Saturday, November 15, 2008


It's the beginning of opening exercises in primary....have you ever found it tricky to get every one's full attention without raising your voice? Have you ever wondered how to promote a spirit of reverence without being irreverent to do it?

Here are some ideas and suggestions to help:

(Idea adapted from Primary Music Openhouse held in Salt Lake City, Utah by General Primary Board.)

You can make your own song signs or they can be found at

When it's time to sing the opening song, stand up reverently in front of the children. Signal to the pianist to begin playing the (prayer or opening) song. As she begins to play, without speaking, reverently hold up the "listen" sign. Be sure you show it to everyone in the room. Let the pianist play the song all the way through (for a short to moderate length song).

When the song is done, in a soft voice, instruct the children to see if they can follow the directions on the following signs. I then motion for the pianist to play the song again. This time I hold up the "hum" sign. Hum a line or two of the song as the children follow along humming. Then change the sign to "ooh" . The children should follow along "ooh-ing" to the next line or so of the song. (There should be no pauses in the song as you do this.) Next, hold up the "aah" sign. The children should sing "aah" to the song for a line or two. The children continue to follow you as you sing to the end of the song. Then hold up the "sing" sign. The pianist starts playing back at the beginning of the song. The children now follow as you sing the song through.

At the beginning of primary, the children's attention is usually more focused on seeing their friends and chatting. (Who blames them!) This idea really helps to focus the children's attention and helps to warm them up to sing. By the time you get to singing the song, you should have wonderful participation and volume from everyone. The "ooh"-ing and "aah"-ing sound particularly beautiful!!!

Note: If some of the children don't know the words to a song you are singing, you can instruct them to "ooh" or "aah" to the song while the rest of the primary sing the words.


(idea adapted from Primary Music Openhouse held in Salt Lake City, Utah)

You can make your own or go to for one.
Fold up the rainbow cutout like an accordian, so that only one color is visible. When you use the cutout, unfold it slowly. You may need a second person to help you hold it up as you unfold it.

Prior to singing the song, instruct the children to look at what color of clothing they are wearing. If their clothing is multi-colored, have them pick out one of the colors and remember it. Invite them to watch you as you unfold your rainbow. Tell them to watch for their color to be revealed. When their color is unfolded they get to add their voice of color to the musical rainbow and sing the song-but not until they see their color!

You may want to repeat sing the song again once you have everyone's full attention.

Variation: Have the children first stand and "aah" to the song when their color is shown -the first time through. Then repeat the song and have everyone sing it through.)


(idea adapted from Primary Music Openhouse held in Salt Lake City, Utah by the General Primary Board)

Stand up in front of the children. Using a softer voice and good eye contact with the children, instruct them to:

  • "Touch your ear if you can hear me." Allow the children to respond.
  • "Touch your nose if you can hear me." Allow the children to respond.
  • "Put your hands on your head if you can hear me." Allow the children to respond.
  • "Smile if you can hear me." Allow the children to respond.
  • "Nod your head if your happy you can come to primary." Allow the children to respond.
  • "Fold your arms if you can hear me." Allow the children to respond.

By this time, you should have everyone's attention.

"You did a wonderful job of following directions! We're now ready to start. Please join me in singing......."


(idea adapted from Primary Music Openhouse in Salt Lake City, Utah)

Take a gift box that has a removeable lid. Put a bow and ribbon on it to decorate it and make it more appealing to the eye. Attach a mirror to the bottom inside of box. Reattach the lid.

When you're ready to get everyone's attention, hold it up for the children to see. Tell the children that as they sing the song, "Kindness begins with Me" (CS p. 145) you will walk around to each of the children and let them peak inside your gift box to discover "something very special and kind that can be very kind" (the children's own face).

Another variation: Insert other items or pictures that introduce or relate well with another song you will be singing. Then let the children guess what song it will be that they will get to sing!


To attract and direct children's attention, hold up a large picture (so those sitting furthest away can also see) and ask a directed question about the picture and then give a short explanation then lead into singing your desired song.

For example: If your going to sing the song, "I Love to See the Temple" CS 95, you might hold up a picture of the temple that is located nearest to where the children in your primary live. You might also give a short explanation about that temple and something that makes it special to you. Then invite a child to come up and hold up the picture while you lead the children in singing the song. Invite them to put their hands over their hearts when they sing the words "I love to see the temple."

