Monday, April 28, 2014

Families Are Blessed When They Follow The Prophet (April 2014 General Conference)

To reinforce the theme for May 2014, I've summarized or quoted parts of several talks from our most recent conference and related them to Primary songs.  Please help us out by leaving more ideas in the comments!  Conference talks will be available to review in the May issue of the Ensign..  Or, remind yourself of the main points of each talk with this handy Deseret News summary.

For Junior Primary, print strips of paper with both the summary and the song.  Have children draw slips from a hat, read the summary and sing the song.  For Senior Primary, consider writing the names of the songs on the board.  Read only the summary and see if the children can guess which song you've chosen to go with it.  You might even ask if they can think of other songs which teach the same message.  This will help children draw connections between what they are learning in Primary and what they hear from the Prophet.  Some children might find it interesting and empowering to know that they are learning the same concepts that adults are working on.  It may help them feel that the conference messages are more accessible.

Also, talk to your Primary Presidency about how they plan to teach Sharing Time this month.  If they are planning something similar, you might consider combining Singing Time and Sharing Time for that week.  I'm all about reinforcing the Sharing Time message with Singing Time whenever we can, but this activity is full of doctrine and could potentially become very long and tedious if it were done twice in the same week.  Part of the purpose of Singing Time is to help the children rest their minds and digest the information.  Just keep that in mind :)

Stand for the Right or Dare to Do Right
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland,
The Cost - and Blessings - of Discipleship
"You will one day find yourself called upon to defend your faith or perhaps even endure some personal abuse simply because you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.... You may wonder if it is worth it to take a courageous moral stand in high school, or to go on a mission only to have your most cherished beliefs reviled, or to strive against much in society that sometimes ridicules a life of religious devotion.  Yes, it is worth it."

Love One Another
Elder Ronald A. Rasband
The Joyful Burden of Discipleship
"As members of the Church, worldwide, we all have the wonderful opportunity of blessing the lives of others.  Will we respond with love when an opportunity is before us to make a visit, a phone call, write a note, or spend a day meeting the needs of someone else?"

I Wonder When He Comes Again
Elder Carlos H. Amado
Christ the Redeemer
Elder Amado talks about the first time Christ came to earth, as a baby in Bethlehem.  He tells stories of Christ from the scriptures and reaffirms for us that Christ truly is the Son of God and our Savior.  Then he speaks briefly about the second coming.  "I testify that Christ will return in a way very different form His first coming.  He will come in power and glory, with all the just and faithful saints."

How Firm a Foundation or The Wise Man and the Foolish Man
 Elder Neil L. Andersen
Spiritual Whirlwinds
Elder Andersen tells us that we will be faced with many trials in our lives.  These trials can sometimes be like spiritual whirlwinds.  If we have built our lives upon the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will be safe from the perils of the adversary.  "As you live righteously year after year, I assure you that your experiences will confirm to you again and again that Jesus is the Christ.  The spiritual rock under your feet will be solid and secure."

Elder Russell M. Nelson
Let Your Faith Show
Elder Nelson asks us what we have faith in.  He says that some people in the world have faith in sports teams, in brands or in celebrities but that we ought to have faith in Jesus Christ because he is the only person who will never fail us.  He then tells us that we need to share our faith by showing our faith!  "As you practice your religion, you are exercising your faith. You are letting your faith show."

Elder Richard G. Scott
I Have Given You an Example
"The greatest example who ever walked the earth is our Savior, Jesus Christ.  His mortal ministry was filled with teaching, serving and loving others.  He sat down with individuals who were judged to be unworthy of His companionship.  He loved each of them.  He discerned their needs and taught them His gospel.  He invited us to follow His perfect example."

Keep the Commandments
Elder Robert D. Hales
If Ye Love Me, Keep My Commandments
Elder Hales tells us that we need to follow all of Heavenly Father's commandments all of the time.  We can't just choose the commandments that are easy for us to follow.  He gives examples of good people who disobeyed God's commandments and had unpleasant consequences.  Heavenly Father loves us and doesn't want us to have those bad consequences, but he has given us agency to choose for ourselves. Elder Hales reminds us that Jesus said "If ye love me, keep my commandments."

