Saturday, November 28, 2009

November: Week Five.

Monthly Theme: My family and I can serve others.
Scripture: “By love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)

Tomorrow, the Senior Primary kids are going to perform their pipe chime rendition of Love One Another for the Junior Primary kids. I'm hoping they need only one practice round, so it doesn't take too long.

Then, I am taking an idea from the Primary in Doha, Qatar:

"Half the time they learned Christmas songs and the other half, they passed out plain white paper (full 8 1/2x 11 sheets) and pencils and had the children write their favorite primary song on the piece of paper. They then crumpled up the pieces of paper all together. (Make sure you tell everyone what you're doing beforehand so you get the crumpling noise effect all together.) Then they had drawn a snowman on the white board and said, "This is the only time in Primary you will be able to throw snowballs." Then they all got to throw their "snowballs" at the snowman, trying to hit him. The music director then put all the snowballs in a little cooler (so they wouldn't melt, of course). Then the music director had a primary kid come and pull a snowball out of the cooler to sing. The person whose song it was got to conduct with the baton. It was handy because when the lesson was short, they just chose a couple extra snowballs to sing. They will do a few each week until Christmas, but it could be done anytime during the winter."

Thanks Lindsay, for the suggestion! I think this is a great idea. Its function is similar to what I've done in the past with choosing favorite songs and have the child conduct, but the snowman idea is new.

For tomorrow, since we have both Senior and Junior Primary together, and we miss out on next Sunday due to Stake Conference, I want to get started on Christmas songs. I think I'll just have each child write their name on the snowball and then have a list of songs on the board to choose from. When the snowball with their name gets picked, they can select a song from the board. We'll erase as we go. That way we can get some Christmas songs in that they know, but might not top their favorite list, since they haven't sung them for a year.

I'll let you know how it goes!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

November: Week Four.

Monthly Theme: My family and I can serve others.
Scripture: “By love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)
Weekly Theme: I will prepare now to become a mother or father.

Love One Another (ASL for Love One Another)
For Thy Bounteous Blessings

Remember how last week, I showed the Senior Primary kids the pipe chimes? Well, as promised, we started learning a song on the pipe chimes. Since we have been singing Love One Another so much, and learning the ASL, I decided this would be the perfect song to break them into the pipe chimes.

I wrote out the words to the song on the chalk board, and then above each word I wrote the number to the corresponding pipe chime. The chimes have both numbers as well as their musical letter note, so maybe next time I will try using the actual note, so they get a little more accustomed to the chords, etc.

The chimes were a hit. I handed out the eight chimes needed for Love One Another and explained how to strike the chime for the best sound and how to hold the chime to make the sound stop. I let them have 20 seconds to practice striking their chimes, then another 20 seconds to locate the number on their chime and then had them find their number on the board, so they knew how many times they needed to strike their chime during the song and with what words their chime corresponded.

As with the conducting batons, we talked about tempo and rhythm. I pointed to the chalkboard in rhythm, so they knew when it was their turn. Those who didn't have chimes, were instructed to sing as well as sign the words. We practiced over and over again. At one point, one of the kids whined a little, "This is really hard." We talked about how playing an instrument takes time and effort and lots of practice, but with diligence, they will see results. We continued to practice, phrase by phrase. They were finally starting to get it. About halfway through, we traded chimes, so a few more kids who wanted a chance, were able to have the opportunity. We practiced some more. The last couple of times we did it all the way through, we had only the chimes, and the ASL, no singing. It was SO cool and the kids with the chimes had really gotten it down and it sounded perfect!

I was so proud!

I praised the kids and we all cheered. They knew they'd gotten it. Diligence pays off... even in twenty minutes.

They did so well and were very well behaved the whole time, so I told them that they had earned the privilege of learning some more songs. Next week, we'll be all together with the Junior Primary, so they are going to "perform" for the younger kids, but then we'll put them away and sing other songs since the chimes are strictly a privilege for Senior Primary. The week after that is Stake Conference. So I promised them that we'd learn a couple of Christmas songs on the chimes beginning again the second week in December.

Then with Junior Primary, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we learned the very easy round For Thy Bounteous Blessings. We talked about each of the words and what they meant since there are some "big" words in the song. They had fun singing it in a round.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Benefits of being the Primary Music Leader.

