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

Friday, December 28, 2012


If you haven't already started planning for the 2013 year, it is probably time to get-a-going on it. Below is a pdf of the planner I've made for the 2013 year. The first part is a sample of January partially filled out. I have used this format over the years while I've been the Primary Music Leader and it has served me well. I've tried to make it somewhat generic since everyone may do things a little differently.

I do try and fill in the "opening exercise" part with the songs at least quarterly.  Last year I took the time up front to complete it for the whole year and it was great. Although I may fill it out ahead of time, that doesn't mean I can't take the liberty to change things around if needed or the mood strikes me. For the singing time portion, I do try and fill in some general ideas and thoughts of what I would like to do up front and then make changes if needed and solidify my plans at least a week or two before each month.

Feel free to use it if you like.

UPDATE: I've had many requests for an editable version. I created the file in Excel. If you would like an Excel version, please email me (email address on sidebar) and I will be happy to send you one. Please note, although I've set the file to fit to print, depending on your printer's printable boundaries, you may have to make some slight adjustments to the column widths or row heights so each page fits to a page. 

2013 Primary Music Outline-Nalani

Saturday, December 22, 2012


A fond memory I have from my youth for Christmas is the family gathered around my mom at the piano singing the many beautiful Christmas songs. I have translated that wonderful memory into my Primary version of
Caroling Around the Piano.
I've done this before in my Primary and the kids have loved it, so I plan on doing it again this year after we practice the Christmas song we will be singing next Sunday in Sacrament Meeting.

"Caroling Around the Piano" is pretty easy to do. Just roll the piano to the front of the room, if possible, and have the children gather around it. I prefer the JR to sit around the piano and the SR to stand. If you prefer, you could just have the children stay in their seats. And then we sing. That's basically it. I have used some different methods in determining which songs to sing to add some extra fun. Here are a few ways:
  • Have some ornaments on a little tree to pick from or gift bags/boxes with songs or a nativity set to select and put together on a table.
  • Let each class choose a favorite Primary Christmas song or Hymn. I do this for SR but not JR.
  • This year I am going to have different bells with tags on them with a song and a way to shake the Jingle Bell Jingles found here as we sing for JR. For this activity I don't use the Jingle Bells for SR since they will be using the Christmas songbooks I made.
For SR we use my Christmas songbooks that I made years ago for my family caroling time. You could use Hymnals, but it is quite a chore to round enough of them up. To make these, I made copies of Christmas Primary songs and hymns from the LDS web site found here for Primary songs and here for Hymns, for each book I wanted to make. I have also typed up the words for some secular songs for the back of the book that we sometimes sing with the young kiddies in my family but I do not use/sing them in Primary since I don't feel Sunday church is an appropriate place for singing these type of songs especially since they are not church approved. I also made a cover sheet and divider sheets to separate the Primary songs from the hymns as well as the more secular songs. I've included the file I used for the dividers in case you don't want to make your own. (I can't believe I still had the file.) These books have held up really well over the years and I just gently remind the kids to treat them respectfully so they can last a long time. I have about 30+ of these made since I use them for when my extended family gets together at Christmas, which sometimes can be quite the crowd, so there are plenty to go around the Primary. 

For this year, I want to close singing time with the lights off and use a lamp for some ambient lighting while we sing "Silent Night". As an extra special treat, my pianist will bring her guitar to play. She is such a great pianist and she tinkers with the guitar and is willing to strum a few chords for us while we sing. I'm hoping that will set a reverent mood so I can leave them my testimony of the wonderful gift our Heavenly Father gave us when he sent Jesus Christ to be our Savor.

Ahhh! What would Christmas be without Christmas Caroling! 
I wish you all a wonderful Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012


What child
doesn't like to take part in the
Nativity Story??????

If you are looking for something to do for the Sunday before or after Christmas, try doing a
Nativity Sing-a-Story.
Last year I did a Nativity Sing-a-Story and the children loved it and what a wonderful and spiritual feeling of the Savior's birth that was felt by all. The script is compiled from Sharing Time ideas in the 1984 & 1985 December issues of the Friend magazine and from Luke 2 and Matthew 2 in the Bible.

