Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day Singing Time

I don't know about you guys, but I LOVE the 4th of July! Independence Day is by far one of my favorite holidays! And so I wanted the Sunday before the 4th to be as fun and celebratory as possible!

 I found this fun idea at "In The Leafy Treetops the Birds Sing 'Good Morning'" blog! But I decided to take it to another level. (This post also has some other great 4th of July activities as well!)

What's the first thing you think of when you hear Independence Day?

America. Barbeques. Parades.


Obviously, we can't have fireworks in the church building, and taking the kids to have primary in the parking lot sounds like a recipe for disaster, so what do you do?

Fourth of July "Firework" balloons!

Prep Work:

I decorated a foam poster board (I should own stock in these things, I buy so many of them!) with blue stars and red and white striped washi tape. 

Then, because I knew I'd have 8 songs for my primary to review, I placed 8 folded tinsel streamers strategically around the board to represent firework trails.

I placed a slip of rolled up paper with a song title inside each of the 8 balloons. I blew them up, and then used hot glue on the little tail to secure it to the board. Be careful not to burn your fingers! But this secured them really well!

So festive!

I made two posters; one for both senior and junior primary so I wouldn't have to hustle to replace the balloons during junior sharing time. It made the day much less stressful.

Because the object of this game is to pop the balloons to get the slips of paper inside, I had to find a way for the kids to pop them that wasn't dangerous.

Let me introduce you to my super handy dandy singing time poking device!

Using a standard wooden dowel, some hot glue, and a thumb tack, you have a long, easy to handle, and pretty safe apparatus for popping some balloons. I also dolled it up with some blue painters tape and red and white striped washi tape. Now it's a patriotic poking device!

For transport and between classes, I put one of the erasers from a mechanical pencil over the tip of the pin to make it a little more safe.

Now, here's how to play!

Explain that these balloons are really fireworks! They make a loud noise when you set them off!

Invite a child to come up and pop a balloon. I asked the kids who was brave! Almost every hand shot up!

Have them first hand you the poking device, and then have them hunt for the slip of paper and read off the song. We had eight songs to sing, and the kids sang great so that they might have a chance to come pop a balloon! It was super fun to see them attack these balloons like they were mighty hunters. And the shrieks and giggles were awesome, too!

Because I have many more kids than just 8 in my primary, and I like to try and let as many kids, if not all of them, participate each week, I brought along a second activity to accompany our firework balloons!


These kids adore glow sticks. I mean, c'mon, who doesn't? 

Every year, my family puts glow sticks into a potato cannon and we shoot them into the air. It's like a firework we can shoot over and over again. So, to me, glow sticks and the 4th of July go hand in hand!

After popping a balloon, I would invite a whole row of kids to come up and help me lead the song. I handed them each a glow stick and let them lead. I try to have the youngest kids help with songs we might have hand actions with. It's easier for them than trying to remember how to do the correct leading pattern.

My senior primary was quite small, this week. I still had three or four songs left and all the kids had already had a turn. I decided to just invite any of the kids that would like to lead to come up. I expected a few of the younger girls. I was incredibly surprised that mostly it was my 10-11 year old boys! And they are PROS at leading! They could even consistently follow a 4/4 pattern! I was thrilled with their progress!

It was such a fun activity and the kids loved it!

What are your favorite 4th of July activities? Have you tried this one or something similar? I'd love to know in the comments!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Pioneer Footprints

My little primary is going to be singing a couple of songs to help celebrate Pioneer Day the Sunday before the 24th of July! I came up with this little activity to introduce and teach the songs while also helping the kids understand how amazing the pioneers were!

We're going to be singing "To Be A Pioneer" (pg. 218) and "Pioneer Children Sang as They 
Walked" (pg. 214) for our little musical number. 

I made up this little poster with one song on each side. I used words and images. I like to do this for the older kids and teachers who can read, but also for the little junior primary children who aren't able to read yet. It helps them to associate the words with pictures.

(I used the images from the Forty Eighteen blog to teach "To Be A Pioneer." They were just too cute and perfect for teaching the song.) 

I formatted all of my images to be able to fit neatly under a little footprint. (In primary colors, cause I LOVE primary colors!)

