Thursday, December 26, 2013

Lesson Plans: January 2014

1.  Introduce the song of the month by discussing Christ's birth, life, resurrection and example.

2.  Teach the song "He Sent His Son" by matching the questions to the elements of Christ's life.  

3.  Practice the song "He Sent His Son" with the "Who Sings Now" activity, but instead of splitting the primary between Verses 1 and 2, have one group sing the Questions and one group sing the Answers.

4.  Play a memory game by turning all of the visual aides from the flip chart around and having the children match the questions with the answers.  Split the primary into two groups.  Have one group try to make a match.  If they succeed, they get to pick a song to sing.  If they don't make a match, sing "He Sent His Son."

5.  Discuss other gifts that Heavenly Father has given us with the second option under the Thanksgiving Turkey activity.  (Print the gifts instead of the turkey.)  Or use the Valentines Activity.  

6.  Have a Primary Song Showcase.  Ask members of the ward to come to Primary and perform each of the new songs for 2014.  

7.  Explain that if we are to live like Christ, we must know more about him.  Use the Character Traits of Christ Activity.

8.  Review the song by introducing the Song Birds activity.

9.  Consider spending a week singing the favorite song of each new Sunbeam to help them feel welcome and get them involved.  Make sure to read the article "How to Help New Sunbeams Pay Attention."

10.  Use the Dynamics Practice to get the children to repeat the song many times and really listen to what the words mean.  Consider using the YouTube link in the post to tie "He Sent His Son" to "I'm Trying to be Like Jesus" in order to reinforce the message.

He Sent His Son

Before you teach this song, try the introduction activity found here.

Print the document below.  Post the question drawings on the board in the correct order.  Place each of the pictures depicting Christ into a large envelope maked "To:  The World.  From:  Heavenly Father."

Divide the Primary into four groups.  Give each group an envelope.Ask the children to quickly discuss amongst themselves what the picture depicts, as you discussed it the previous week, and choose a child to explain it to the primary.  (You may wish to include a word strip in each envelope to help remind them.) 

After each group has described their picture, explain to the children that Heavenly Father taught us many things by us sending His son, Jesus Christ.  Tell them that you are going to read them several questions, and if they think that their picture shows the best answer to the question, they should stand up.  As you match each of the pairs of pictures, discuss how the events of Jesus' life taught us these lessons.

After you have matched all of the questions with the correct answers, post the answers below and teach the children the words to the songs.

How could the Father tell the world of love and tenderness?

He sent His son, a newborn babe, in peace and holiness.

How could the father show the world the pathway we should go?

He sent His son to walk with men on earth, that we may know.

How could the Father tell the world of sacrifice, of death?

He sent His son to die for us, and rise with living breath.

What does the Father ask of us?  What do the scriptures say?

Have faith, have hope, live like His son, help others on their way.

What does He ask?  Live like His son.

For more ideas for the month of January 2014, check out my Lesson Plan ideas.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Review: He Sent His Son

To introduce the song "He Sent His Son,"  I want to make sure that the children are familiar with the elements of Christ's life which are discussed in the song (and the pictures which I plan to use to represent them).  I'll spend the first week of January on this activity.

First, print document at the bottom of the page which contains the images.   These are from the album entitled "Jesus Christ" in the LDS Image Library.  I like them because I'm OCD and they match.  If you prefer, you can use pictures from the Gospel Art Kit. 

Next, choose 2-4 songs from each category (or choose your own) and write each one on a strip of paper.  Fold these strips and place them in a paper bag.

Display the pictures on the board at the front of the room and write the titles above them. Briefly explain to the children what each picture represents.  Have a child choose a strip of paper from the bag. Sing the song and ask the children to listen to determine to which picture the song belongs.  