Since being called as Primary Music Leader (Chorister), I have made a mental list of the many benefits that come with the calling:

1. I get to know all the Primary kids, not just one class.
2. I get to sing with all the Nursery children, and prepare them for Primary.
3. Many of the Primary and Nursery kids think I'm their new best friend, so I get hugs and waves throughout Sacrament Meeting, and in the halls.
4. I get to sing.
5. I get to "perform" every week.
6. I get to move around, dance, fall on the ground, stand up, and generally act silly, especially during Junior Primary and Nursery.
7. This calling is a pretty autonomous. Of course, the Primary Presidency is involved, but they pretty much let me do my own thing.

Now, I know that being the chorister isn't for everyone. You have to feel comfortable with music and kids, and "performing" weekly.

I have learned a few things in my six months in this calling:

-Don't underestimate the children's abilities. They are capable of doing more than the (relatively) simple arrangements in the Children's Songbook. It takes more time and work, but they can pull of more complicated songs.
-Do explain the dynamics and structure of the song. Teach them music skills along the way. It'll help in the long run.
-Do learn the songs yourself, and be enthusiastic about them.
-Don't just stick with showing pictures to help them learn the words--use props, drawings on the board, individual children to represent different lines, etc.
-Get the children up and moving, especially during wiggle songs (have them march around you, if you can).
-Don't always ask them if we should "sing the song one more time" or something like that. Instead, simply tell them what we're going to do. They'll follow in line and it doesn't give them an opportunity to whine.
-Demand excellence. It will come.

I'm excited to see what the next year will teach me--and if anyone reading this has ideas, feel free to add them!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

November: Week Three.

Monthly Theme: My family and I can serve others.
Scripture: “By love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)
Weekly Theme: I can be a good example for my family.


First off we reviewed our ASL of Love One Another. I think the kids are getting a little tired of this one, but I just don't want them to forget it.

This week, we pulled out the conducting batons that I made out of metal Slurpee straws. I'll have to take pictures, but until then, you must know they are VERY fun. The kids get really excited when they get to guest conduct. They have a choice of four decorated conducting batons (green, blue, pink, and gold). We have a little discussion on tempo vs. rhythm. I think only a handful of them really get it, but maybe after several of these discussion, something will sink in. However, they all definitely understand the importance of having a conductor. When asked, why one is needed, they are now quick to respond with things such as: knowing when to start and stop, knowing how fast or slow we sing, knowing how soft or loud, etc. Little by little, I'm going to turn this kids into little musicians and choral singers.

So we pulled out the batons. (The kids call them wands.) I started by having them guess a number between 1 and 10. Whoever got the number exactly right was allowed to come to the front, select their favorite primary song and conduct the children singing it. Sometimes I would hold their hand and help them conduct. Sometimes they wanted to do it on their own. Sometimes I would stand behind them and pat my hand on their shoulder in tempo, so they could feel it. After the first child finished conducting, they whispered a number between 1 and 10 in my ear and then we'd start all over.

The conducting batons are always a hit, but this time the number guessing was actually just as fun for them.

With the Senior Primary, at the end of our time, I pulled out my set of pipe chimes (loaned to me from my mother) and asked if they knew what they were. I explained that they were musical instruments, kind of like bells, and that we were going to learn to play a song with them next week. I gave my spiel that this was a special privilege, and they had to be on their best behavior to earn the privilege of using them. The chimes and the large nails used to strike them were not to be used as weapons. If they were disrespectful, rowdy, or used the chimes as weapons, they would immediately be put away and the kids would lose the privilege of learning songs on them this holiday season.

So there was my teaser for next week. :)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

November: Week Two.

Monthly Theme: My family and I can serve others.
Scripture: “By love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)
Weekly Theme: My family will serve others.

Singing a Song Is Fun To Do
Love One Another (ASL for Love One Another)
How Firm a Foundation
I Love to See the Temple

We started off our singing time today reviewing last week's thoughts about love and service. I asked them what things they did that week to serve their family and express their love. These are the times when you get to learn little tidbits about them and their family life.