I had the whole singing and sharing time last year, so this is great to use as a combined Singing and Sharing Time or you can shorten it for just a Singing Time. It is pretty easy to do. There are a few things you will need to prepare for ahead of time, but acting out and narrating the script is pretty much on the fly. 

Here are a few heads up things to prepare for (all speaking parts can be assigned that day):

  • You will be narrator #1 and you will need a narrator #2, preferably an adult male. Assign ahead of time or ask a male teacher in the Primary that day. You will both need a copy of the script.
  • You may want to make a couple of extra copies of the script for your helpers that will help with the children.
  • For JR, the narrators will speak the parts as denoted but for SR, have the children read their parts. Just cut out the speaking parts to give to each child.
  • Simple costumes that can be easily worn over the children's clothes. Before Primary starts as the children are coming into the room, have your presidency helpers or other helpers start helping to select and dress the children in the hallway or in the back of the room. This will save time. The children can just sit in seats on the front row until it is time.
  • Have the costumes labeled and lined up along the wall or on chairs or in separate bags.  It helps to make it quicker and easier to find the right costume and dress the child.
  • Props (Most props on the list are self-explanatory. The star I used is a big lighted treetop star that I mounted on a tall stick and plugged it in and handed to the angel to hold when the angel stood behind Mary and Joseph.) You could make a big glittery star out of poster board or cardboard and mount to a tall stick.
  • If your Primary does not know some of the songs suggested in the script, just select appropriate songs your Primary knows.
  • At the end, you may want to turn off the lights to sing the last song(s). Just make sure you have a light source for your pianist and one for the room if your room gets too dark.
  • The script is written how I presented it. Feel free to revise for the needs of your Primary.
More detailed instructions for these are in the script. The script may look daunting, but it really isn't. I just tried to be pretty detailed so it would be easy to follow and flow for everyone, which it actually was. It is really in the prep and organization that helps to keep things flowing smoothly or as smoothly as you can in Primary while doing a skit on the fly.

You could do the Nativity Story every year and the children would never tire of it. They just love being a part of the story about our Savior's birth and it is amazing how reverent they can be and the spirit that can be felt as they experience such a special event.

The Nativity Story Sing a Story

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


"Samuel Tells of the Baby Jesus" is a story song that is fairly easy for the children to pick up on. I also love the upbeat tempo change from the verse to the chorus that helps demonstrate the joyous announcement of the Lord's birth. Definitely point that out as you are teaching by asking the children what they notice about how the song changes and how does it help express the message in the song.
This is a fun one to have a child dress in a simple costume as Samuel and help demonstrate what happens in the song. 