I taped each footprint over the parts of the song. I did a little extra work and contact papered the poster and the feet to make them a little more durable. I didn't want the poster to get ripped as the feet got pulled off, and I wanted the feet to last through the next part of the lesson. 

I had a helper come and reveal a line of the song. As we read over it and repeated it, our pianist played the tune. The helper also taped the feet to the floor to make a little footprint path.

After revealing the whole song, we sang through it once before moving on to the next song, "Pioneer Children Sang as the Walked."

We repeated the process with this song. The older kids already knew this song pretty well. I was actually surprised how many didn't know "To Be A Pioneer." I even had a couple teachers and a member of our presidency mention that they'd never heard it! I was shocked!

After we'd reviewed and sung through both songs, I had all of the children stand up and form a line behind me. We then played a little game of follow the leader.

We followed the little path of footprints and even out into the hall as we sang through the songs a couple times each. 

The kids had a lot of fun getting up and out of their chairs. And I loved seeing the smiles of the people we ran into the hallway as we made our little lap from the back primary door to the front primary door.

After I had the children sit down, I asked them if they were tired after walking around. Of course, after only 3 or so laps, they weren't tired at all.

I asked them how many of them had ever walked a mile. A lot of children raised their hands.

How about 5 miles? A few.

How about 10 miles? One or two of my older senior primary kids.

How about 20 miles? None.

I took this opportunity to explain to them just how far the pioneers had to travel. They walked in the rain and snow and heat. They walked over mountains, and crossed rivers. They were often hungry, and tired, or hurt. They lost family members and friends along the way. 

And still they walked. Every singly day. (Except Sunday, of course.)

They walked so that we could be sitting here in this comfortable church building with air conditioning and learn songs. They walked so that we could practice our faith freely. They walked and walked and walked so that we could have all of the blessings that we have in the gospel today.

So while it's fun to ham up the song and groan as you sing "walked AND walked AND walked AND walked AND walked," we should sing it as a tribute to the amazing, strong, faithful saints that were brave enough to be pioneers.

It was quite a fun activity, though it did take up the entire 20 minutes of singing time. We had time to sing a few favorite songs during senior primary because they knew the songs pretty well already. So don't plan this activity if you have a busy day planned!

If you'd like to download all of the images I used for the posters and the footprints, click the link below!

If you try this idea, I'd love to hear how it goes in your ward! Let me know in the comments!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Monthly Plan: July

Maybe it's over kill, but I like to have the plan for the upcoming month done at least two weeks in advance. This give my sweet pianist a chance to go over the songs and feel comfortable with them. It also really helps me be organized. 

I'll be honest, when I first started this calling, I was a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-skirt kind of chorister. Often, it was 8 PM on Saturday evening when I'd start planning for the next day. I'd either wing something that wasn't very entertaining, or I'd end up staying up until 2 in the morning putting the finishing touches on an activity. Cause, while I'm a procrastinator by nature, I also like to do things really well. I'll tell you what, doing things well without preparation is really, really difficult.

Part of my trouble was that I wasn't the only chorister. I had a partner that would take one class, and I'd take the other some weeks. Other weeks, she'd take both, or I would take both. So, planning was really difficult. I loved working with her, but I've decided that this is a calling best suited for one person.

When they released my co-chorister, I made the immediate decision that I would be more prepared and organized now that the duty was completely on my shoulders. I sat down, and in one night, I did a rough outline for the rest of the year! It felt great!

I take a moment to write down an extensive plan for the upcoming month a few weeks in advance.

So without further ado, I'd like to share my lesson plan for July.

I break my lesson plan into several sections:

Goals. This is where I plan the major things I'd like to accomplish with the children and for myself in this calling during the month.


Prepare Pioneer songs for Pioneer Day Sacrament Meeting

Sing I Will Be What I Believe WITHOUT the speaker to help us with timing.

Learn Families Can Be Together Forever
Learn Article of Faith #7
Finish All the “Eddy” Family poster boards.
Make a list of all the songs the kids KNOW.

About my goals: We're going to be singing a couple songs for Pioneer Day.

