So…I have a new calling. And I like it. It is primary chorister.
I’ve been primary chorister four times. But it is such a fun calling. I hesitate to say that it is easy for me, but really – it kind of is. I know what I’m doing. I know that there are challenges (sometimes I think that parents must be giving their kids candy for breakfast!). There are also many perks (singing! having fun!). So, this calling doesn’t really hold much mystique for me. I always try to work my hardest, and that has led me to writing an arrangement.
So…I made this little arrangement for Stand for the Right. It includes a little introduction and a simple descant. I haven’t started singing it with my primary, but I really think that a senior primary could easily learn this. So check it out.
In the Church, not only are we asked to serve in callings, but the Lord also expects us to magnify them.
I don’t really think that this is a hard thing to want to do. I love my Heavenly Father. I’m always happy to serve Him in various ways. However, sometimes it is hard to know how to magnify our callings. I’ve found that we can effectively magnify our callings when we are keeping a journal.
Here’s a quick background to how journaling came about for me…
A little while ago, I was serving in a Young Women’s Presidency. I loved the calling, I loved the young women, and I felt like I always magnified my calling. Our Bishop gave us a charge to be sure that we were always inviting the Spirit into every activity. I knew that he was right, but I also knew that I was working with 14 and 15 year old young women. I remember being that age. I was a little…fun! I was a vibrant young woman. Maybe some would say I was a little talkative. After a day of early morning seminary and school, I would come to Young Women’s ready to see my friends and be active. I wanted to chat, play, and be a 15-year-old-girl. I loved the gospel, and never minded doing spiritual things, but often, during the mid-week activity, I didn’t want to sit around and listen to a talk. I couldn’t help it. I was just not able to sit still after a long day.
When the Bishop gave us the charge to make our meetings more spiritual, I couldn’t help but think of the challenge I faced. It wouldn’t be as simple as he suggested. I knew how I would have acted as a youth, and I knew that I needed to fulfill his charge in a way that was still engaging and fun.
Sometimes, it was hard to defend my choice of activity, and I didn’t want to get in trouble. We had one activity – in particular – that the girls loved, but I knew didn’t fit into the advice I had just received: We made tie-dye tee shirts.
The activity was crazy. It was colorful. We had fun, talked, and made cute clothes. We had an opening song and prayer, but that was it as far as a Spiritual experience was concerned. I went home that evening, worried that I hadn’t magnified my calling.
That’s when I got the idea to start a journal – I found a notebook and dedicated it to recording and evaluating each activity (and later lesson).
It was nothing fancy – just some $.20 journal from my local box store. I proceeded to write in the journal, and evaluate the tie-dye activity. Something miraculous happened – the spirit confirmed to me that what we did was a good activity: I didn’t need to worry. I also learned the lesson of the activity. I had the tie-dye shirts – the girls hadn’t seen them yet, and wouldn’t get them until Sunday. Because I unwrapped them and washed them, I was able to see how amazing the shirts turned out. It was an act of faith on Wednesday night – to make the shirt, hoping it would be cute.
On Sunday, when I gave the shirts to the young women, I also gave a quick Spiritual thought – reminding them of how they hadn’t tie-dyed shirts, yet they trusted me because I had. Because they had listened and trusted, they were now the owners of really great tie-dye shirts! Our activity indeed had spiritual application!
The point of this post isn’t to talk about the tie-dye shirts (even though I’ve spent a lot of time talking about them), but is to explain journaling in regards to callings. As I started using this journal to record my experiences with activities, I became more aware of the needs of the youth I was serving. I was able to be more forward thinking, too. I was filled with confidence to know that many of the things that I was doing was good, even if we didn’t always get feedback. Keeping the journal was my way of being accountable to myself (and the Lord) on how I was magnifying my calling. I began to use this journal – not only for activities, but also lessons and other meetings associated with my calling at that time.
So – here’s how you do it!
Making a “Callings” Journal One: Get a notebook. Anything will do. Make sure you set it aside, specifically for your calling. Two: On the top of the page, write the date and the title of the activity, lesson, or whatever you are reporting and evaluating.
Three: First, describe the activity. The more details, the better. If you write it out, you will have this as a reference in the future – if you decide to do the activity again (which could easily happen). This step also helps in future planning, as you’re better able to recall details that sometimes are overlooked but have a big impact. Four: Write the evaluation of the activity. Was the purpose of the activity achieved? Did it run well? Was it organized? How could it improve? What went well? Make sure that you not only take time to notice where you need to improve, but what worked. When you take time to really think about the positive points of your activity (lesson, talk, whatever), then you will feel the happiness and accomplishment that comes from serving the Lord as well as you can.