Kindness Begins With Me
Elder W. Craig Zwick
What Do You Think
Elder Zwick asks us to be kinder to one another.  He suggests that we can learn to love and understand each other if we always ask each other "What do you think?"  We can try to have compassion for those people who disagree with us by trying to see their side.  He says "The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility- even when we disagree."

Family History, I am Doing It or Truth from Elijah
Elder Quentin L. Cook
Roots and Branches
Elder Cook talks about families and the importance of "tying roots to branches," or doing the work necessary to seal our ancestors to us so that we can all be together again.  He tells us that we live in exciting times because we have the temple and are able to perform ordinances for our dead relatives and he encourages us to do our Family History.  He explains "Our Father's plan is about families."

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Grateful Under Any Circumstances
President Uchtdorf tells us "As disciples of Christ, we are commanded to 'thank the Lord our God in all things,' to 'sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving,' and to 'let our hearts be full of thanks unto God."  Sometimes we think we can only be grateful for great blessings, but President Uchtdorf teaches us that we will be happier if we are always looking for reasons to be grateful, even when things are difficult for us.

Elder M. Russel Ballard
Following Up
As part of his talk, Elder Ballard asked us to invite someone once a quarter to be taught by the full-time missionaries.  That's four times each year!

I Will Follow God's Plan For Me or I Lived in Heaven
Bishop Gary E. Stevenson
Your Four Minutes
Bishop Stevenson talks about the LDS athletes he watched during the recent Winter Olympics.  He points out that these athletes had trained for years to become good at their chosen sport, but whether or not they would win a medal all depended on how they performed at the competition.  He tells us that this is like our lives.  We lived and learned things in heaven before we were born and now we have a short time to show how well we will follow our Heavenly Father.

Love One Another or Jesus Said Love Everyone
President Thomas S. Monson
Love- The Essence of the Gospel
President Monson reminded us that loving one another is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about.  He told a story about a plane that was supposed to fly from Alaska to Seattle and had to go out of it's way twice to help a boy who was badly injured get to the hospital.  The people on the plane might have been mad that they arrived in Seattle so late, but instead they were only worried about the boy.

The Holy Ghost or The Still Small Voice
President Boyd K. Packer
The Witness
President Packer tells about an experience he had in Okinawa, Japan during WWII where the Holy Ghost testified to him of the truthfulness of the Gospel.  "(The Holy Ghost) is the third member of the Godhead.  His mission is to testify of truth and righteousness.  He manifests Himself in many ways, including feelings of peace and reassurance.  He can also bring comfort, guidance and correction when needed.  The companionship of the Holy Ghost is maintained throughout our lives by righteous living."

Elder L. Tom Perry
Obedience Through Faithfulness
Elder Perry tells us how, when he was a child, his Grandfather explained to him that a team of horses can only work together if they always know who is in charge.  He explains that we are like the horses and that Heavenly Father is our driver.  He has a purpose and a plan and we need to listen to Him and work together if we want to help accomplish His works.

Praise to the Man or On a Golden Springtime
or An Angel Came to Joseph Smith
Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge
The Prophet Joseph Smith
Elder Lawrence testifies that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.

I Am a Child of God, especially verse 4
Elder Michael John U. Teh
For Where Your Treasure Is
Elder Teh talks about visiting the Saints in the Philippines after the recent earthquake and typhoon.  He says that even though many of them had lost everything they own, they were still in good spirits.  This experience helped teach him that we have to be careful what we "treasure."  If we are too interested in worldly things, we will forget to prepare for and appreciate our spiritual treasures.

Faith or Search, Ponder and Pray
Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis
If Ye Lack Wisdom 
Elder Marcos tells us that the internet is a great resource but we have to be careful because it holds both good and bad information.  He suggests that we can know whether what we read is true by examining its "fruits" or consequences.  He reminds us that when something is true, we can plant it like a seed in our hearts and it will grow.  

