Teaching a song, reviewing the song towards mastery, and using a song in Primary are all different aspects of leading the music in Primary.
Obviously, in order to use a song in Primary, it first must be taught. But in order to use the song successfully in Primary, it needs to be kept in the children’s memory. The Children’s Songbook itself contains 255 different songs, not to mention all of the additional songs and hymns specifically outlined for use in the yearly Sacrament Meeting Presentations. That is a lot of songs to keep current in the minds of the children. Also, remember that each year new children enter Sunbeams without knowing any of the previous year’s songs. Tragically, many song leaders will teach and use only the few songs outlined in the yearly program plus the 5-10 perennial favorites. That is using less than 20% of the songs from the Children’s Songbook, and additional songs and hymns!
This is why I recommend a Bag of Tricks for the new song leader. Having a variety of incentives, games, and fun with music activities ready at a moment’s notice is an absolute must. These little gimmicks and activities should be available for use at any time without fuss or muss. The ones I recommend can be stored flat in envelopes and kept in a tote bag.
1. Stop and Go Signs – useful for helping children watch the conductor or helper, learn to “hear” the music in their minds, give many children turns to be helpers.
2. Boys Sing/Girls Sing Signs – useful for challenging mastery of the singing, following the conductor or special helper, and paying attention.
3. Hide the Note – useful as a game for reviewing a song towards mastery or just having fun. (Use upbeat songs for best results)
4. Colored Scarves – useful for experimenting with conducting skills, beat patterns, leading loud and soft, high and low, smooth (legato), or just having fun. I recommend having at least six to give turns to helpers. Songs: “Lift Up Your Voice and Sing,” “I Think the World Is Glorious,” “Autumn Day,” “It’s Autumn Time,” “Falling Snow,” “I Often Go Walking,” “Sing Your Way Home,” “My Heavenly Father Loves Me”
5. Egg Shakers – Rhythm is an important part of music. Having some kind of shakers (maracas, or small medicine containers filled partway with rice, or folded and sealed paper plates filled partway with rice) will help the children feel the beat of the music, create rhythmic accompaniment, and just have fun with music. I recommend having at least 10 to allow for five helpers. A calypso rhythm is especially fun. Songs: “We Are Different,” “Children Holding Hands Around the World,” “I Think the World Is Glorious,” “Follow the Prophet,” “Book of Mormon Stories,” “Nephi’s Courage,” “Shine On,” “I Believe in Being Honest,” “Hum Your Favorite Hymn,” “I Want to Be a Missionary Now,” “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission,” “Sing Your Way Home,” and “Choose the Right.”
6. Race to the Finish Game – easy to keep ready and to set up, useful to challenge mastery of songs and concert deportment.
7. Family Blessings Cards Activity – instant feedback on how you as a song leader are doing to keep songs in the children’s memory banks. If they cannot recall a song from the theme card, then you still have some work to do!
8. Animal Match-Up Game - good for any choose and review time.
9. Go Fish – good for any choose and review time.
10. Roll the Dice – Though not as easy to store, the cube with all the ways to sing a song is very useful to keep handy in a pinch.
Most of your time as a music leader in Primary will be reviewing songs and keeping songs fresh in the memory banks of your little charges. It is a good idea to keep a careful record of the songs you use each week, month, and down through the years. You will want to make sure you regularly program in songs from previous Sacrament Meeting Presentations, seasonal and holiday music, hymns, and special songs supporting the themes used in Primary.
Aim to use six different songs in each Music period. Even if you are teaching a new song, DO NOT try to accomplish the task of mastery in a single lesson. Better to introduce the new song a little bit at a time and not kill the interest of the children by talking it to death for one entire period.
In the Visual Aids and Other Ideas tab on the website I give ideas and instructions on how to make these items for your Bag of Tricks.