Here is how I presented the song last year. Depending on how quickly your children pick up on the song, you can teach in once session or split it up into two weeks. 
  1. Show the picture of Samuel the Lamanite on the wall or have a child dressed up to portray Samuel stand on a chair while you take a minute to quickly give the story from Helaman 13+ of why Samuel was there on the wall and what happened. Here are some talk points you might share.
    1. Samuel the Lamanite was a prophet and the Lord told him to go to a place called Zarahemla and teach the Nephites and tell them to repent.
    2. At this time the Nephites were more wicked than the Lamanites. They were so wicked that they would sometimes make fun of the prophets and kill them.
    3. When Samuel began to preach to the Nephites, they didn't like it and kicked him out of their city. Samuel started to go home.
    4. The Lord told him to go back and to tell the Nephites the things the Lord put into Samuel's heart to say.
    5. So Samuel went back but the Nephites wouldn't let him back into their city, so he climbed on top of the city wall and preached to the Nephites to repent.
    6. The Nephites were so mad at him and didn't like what Samuel was telling them, so they threw rocks at him and even shot arrows at him. But the Lord protected Samuel and none of the rocks or arrows hit him.
    7. Samuel also told the Nephites something that was very important. 
  2. Have the children listen to the song to find out what else Samuel told them. Sing or play the MP3 of the first verse and receive answers. Depending on their answers, you may need to sing again and ask specific directed listening questions for them to discover the answers. Here are some possible directed listening questions you can ask for the first verse.
    1. Who would be born? [Jesus]
    2. When did Samuel say Jesus would be born? [In 5 years] 
    3. What is the sign he prophesied would happen? [A night would be as day]
    4. Where would Jesus be born? [In a land far, far away]
  3. Have them sing each phrase with you 1-2 times as you go through the questions.
  4. Sing or play the first verse and chorus this time and have the children listen to how the music changes and ask them how the first part is different from the second part of the song. [Possible answers: chorus is faster, sounds happier, etc.]
  5. Sing the chorus for them and ask them to listen for a special word that helps to express a praise of joy and how many times it is sung? [2 times]
  6. Have the children pitch lead the chorus with you as you all sing to see how the song goes up and down. Do this a few times.
    1. Ask them where in the chorus does the song go up the hill [How blessed that our Lord] and then down the hill with just a little bump [was born; Let earth receive her King].
    2. What word do we sing at the top of the hill? [Lord]
  7. Continue teaching the second verse using directed listening questions. Here are some possible ones you can use:
    1. Where across the sea did Jesus come to earth? [In Bethlehem]
    2. In the first verse of the song Samuel tells the Nephites that in 5 years Jesus would be born. He told about something that would happen in the future. There is a big word in this part of the song that means to tell about something before it happens. Listen for the word. [Prophesied]
    3. Who sang at Jesus' birth? [Angels]
  8. To review, you could ask the children to tell you the story they learned from this song.
Here are some ASL and actions for the song you can use to help when reviewing the song. Use as little or as many as you feel is comfortable for your Primary. 

Below is a flip chart for the song. The last page is a picture of Samuel on the wall if you need a picture to show.

Samuel Tells of Baby Jesus-FC-Nalani

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

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


When I got my Friend magazine in December of 2010 and saw the song "Our Christmas Story Tree" I knew I wanted to teach this song the following year and I knew how I wanted to do it. Well, 2011 came and went and there just wasn't any time to fit this song in among the others we were learning. So now, its 2012 and I was determined to make it happen this time—but it almost didn't happen...again...

...I started working on it weeks ago whenever I had a chance (with my busy work schedule I just have to work on things in bits and pieces here and there when I can find time) and had most of it prepared but this past week was sooooooo crazy, and the time I thought I would have Saturday afternoon to finish up between my morning appointments and my husband's company party I didn't get. Alas, other emergencies came up in the afternoon and I just barely made it back in time for my husband's work party and then we didn't get home until after 11:30 p.m. and I still had other things to do first.  WHEW! When I got those other things done it was after 1:00 a.m. and I was all tuckered out, so I decided to just go to bed with the thought that I would just pull out some old bell charts and take my bells to Primary instead and somehow figure out a time to squeeze this song in later in the month. I was a bit disappointed when I woke up Sunday morning because I wouldn't be doing the song I had planned and worked on and had been so excited to do. It didn't help that I wasn't feeling it with my back-up plan either. My husband told me I should just go ahead and do it. (He admitted to me later that he was a little excited to learn it after hearing me singing it for the past few weeks while I was learning the song.) He was such a sweetheart and helped be my errand boy and gathered things up for me while I finished up on some other things and frantically got ready for church. Not an easy task to do when you have the 9:00 a.m. block. But, I'm so glad I listened to him. Shhhh! Don't let him know that. He thinks I never listen to him. ;-)

The kids ended up loving the song and through directed listening to discover what ornaments were in the box for the Christmas Story Tree in the song and what they represented, the kids ended up learning a lot. You know, you don't have to have formal discussions that eats up your singing time to explain the gospel messages in songs. I find directed listening questions help them to focus on those messages in the song while they listen to you as well as listening to themselves sing to discover the answers in the song while they are also getting
that repetition in that is so needed for them to learn the song.
Sorry for putting you through my long sob story.  Okay, now down to business.

