Song Planner

Dear friends,

Courtney Edman created this great spreadsheet for planning your songs in a Multiple Intelligences, full of variety, reach every learner kind of way.  I thought I would share it here (with her permission).

Song Planner-2

Sit down and plan activities that match the feel and mood of the song… strong or gentle, flowing or marked, full of passion or full of tenderness.  Try to get an activity in each of the categories of how people take in information (which she has listed out for you on this planning worksheet).

Plan two or three or more songs at a time.

Then, when you want to teach 2 or 3 songs for 5 minutes each in your singing time, you go to your planning sheets and choose different activities for that Sunday.  I would try to contrast your activities (i.e. don’t do two rhythm stick activities the same day, or two silent video activities the same day, etc.) for that Sunday.


12 Responses

  1. Sonja Simmons

    Sharla, I purchased your workshop today and it was worth every penny. Thank you! I also have your book, which is also valuable. So, I have been trying to wrap my brain around your approach. I am pretty new to this calling and I have struggled a lot in hard and good ways. There have been a flood of creative ideas from so many people on the Internet, it is truly amazing.! At the same time, I have found myself having a bit of paralysis of analysis. So, for my clarification: I notice that your approach does NOT have any type of “choose and review” games or activities. It seems you are choosing about 3 different songs/verses each week and weaving them throughout the year with different learning experiences. Am I understanding that correctly? Also, how much prep time is appropriate per week to work on this calling? I find that I spend hours and hours and it doesn’t seem to be sustainable. Thank you! Your experiences and knowledge are groundbreaking and I appreciate you sharing so that we all may benefit. Sonja

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Sonja,
      Great questions. Thanks for asking!
      1. “It seems you are choosing about 3 different songs/verses each week and weaving them throughout the year with different learning experiences.” Yes, that’s the goal eventually (you have to build up slowly to this I think!!!), but if you are short on time during a week, you can definitely do a choose and review. I find teaching 3 songs a week, that you teach lots of songs in addition to the Sacrament meeting program songs. I’m trying to give the children experiences with the song. Choose and review activities often seem to be experiences that don’t have anything to do with the song, but they can be fun for the children.

      2. How much prep time is appropriate during the week? Once you have filled out the planning sheet for about three or four songs you have to teach that year, you have enough material to teach for three months. Your only prep time would be to gather the materials for that day. However, that said, you need to go slowly and line upon line as you learn to teach this way. If for no other reason, you have to acquire some tools like rhythm sticks and paper plates and shakers.

      Here are three different Sundays that you could eventually do:
      I’ll choose these three songs to focus on.
      Choose the Right, Nephi’s Courage, and I Like to look for rainbows (When I Am Baptized)

      1st weeK:
      Nephi’s Courage – body rhythm pattern (more complicated for older) Prep – practice the pattern at home.
      Choose the Right – Melody Map Prep – draw it out.
      When I am Baptized – Song Story Prep- read through it or make it up

      2nd week:
      Nephi’s Courage – Crack the Code with first letters of each word for Older, Action Word Actions for younger. Prep – draw out the first letters on different pieces of paper for older.
      Choose the Right – Windwands or ribbons, more complicated pattern for Older. Prep – practice the pattern at home.
      When I am Baptized – Shaker pattern. Prep – practice at home (perhaps make the shakers out of plastic Easter Eggs, glue, and duct tape).

      3rd Week
      Nephi’s Courage – Concentration Match it Game. Prep – get two pictures of Nephi, two pictures of Laman and Lemuel, two pictures of Nephi and Laban, two pictures of a sword, two pictures of some brass plates. Sing while the children choose two numbers to see if they match.
      Choose the Right – Rhythm stick activity. Prep – practice at home (maybe make or buy rhythm sticks)
      When I am Baptized – Put the words/ pictures in order. Sing only this word. words for Older, pictures for younger. Prep – Older – print out major words and tape them around the room. Younger – Print out pictures of a rainbow, rain, earth, a child at baptism, a happy child and tape them around the room. Children bring them up and put them in order as you sing the song over and over, then they sing only those words that are up on the board.

