Choose the Right: Paper Plates Activity

Older Children

Tell the children, “Here’s the pattern.”  Show the pattern listed below.  The children do not have plates at this point.

Demonstrate for the children.

Swish, swish, swish (plates in front of you), pause for one beat.

Tap the plates together 4x as you arc over your head like a rainbow from one side to the other.

Do the pattern with the children as you sing.

Ask the children to follow your pattern, pretending they have paper plates.

Begin to sing and do the pattern with the paper plates.

Choose the right  (swish, swish, swish, rest)

When a choice is placed before you (tap 4x to the beat as the plates make a rainbow arc over your head.)

In the right  (swish, swish, swish, rest)

The Holy Spirit guides. (tap 4x to the beat as the plates make a rainbow arc over your head.)

And its light   (swish, swish, swish, rest)

Is forever shining o’er you  (tap 4x to the beat as the plates make a rainbow arc over your head.)

When in the right  (swish, swish, swish, rest)

Your heart confides.  (tap 4x to the beat as the plates make a rainbow arc over your head.)


Call out, “Freeze!”

Tell the children the next part of this pattern is different. (It will be on the chorus only.)

Do the pattern with the children as you sing.

Choose the Right! (flip flop the plates, one palm on the other, then switch, then switch again, 3x total)

Choose the Right! (Swish the plates in front of you 3x)

Let wisdom mark the  (flip flop the plates, one palm on the other, then switch, then switch again, 3x total)

Way before.  (Swish the plates in front of you 3x)

In its light  (flip flop the plates, one palm on the other, then switch, then switch again, 3x total)

Choose the right   (Swish the plates in front of you 3x)

And God will bless you  (flip flop the plates, one palm on the other, then switch, then switch again, 3x total)

Evermore.  (Swish the plates in front of you 3x)


Great!  Now let’s try it with the paper plates.  Remember to switch the pattern in the middle.

After you have clearly stated the rules (use it inappropriately I take the plates), ask other adults to help you hand out 2 paper plates to each child.  Start immediately saying the first pattern and having the children follow you.  When most of the children have plates, start singing and doing the first pattern for the verse.  Call out Freeze! in between the verse and the chorus to help the children stay on task.


Ask if there are any children that think they could be the leader for these two patterns.  Have them lead the group as you sing.


Younger Children

If you do the pattern with the paper plates at least 8 times before you begin to sing, the younger children can do the same pattern as the older children.  They will not be as consistent with it (some of them are still trying to figure out where their body is in space!), but they will try to follow.  If you have mainly 3 and 4 year old, make the pattern a little more simple.


The children like moving with the paper plates.  The movement stimulates their brain to take in the words through the back door, even though it seems like they are not singing!  And it is fun!


Here is a video of the above actions:



19 Responses

  1. Cheri Battrick

    Dear Sister Dance,
    I hope you have enough room in this comment field for me to write what I wish to say. I was called four months ago as the music leader for junior primary. It has been the hardest calling of my life for my experience as a ward choir and community choir director has not helped me.

    Yesterday I came to your workshop in Payson. I came as a “last effort” at trying to understand this calling. If I couldn’t grasp it, I was going to ask to be released. I came alone. I sat alone. I played. I sang. I watched. I listened. I made a few notes (grateful that it was being video-taped). I felt the Spirit as you taught. I saw the variety. I experienced the pacing and energy changes. I heard the questions and answers. And at one point, the Spirit finally testified to me that this really is my calling. And it isn’t a calling of desperation as I have felt. It isn’t even a calling of sacrifice or service, as I have felt. It is a calling I have been given to bless MY life. To allow me to have music back in my life again after nearly 9 years. To allow me to have children in my life (I was never able to have any). And to help me play again after over 25 years of very intense experiences in my life. Through you setting the stage, this revelation came. I left as quickly as I could after we wrote what the Spirit had told us at your request (I had written it already but rewrote it along with the impressions I’d had about what I could do with the children). I left quickly because I didn’t want to do the “ugly cry” in front of hundreds of women.

    Thank you, my dear sister, for the sacrifice you and your family made to be here yesterday. You saved me from making a very serious mistake, and I love you for it.

    • Jocelyn Meacham

      Wow Cheri, thanks for sharing your personal experience with us. Very beautiful and sweet. I loved reading it. I love Sharla’s approach to teaching and it has worked for me. I just started in this calling too. I’m looking forward to trying her techniques some more.

      • Cheri Battrick

        Jocelyn, Sharla’s approach is the only thing that has worked. I did the melody map for As a Child of God, because I happened upon it and the kids learned the first verse in 5 minutes. Then I heard about the Payson workshop and figured it was the best hope I had of being able to learn to fulfill this calling. Today — one day later — I played with the kids for 20 minutes. We did magic paintbrush for the 13th Article of Faith, paper plate “dancing” to introduce Choose the Right, and draw a song for reviewing As a Child of God. By following her counsel to get rid of most talking and just keep singing and changing things up, we did all that, sang Popcorn Popping 2x, Once there was a Snowman 1x, and reviewed Your Happy Birthday which I introduced last week. For the first time — after 4 weeks of trying, they sang the 13th Article of Faith song with me, and in a subsequent class time, a miniature 4 year old recited the first line — word perfect — of the 13th Article of Faith (when his teacher asked him to repeat the 1st Article of Faith after her.) The 13th was his first exposure, so the 13th is what she got. I’ve been in tears since the teacher told me this after Church. Who knew that body movements could cement a song in a child’s mind? Sharla. Thank goodness she is here to teach all of us!

