Sunday, December 27, 2015

My Chorister Planner

I love planning, planners, organizers, apps, calendars, lists, checkmarks, bulletized items, and erasable pens, so it's natural that I would come to love this Primary Chorister Planner that I found on Etsy. Let me tell you this: the creator of this planner is a genius.

Carefully crafted by My Computer Is My Canvas, this Primary Chorister Planner is awesome!!! It's only $5.00, and I chose to spend a little more by getting it printed off and bound at the local FedEx, complete with sleek, transparent cover. The best part is that I can make a copy of the upcoming Sunday's Singing Time plans to text or email to my accompanists so they can practice ahead of time and know exactly what I'm doing each Sunday!

Here are some pictures of my own filled-out planner:


 Front with open cover

 Yearly calendar

 Monthly calendar

Weekly planner

Have I mentioned just how much I love this planner? There are other pages in the booklet, too, like "Notes" and "Additional Thoughts." I'm not being paid for this product endorsement - it's my own choice - but I had to share because it's been such a huge help to me! Visit my Pinterest site to see other planners that could work, but this is the one for me, and maybe you, too!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

2015 Christmas Songs


CHRISTMAS IS COMING!!! Now, what shall we sing?

I wanted to do a medley of Christmas songs for Sacrament meeting. I did only a little bit of research when I came upon "Christmas Medley". It combines "When Joseph Went to Bethlehem," "Away in a Manger" (Children's Songbook version), and "Silent Night."

But, wait for it...


Oooooohhhhhhh, yeahhhhhhh. And it was awesome. Let me explain.

I used the flipbook method to teach "When Joseph Went to Bethlehem." I printed these pictures (thank you to OCD Primary Chorister) and inserted them into plastic sleeves in a soft 3-ring binder. I wrote the words of the verses on the backs of the pictures so I wouldn't get the words wrong. I discussed each picture with the Primary kids, and sometimes offered hand motions for easier memory recall.

It's almost an immediate transition to "Away in a Manger," so I put the flipbook down, and we prepare for the chorus. The kids pretty much already knew the words to the first verse, so we didn't have to go over it a lot. I had girls sing the upper melody and the boys sing the lower melody for the "asleep" parts, but we switched to junior primary singing the soprano line and senior primary singing the alto line for "asleep the Savior in a stall" and "asleep the Lord of all." It was pretty easy for me to teach the alto part because, well, I'm already an alto. And it turned out beautifully.

Then, as the piano plays the introduction to "Silent Night," I hold my finger up to my lips as if to shush the children. Instead, I used it to remind them of this last song in the medley. The only change in this version of the song is at the end when the children repeat "Sleep in heavenly peace" with a higher ending. I taught the primary to follow my hands, and I used hand motions as a rough music scale in the air. It helped them to visually see the next note as higher or lower than the note they were singing, and also how much of a jump higher or lower it went.

I'm so glad we sang this medley, but I'm super grateful to the arranger of this medley: Judy Checketts Hatch. THANK YOU!!!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Christmas Tree & gifts laminated printable

Pinterest link: How Many Presents Fit Under the Tree?

Website link: Sunbeam Singing

The unnamed author of the site offers the printable clipart needed for this activity. As he/she suggests, there are several different ways to incorporate the tree and presents into an activity. Here are some suggestions:

1. Primary children can "earn" presents to put under the tree. (explained on the site)

2. Each present can have a song attached to it. (explained on the site)

3. I chose a super singer each time we sang a different song to place a present under the tree.

4. Primary children can play the hot/cold game as the presents are hidden throughout the room (the pianist plays either (a) the song attached to the present or (b) the song that they're currently learning).

5. Hide the presents under certain chairs, and each person who had a present under his/her chair gets to pick the song that is sung. You can provide a list of songs from which to choose (good idea for reviewing prior to the Primary Program Presentation), or they can choose any song from the Children's Songbook.

6. Each present is attached to a scripture verse that correlates to the Primary lesson, and a song that relates to the scripture is sung.