We're singing the song "I Will Be What I Believe" and we have been really struggling with the timing during the duet portion. We decided to let the junior primary sing the melody chorus, while the senior primary sing the "Bring the World His Truth" chorus. It's such a beautiful song, but we have had some trouble getting it right. Even our amazing pianist is struggling a bit. So we've been practicing with the recorded track of the song to get the timing down. It's helping a LOT. I hope that by July we'll be ready to ditch the track and speaker!

Families Can Be Together Forever is this month's song for the program.

We've been really trying to teach the Articles of Faith this year, so we're learning Article of Faith 7 this month!

I have a fun set of posters I'm working on. Each is a different activity. I call them my Eddy family. I can't wait to show you why. They are almost done, and I'll be posting about them here in a few weeks!

My primary had quite a few choristers in the last couple years. I'm just not sure what songs they really KNOW and which ones they don't. I'm trying really hard to teach them more songs. It would be wonderful to have a huge repertoire of songs they know so that I'm not the only one up there singing during the opening song and reverence songs. The number is growing, but I have a feeling it's quite a small number.

Next on my plan is the month's openers:

Opening Song: Love is Spoken Here (pg. 190)
Welcome Song: Hello Song (pg. 260)
Birthday Song: Your Happy Birthday (pg. 283)
Reverence Song: Reverently, Quietly (pg. 26)

Because we only get 20 minutes for singing time, I'm trying to teach some songs by repetition. We sing the same opening song all month. I try to pick a song that matches the month's theme. This month, the theme is: Families are part of Heavenly Father's Plan.

I do the same for Welcome and Birthday Songs. They know these ones really well, but it means I have less to put in my singing time binder. (In our ward, we only sing welcome songs if there is a new child in our ward, or if we have a visitor. So, we really only ever sing the "Hello Song." After going through them, it's the only one I really feel welcomes visitors to primary.)

Next comes the actual plans!

How fun does that 4th of July themed activity sound! I'm pumped up!

Guys! I love the OCD Chorister's blog! She has so many amazing lessons and activities. And her artwork is wonderful! I use her stuff a lot. You can check out her lesson for Families Can Be Together Forever here!

I always try to have images AND words for my lessons and flip charts. Most of my little junior primary can't read yet.

Bubble-Gum Betty is part of the Eddy family that I mentioned earlier! I'm so, so excited!

I'm super excited about July! Because it's a 5 week month, we get to do an extra
review activity, which are my favorites! I love teaching new songs, but there's
something so rewarding about getting to hear them sing a bunch of songs
they know well!

After I plan everything out, I then fill out my handy dandy planner sheet I
created for myself and for my pianist! It looks a little something like this!

I don't love my handwriting, so I have saved my own Photoshop file that allows me to type it up. But I've saved a blank file that you can download for yourself, if you'd like, at the end of this post. It has just enough space for a simple run down of the songs you'll be doing each Sunday, with a spot for notes at the bottom for important things to remember, like when you're singing in sacrament meeting!

This system has worked really well for us. It also makes it crazy simple for substitutes to follow. I love my little planner sheets.
If you'd like to download your own blank sheet, click below!
How do you plan? Are you an over-planner like I am now? Or do you plan the night before like I used to? Do you have any fancy tools that help you plan? I'd love to hear all about it in the comments!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Reverence Jar

You know those weeks when your sweet primary children are acting like a bunch of chattering monkeys that just won't listen to anything you say, let alone sing? Now that it is summertime, my kids are extra restless. They are having a hard time sitting still when it's so gorgeous outside. I totally get it. That doesn't mean it can't get super frustrating when you're trying to teach a new song.

Before my calling as a primary chorister, I'd never had a primary calling before. I spent a lot of time in Single's Ward. Let's blame it on that. Ha! 

But I did substitute once for a friend's primary class several years ago, and their primary chorister had one of the best ideas I'd ever seen for keeping the kids reverent and also giving them a reason to sing loud and proud!



How to use a reverence jar: Bring a large jar and a bag of something delicious, like mini marshmallows or chocolate chips. Explain to the kids that as they sing really well and are reverent, you will slowly add one of these ingredients to the jar. When the jar is full of marshmallows, for example, you will make rice krispy treats and bring them for everyone in primary! Or chocolate chip cookies. Or any treat you can think of, though bigger ingredients work better.

