labeled “A.” The puppets would be too bulky for the file folder, so I would place them together in a plastic baggie and label them “A-1.” Then, I would write a note on the outside of the “faith” folder. “A-1--finger puppets--Daniel and the Lions.” The puppets then get placed in the A box. While I’m at it, I may make an additional note about these puppets on the “prayer” file folder. The next item I acquire may be a flip-chart about tithing. This item would be labeled “A-2.” The note goes on the “tithing” folder and perhaps the “faith” folder as well and then the item goes into the A box along with the finger puppets. The next item, whatever it is, gets labeled “A-3" and the proper notes are made on the topical file folders. This process continues until the A box is full. When the A box is filled, I add a B box, and then additional consecutively lettered boxes.

A peek inside my B box

Notes on the file folder

If an item in a box is ever discarded, I simply make a note on the inside lid of the box. I can then re-use the space in that box with a new item, but I do not reuse the number. I use a new number, consecutive to the number on the last item I added to the box. Because I don’t reuse the number of the item that I discarded, I don’t have to delete all the notes on all the folders that referenced the item. I may not even remember which folders these are! If I am referred to a box and the material isn’t there, the note on the lid reminds me that I discarded it. If an item is missing from the box and there isn’t a note on the lid, I know that I didn’t put the material back where it belongs and it may be lost in a pile somewhere!!!

Other Boxes and Locations

The system nicely accommodates all kinds of materials. Oversized items get an O-number and go into an oversized box (labeled with the O code) somewhere near the file cabinet. Posters get a P-number and are stacked next to the file cabinet. Games, except music games, get a GM- number and go into a box dedicated to games and labeled with GM. Whatever the material, a coded number can be assigned and a reference note is made on the appropriate file folder(s). Because I know the codes of my boxes, I know where to look for the item.

Organizing Music Stuff

In the early days I had just one box for music items and anything that had something to do with music got a number that began with M and went into a box dedicated to music stuff. I didn’t actually number all my music aids. The baton, the microphone, the apron, etc. These general music aids just lived in the box with everything else. After many years of collecting music related teaching materials I’ve had to increase the number of boxes that hold it all. Thankfully, the basic system grows to accommodate any number of boxes and even locations other than boxes.

These are the boxes I have now. I like to use clear boxes because I’m a visual person. I think I am more creative when I can see what I have.

One box holds visual aids that are directly related to a particular song. These items are assigned a number (M-1, M-2, and so on.) That number is noted in my Children’s Song Book, next to the title of the song. As I prepare for singing time, I know right away if I have a visual aid for that particular song. If it is appropriate, I can also cross-reference my music items on any of the topical folders in my gospel file drawer. I might prepare a better sharing time if I know I have visual aids or a game for music. The following pictures show how simple this is.

The materials are stored together in a baggie or a page protector, but there is no other order in the box. This size of box doesn’t hold more than I can quickly sort through to find what I know is there. When I add an additional item, I assign the next consecutive number and add the notes to my songbook. I keep a set of numbered labels in the box to make the whole process easy and quick. This particular box holds about as much as I want to sort through. I will soon need to add another box for items directly related to song presentations. I could call that box M2 and begin labeling with M2-1, M2-2, etc. If I have song-related material that is oversized or a poster, it gets an O-numbered label or a P-numbered label and I store the item along with those similar items. That number and description is noted in my songbook just like smaller materials. Because of the code number, I know just where to look.

Another box holds musical items that relate to general song review activities and materials that I have prepared for choose and review. Currently items in this box don’t have numbers assigned. I have a master list of activities that I use for song review. When I make a musical aid to match an activity, I put the aid in this box and make a short descriptive note on my list. I also keep track of the theme-related activities that I have prepared as a choose and review on a master list. Many of these activities use pictures that just get re-filed or are temporary in other ways. But, if I’ve put any effort into making visuals, I put the aids in here. I may want to use them again sometime.

I am needing to split this box as well. When I do, I will assign one box for song review (SR) and one for choose and review (CR) and use consecutive numbers, like the rest of the system. The numbers and a short description of the item will be noted on my master lists next to the title of the activity.

Another box holds general music aids like the baton and the fancies, the pitch sticks, my wiggle worms, the bean bags, my aprons, rhythm sticks, the microphone, glove, bell, and so on. It also holds spill-over from the other box.

This small box holds the flat, cut and laminated pictures that I use to illustrate many of my singing time activities. These pictures are stored loosely in this box and when I need to find pictures, I just dump them out on my bed and paw through them until I find something that matches the ideas I have in my head. I talk a little more about pictures in this post.

No system is perfect, especially for someone like me. But this one works well, if I would just keep up with it. As my materials have increased over the years, I sometimes just put things in those last two general boxes. These boxes get mixed up regularly because none of the materials have location numbers. If I would split the materials into the categories I mentioned and assign boxes and numbers, it would all stay more organized. It may be easy enough to look through one box of stuff for what I know is there, but no one wants to sort through two or three boxes while her husband waits in the car!

My husband tells me that I have too much stuff. He is trying to teach me that I don’t need to save everything I make. It has taken me a long time to realize that he is probably right, but I still find it hard to discard things. For instance, I saved the roll and the sticks from the roller box activity I did in July, but I didn’t save the roller box itself. I will have to make that again if I re-use that activity. I’m learning that I often like to make new things anyway. I have more pioneer activities than I can use and I still made that roller box activity. Who knows what I will feel like doing this next year. So I can see his point. On the other hand, I don’t like to make the same things again and again! I’m conflicted. I really don’t have room for any more boxes of stuff!

I actually have purged many things from my boxes and files from the years before the Church asked us to use approved resources. I strongly encourage you to do the same. I have a testimony of following this counsel. I have only a couple of exceptions, and these I have saved until I can find pictures from approved resources to remake the activity.

Well, I hope this post made some sense and I hope that it helps someone. I have really struggled to explain this clearly. If it is confusing, please, please let me know and I’ll try to clarify. I can always do a better job of organizing my life, but this system has really helped me for many years now. If you have an organizing system, I’m sure we would love to hear about it. Please leave a comment or share a link!
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