41 - Once Within a Lowly Stable
42 - Away in a Manger

56 - I Think When I Read That Sweet Story
57 - Tell Me the Stories of Jesus
55 - Jesus Once Was a Little Child
100 - Baptism verse 1

64 - Did Jesus Really Live Again?
65 - He Died That We Might Live Again

236 - Give Said The Little Stream verse 3
136 - Love One Another
100 - Baptism verse 2
55 - Jesus Once Was a Little Child

Friday, December 13, 2013

How to Help Children Understand the Message of the Songs

Help the children understand the words.
Song lyrics are often worded in ways which are difficult for children to understand.  With a bit of effort, however, you can ensure that your primary understands difficult phrasing and new vocabulary.
  • Before you teach a song, display vocabulary word strips on one side of the board and definitions on the other side of the board.  Have the children match each word to its definition.  For Junior Primary it may be easier to match each word to a picture.
  • Teach the song line-by-line and explain the meaning in your own words as you go.
  • Display some pictures that fit the theme of the song and some that don't.  Ask the children to identify which pictures fit.
  • Print a picture to illustrate each line.  Scatter the pictures around the room.  Ask the children to find the picture that matches each line.
  • After the children have learned the song, post the lyrics or pictures on the board.  Read one of the lines in your own words and ask the children to tell you which of the lyrics they think you're describing.
  • Have the children tell you in their words what the song means.  Ask for volunteers to share a short testimony of the principles they have learned. 

Encourage memorization
Whenever possible, don't display the words.  Reading the lyrics may help the children sing better, but it discourages memorization and understanding.  Encourage teachers and students not to use songbooks or songbook apps during Primary.  (I make exceptions for visitors and less active children).  If the children need visual aides to help remember the lyrics, use art that conveys the overall concepts, not just the individual words (i.e. a bee for "be," etc.).

Teach new songs quickly and repeat them often.   Try one of these repetition games. 

Ask questions about the song.
Some of the most interesting questions are those that encourage the children to apply the message of the songs to real life situations.  Try one of the following activities:
  • Play Hot Potato and ask the child who is "it" to answer a question about the song.  
  • For songs with multiple verses, adapt this Rock Paper Scissors Game with questions about or themes from the song.  
  • Adapt this Who What When Where Why How activity to your song.  
  • Repeat the songs in different ways using the Bird Cards, Family Cards, or Neighborhood Friends Cards and ask questions between verses.  For example, if you were teaching "The Family is of God," you might review with the Family Cards.  As you sing in the manner of each family member, ask the children to listen for that family member's role and give you examples after the song is over.

Help the children feel the Spirit
Explanations can inform the children's minds, but the only way to speak to their hearts is through the Spirit.

I love to use fun and games,  but that should never become the focus of your lesson.  Ask yourself if the nature of the activity will detract from the reverence of the song.  Some activities may be perfectly appropriate for "I Can Be Valiant," but not suitable for "Baptism."

If you do chose to play a game, try to keep the children calm, focused, and smiling.  Think of President Monson telling a joke during General Conference.  Everyone grins and giggles, but you rarely see President Uchtdorf doubled over in laughter,  Elder Packer standing on his chair,  Elder Holland slapping Elder Nelson on the back or Elders Bednar and Perry fist-bumping.

Oh, wait....

If your activity gets out of hand (and it will from time to time), be ready and willing to stop and restore reverence or change activities.  I always have at least two reverent back-up activities in my chorister bag at all times.  Be sure to end each lesson on a reverent note.   

Most importantly, when you DO feel the Spirit, always point it out to the children.  If they sing a song about the Savior and it gives you goosebumps, TELL THEM!  They need to learn to recognize the Spirit and gain confidence in their own ability to invite it into their lives.  

Share your testimony of the principles you teach.
Study the songs throughout the week.  Fast for understanding and inspiration at the beginning of each month.  Learn to apply the principles better in your own life so that you can teach with authority.

Children learn best when they make connections.  Look for ways to relate the songs you're singing to other gospel experiences.

Make connections to Sharing Time lessons.  
Read the "Outline for  Sharing Time" frequently and talk to your Presidency about how they plan to teach it.  Point out to the children when the Sharing Time lessons parallel the lessons in the songs.  Plan activities that expand upon the Sharing Time lessons.  For example, in August 2013, the theme for the second week is "Heavenly Father wants me to pray to him often- anytime, anywhere."  On that week, you could use this activity discussing different types of prayers.

Look for opportunities to reinforce the monthly and weekly messages with new songs.  I like to teach short songs or new verses to songs with which the children are already familiar.  (This is the only time I use flipcharts with words).  Even if you never plan to sing these songs again, it will expand the children's repertoire.  And more importantly, it gives the children another perspective on and more insight into the themes they are learning.

