If I Listen with My Heart: Paper Plates for Older and Younger

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I’m not sure what is so magical about paper plate patterns and children, but children love to move to a song with paper plates!

Here is an idea for Younger Children:

Younger Children

Pass the plates out under the teachers’ chairs before Primary, two plates for every child.

Demonstrate this pattern to the child with your paper plates and ask them to use their pretend paper plates in their hands.  “Can your hands follow my hands?”

After singing the song and doing the pattern together, have the teachers pass out the paper plates to each child.  Sing the song and do the pattern together.

Tap to the beat

Tap the paper plates together 8 x on the left side of the body (If I had been… tap starting on the word “I”)

Tap the paper plates together 8 x on the right side of the body  (Jesus came…)

Tap the paper plates together 8 x on the left side of the body  (would have… )

Tap the paper plates together 8 x on the right side of the body  (listen to….)

Swish the plates together to the beat

Swish 8 x going from right to left in an arc above the head  (But as I read… swish starting on the word “as”)

Swish 8 x going from left to right in an arc above the head  (hear…)

Swish plate on leg going back and coming forward

Swish the plate in your right hand on your right leg going back (if I…) and forth (listen)

 

Swish the plate in your left hand on your left leg going back (with my) and forth (heart)

Swish the plate in your right hand on your right leg going back (hear the) and forth (Savior’s)

Swish the plate in your left hand on your left leg going back (voice) and forth

 

You might want to consider doing the song again immediately after you have finished it, and challenge the children to have their paper plates follow yours exactly.  Sing and do the pattern

 

Older Children

Again, plates under teacher’s chairs, and the children practice the whole song once before they get the paper plates.

Tap to the beat

Tap the paper plates together 4 x on the left side of the body (If I had been… tap starting on the word “I”)

Tap the paper plates together 4 x on the right side of the body  (little child)

Tap the paper plates together 4 x on the left side of the body (Jesus)

Tap the paper plates together 4 x on the right side of the body  (earth)

 

Tap the paper plates together 4 x on the left side of the body (would have)

Tap the paper plates together 4 x on the right side of the body  (walk)

Tap the paper plates together 4 x on the left side of the body (listen)

Tap the paper plates together 4 x on the right side of the body  (words)

 

Swish the plates together to the beat

Swish 4 times going from right to left in an arc above the head  (But as I read… swish starting on the word “as”)

Swish 4 times going from left to right in an arc above the head  (scriptures…)

Swish 4 times going from right to left in an arc above the head  (hear…)

Swish 4 times going from left to right in an arc above the head  (peace…)

 

Swish plate on leg going back, swish and tap coming forward

Swish the plate in your right hand on your right leg going back (if I…) and forth (lis) tap (-ten)

Swish the plate in your left hand on your left leg going back (with my) and forth (heart)  tap (I’ll)

Swish the plate in your right hand on your right leg going back (hear the) and forth (Sav) tap (-ior’s)

Swish the plate in your left hand on your left leg going back (voice) and forth  tap

 

Notice the difference between older and younger children is the complexity and speed of the movements.  Developmentally the younger children need to stay in one place doing one movement longer than the older children need.

The children love this activity, and the movement to the beat with the paper plates helps cement the song into their head and their body.

33 Responses

  1. Ann

    Your ideas are great! I can’t wait to try them. What suggestions do you have if your primary is combined? Would you just stick with the slower version for the younger children? But how do you keep the older ones challenged?

    • Sharla Dance

      To successfully teach mixed ages, I use the principle… It must be challenging for that age. Sometimes that means the older children pair up with a younger buddy to help the younger child do a more complicated task than he could on his own. Sometimes that means I add a challenge for the older children to do while I work with the younger children. With the paper plates, I would lead the younger children and ask the older children to add in something extra. Thanks for asking!

  2. Jenny

    Do you find that the kids pick up the words quickly just by doing this? No flip charts or echoing? Thanks! I also have combined Sr and Jr primary.