If you use a picture of the Salt Lake Temple, you could tell an interesting ancedote about it. The story of John Rowe Moyle is powerful. He was a stone mason who had immigrated to Utah from England with his family. He was called by Brigham Young to be a stone worker on the temple. He would walk 22 miles from his home in Alpine, Utah to Salt Lake City each Monday morning. He would leave his home in the early morning when it was still dark between 2 and 4am so he could get to the temple by 8am to begin working. He would stay in Salt Lake during the week then walk home on Friday night getting home at about midnight. Then he would take care of the work that needed to be done on his 150+ acre farm on Saturday. When his leg had to be amputated due to a bad break, he carved himself a new wooden leg and went back to walking to Salt Lake City again. He would climb the high scaffolding next to the temple each day. He did this for 20 years. It was he that carved the words "Holiness to the Lord...." on the Salt Lake Temple. (taken from the history of John Rowe Moyle and the video about him)

Small stories like these help deepen other's testimonies about gospel principles etc.


"How many of you have found yourself singing a primary song this week?" (have children who raise their hands name one of the songs they have sung.

"Who can guess what song we are going to sing's a clue....(give some clues then let children guess the song).

"Who can guess what song we are going to sing today...Listen while Sister (pianist) plays the first two notes of our song. (Add a third, fourth or even fifth note until children correctly identify song, then invite them all to sing the song with you.)


"Boys and girls, how do you do? Let me sing a song to you. Then I'll listen reverently while you sing it back to me." (from "How to Teach a Song" video)

(adapted from "the Joy of Children's Music" book)

Bring a real velvet rose, or branch of lilac blossoms (or room fresheners that smell like these), fall leaves, a branch of spring leaves, bird's nest etc. Things that the children can touch, smell, see. This works especially well in a song like "My Heavenly Father Loves Me" CS p.228

(Be sure you check for any possible allergies with individuals in your primary before doing so.)

(idea adapted from Primary Music Workshop in Salt Lake City, Utah)

Direct the children's listening by showing them a word strip with the words to the song you will be singing (or clue words that will lead up to a song that will be sung) or written in scrambled form. Allow the children a moment to see if they can quietly, mentally unscramble the words. Instruct them to raise their hands when they think they've figured out the song. When they figure it out, turn the word strip over to show everyone the correct words/ name of song to be sung.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Latter-day Prophets (CS p. 16)

Now that the primary program is done, we have some time to learn some new songs. Hooray!
One of the songs we've been waiting to learn is "Latter-day Prophets". The new version with President Thomas S. Monson added has been published in the Friend magazine in the June 2008 issue. (Go to , do a search in the "magazines" section to find a copy of the sheet music online.)

I pulled the sheet music out of the magazine, inserted it into a page protector (making sure I obtained an extra copy for the pianist) and promptly added it to my 3-ring binder of music that I carry with me to primary each week along with other primary materials.

I found the Latter-day Prophet pictures in the Gospel Art Picture Kit (GAPK). I laminated them for durability. The names of each were typed up and taped near the bottom of the front of each picture. The pictures were then taped together to make a picture accordian. (I saw this accordian at a General Primary Openhouse a few years ago.) The accordian can be unfolded as the song is first introduced or it can be tacked up to the wall for later song practice.
To teach the song, I wanted to the children and adults alike to become more personally acquainted with each of these Latter-day prophets. To do this, I referred to "The Teachings of the Prophets" adult study manuals. I found excerpts of interesting facts and short inspiring stories (that would be interesting to a primary age child) and typed them up. I obtained individual cards (rainbow colored pieces of cardstock) one for each prophet and glued the "Clue" information in the cards.

To introduce and teach the song during singing time:
  1. Show a picture of President Monson and explain and bear testimony that our prophet speaks for God.
  2. Refer to the scriptures found in D&C 1:38 and 2 Nephi 32:3.
  3. Have the children join in singing the first verse of "We Thank Thee, Oh God for a Prophet" the hymn we learned earlier this year.
  4. Use the clue game. (I use "Pick-A-Sticks" to pick the child helpers. This allows everyone a fair opportunity to help. These are found in my book, "The Big Book of Super Singing Time Helpers" which can be found at
  5. The child then comes up and reads the clues in the card (or if they can't read, I read it and they get to be the first to try and guess which prophet we are talking about).
  6. When the clues are all read, the story told and prophet guessed correctly, we sing the song "Latter-day Prophets" until we reach that prophet's name- there we stop singing. We repeat this process with the next clue. It's a fun way to practice a new song and learn about and gain testimony of our Latter-day Prophets all at once. This can actually stretch out to 2-3 weeks worth of this song if singing time is separate from sharing time. Or you might want to combine with the presidency member to do a combined sharing/singing time on a fifth Sunday of the month.
  7. You may also want to change the tempo of the song as you are practicing- starting out very slow, clearly annunciating the names, then getting faster and faster. The older children especially love the challenge of singing the song ever faster. Challenge them as they get really familiar with the song to close their eyes while they're singing and see how fast they can memorize it!

This has turned out to be a fun learning experience for the children and adults alike!