      Does that make sense? At first the prep is gathering materials like ribbons, rhythm sticks, shakers, paper plates, etc. But then it is just practicing whatever pattern you do with those things at home. The visuals take some time. Luckily there are lots of resources online at the church website. (Pictures use a ton of ink so I would take them to a print shop .)

      Word of warning. This kind of music sharing time comes gradually, line upon line. Maybe the first month you only do one or two songs. Maybe the second month you buy paper plates and use them. Maybe the third month you make shakers and use them. You will definitely burn out if you don’t follow the principle of line upon line, precept upon precept.

      You sound like a dedicated and resourceful music leader. Thank you for learning new things. Thank you for trying to make it the best you can for the children. What a blessing you are! Recognize these are only suggestions and that there are many ways to do things. These types of things do seem to work with children, but you have your own personality and way of doing things also. I wish you so many good experiences as you teach. Thank you for all you do!

  2. I love it! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Sonja Simmons

    Sharla, Thank you for the detailed response! That really helps. I have to say that yesterday was my best singing time since being in the calling. By that, I mean the children really responded well to the songs and activities. This was good because the Stake Primary Presidency was there and I was pretty nervous. I incorporated what I have been learning from you and it is starting to take off. And you are right about this taking time to learn. Thanks for that reminder. Thanks a million!

  4. Hi Sharla. I feel like I am learning so much, thanks to all your work and the sharing of what you’ve learned. I’ve been incorporating your techniques and loving the results. I just finished your book last night and have a question about planning for review. When you have a song with more than one verse, do you review all the verses together during the review month, or do you still review them separately? (Trying to figure out how to teach and review multiple verses with the amount of time we have :).) Thank you in advance!

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Natalie,
      You can choose to do all of the verses, or just focus on a verse that seems to need more experience with the children. If you are going to sing all the verses together eventually, you might want to devote a couple of Sundays spaced out over a month or two where you sing one verse right after the other. These are suggestions only and whatever works for you is great!

  5. How do you handle all the props and passing them out in primary? I watched your workshop and love it! But I wondered how you keep things organized. Do you have a box of scarfs, sticks, shakers, etc at the front that teachers help you pass out? Do you keep them in class bins and have the teacher pass to their class?

    • Sharla Dance

      I only use one or very seldom two kinds of props per Sunday. If I use paper plates, I put enough for the class under the teacher’s chair. If I use wind wands or rhythm sticks, my pianist and a counselor help pass them out while i continue to do the pattern with the children. (I demonstrate it while they hold their imaginary prop first.) At home, I have a box of rhythm sticks, a bag of windwands, a bag of scarves, and a stack of paper plates. I usually only bring one of those per Sunday, plus a poster or something else. Thanks for asking!

  6. Also, I love that silent video you did in the workshop. How can I find that video? Can you link it?

    • Sharla Dance

      The video is the Light the World video from Christmas put out by I started at 41 seconds.
      Thanks for asking!

  7. Farah Thompson

    Sharla, I purchased the video of your Payson, Utah, workshop. I loved it. After two years in this calling I knew I needed to do a better job teaching these darling children. I found your ‘Song Planner’ and planned out my eight program songs! Yes, it took weeks to plan these out and it was a lot of work, but I have my Sunday’s planned for the next four or five months!

    The first week I taught “Choose the Right” with the melody map and I couldn’t believe how engaged the children (and teachers) were. They all learned the verse so quickly and then boom, I moved to a different song with a different activity. Needless to say – it was a great success and I even had a teacher approach me after Primary and tell me how much she enjoys singing time and how well I interact with the kiddos! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I love my calling. After three weeks, utilizing your methods, I feel like I am really teaching the songs – especially, the spirit of the songs, instead of just doing an activity that was fun.

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