Elder D. Todd Christofferson
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Elder Christofferson reminds us that Christ overcame our sins through the Atonement and overcame death through his Resurrection.  Through him, we can all be made clean and live again with our Heavenly Father.

Rosemary M. Wixom
Covenants Protect, Prepare and Empower (RS Session)
Sister Wixom, the General Primary President, talks about the importance of our covenants.  She tells us about two girls in Lima, Peru, who were in wheelchairs and could not perform baptisms for the dead, but they traveled 14 hours to come to the temple anyway, just so that they could watch their sister perform the sacred ordinance.

Lesson Plans: May 2014

Following are my ideas for Singing Times related to the May 2014 theme "Families are blessed when they follow the prophet."

How to Use Flip Charts

I love flip charts!  Pictures are great for helping younger children understand the meaning of a song when the words or phrasing are difficult.  And they're effective in reminding older children of the lines of a song without undermining the effort to memorize.  Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your flip charts.
  • Don't print the lyrics on all of your flip charts.  If you're only planning to sing the song a couple of times, words are helpful, but don't print words on the charts of songs you want the kids to memorize.
  • If you use my flip charts (or others with simple drawings), supplement with pictures from the Gospel Art Book.  This will help the children understand that the people and events we are singing about are real.  It will also help them draw connections with other times they have seen those same pictures and the stories they associate with them.
  • Don't use them every week!  I often use flip charts the first week I teach a song and then I file them away and don't take them out unless we need to review.  If you want to see the handy way I store and use my flip charts for the year, you can watch the video here.
  • Don't use a flip chart every time you learn a new song.  Children learn in different ways and some children won't benefit from seeing pictures.  Try teaching with actions, movements or sign language.  Use props.  Tell a story.  Show a video.  Do some pitch leading or practice with dynamics.  Shake it up!

PLEASE don't use the flip chart the same way every week!!  There is nothing less exciting to a child than watching a chorister stand in front of him turning pages.  Try one of these variations on the basic formula for teaching a new song:
  • Post the pages around the outside edge of the board in the front of the room.  As you learn each line, ask the children to help you decide which picture best fits the line.  Point in a slow circle around the board and ask the children to raise their hands when you are pointing at the picture they think fits.
  • Post the pictures around the entire room.  As you learn each line, ask one child to find and bring you the picture that fits.
  • Hide the pictures under the children's chairs.  Ask the children to tell you when they think they have the picture that you are describing in the lyrics.
  • Divide the Primary into groups.  Give each group a picture.  Sing the song several times and ask them to stand when they think you are singing their lyrics.
  • Have the children make their own flip chart.  Divide the Primary into groups.  Give each group a slip of paper with one of the lyrics printed on it.  Ask them to draw a picture to go with those words.
  • Give each page of the flip chart to a different child.  Have them all stand in front of the room and see if they can put the pictures in order as you sing or learn the song.
  • Shuffle the pictures.  Give each class a turn to try to put the pictures in order by the time you have finished singing the song.  
  • Print smaller versions of the flip charts and give one to each class.  Have them all try to put the pictures in order as you learn the song.  At the end of the song, show them the correct order and see if they have gotten it right.
  • Make the flip chart pictures into a simple puzzle.  Print the lyrics on the back.  Randomly choose a picture to have the children place onto the puzzle board.  Teach them that line.  Go through the song, singing the lines you know and humming the lines you don't know yet.
  • Teach the song by posting all of the flip chart pages on the board at the front of the room.  Once the children have learned the song, take the pictures away one by one.
  • Write the lyrics or one key word from each line on the blackboard.  Teach the children the song.  One by one, cover the key words with a picture.  See if the children can remember the lyrics.
  • Make the flip chart into a coloring book and have the children color it while the pianist plays the melody.  Then teach the song and let the children follow along in their own books.
Any more ideas?  Please share with us!