7...What other ideas can you come up with? :)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Word by Word Singing

This may not be an activity that will work well with very small primaries, if most of the children are in junior primary, or if they are super silent singers, unless they really know the words well. However, it could open them up to singing. :)

It requires no material making, no planning, no shopping, and no printing or laminating. The children definitely need to pay attention. Make sure you keep their attention during this game. It's important that the room stay somewhat quiet, especially if the children are quiet or silent singers.

Inform the children of which song they are practicing. Depending on the difficulty of the song, start with either the Sunbeams or CTR 7. Using a chorister wand or other decorated stick, point to the first child. He/she should give the first word of the song, and each child afterward gives a subsequent word of the song. You should not be singing, only speaking the words. When you come to a child that cannot name the next word, everyone sings the song up to that point. See if the child can then name the word. If the child is still stuck, he/she can ask a fellow friend for help. Once the right answer is given, make sure the primary child that was stuck on the word repeats the word 2-3 times, and then continue on until the end of the song. Finally, everyone sings the song together.

I hope to upload a video soon which would give a better explanation of this game.

Try it out, and let me know what you think!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Articles of Faith printable aids

The above picture seems to accurately represent primary children the morning after a "full moon." You know what I'm talking about: the imaginary full moon that we often blame for the irreverent, boisterous behavior that no one can control. But, even on those good Sundays, it may still be hard for our youngest audience members to pay attention, grasp the meaning of what we choristers are trying to accomplish, or even sing a few notes because they're so shy and quiet.

We learn the Articles of Faith each year, aligning one (or two) per month, according to the topics. But how can we help those littlest Sunbeams to learn all 13? Here's a great help I found on Pinterest. I printed the pages off back-to-back and give the page(s) for that Sunday's Article to their teacher. He/she helps the Sunbeams follow along. Even if they don't sing, it gives them something to look at while the rest of us follow the words on the small posterboard.

Isn't that amazing?? Go to Emilie's website - A Year of FHE - and download them all. Give it a try: I'd love to hear if it worked for you, or if you tried any other methods! :)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Flip a Card pictures + Happy Thanksgiving!


So I found this pin on Pinterest, but instead of using the cards on dice, switching them out for different cards every now and then, I decided to use them as flip cards on a table surface.

Website: Notes From a Novice Primary Music Leader

The link above shows pictures of what the flip cards look like. I printed off and laminated them, and I flip them all over on a table surface. One at a time, I call on reverent children to come up and flip one over. We'll buzz like a bee, ooooooo like a ghost, hum, jump up and down, or whatever else the card may say.

It's been an awesome success! Give it a try, and let me know how it worked for you!

***Thanks to the unnamed sister who posted this on her blog--great idea and great job!***

Sunday, November 15, 2015

To Hear(ing Aids) or Not To Hear(ing Aids)

I was called to be my ward's Primary Chorister on September 20, 2015
The Primary Program was November 8, 2015.

Uh, say what?!

I jumped in wholeheartedly to fulfill this calling, which meant learning the songs that didn't come in the Children's Hymnbook, including one with ASL.

I love ASL. I know about 20 words and have taught my children those same words. Slowly, I'm increasing my knowledge of ASL, as someday I may need to know the entire language.

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." Victor Hugo

You see, I wear hearing aids.

Not all the time. I have 3 kids - ages 7, 2, and 1 - and it's nice to pretend their fights and cries are much quieter than they really are. ;)

Anyway, wearing hearing aids during Primary has its ups and downs, and I've explained the situation to the children. I had a pretty typical response - "You wear hearing aids?" - and it hasn't been too much of an issue. All of these years with hearing loss, I learned to cope simply by speaking louder and asking people to repeat themselves if I couldn't hear them.

Now, I get to teach music. With hearing loss.

God gave me a gift, and life gave me a trial. Time to "put my shoulder to the wheel" and "push along." I can do this! :)

Friday, November 13, 2015

A friend's response to our Primary Program...

The Primary Program was a huge success! But, what made it even more worth it was this post by friend in my ward. She has 4 daughters, the oldest 3 of which are in my primary. I've always loved singing primary songs throughout the week, especially ones that come by inspiration, like some I haven't sung since I was in primary.