As an example, the February 2015 theme is "Heavenly Father Has a Plan for His Children" and the monthly song is "I Will Follow God's Plan."  On the fourth week, the emphasis is on agency.  You might teach the short, easy song "Choose the Right Way."  It would only take five minutes to teach, but it is catchy enough to stick in the children's heads all week and reinforce the idea that agency is an integral part of Heavenly Father's Plan.

Make connections to Faith in God activities.
Read the "Faith In God" handbooks for Girls and Boys.  Point out when Senior Primary children have opportunities to complete requirements that relate to the theme of the song you are learning.  For example, the theme for May is "Families are blessed when they follow the prophet."  You  might choose to teach the President Monson verse of "Follow the Prophet" and challenge the children to read a recent conference address with their families, which fulfills one of the Faith in God requirements under Learning and Living the Gospel.

Make connections to scriptures.
Read the scriptures listed on the bottom of the sheet music.  Explain the difficult words or phrases.  If necessary, give the verse context.  Briefly tell the story from which the verse comes and show pictures from the Gospel Art Kit.  Point out instances when song lyrics are quoted from the scriptures so that the children understand that Primary Songs teach gospel principles.

Make connections to other media.
Tell a related story or show a related video.  The church has made many free resources available for our use- take advantage of them.  Find a scripture story, an article from the Friend, a quote, one of the Mormon Messages or a short video from the Mormon Channel to reinforce your message and introduce the children to these resources.  I love the iPad apps for this purpose.  If your Primary is too large to see the screen, you can print the written materials or download the audio/visual materials to your laptop or a DVD.  More information on all of these resources can be found on the church's Media Library page.

Keep in mind that your calling is to teach the songs, so be sure to keep the story or video short and relevant.  For example, the theme for the third week in February 2015 is "My body is created in the image of God."  You might choose to teach or review the song "The Lord Gave Me a Temple" and show the short video "God's Greatest Creation."

Make connections to their other lessons.
As the children come in to Primary, quietly discuss with them what they learned in the previous hour.  When possible, relate the song that you are singing to a Sacrament Meeting talk, the talk or scripture from opening exercises, the Article of Faith you're learning (if applicable) or the lesson they had in their classes.

Monday, December 9, 2013

How to Help New Sunbeams Pay Attention

Keep things moving.
Sunbeams have very short attention spans.  Have your books ready, pages marked, lists printed out, flip charts on the table, visual aides on the board... whatever it is you need to step right in to teaching.  Then, once you've started, don't stop.  If your cd won't load or your pianist is having trouble finding a page, ask the kids a question or guide them in some wiggles.  In fact...

Look for every opportunity to let them move.
There are lots of ways to work in a wiggle song.  If the weather is nice, start with "Popcorn Popping."  If you're learning about faith, take a break and sing "Snowman" but change the words to "Once there was a small seed... in the sun he grew."  Add sign language or hand movements to your songs whenever possible.  Or just repeat the songs you're learning as you move in fun ways, like marching, balancing on one foot, drumming the rhythm, etc.

Use lots of different teaching methods.  
Variety is essential to keeping kids engaged.   Movement, pictures, video or audio recordings, games, stories, even treats (occasionally and with permission) will involve children who absorb information in various ways.  It will also keep them guessing what's coming next.

Find ways to keep the children constantly involved.
Ask them questions- especially yes or no, thumbs up or thumbs down, or "raise your hand if you....." types of questions which the entire primary can answer without being disruptive.  Ask them to pat their heads whenever they hear a keyword.  Have them point to the pictures as you sing the lines.  Let them hold pictures, pick songs, etc.  When you plan your lessons, ask yourself whether there is anything you can delegate to a child.

Make each Sunbeam a CD.
As I explained here, I don't normally give out cd's for Christmas, but I think it's a great idea for new Sunbeams.  Have a special December nursery lesson to welcome the children to Primary and introduce them to the "big kid songs."  Make a big deal of the gift with a colorful cover or pretty wrapping paper.  Don't fill the cd the songs you're going to learn in the upcoming year- you will have plenty of time to teach those.  Instead, choose songs from the previous year and other songs that your primary sings often!  Just six to ten tracks is enough to get them started.  And then...