How to Teach New Songs

When I teach a new song, I usually do some variation on the following process:

1.  Introduce the melody.  Have the pianist softly play the song while you discuss the theme.    Sing or play the song for the children and ask them to listen for something specific (how many times does it use this word, answer this question, etc.)  Have them sing the melody in an animal "language"   (instead of singing the words, sing "moo" or "baa" or "meow").

2.  If you plan to use a flip chart, share it with the children.  For loads of ideas on teaching songs with flip charts, check out this post.

3.  Teach the chorus.  The chorus is usually both easier to learn and catchier. If the children know the chorus well then they can end the song stronger and with more confidence, which encourages them to keep trying.

4.  Teach the verses.  Sing the children the first line and have them repeat it.  Sing the second line and have them repeat it.  See if they can sing both lines together.  Repeat with the next two lines.  See if they can sing all four lines together.  Continue.  Don't spend too much time on this.  They'll catch on better when you put the whole song together.

5.  Once the children have heard and repeated all of the lines, find a creative way to sing the song as many times as possible.  Here are some of my ideas.

6.  In the following weeks, include the song in your activities so that they don't forget it.

If you have more tips, please share them with us in the comments!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Lesson Plans: April 2014

I realize that April is almost over, but I've decided that it's better late than never.  Maybe you'll be looking for ways to review the song and its topics later in the year.

  • Teach the monthly song "The Family is of God" using the flipchart found here.
  • Review "The Family is of God" with the rock, paper, scissors activity found here.
  • Review "The Family is of God with the family cards found here.  As the children choose a card representing a way to sing the song, ask them to listen for specific things which that family member can do to strengthen families.
  • Review "The Family is of God" with a Pictionary game.  As the children sing through the song, draw a stick figure family representing the family of one of the children in your Primary.  See if the children can guess which family it is.  Use this activity as a way to start a conversation about different kinds of families.  
  • Stress to the children that they have the opportunity to create their own happy eternal families.  Urge them to prepare to go to the temple.  Sing the second verse of "Families Can Be Together Forever."
  • YouTuber Ben Chan has written two different versions of a violin/flute accompaniment to "The Family is of God."  A video of him playing them both can be found here, as well as links to the sheet music.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

I Am a Stripling Warrior

A lot of choristers are bored with the usual Mother's Day songs and are looking for something different.  As a chorister, I'm all about keeping it simple this time of year.  But, as a mom, I'm 100% on board.  If you're looking to shake things up this year, one option is this great song written by Lee Slichter.  She has generously shared it with us all free of charge.  Unfortunately, I don't have time to illustrate it, but I wanted to share it with you.

An MP3 of the accompaniment can be found here.
Sheet music is available here.
And the lyrics are as follows:

Verse 1:
Two-thousand Stripling Warriors,
Strong and brave and true
Had faith that would not waver
Because their mothers knew.
Though young, they trusted fully.
They stood for what was right.
My mother tells the story
and I trust with all my might.

I am a Stripling Warrior.
I hold the shield of faith
That comes from my own mother.
It will guide me all my days.
She armed me with the Sword of Truth
And hope in God above.
I will follow her example
To trust in our Father's love.

Verse 2:
She prays to Heavenly Father
With a faith so pure.
I know I cannot doubt him
Because my mother's sure.
The Spirit guides her actions.
She guides with gentle hands.
She comforts, guides and teaches.
She tells me who I am.

Verse 3:
Our Savior's pow'r reflected
In the love that I feel
When mother speaks of Jesus
And how His grace is real.
The stirring in my heart proves
That I have learned the truth.
I am a Stripling Warrior.
I have faith beyond my youth.

When you introduce the song, you might review the story of the Stripling Warriors and explaining to the children how it ties in with Mother's Day.  If you do, consider using the 2000 Warriors illustration found here.