She wrote the following on her Facebook page:

After reading the words, instead of singing them, the words hit me. I had taught the primary kids the message and meaning of the song, but had I learned and applied it myself? Such words really helped me to remember that part of my calling is to keep my faith and continue building my testimony, just as it's my calling to help the primary kids plant their seeds of faith and build their own testimonies. <3

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Boy and Girl popsicle stick faces

There's (almost) nothing more fun than pitting boys against girls when singing, especially with my primary kids. There are, as usual, fewer boys, but I have a few boys in particular that are especially good at singing--and especially determined to sing louder and better than the girls.

Knowing this, I decided to make copies of, color, and laminate the girl and boy faces from pages 6-7 of Sing A Song: Activity & Idea Book, Volume 1 by Finch Family Games, created and illustrated by Karen Finch. My mom had several Finch books in her musical repertoire. I remember the distinctive features of the circular noses, small eyes, and awesome smiles with the 90s-like outfits.

Here are my results:

Super cute, huh? I've also bought Volume 2. Thanks to the Finch family for producing awesome materials over so many years!!!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Tissue Box Dice

In some ways, I like to keep Singing Time simple. This post is about one of those ways. I could've made the dice out of something or bought some dice off the Internet. I have a ton of unused tissue boxes lying around, so why not use it, something more "Primary-proof"? :)

***I can't find the book, pin, website, etc., where I found these cards, so if you find it, PLEASE let me know so I can properly give credit to the awesome person who created them!***

I printed off and laminated the singing aids that I velcroed to each side of 2 tissue boxes. I should've shortened the pictures before I printed them or at least cut off the colored border so they fit better.

The die on the right (Junior Primary) is Sunbeams, CTR 4, 5, 6, and 7, and Teachers. The die on the left (Senior Primary) is Valiant 8, 9, 10, and 11, Boys, and Girls.

Primary loves to roll these dice on the floor, even getting to the point of trying to damage them, but they can't: it's a tissue box. YAY for primary-proof materials! :)

Do you have something similar? Let me know!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

2015 Primary Program: Keep the Commandments

One of the songs we sang for the 2015 Primary Program was "Keep the Commandments." We are learning both verses, so I wanted to make something to help the kids learn it. I had a lot of fun with this one!

Here are the pictures:

For some reason, the first picture more accurately represents the neon color of the tablets, not the yellow look of the second picture.

I cut out "tablets" from a neon poster board and velcroed the laminated pictures onto the hand-laminated posterboard pieces. Once the kids learn the first verse, I flip each side over to reveal the second verse. Pictures can be removed to test their memory once they know the song really well.

Hope you enjoyed this post! How did you teach Keep the Commandments?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

How to Teach Music - Insight from a Piano Teacher

Big primaries. Small primaries. Loud singers. Soft singers. No singers. Class clowns, Molly Mormons, Peter Priesthoods, and the kids that come because their partially-active parents make them. How do we unite these children under one Gospel, one heart, one mind...and one Primary Chorister?

I've been playing the piano for almost 20 years, and I sing alto. I LOVE to sing! I am not, by any means, an expert in teaching children or even teaching music, but I was blessed with several strong examples: a teacher for a mother; my piano teacher of four years; an elementary school music teacher who later became my 7th grade choir director and then, after I graduated from and worked for my high school, a friend; my boss, the high school choir director and district music coordinator; two junior high choir directors with very different students and teaching styles; and several classroom teachers from elementary school through college graduation. Below is what I've garnered over the many years and from piano students I've taught.

*     *     *

One of the best tools to teaching Primary is grabbing their attention right off the bat, just like an attention-getter at the start of an essay or talk. If you keep them intrigued, you keep them involved. Just don't always think a chatty primary is a bad primary. :)

Another tool I use to teach the Primary is watching my hands. I want them to understand music so they can learn to follow the ward chorister during Sacrament meeting or the choir director if they choose to sing in the ward or stake choir.

Big arm movement = loud volume
Small arm movement = soft volume
Holding up an open hand = hold that same note and wait for the cutoff

Sometimes, we also work on enunciation and not carrying out any "S" sounds. We're Primary kids, not snakes. :)

"If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” 

Of course, lots of choristers use flipbooks, printables, rolling dice, charts, posterboards, easels, magnets, game boards, spinners, and more, but remember that the point of Singing Time is to sing.