Our finished Christmas Story Tree
The presentation of the song is pretty simple since it really lends itself to the song. I used an old wooden Christmas tree I bought a zillion years ago on clearance at a craft store, painted it, stuck Christmas lights on it and screwed small cup hooks in it the first Christmas I was the Primary Music Leader and have used it every year since for various singing activities. You could use a small Christmas tree if you have one. It is nice if you can have something dimensional to hang actual ornaments on. I find real objects are more fun and interesting to the kids. But if you don't have a tree of sorts, you could cut a tree out of poster board or even just draw one on the chalkboard with colored chalk. You'll need ornaments to represent the different parts of the song. You probably have most if not all in your own box of ornaments. Of course, you would probably have to use paper ornaments if you are using a tree poster or the chalkboard unless you have some strong magnets that you can hang actual ornaments on. (Really strong magnets are one of my top favorite things to have as a Primary Music Leader.) You'll also need a box to put all the ornaments in.

So, as mentioned, you'll need:
  • Christmas Tree
  • Ornaments for the song (list is below)
  • Box for putting the ornaments in
  • Pointer(s) of some sort (I'll explain later)
  • Flip Chart-optional (file link included below)
  • There is also a file of just the pictures if you don't want to use the flip chart as well as smaller, ornament sized pictures if you want to do a paper or chalkboard Christmas tree. Those are on the last three pages.
"It's time to peek inside our box of ornaments to see..."
(The red box would actually be closed with the heart ornament
inside for the presentation—I just opened it here for the picture.)

I brought out the Christmas tree and explained to the children that this Christmas tree was our Christmas story tree and the ornaments I had in this box (showing the closed box) would help tell a Christmas story. I asked them to listen as I sang the first verse for which ornaments to be placed on our Christmas Story Tree and also what the ornaments represented. After singing the first verse, I let the children give me their answers. I let the ones who answered correctly come up and find the ornament in the box and place it on the tree. I would quickly sing that part of the song as they put up the ornament (a cappella.) This gave another plug for them to hear a specific part of the song while also helping them to remember what the ornament was for because of course, I also wanted them to listen so they could also discover what the ornament meant.  Of course, they didn't remember all of the ornaments the first time through, so I sung the verse again and received their answers until we got them all on the tree for that verse.  

Then I had them sing the verse with me (JR I did a phrase at a time) as I used my finger pointer to point to the ornaments as we sang about them. For example, I would point to the box for "It's time to peek inside our box of ornaments to see" then I would point to the red ornament for "which ones we'll choose to decorate our Christmas story tree." Then I pointed to the candy cane for "Let's hang a cane of peppermint upon the nearest bough" then to the lamb for "to tell of shepherds watching lambs..." You get the picture. I repeated this process for each verse.

After we got all the ornaments up on our Christmas story tree, I had children come up and use my finger pointers to point to each ornament as we sang the song through. Oh yeah, I did post each verse of the flip chart on the board when they got all the ornaments for that verse on the tree. I usually post on the board the part of the flip chart we are working on and adding as we go. I find that helps the teachers participate more and I have some kids that learn better with words, especially the kids learning to read—they love trying to practice their reading skills on the flip charts, while others use the pictures to help them learn. I repeated the process with each verse. 

My original plan was to just work on only one or maybe even two verses because I don't like to spend the whole time on one song since kids can get burned out on singing a song too many times—gotta keep the variety going—but the kids were really enjoying it so I went with the flow, threw aside the other songs I had planned and we spent the whole singing time learning the whole song and singing and pointing over and over and over again, and they enjoyed it. 