Since the song isn't included in the Children's Songbook or the Hymnal, you will need to get permission to teach it from your Primary President or Bishop.  And she does ask, for her own curiosity, that if you do teach the song, you drop her a line at  and let her know where you are.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Family Is Of God

Here are all four verses and the chorus of the April 2014 song, " The Family is of God."  Because I'm teaching them separately, each verse will be it's own document and I will only include the pictures for the chorus in the first document.

The rhythms can be a little tricky.  If you need to, you can hear the song by clicking the link near the bottom of this page.

If I were teaching this song, I'd teach verses 1 and 4 during April, verse 3 in May to sing for Mother's Day and verse 2 in June to sing for Father's Day.  I think it's important that they learn all four verses, but I wouldn't necessarily want them all sung in the program.  That's purely a performance decision, though, so check with your Presidency first if you choose to do it.

I've seen a lot of discussion about this song on Primary Chorister and Primary Presidency boards.  Some leaders question the appropriateness of the message during a time when many children in our care come from broken or non-traditional homes.  I disagree;  I think that is the perfect reason TO teach this song.  But I understand where the concern comes from.  We don't want kids to feel alienated or judged because of their family situation.  Keep that in mind as you decide how to teach the song.  Here are some ideas you might try.  They are entirely my own opinions.

  • Do consider your audience.  If you teach in a ward or branch where there is likely to be contention over the middle verses of the song, teaching them for Mother's and Father's day may help you avoid arguments.  I don't generally advocate avoiding topics, but if you expect it to become a negative experience for the children, this is one way you can at least get the message to them in a positive way.
  • Do think of the questions your children might have and prayerfully prepare to answer them.  
  • Do stress that we are all on earth to learn and grow.  Just as there are no perfect people, there are no perfect families.  We can all strengthen our families through Christ's Atonement.
  • Do consider involving the children's parents.  If you and your Presidency feel that certain children will be particularly upset by this song, ask their parents for advice on how to speak to them about it.  
  • Do help them to understand that even if they don't come from a home with a loving mother and father, they have the ability to create this for themselves and their own children some day.  Sing verse 2 of "Families Can Be Together Forever."  
  • Do help them understand what they can do right now.  Direct their focus to verse 4.  When children feel powerless to change their circumstances, giving them a task can help.  Ask them for specific examples of things they can do at home this week to strengthen their families.

However, with all of that said, keep the following "don'ts"in mind:

  • Don't create a problem where there isn't one!  If a child asks you a question, you should answer it (either in public or in private).  Otherwise, don't worry too much.    
  • Don't assume that children will feel stigmatized if their family isn't perfect.  Some will and some won't.  Be sensitive to their feelings, but be careful not to single them out unnecessarily.
  • Don't assume that teaching children what is right will teach them to hate people who disagree.  Be tolerant and respectful of other opinions and trust children to do so as well.  It shouldn't occur to children to hate anyone, and explaining that you don't may actually plant the suggestion.
  • Don't skip verses 2 and 3 altogether.  I feel strongly that the General Primary Presidency is aware of the children's struggles and chose this song through inspiration for a specific reason.  When our leaders only want certain verses taught, they specifically say so.  Otherwise, we ought to teach all verses of the monthly songs.
  • And don't dilute the Lord's message with unnecessary explanation.  See Doctrine and Covenants 1:38 "What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself."  Whether or not it is politically correct or popular, the principles taught in this song are true.  We don't need to apologize for them.  

Our Father has a family, it's me!

It's you, all others too:  we are His children!

He sent each one of us to earth, through birth,

To live and learn here in families.

God gave us families to help us become what He wants us to be.

This is how He shares His love, for the fam'ly is of God.

A father's place is to preside, provide

To love and teach the gospel to his children.

A father leads in fam'ly prayer to share

Their love for Father in Heaven.

A mother's purpose is to care, prepare,

To nurture and to strengthen all her children.

She teaches children to obey, to pray,

To love and serve in the fam'ly.
I'll love and serve my family and be

A good example to each fam'ly member.

And when I am a mom or dad, so glad,

I'll help my fam'ly remember.