    • Sharla Dance

      I try to make sure that I have 4 weeks of teaching one song… one week we will do a purposeful movement usually to the beat that gets the song into their body, one week we will do a visual puzzle, one week we will do a musical experience (rhythm “band,” melody map, beat versus rhythm, another movement to the beat, etc.), and one week we will do a word experience (action word actions, put the words in order, envelope game for the older, put the pictures in order for the younger). It enters into different parts of the children’s brains, helps broaden their experience with the song, and gives them a sense of wonder because there is always something different coming. By the end of the four weeks, most of the children know the song deeply within them because of all the different ways they have experienced it.

  3. Bonnie Walker

    Thank you, for doing both Jr and Sr and explaining how you do the song for four weeks.
    I so appreciate your insights, and ideas.
    Thank you again,
    Bonnie

  4. Erin

    I love how you have broken this song up and are teaching it to coincide with the monthly themes. It has made me rethink how I have planned my year. If you are only teaching the 1st verse in January, what other songs are you teaching? I always try to do at least 2 separate activities every singing time. Have you moved on to other songs in the year, or just other songs that go with the monthly theme? Thank you so much for all of your help!

  5. Sharla Dance

    My Primary president has requested Scripture Power and the chorus of Hold to the Rod. I am also starting in on I Will Follow God’s Plan in a few weeks. I am currently trying to come up with 4 different ideas for each of the Articles of Faith songs, so I’ll probably try out a few of those ideas on the children to see what is most successful. I’ll try and only share the successful ones!

  6. Alice

    Sharla, you are inspirational! Our kids have been singing with gusto, having fun, and even the “big” boys are enjoying singing time. Thanks for sharing such great techniques that get the songs into their heads via the back door!

  7. Erin

    Yes! Your ideas on the Articles of Faith would be great! I have also decided to teach these this year and am starting on the first 2 this month. I will be interested to hear how it goes!

  8. Cindy Spratling

    I have used the paper plates method a few times over the last couple years and EVERYONE loves it, even teachers!!! Excited to try it tomorrow with this song.
    *Just wanted to mention that a couple of the words you have as examples of when to start are the wrong words. Just didn’t want someone to mistake the words while teaching the kiddos.
    Thanks for helping so many of us music leaders! It’s always a success when I use your ideas!

  9. Nylene

    Sharla, I love this idea but I’m not getting what it means to swish? Is there a video to watch? I clicked on the picture in this post and there is no video. So sorry, I’m just not understanding the swish! Thanks.

    • Sharla Dance

      Swish means to rub the paper plates together, one going forward and one going backward. I am in the middle of prep for a workshop in Eastern Washington, so I haven’t made videos. I wish I had, though!

    • Sharla Dance

      Your choice, but the pianist has to follow you carefully as you start and stop to meet the children’s needs.

  10. Cheryl

    Can’t wait to try this tomorrow! Thanks you so much for your amazing lessons! You are so talented. I can do it if I see or hear about it but I am not very creative.

  11. Becca

    I came to your training yesterday in Pasco and it was amazing. I left totally inspired. It was exactly what I needed to more fully magnify this calling with these great kids. Thank you so much!!

  12. Ammie Minton

    Sister Sharla, I purchased your book and am excited for it to arrive!
    Does it cover the same things that you covered at the workshop that lots of people are talking about that was in Washington?

  13. Sharla Dance

    Dear Ammie, The book was originally written because participants at the workshops said they could’t remember everything they wanted to from the workshops. A lot of my ideas, and my research, and my inspiration is in there, but hopefully I will continue to grow and learn more. Yes, the general ideas and so much more is in there from the workshop, and some of the specific ideas are on this website. Thank you for asking!

  14. Anne

    I have a few chuldren who seem to completely shut down and are unresponsive when we do anything loud or active. If it’s loud they plug their ears, if it’s paper plates they might bury their heads. Should I continue these methods if it seems to bother some kids? I am new to primary but I get the feeling they have sensory difficulties. I will ask their parents but my basic question is the same. Should I continue the activities that are loud and/or active (bells, plates, rhythm sticks etc) when some of the kids seem bothered?

