New and refurbished ideas for LDS Primary Music Leaders (a.k.a. Primary Choristers)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Here's a flip chart (end of post) and ideas for the simple, yet sweet
"The Shepherd's Carol"
If you haven't heard the music only version of the song, you really must listen to it. It is actually the same as the vocals, but you can hear the instruments better without the singing. I just love hearing all the different instruments played in the song and how the instruments each come in through the song and then drop off as if they were the voices in the song each "singing" their part of the round.

When I taught my Primary this song last year, I introduced the song by letting the children listen to the MP3 music version. I wanted them to listen to the instruments and how they were played throughout the song. I challenged them as they listened to see if they could figure out which instruments they thought were being played. I had pictures of the different instruments to show them as they guessed since some of the children probably didn't know what some of the instruments were. Another thing I had them listen for was the one instrument that was played throughout the whole song [bells/xylophone]. This was a great listening experience to not only give them the opportunity to become familiar with the melody of the music, but to try and discern the different parts and instruments. They had to keep focused on the music to do this—and they did.

I'm not sure on all the instruments that were played, so if you can figure them all out, please comment on which ones you think they are. The ones I know for sure are the xylophone type bells, flute & oboe. I think there is a clarinet & sax. Let me know what you think. 

After that melody and instrumental listening experience, I gave them a directed listening question as I sang the first verse to them. I asked them to listen for three names I would sing and how many times I sang the names: Mary=2, Joseph=2, Jesus=1. The next time through I had them listen for a couple of other titles we used for Jesus. [King and Savior]

After this, I did different things for the JR & SR groups.

For JR I had two children come up to represent Mary and Joseph and put on some simple & quick costumes, e.g. Mary with a head scarf and baby and Joseph with a head scarf and staff. I then had the children sing with me doing the following mix of actions and ASL signs. Use less actions/signs if there are too many for your children to do comfortably, for example, don't do "This is" part in the chorus.

Mary, Mary
the child
—Point to Mary 2x
—Put one finger on the lips to “SHHH”
ASL for BABY (I like doing baby instead of child—it makes more sense to the kids.)
Joseph, Joseph
look, see
how mild.
—Point to Joseph 2x
ASL for GENTLE or ASL for BABY (Can do baby again to keep it simple.)
This is
this is
our King
ASL for THIS Pointing to the baby Jesus.
ASL for THIS Pointing to the baby Jesus.
ASL for KING or could make a crown with your hands on top of your head
This is our
his praises
we sing
ASL for THIS Pointing to the baby Jesus.
ASL for PRAISE (I just do the clapping part.)
All God’s children
come to adore
ASL for ADORE (same as love)
Bringing gifts
of love evermore

For SR, after singing it a few times through, I split the group in half and had one group go to one side of the room and the other group to the other side of the room. I find separating the groups in different areas of the room helps them learn the round a little easier since they aren't right next to each other getting mixed up by hearing the other parts so strongly. We practiced a 2-part round first. After we did that a few times, I split each group in half so I would now have 4 groups in separate corners of the room to practice the round. It is always challenging at first when doing a round, but as you do it more and more, they start learning how to concentrate on their parts and they do get better. Sometimes they can sound like a jumbled mess, but other times, they can sound pretty darn beautiful. It does take a little time to teach rounds if the kids have never done it, so don't give up so easily. Heck, I sometimes have a hard time keeping on my part when I start listening to the others sing their part. When they are first learning a round, I will continue to sing the beginning part to help start each group.

Don't forget to let them sing along with the instrumental music too. They'll enjoy their own musical band to sing to.

Hope that gives you some ideas or gets some sparks going in your own creativity.

P.S. I did an update to my last post "Our Christmas Story Tree". I made an UPDATE comment at the end of the post about changes to my flip chart if you want to see what I added.

The Shepherds Carol-FC


  1. love the music only mp3 of that song! there is def a xylophone, flute, clarinet, and some brass instrument. (sax, most likely)

  2. Thank you for your great outline! Just wanted to let you know that the other instrument at the beginning with the oboe is called a bassoon. It is playing the notes from the bass clef throughout the song. I don't think there is sax in there at all. Hope that helps!

  3. Thank you so much for all of your ideas! I am the chorister in my ward in Oregon and your blog has helped me so much! So thank you, thank you!!

  4. What program do you use to make your flip charts? Thanks for all the great ideas!

    1. I use Powerpoint now for most of them. I have used some other programs, but I've liked Powerpoint for flip charts.

  5. Thanks for your blog, and for this particular idea that I'll be using this week. I've been trying to teach the them to sing rounds, and this is one of my favorite Christmas songs, so we'll see how it goes. I believe when the instruments come in one at a time, the xylophone is playing throughout, and the other instruments that come in one at a time are flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon, in that order.