Don't be afraid to ask for help: teachers, presidencies, parents, even well-behaved older siblings of the younger, unruly junior primary children.

Command the attention of the children with your voice, your words, your heart, and your Spirit. <3

What would you add to this list of suggestions? Your input is always welcome!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Inspiration from General Conference: October 2015

General Conference is amazing every time it happens. During this series of talks, I think Elder Bradley D. Foster's talk, "It's Never Too Early and It's Never Too Late," was a great talk for me to hear, now that I've just been called to serve with children.

"[God] has provided counsel in the scriptures for us to know how to help our children and our grandchildren."

Teaching children can be a very difficult task to take on, whether in a small classroom or a large, open room. With 20 minutes to teach a song while getting a message across, keeping their attention long enough to focus without kicking the chair in front of them or yelling to the kid two rows away is quite the challenge. But, we have to try, and try we will.

"The message for parents is clear: there is a difference between hearing and understanding. If our children merely hear but do not understand the gospel, then the door is left open for Satan to remove these truths from their hearts."

I say "we" because it's a joint effort.  Satan works on his own, but we don't have to be or work alone. Parents, teachers, the Primary Presidency, even the pianist, we all have to work together to teach the message. Each month. Every Sunday. Take cues from one another. Lift each other up. Ask teacher to stay and sit with their classes. Have them join in the singing AND the fun. Make sure the presidency is aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and you of theirs. Ask parents to come in and sit with their children when they are especially irreverent and rude. Make a suggestion to have primary music played by CD or mp3 until the pianist arrives, if he/she needs extra time to get there and set up. Work together under the direction of the Spirit.

"'s never too late and it's never too early to lead, guide, and walk beside our children, because families are forever."

In the end, being a chorister will be hard work, but the songs teach so much more than just a melody. Help them see, learn, and apply the message. Remember to "Hum Your Favorite Hymn."

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Little Bit About Me

My name is Kimberly, and I'm 28 years old. I'm married to a non-member, Medical Research Scientist and have been recently called to serve as my ward's Primary Chorister. In our Christmas photo - ain't it great? :D - our son is 7 and our two daughters are 2 and 11 months (yes, they're that close in age, and, no, we didn't plan on that, haha).

My husband retired from the Army while stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, and found a job up here in the Seattle metro, but we're looking to build a home to stay in our same ward and city for several years. I teach piano, run a home business as a literary editor, and volunteer at my son's school to two classes as an art docent.

Growing up, my mom was my favorite Primary Chorister. I've always loved to sing, and I've played piano since I was 10. The only problem is my hearing loss. I have hearing loss in both ears, and I'm supposed to wear my hearing aids all the time, but I suffer from chronic migraines and headaches, so I trade in hearing better for feeling better. It's worth it. As a result of childhood hearing loss because of chronic ear infections, I speak very loudly. Sometimes, I speak so loudly that people can think I'm obnoxious or trying to become to center of attention. I try to read lips; learning ASL is definitely a struggle on my own. I really watch facial and body expressions, and I use my voice to command the room when needed. Like when a room full of primary children become rowdy and irreverent.

When I was called, I jumped on board immediately. The Primary Program is in about 6 weeks, so I don't have to teach anything new, but I'm going to have to rehearse, even more so than the children.

I'm so excited! :D Any questions for me?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Called to Serve: Primary Chorister!!!

I've finally been called to serve in a position that I've loved since I was a child: I was called to serve as a Primary Chorister in the Seattle Metro on September 20, 2015. A few Sundays before I was called, my ward split, and since then a neighboring stake has split into two stakes. The work of the Lord continues, and I get to fulfill a calling that has a huge impact on the future leaders of the Church and our nation. No pressure... :)

"For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads." D&C 25:12

When I was a child, my mom was my Primary Chorister for several years, and I wasn't ashamed to tell everyone. She was fun. She was spiritual. She could sing. She could teach. She is still my idol today, and many of the posts that will be part of this blog are ideas and inspiration from all of those wonderful years.

Feel free to borrow, tweak, and share my lessons and ideas. Just please link back to my site: send me a message that you tagged me, and I'll send a shout out to your site/blog, too! So, hold on tight! This is going to be a great adventure!