  15. Angie

    Hi Sharla! I am planning to use paper plates to teach “I Will Follow God’s Plan for Me” but I’m worried that older children will be bored or uninterested in paper plates. What is your experience doing this with older children? I’m especially worried about 3 eleven-year old boys that never seem interested in anything we do. How do I engage them? Will paper plates work for them?

    • Sharla Dance

      The pattern needs to be a bit complicated for 11 year olds to be challenged. I sometimes will say “I challenge your ability to keep up.” or something like that (always in a friendly, playful way).

      I have used the paper plates very successfully with older children. I would love to hear what your experience is as you try it.

  16. Ally

    Hi Sharla! Would an activity like this take up the whole 15-20 minutes of singing time or would you do two activities?

  17. Rebecca

    I just LOVE your ideas on how to teach children music. You are such a lifesaver so thank you for sharing your talent! I have a couple of silly questions. When you do an activity like this you say at the beginning, “I will take your paper plates away no questions asked.” Have you ever had to do that? Do you just walk up to the person and take it away without saying anything. I’m not sure how to approach that if it ever happens. My other question is I did the paper plate and tile envelope word game and it was so loud and lots of talking, especially when I was trying to give them instructions after the paper plate activity. I think they were excited about the activity?! How do you get them to be more reverent doing an activity like this? Thanks again!!!

    • Sharla Dance

      Amazing and great question. More involvement means more noise BUT there is a way to help with that. The transition time that involves putting away the prop (paper plates, scarves, wind wands, maori sticks, paper cups, etc.) has to be moving from one activity TO another activity without very many instructions. Sometimes we sit on the paper plates and do the next puzzle. Sometimes it is get your paper plates to your teacher by the time I count to 15. 15,, 14, 13, 12,…. Sometimes it is “Freeze!” Notice how Jennifer is freezing. Wow, look at Blake. Great freezing!” Then I give instructions about how to put away one prop and move to the next activity. (Sometimes I have to say Freeze a couple of times)

      I have only had to take away the wind wands once. I have had to use close physical presence and a touch on the shoulder, shaking my head “no” quite a few times. I have had to walk up to boys using the plates and say “not appropriate” with the tough mother look just to them.

      If I have a boy or girl that I know from experience might instigate some fighting with plates or other things, I might have a talk beforehand with the child and or the teacher.

      One of the things that happens is when they finally respond to “Freeze” I use that opportunity to bear a short testimony. Often it changes the feel in the room, and they are more able to discipline themselves to transition well.

      We are not teaching only the song! We are teaching how to behave and work together in a group, how to go from one activity to the other smoothly, and how to give the respect needed. No wonder children can remember their music leader, but not necessarily too much else about their experience!

      (Sorry about the long winded answer. Again, great question!)

  18. Penny

    Sharla- You are an answer to my prayers. I have followed your YouTube rhythm patterns and “To Teach a Child a Song” for over a year. I just used the paper plates with my Senior Primary children and they did not want to go home. We have been singing “I Will Follow God’s Plan,” and I am using every technique I can. I have been asked to teach a music work shop in my Region and your ideas are wonderful I will use them in my class “Teaching Songs Again (& Again & Again).” I will also give you credit and give out your website. I have taught children’s music since I was 16 and I am now 72, I can’t learn enough!

    • Sharla Dance

      Thank you Penny! Where are you teaching? I hope I can still be teaching when I’m 72 Congratulations in a very sincere way!

      • Penny

        Hi Sharla – I am teaching just north of Atlanta in the Cartersville Stake. I will be teaching my workshop on 03/05/2016. There are 2 of us working together for 4 hours. I am worried and excited at the same time. It is the Southeastern Region Music Workshop

  19. Tami

    Will you please explain the envelope game. Sounds like something my seniors would love! Thanks so much for all your wonderful ideas! They are a lifesaver 🙂

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