Sing the songs they know as often as possible.
Between the songs you taught in nursery, the songs on the cd, and classics that they're likely to have picked up at home, you have plenty to choose from.  Throw one in every once in a while!  It will re-engage them and boost their confidence.

Tell them what to do if they don't know the words.
I explain to my kids that if they forget or don't know the words to a song, I expect them to sing "la la la."  For the first few months, you might display a different animal card at the front of the room every week.  Ask the nursery children to sing the songs that they don't know in cow language (moo the words), cat language (meow the words), and so on, depending on which animal they see.

Praise, encourage and reward good behavior.
Be clear about your expectations and repeat them often.  Tell the children what you WANT them to do, not just what you DON'T WANT them to do.  Next, make sure that you recognize when they are working hard, singing, paying attention, or showing respect and reverence.  A thumb's-up or a "good job" goes a long way.  

Never give out rewards to the "best" behaved child.  At this age, they'll only be disappointed that they don't win it every week.  And never give candy or toys.  You shouldn't create the anticipation of a big reward every week where a small acknowledgment will do.  

Finally, be creative in helping them remember what they should be doing.  In church, especially, discipline should feel more like reminding than scolding.  Try something proactive like these Sunbeam eggs to help keep them in their seats and on task.

Get to know them!
Learn the children's names.  Help the teacher by sitting with them during Sharing Time.  Say "hello" in the hall.  Give them a wink or a small wave in Sacrament Meeting.  Ask them questions about themselves and their families.   They'll behave better if they know you and like you and you'll have a better idea of what works for each child if you get to know and love them.  

Any more ideas?  Add them in the comments!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sunbeam Eggs

This activity is meant to help encourage new Sunbeams to stay in their seats.  You may wish to coordinate with your Primary President or Sunbeams Teacher to extend the activity beyond sharing time.

First, print the egg document below.  Cut out an egg for each child.  I strongly suggest laminating the eggs.  Adhere an egg to the seat of each Sunbeam's chair with velcro, tape or stick tack.  

Next, open the bird document.  These are the same pictures as those in the Songbird Practice Activity, but smaller.  Choose the type of bird you would like to use for the week and print one for each child.  Cut it out and keep it hidden.  If you are super crafty, you can print the birds on white labels and cut them out to create stickers.  

Explain to the children that you need their help keeping the eggs warm.  Tell them that if they keep their bottoms on their eggs through the entire Singing Time (or Sharing Time), the egg will hatch and grow into a bird.  At the end of Primary, allow the children who hatched their eggs to trade the egg in for a picture of a bird.  The children will be excited to find out what kind of bird they hatch each week!   


Use these songbird cards to practice a song that your primary has recently learned.  Print the document at the bottom of the post and cut out the cards.  Have the children choose a card and sing the practice song in the manner of the bird on the card.  My suggestions are below.

Do the chicken dance
-or- flap your "wings"
-or- bob your head

A duck's quack doesn't echo!  Have one side sing a line at a time and have the other side echo it.
-or- Sing through the song without repeating any words.  If you get to a word you've sung before, keep your mouth closed.  (This is hard but SO fun.  Only try it in Senior and only try it slowly.)
Stand on one leg.


Macaws are extremely loud.  Sing loud.  

Ostriches stick their heads in the sand.  Sing with your eyes closed.

Sing "whoooo"
-or- Owls can turn their heads completely around.  Face the back of the room and sing.

Penguins march together.  March and sing.
-or- Penguins can swim.  See how far you can sing in one breath.

Sing fast.

Sing with a finger in your mouth like a worm.

Sing very pretty.

Toucans have long noses.  Hold your nose while you sing.

Tap the rhythm while you sing.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

When Joseph Went to Bethlehem

When Joseph went to Bethlehem, I think he took great care

To place his tools and close his shop and leave no shavings there.

He urged the donkey forward, then, with Mary on its back,
And carried bread and goat cheese in a little linen sack.

I think there at the busy inn that he was meek and mild

And awed to be the guardian of Mary's sacred child.

Perhaps all through the chilly hours he smoothed the swaddling bands,

And Jesus felt the quiet strength of Joseph's gentle hands.

And close beside the manger bed, he dimmed the lantern's light,

And held the little Jesus close upon that sacred night.