Even though this example is for a youth calling, I have also started a journal for my current calling of Primary Chorister. Having a Journal to help me review and evaluate my calling is kind of like “returning and reporting.” I’m able to really think about what happened, and hold myself accountable for the kind of offering I gave to the Lord and to those whom I have been called to serve.
Do you keep track of your activities/lessons/meetings in a journal? What do you include? If you decide to try this out, let me know how it goes!
This is a blog post to one of my best friends who was just called to be a primary chorister.
Don't you think she's perfect?!
This is her first time with the calling, but I’ve had a little bit of experience with this calling. She called me for some tips, and I was super excited for her. I inundated her with information, and I know that she was probably thinking…okaaaayyyyyy.) So – “Thing One” – here are the tips (in no particular order), I hope that you have fun with the calling. I know that you’ll be great…
You are more of a performer than a musician.
Kids love to be entertained. They love to have fun, move around, and play. To do well as a primary chorister, remember that you need to be able to perform. The best visual aid you have will be YOU! I know that you can be animated, and – especially when it comes to the junior primary – going over the top is not possible. I mean, these kids, for the most part, are obsessed with things like Yo-Gabba-Gabba and the Wiggles…So – go all out. Use big hand gestures. Open your eyes wide. Be expressive. Act like you were one of the kids that were in musical back in high school… 😉
Now…all of that being said, once the older kids get in, you have to watch it. Don’t treat them like babies. Be funny. Be expressive. But don’t be like Yo-Gabba-Gabba. You can’t be boring, but you can’t be lame. And the ten-year-old boys can sniff out lame, so you have to be careful with this. I find that self-depricating humor works really well with the older kids. Don’t be afraid to make a little bit of a fool out of yourself. Get them to laugh. Get them to relax, and then they’ll sing.
Don’t be afraid to use actual music
Even though I just said that you are more of a performer than a musician doesn’t mean that you should not teach them music. Kids love music, and if you make it fun and age-appropriate, they will be eager to learn actual elements of music.
Consider bringing in instruments if you have them – like chimes, recorders, whatever. Encourage the kids to bring in instruments and maybe they could learn to play a primary song and perform it for the primary. This especially works better for senior primary. Most of them are probably taking musical lessons. Let them participate in a practical way.
When teaching music, there’s no need to say “sing soft or loud.” Go for the music! Refer to “piano, forte, staccato, legato, rest, crescendo, etc”. Encourage the children to be more comfortable with music. The most important thing is to keep your expectations realistic. They are kids. They won’t sit there like a choir. But you can teach them musical elements. Even the younger children will easily remember staccato and legato after just a few times of teaching them. And the coolest part they will like it!
Repetition is one of the best ways for the kids to learn music…But do what you can to keep it from being boring. Use these printable signs to encourage the kids to sing in different ways (opera singer, monster, baby, etc). I have used these every time I’ve served as a chorister. All of the kids love it. Senior primary, junior primary – they are all obsessed with singing like little lunatics. And, it is so much fun! Of course, when you use these signs, you need to be a good example: of whatever sign comes up. So don’t be afraid to look goofy. You will look goofy. But the best choristers are the goofiest.
Behavior is best controlled by keeping the kids active and engaged
It is simple. Boredom = naughty behavior. There are many ways to keep the kids engaged. Play games. Teach the gospel. Sing. But if they feel bored, then you will begin to wage a battle that is almost impossible to win.
Get a mullet wig, or something ridiculous to wear on your head
This is a special “singing hat”. The class who sings the best wins the chance for their teacher to wear the wig. This game is a big winner in both junior and senior primary. The kids love to see the adults act goofy.
Consider kids vs. adults (rather than boys/girls)
When playing games, I’ve found that it helps to unite the kids. One way to do this is to have the teams be kids vs. adults. This is especially helpful in the senior primary. You’ll be amazed to see how good the kids are at the songs and how horrible the adults are!
Have Children write original lyrics to a song; perform in sacrament meeting
I did this with the senior primary. You’ll find that the senior primary learns songs very quickly and bores easier than the junior primary. So, take advantage of this time to let them do something original.
One time, I found a simple song (two lines) and had the children write their own song.