Oh, but remember to be reverent! If you get too wild, the primary chorister gets to take marshmallows (or whatever ingredient) out of the jar.

I will tell you what. There is nothing, nothing, I've used prior to this that has gotten my sweet primary children to quiet down and focus as reaching into that jar. All the kids instantly remind each other to behave and to be reverent and I don't need to say a word. 

I very rarely actually take any ingredients out of the jar. Usually, reaching my hand into the jar is enough to get them to settle down. I love to ham up adding the ingredients, though! It gets them all super excited! And I give them extra after they sing in Sacrament Meeting because we work so hard before those little performances. 

Depending on the size of the jar, it will take two or three months to fill up the jar, so you won't be making treats every other week. Unless you are very generous with your prizes, or you use a very small jar.

I used one of those GIANT Ball jars for my reverence jar. It's big enough to make a decent sized goal and for the kids to see. And best of all, it's easy to fit my hand inside. 

I printed the label on sticker paper. You could easily use hot glue or mod podge as well. I also added a little bit of cute polka dot washi tape to spice up the jar a little bit.

My primary loves this jar and I love it because it's a simple way to keep them reverent and it really encourages them to sing and sing and sing!

What have you done in your primary to encourage the children to be reverent? I would love to know about your tips and tricks! Also, if you try a reverence jar in your primary, please tell me how it goes!

If you'd like to print the label, click above!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Singing Measles

Today we played one of my favorite games during Singing Time. It's one of the kid's favorite games, too! Bonus!

I'm talking about SINGING MEASLES!

 I get a couple packages of those brightly colored label stickers that are commonly used at yard sales. You can buy these for about $.99 at pretty much every store, which is awesome! Two packages usually does it for both junior and senior primary, and we have a pretty big primary. (Junior primary usually will use just over half a package, and then senior uses the rest. I'll explain why in a minute.)

I like to have full sheets of stickers and then I also cut some up into strips of 5 of one color, or strips of 3 of all three colors depending on how many kids are in primary that day. 

I also use the cute little artwork at the top to give a hint to the kids before we even start singing time. I tape the cut out circle somewhere in the front of the room, sometimes in a tricky place! It gives the kids something to quietly search for with their eyes before we start opening exercises.

There are many ways to play this game, as I've seen across many blogs. The way we play it in our primary is very simple!

Hand out a few sheets of stickers to each of the teachers. Instruct the kids that these are SINGING MEASLES and they are very contagious! And unlike regular measles, you really want to catch these! You catch singing measles by singing extra loud, proud, and with big smiles on your face! 

Then instruct the teachers to watch their students. If they are singing well, give them a sticker! 

The goal is to get as many measles as you can before singing time is over.

Oh, but be warned! The teachers can take away your measles if you aren't being reverent!

As an extra incentive for junior primary, I tell them that when they are done, they each get a strip of stickers to put on their teacher if they have enough measles. 

As the extra incentive for senior primary, I tell them that when they are done, they each get a strip of stickers to put on ME!

 I also promise not to take the measles off until I get home from church. Some weeks I even take a lap around the church so that everyone can stare at the crazy sticker sister. These older kids can get seriously unmotivated during singing time some days. On measles day, they sing their little hearts out! That's why I typically go through more measles in senior primary.

Because I don't let them put the stickers on me until after Sharing Time, we tend to run into older siblings and parents that come and join the fun putting stickers all over Sister Flaniken. It's hilarious fun!

 Notice how none of these sweet senior primary kids have measles? That's because they tend to donate their own measles to the cause: making me look as crazy as possible!

This game is definitely one of the biggest motivators for getting them to sing their hearts out!

What I love about Singing Measles is that I can use this activity for a review activity when we're going over all of our program songs, but it's also great for learning weeks. It helps them stay focused on learning the new songs. There are so many great review games, but sometimes it's harder to find a way to make learning a song fun! This is one of our favorite ways!

Have you tried playing Singing Measles? How did it go? Did you do anything differently? I'd love to know all about your experiences in the comments!

Click above to download the Singing Measles activity hint image!