Here are the ornaments I used in the order they are sung in the song:
  1. Box for holding the ornaments: "It's time to peek inside our box of ornaments to see" 
  2. Ball Ornament: "Which ones we'll choose to decorate our Christmas story tree" 
  3. Candy Cane: "Let's hang a cane of peppermint upon the nearest bough"
  4. Picture of a Lamb (I couldn't find my toy lamb figure): "To tell of shepherds watching lambs, as Jesus watches now."
  5. Angel Ornament: "The angel on the highest branch sill sings the joyful song"
  6. Dove Ornament: "Of peace on earth, good will to men of pardon for our wrongs."
  7. Silver Star Ornament: "We'll set a star of silver here among the twinkling lights,"
  8. Nativity Ornament: "Like one that shone on Bethlehem that sacred, starry night."
  9. Red Box: "And there beneath the tree we'll place a package wrapped in red"
  10. Red Heart Ornament (I had this inside the red box for the children to open and pull out): "Reminding of our Lord's great gifts—His love, the blood he shed."
  11. Christmas Tree Ornament: "Our Christmas tree is ever green; its needles never fall."
  12. Baby Jesus Ornament: "Our Savior dear was born to bring eternal life to all."
  13. Framed Picture of Jesus: "Our Savior dear was born to bring eternal life to all."
UPDATE! Sometimes posting late at night can be dangerous because my mind isn't always at its peak and I forget some things. Like I forgot to update the flip chart PDF file when I made some changes to the original file, so I ended up posting an earlier PDF version. I really struggled on choosing some pictures because I couldn't make up my mind on how I wanted to represent some of the phrases and then I decided for one of the phrases I could use both pictures, which I did for "Reminding of our Lord's great gifts—His love, the blood He shed." I also picked a couple of pictures for the last phrase "Our Savior dear was born to bring eternal life to all." I've updated the flip chart file on Scribd to include them all so you can pick which ones you would like to use. The last three pages after the blank page are the additional choices. Oh, I think I had also changed the angel picture.

I also forgot to add the links to the song and sheet music. So here you go. 

"Our Christmas Story Tree"

Just scroll down and select the song, right click on the download icon and select the pdf for the sheet music, vocals and music or just the music. 

I'm beginning to think that since I haven't had time to put up any Christmas decorations yet, maybe I should just put this tree up in my living room. After all, it is already beautifully decorated by such loving and cute hands. :-D

Our Christmas Story Tree-FC-Nalani

Our Christmas Story Tree-Pics Only-Nalani

Sunday, December 2, 2012


It's that time of year to pull out those bells or chimes
and what better way to start off with jingle-belling than with the song 
"Christmas Bells" 

This is such an easy yet beautiful song for the children to learn. Split your group in half and have one half sing the first half of the song—the question part—and the other half sings the second part of the song—the answer part.  If you have a large Primary, split your group and the song into four parts. After the groups have learned their part, switch.  After you've learned the song and would like to challenge your older kids, teach them the pretty descant.

Of course, let us not forget this is a song about have fun singing the song along with your bells or chimes. If you are new and unfamiliar with what I'm talking about, check out this earlier post for an explanation. You can also check out this post for the color key for the Kids Play brand bell set or if you are planning on making your own chime set. If you don't have bells or chimes, use the jingle bells mentioned here in the previous post.

I've attached a flip chart if you want to use as well as a bell chart—actually 2 bell charts. One is made to be printed on 11" x 17" paper. If your printer can't print that large, you could take the file to a copy center and they can print it out for you. I would suggest to print on card stock to make it more durable, but paper is fine too. There will be six sheets, so just butt up side-by-side the two pages that go together and tape on the back. Butting them up instead of overlapping allows you to fold them at the seam. You should end up with three strips.  If you don't want to go to a copy center, I also made a one-sheet pdf version that you can print out into a poster format to the size you want for your Primary.  To do a poster format, you can check out the first link I included in the previous paragraph or click on the "How To Helps" on the tab bar above.  My bell charts are color-coded for the Kids Play bell set. 

Do you remember when you would do a sing-along or karaoke and you would see the dancing dot go across the screen showing you which word to sing next? Well, whenever I use a bell chart, I use my dancing dot stick to help point to each note for the JR kids so they know when to play. Sometimes I have to for the SR as well. I just made my dancing dot with a stick (actually it is a clear, old mini blind stick that I had laying around that was used to open and close the slates on the blind) and glued a big, red plastic, blingy craft jewel on it.   

Now go ring those bells to bring in the Christmas season!

Christmas Bells FC-Nalani

Christmas Bells Bell Chart 8.5x11-Nalani

Christmas Bells Bell Chart 11x17-Nalani