Give them some kind of topic or direction and divide them into groups (according to class). Have each group write a verse. Then, practice the song that you’ve written.
There may not be much “singing” in this activity, but the kids will learn. They will learn to think about the gospel, they will learn how to express an idea of the gospel. They will then learn the song, and they will sing it.
When I did this, a mother told me, “The strangest thing happened today in church, my son told me that his favorite part had been singing time – because they were making up their own song.” (Her son was a nine-year old boy. She wasn’t expecting that!) All of the children, were excited about the song – they felt proud of it. They had ownership and were allowed the chance to be creative. It was awesome for all of us.
Teach a song in sign language
Check it out – you can learn the songs in American Sign Language here. Again, this is something all of the kids loved doing.
Use the scriptures
You are a gospel teacher. Think about it – What do you remember from when you were in primary? Do you remember the lessons? No! Do you remember sharing time? No! Do you remember the songs? Yes! Each song is a sermon.
A way to keep the older primary engaged in the song – is to teach them the doctrines of the gospel. You can find scriptures relating to each song. Think of incorporating these scriptures into your lessons and games. Get kids thinking about the gospel. Help them to learn the meaning of the song
Utilize descants, etc. in songs – especially with older kids
They love the challenge. If you need a descant, email me, and I can make a simple arrangement for you. These slightly more complicated musical arrangements help to keep the kids from getting bored. Plus they are doing something they can be proud of. And it sounds nice. Everyone wins.
Help teach children to direct music – time/etc.
Remember your audience
Most of these children have been sitting in church for at least an hour. Be honest with yourself, how reverent are you when you just spent an hour sitting in sacrament? Instead of trying to force them to be reverent, remember that “reverence is more than just quietly sitting…” be flexible. People and Children love music. Use this natural love to your advantage.
Make the boys forget you’re their enemy…
As much as children love music, most choristers are the bane of every 9-12 year-old-boy’s existence. Try to cut out the cutesy stuff for them. They respond better to someone who is challenging them. Involve them. It is likely that they are learning an instrument. Think of a way to involve them in the music, rather than trying to reign them in.
Be happy and fun, yet firm
If you let the kids get out of control, then they will be out of control. But there isn’t usually a need to get heavy on discipline if you are properly prepared. That being said, the kids will try you. Stick with simple yet effective disciplinary actions. Eye contact. Silence. Waiting. Rewarding good behavior. Reward the entire group for good behavior, and often kids that try to act up will have positive peer pressure – enticing them to be good.
Communicate with the primary presidency and utilize teachers
This is not break-time for the presidency or other adults. You need their help. The children need their example. Many times they are willing to participate, so encourage them to do so. Their participation is a good example to the rest of the primary children.
Bear your testimony
You are more than a music teacher. You are a gospel teacher. Bear your testimony of the principles taught in the songs you sing. Your testimony will reinforce the music and the message of the gospel.
Love the children
If you love the children, and if you go to the Lord, He will guide you on how best to teach them. Everything else I’ve mentioned on this list is secondary to the love you have for the children.
I hope that this has helped!
If anyone else has good ideas, please comment! The more, the merrier.
One of the most effective ways to get children to learn the lyrics of a song is through repetition. Of course, this can be booooooooooring! I’ve found a good way to get children to have fun singing a song over and over is by singing it in different ways.
Here are some pictures that will guide the children in song. Simply clicking the picture, save to your computer, and print. You could print them on a piece of cardstock. Or you could get them printed like a 5″x7″ photograph.
After printing, paste the signs to a piece of sturdy cardstock. Then tape a popsicle stick to the back (so you can hold up the sign). Each picture instructs the children to sing a different way.
A few notes:
1. Encourage the children to learn the correct musical terminology by teaching that Forte = Loud and Piano = Soft. You will only need to remind them for a week or two. Many of the children will already be familiar with these terms.
2. Children loooove the staccato and legato signs – once they learn what they are. Legato = smooth, flowing. Staccato = short and choppy.
3. The rest of the signs are self explanatory – The children sing like the given character. (When they are to sing like Scooby-Doo, they begin each word with an “R” sound. eg: Ri Relong ro re rurch rof Resus Rhist…” This one isn’t really that great for learning words, but the children really love it.)
I hope you have fun with these signs!
*Each sign is an original image drawn by me. I don’t mind copying and using for non-commercial use. They are great for church and equally good for FHE.