Monday, March 9, 2009


Sorry for the long delay in posting. I have been feverishly working on family history and finally got a large batch of names cleared. Now I can focus on a few other things for a while.

By the way, I sure appreciate any comments received. And would love to know how the postings are working...for instance, do you find them effective?

Well here goes....

This is not a new idea, but one that definitely has it's place when children need extra practicing on a song or just need a diversion with singing time.

The idea is simple: You select a child to go out of the room. After the child is outside the door, you can pick another volunteer to hide your preselected object somewhere in the room (or YOU can do it if time is short or reverence is a factor). After the object is hidden and all those in the primary room KNOW where it is, you open the door and invite the child in the hall to come in and see if he/she can find the hidden object. If the child is COLD or far away from the hidden object then the singing should be soft. If the child is getting HOT or close to the object, the singing should be loud. You may even get to repeat the verse or the song during this game.

To make it gospel centered, you might select appropriate props that have some application. For instance, years ago, I was given a Lehi and the Liahona set. It have a 10 inch tall Lehi that was colored and laminated and attached to a ribbon (to put around someone's neck). There is also a picture of a Liahona (also colored and laminated). The child finder represents Lehi and wears that picture necklace and we hide the Liahona somewhere around the room. You might make the point that we have to make the effort to search for the help and direction and guidance we need from our Heavenly Father. But that we have been promised help all along the way. You might quickly remind them of tools that our Heavenly Father has blessed us with to help lead us and qualify us to return to His presence. (This might lead to the singing of other songs that apply!)

Don't forget to take advantage of this easy but effective tool! Here are a few examples that are effective with children- especially younger children who have very short attention spans:

  • Use sign language (this can be made-up as you work through a song or you can access a book on American Sign Language that shows you how to do the recognized signs for the words to the song (or you can use signs for just the key words). I use a book that I bought off the internet called: "Signing Made Easy" by Rod R. Butterworth and Mickey Flodin. It has illustrations to help you.

  • Have the children stand and march to the rhythm of appropriate songs. "Called to Serve", "I Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ" and "Army of Helamen" are just a few good examples. Keep an eye on the eyes of the children. If they are starting to look glossy and yawning is occuring, it might be a good idea to incorporate movement into your singing. When I sing, "I Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ" I point to the direction I want the children to face when standing and marching. I change direction every few words or so (north, east, south, west, turn in a circle). This adds the element of them really needing to think and sing. To add a twist, go to the back of the room and have the children stand and sing to you in that direction.

  • Clap to the rhythm of the song. Teach them how to downbeat of each measure is emphasized by clapping louder on the downbeat. You might also beat the rhythm with a fist into the palm of the other hand or two fingers on the palm of the other hand (depending on the reverence needs in the primary). Try clapping up in the air when the notes are higher and then down in their laps when the notes of the song are lower so the children can visually see how the notes go up and down.

  • Clap, Snap and Tap to the rhythm of the song. Challenge the children to keep up with you!

  • When teaching a song, if the yawns start up, take a break and do an activity song to help stimulate them. At the end of the activity song, slow down the pace of the song and fold your arms to help tone them down to participate in the next phase of learning.

It adds a fun element of surprise to singing time when a music leader unexpectedly invites everyone to "look under your chairs" for such-and-such! (Or you can hide them around the room for the children to quickly spot with their eyes.) You might place objects in sealed envelopes so the children have to wait their turn to see what's inside or you might use colored papers that correlate with something they will come up and do. For example, someone might find a pink piece of paper under their chair that correlates with a pink easter egg in the basket. They get to come open the egg and see what's inside- what song they will be singing for example!

Pipe bells made out of electrical conduit are a favorite with the primary children.
(It's a tradition to pull out the bells for christmas songs. I think pattern for the bells can be googled or you might find vendors online for these. I have my own set that I also use for family activities/ reunions etc.)

Shakers are also easily made. I found that I can make cheap shakers out of the plastic easter eggs. I fill them up with a teaspoon or so of rice or wheat kernals or popcorn (each one of these creates a different sound when shaking). Then I seal them shut by stretching tape around the seams of the eggs. The children love to see my bucket of egg shakers come out!
It's interesting to see how many times the children will ask me if they can keep their shakers- they love them!

A friend of mine, Patti, filled old film containers with the rice. Those lids fit rather snuggly.

Dried sponges rubbed together make a fun sound.

I also made rhythm sticks out of dowling found at any hardware store. I used the 3/8" or larger diameter sticks and cut them down to about 9-10" each. Each child was given 2 sticks to beat with while practicing the new song we were learning.

Let me know if you have ideas for any other effective instruments!

BUILD A SONG (adapted from General Primary Openhouse)
To sing your selected song, divide the children up into four groups or rows. Instruct:

  • The first group to start singing on the first line of the song.
  • The second group joins in singing on the second line of the song.
  • The third group is to join in singing on the third line of the song.
  • The fourth group is to join in singing on the fourth line of the song.
  • If the song then has a chorus everyone will be singing for this.
The idea is that the song should gradually build in volume and strength as the different rows of voices are added. This can truly be beautiful!!!

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