In Junior Primary, we we put some of their weekly activities into the song Fun to Do! "Helping my mom is fun to do...", "Cleaning my room is fun to do...", "Sharing my toys is fun to do..." You get the idea. The Sunbeams had just sung this in their class, so it was extra reinforcement of the song, which I heard them singing in the halls on the way to Sacrament Meeting.

Then we discussed how giving service, like doing dishes and moving boxes into the garage (some of their examples from the week), are just two ways we can give service using our hands. When we sing with our hands, we are giving a service to those who can't hear as well, those who are deaf who speak or sing with their hands. Phrase by phrase, we learned the American Sign Language for Love One Another. We did it several times over and over so that we could learn it really well. I think they enjoyed it at first, but then a few of the older kids really started complaining. I'm not exactly sure why. Maybe it wasn't challenging enough for them? Maybe it was too challenging?

Right before we signed and sang it through the last time, I asked them to be thinking of their favorite song to sing last. We had four different suggestions, so we voted and in Senior Primary we sang How Firm a Foundation, and in Junior Primay we sang I Love to See the Temple.

Monday, November 2, 2009

November: Week One.

Monthly Theme: My family and I can serve others.
Scripture: “By love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)
Weekly Theme: I am thankful for my family. I will serve them.

When We're Helping We're Happy
I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus
Rain is Falling All Around
I Am a Child of God

Last Sunday, we focused on introducing the new monthly theme, by talking about how we can love and serve our family and others. The kids came up with a lot of chores they could help with, and then I suggested other ways we express love: with our words, with physical affection, with our eyes, etc.

Surprisingly, the kids didn't seem to know When We're Helping We're Happy, so we learned that and tried out a few different set of words with it.

We reviewed and sang I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus.

Then for fun, we continued with our version of Rain is Falling All Around, which we had been learning the week prior. I designated four children as section leaders. Each section leader was in charge of leading their section in singing their particular "season" of words.

1st Section - Sun is shining all around.
2nd Section - Rain is falling all around.
3rd Section - Leaves are falling all around.
4th Section - Snow is falling all around.

We had made up our own little hand movements for each set of words, so that it was easier to remember "where" the rain was falling... all around, on the rooftops, on the ground, on my nose, or hands, or toes.

We sang each of the verses all together, then I asked them if they had ever experienced a day with ALL the seasons at once. They laughed and said no (I guess that means that haven't lived long enough), so I suggested that we could try it out in Primary first. They thought this was a great idea. Each section leader led their section, and we experienced all the seasons at once.

They were a little worked up after the hurricane containing all four seasons blew through, so we ended by singing I Am a Child of God.

My plan was virtually the same with the younger children as it was with the older children, this time.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How it all started.

In June 2009, I transitioned from a Young Single Adult ward to a traditional ("family") ward. Certain that I'd be called to teach Gospel Doctrine (my favorite calling) or work with the Single Adults, I was quite surprised when my Bishop asked me if I was ready for a challenge...

He called me to be the Ward Primary Music Leader. Wow. That's not at all what I had in mind. I knew I should be excited, but I admit I was rather hesitant. How would I ever get to know anyone in the ward? I'd be tucked away in Primary and never get to go to Relief Society or Gospel Doctrine, let alone ever teach!

Little did I know...

"The music leader is the gospel doctrine teacher for the Primary."
~President Hinckley

I was called to be Gospel Doctrine teacher!

Not only that, but how many teachers can say, "My students still know the lessons I gave them... word for word!" Nothing beats hearing "my lessons" as I walk down the hallway, or out to my car at the end of the day, or even in the middle of Sacrament Meeting.

And remember how I thought I wouldn't meet anyone in the ward? Well, you might be surprised how well I know adults in the ward, through their children. And on top of that, I have 40 new little friends! Nothing warms the heart quite like the look on a child's face when they see me in Sacrament Meeting, and they turn and poke their mom, pointing and saying, "Mom, look! That's my friend over there."

So in the spirit of preparation, organization, and of course sharing of ideas, I have started this blog to house all my lesson plans and ideas. Have you been called as the Primary Chorister in your ward? Get ready for a fun ride! Please feel free to take my ideas and use them in your own Primary. Leave a comment and tell me how it went with your kids and link all you want!

Here I go!