I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus: Rhythm Stick Roll for Older Children

One friend

I stand in front of the children and choose a child.  “Will you be my partner?”

We each hold a rhythm stick in our right hand.  With our palms up, I roll my stick into my partner’s palm, while he or she rolls his or her rhythm stick into my left hand.  We take the rhythm stick in our left hand and pass it behind our back to our right hand, the roll the stick into our partner’s hand again.

Roll, Pass behind my back, roll.

We do this action a couple of times, then I start to sing as we do the action.

I’m trying (roll)  to be  (Pass behind my back) like Jesus (roll then pass behind my back).

I’m following (roll) in His (Pass behind my back) way (roll then pass behind my back).

Video Clip -click on the IMG below.

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Three friends

I stop part way through the song, then tell my partner to find another friend while I find a new partner, also.  We start the pattern again.

Roll, Pass behind my back, roll.

I start to sing the song again as we do the action.

Seven friends

I stop the singing once again and ask each of these three children to find a partner while I also find a new partner.  We start the pattern again, then I begin to sing as we do the pattern.

(What the children don’t know is that I have demonstrated the rhythm stick rolling and passing behind the back three different times, giving at least three to seven children the opportunity to do the actions in a small group.)

Everyone participates

Again I stop the song and ask each child to find a partner.  I call out “Freeze!” then give the instruction that the sticks are to be used appropriately or I will have to take yours away.  When I call out Freeze, raise your rhythm stick in the air.  (These are the boundaries for the activity.)  My accompanist and one of the presidency members make sure that everyone has a rhythm stick, and we begin the pattern.

Roll, Pass behind my back, roll.

We do this action a couple of times, then I start to sing as we do the action.

I’m trying (roll)  to be  (Pass behind my back) like Jesus (roll then pass behind my back).

I’m following (roll) in His (Pass behind my back) way (roll then pass behind my back).

Switch partners

When we reach the words “but I try to listen as the still small voice whispers…”, call out Freeze!  Ask the children to each take their rhythm stick with them and find a new friend by the count of 10.  I count down as the children (often with teacher help) find a new partner.

We do the action a few times, then I begin to sing where we left off.

“Love one another as Jesus loves you…”

Continue to the end of the song, then ask the accompanist and presidency member to help gather the rhythm sticks.


With this activity, you cement the feel of the song into the children’s brains and bodies while they are engaged and interacting with someone else.  Their brain has heard the whole song, their body has felt the movement and energy of the song, and they now have a memory framework wherein to attach different pieces of experiences with this gentle, spirit-filled song.


14 Responses

  1. This is absolutely wonderful Sharla! You have the best ideas! I have been studying the healing benefits of music & sound when coupled with movement. Your music activities are priceless to music choristers and teaching the children the truths of the gospel. Thank you!

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Alycia, We need more people who study the healing benefits of music and sound coupled with movement! Good for you. and yes, it is indeed powerful. Thank you for your kind words!

  2. Lynn Slocum

    I love this idea and am working on how to encorporate with the younger children. Thank you for sharing

  3. I don’t know if this is helpful or not, but I have done a rhythm stick roll with Junior primary. When we do it, we use one stick per partnership. The junior primary uses both hands to pass the stick, with one partner rolling the stick into the open hands of the waiting partner. They then both take their hands behind their back to pass the stick, even though only one of them actually has the stick to pass. It was very challenging for the sunbeams and CTR 4, but the primary really enjoyed it. I also slow it down for Junior primary, so that they takes two phrases of music to roll the stick to a partner, and then two phrases of music to pass behind their backs.

  4. Lynn Slocum

    Thanks. That is a perfect way to do this activity. Love it!!!

    Since this activity is not using as much body movement, I wonder if the Nephi’s Courage rhythm band activity would be appropriate to do after with older and younger? I worry that it’s too much the same but yet it’s not.

    • Sharla Dance

      I see they are the same because they both use rhythm sticks, but the mood and feel of the different songs are different, as is the activity itself. Let me know if you try it!

  5. Annie Hatala

    Sharla, this is another home run! Thanks for this suggestion! Since I don’t have rhythm sticks but DID just buy my kids’ school supplies, I am going to try to use markers instead. Not as hefty, but hopefully it will work.

  6. Lynn Allen Slocum

    I did this for both older and younger using the idea by Cali and it worked beautifully. I did not do this for Nephi’s Courage but instead used the crack the code idea with the first letters of each word posted for the 3rd verse of Nephi’s Courage and that was a hit also. I will do the rhythm band activity later since I don’t have bells or shakers ready yet. I think you could use shakers instead of bells. Wondered if anyone has purchased shakers or made them and suggests what to use. I like the commercial ones because I have made them in the past with plastic easter eggs and the little kids love to peel the glue off them. Hee hee.

  7. Lynn Slocum

    Sharla or anyone on this site, I am wondering about egg shakers. Did you make them or buy them?

  8. I don’t know why I’m having such a hard time visualizing this. I watched the video with just two people, but not sure I get how it’s done as you add people. Are you all in a circle?

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Liesel, No, not a circle. The other pairs just come up to the front with me. This is strong because the children get to see it a few times before seeing it, then when we each get a partner, they know exactly what to do. They just need to experience what they have been watching.
      Thanks for asking!

  9. Lynn Slocum

    Hello Sharla,

    I was just telling my mother about how amazing you are and that you are my mentor in music time for primary. She asked what your name was and I told her. She said is she Sharla Grover. I said I don’t know. Did you grow up in Kennewick, WA? I lived on Oak Street. I was an Allen. We know the Grovers.

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