        • Sharla Dance

          Thank you. I have tears in my eyes at the sweet 4 year old responding to you. What a blessing you are to the children!

        • Jocelyn Meacham

          sorry, just saw this! So sweet! I did the melody map last week. Doing the paper plates tomorrow. I love it too. Thanks Sharla and thanks again Cheri!

    • Sharla Dance

      Music, children, and playing together… what a great combination. You will definitely bless the children and just like you, they bless my life over and over. Next time, please come and introduce yourself if you can. I would love to meet you. This entry has me very emotional. I’m feeling so blessed that you would write this.

  2. Cherice Montgomery

    I, too, really appreciated the workshop. I was there as the guest of one of the Stake Primary Presidents (i.e., I am not even a member of any of the stakes that were invited to attend), and I am so grateful that I had the chance to attend! Sharla’s idea of the “back door” was really helpful to me because we have a very large, very young Jr. Primary (78 kids, 63 of whom are under the age of 6). I can keep them engaged, but I have not felt that they were learning the songs very well. Sharla’s explanation of the number of repetitions required for mastery of a song and her demonstration of how to GRADUALLY build their ability to sing the song were so helpful!

    I tried using a melody map to teach “As a Child of God” a few weeks ago, but quickly abandoned it because it didn’t work very well for me. However, after seeing Sharla demonstrate what she actually does with the melody maps, and how she uses them in multiple ways, I decided to try one to teach “Choose the Right” today. I printed off this one (because it meant I didn’t have to spend time trying to draw anything), and Sharla’s explanation of how she asks children to notice things worked SO well for me today while using it! The kids kept raising their hands to tell me more things they had noticed about what was the same, how the colors of the shields were repeated, how the size of the CTR shields corresponded to the length of the notes, and so forth. They continued to do so even after we had moved on to other activities. Senior Primary also liked trying to figure out where key words/pictures belonged on the map, and the paper plates were a great follow-up that really cemented the song in everyone’s heads without it becoming boring. I particularly benefited from the idea that including a “freeze” was essential. Just applying that concept resulted in a much more reverent experience in which most of the children in both Jr. and Sr. Primary were able to tap out the rhythm correctly and in unison! I plan to copy Sharla’s maps for my Jr. Primary for next week (b/c the other one I used was too complicated for them).

    I also really appreciated the process she outlined for pacing the energy so that we don’t leave the Presidency with a mess when we turn the time over to them for Sharing Time. It helped me to make better decisions today about the order and pacing of songs.

    As others have mentioned, Sharla’s workshop gave me lots of insights and strategies, but more importantly, she inspired me to continue to invest deeply in my calling. Thanks, Sharla!

    • Sharla Dance

      Thank you, Cherice! Wow you picked up a lot from the workshop, and I’m so grateful for the way you are teaching the children. I’m just an instrument trying to help and you are the real warrior on the front lines helping to build the children!

  3. Kori

    Hi, Sharla! Will you be posting the workshop online? I love all your ideas (and use them regularly) and was sad that I couldn’t attend the Payson workshop. I live clear in Virginia so there was no way. 🙂

  4. Enid Egginton

    Is there any chance the video could be shared with those of us in Britain who miss out?

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Enid,
      If you’re asking about the video of the workshop in Payson, my tech guy is editing it now and trying to get it ready to send out. I think it will be sometime this week. If you’re asking about the paper plates, I put up the video at the very bottom. Thanks for asking!

  5. Kimberly

    Very grateful for all you’re posting — it’s wonderful to learn about more teaching tools to reach children. Don’t want to be the negative post, but wanted to point out you have one word wrong in the hymn lyrics above. Second line: When the choice –> SHOULD READ: When a choice…

  6. Erin

    I am going to try this out tomorrow for the 3rd verse. I’m curious, though, do you just show the pattern and start singing the words as their first introduction to the verse? Or is this an activity that’s better when they’ve already had exposure to the lyrics? I always feel like they need to know the words before we do things, but I’m really not an expert on such things, so I’d love a second opinion. I definitely love the “back door” learning approach, so that’s why I question myself at teaching the lyrics in some meaningful way before we do an activity such as this. Thanks for sharing all your wisdom and experience, you’re changing lives out here!

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Erin,
      You as the teacher need to know the words inside and out, but the children can learn the lyrics without any introduction. When they are moving purposefully to the beat of the song, their brains unknowingly pick up on the words as they move.

      I would use “Freeze,” though, as you do this activity the second time. Call out freeze, then ask them what word you just said. Do freezing a couple of times, asking them what word you just said. That’s all the attention you need to draw to the words. Just do the activity having fun, moving to the beat, and the words will come. Thanks for asking!

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