A Month’s (and more) worth of Review ideas

Toddlers (and children)

remember better than you think!

Nicholas Day, the author of Baby Meets World, wrote an article about what children remember entitled “Toddlers Remember Better Than You Think.” (click the word article above to go to his piece)

In that article he points out that children are learning how to organize their memories.  He states that when they begin to process their experience, they remember better and better.  Importantly, children learn the skills of memory if their environment values that skill.  Skills of memory…. hmmmm.


What does that mean for Primary music?

We can teach children the skill of remembering a song over a long period of time by valuing the skill of remembering with some creative review ideas.

We can review in varied and interesting ways!  (And improve the children’s ability to remember at the same time.)

1.   Review each song at least once every 4 to 6 weeks.  If they are more complicated songs (lots of words, longer, jumping melody with a large range, etc.), you might want to review them more often.

2.  Don’t review the song in exactly the same way you taught it.  Give the children a new experience with the same song.

3.  The activity should only be about 4 to 6 minutes long for the review.  It will take that long because of the new experience you are giving them as you review.  It deepens their experience with the song.

Just singing a song is not necessarily reviewing the song well.  Unless the children are connected, engaged, and interested, singing a song is actually NOT an effective review.  What’s the remedy?

Do another activity with the song you haven’t done yet.


Stay true to the feel and meaning of the song as you review

We can find lots of ways to sing a song again and again.

What I didn’t know for years, though, is that it matters what the feel and mood of the review activity is.  (We diminish and take away from the feeling and mood of the song we are trying to review if the activity doesn’t match up with the feel of the song!)

Here are some ideas to review different songs according to their mood, tempo, and feel.  (I give examples from other posts.  Click the name of the post to see the post.)

Look at the idea, then apply it to fit the song you would like to review.

Songs that are Firm, Rhythmic, Beat Driven

(examples this year might be Choose the Right, Stand for the Right, and The Wise Man Built His House)

  1. Beat versus Rhythm for Older and Younger Children  a. (Week 1 of the Holy Ghost) b. (General for review)
  2. Rhythmic patterns with extenders for Older and Younger Children a.(Stand for the Right – Older Children) b.(Follow the Prophet – Younger Children)
  3. Clap Instead for Older Children (Praise to the Man)
  4. Steady Beat Scramble for Older Children
  5. Flag patterns for Younger Children

Songs that are Gentle, Swaying, Faith-filled

(examples  might be I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus, As a Child of God, As a Child of God )

  1. Magic Crayon for Younger Children a. (Using it to review)  b. (Come Follow Me)
  2. Waves of the Sea for Older and Younger Children
  3. Egg Shaker Pass for Younger and Older Children a.(I Will Follow God’s Plan for Me – Younger) b. (Come Follow Me – Younger) c. (Come Follow Me – Older) d. (I Know That My Savior Loves Me – Older)
  4. Hand Slap Patterns for Older Children
  5. Scarves for Younger Children – When I am Baptized, I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus

Songs that are Declarative, Doctrinal, Committed

(examples this year might be As a Child of God, Nephi’s Courage)

  1. Color Codes for Older Children
  2. Action Word Actions for Younger Children (I Belong to the Church of Jesus Christ)(Praise to the Man)(I Will Follow God’s Plan for Me)
  3. Sway and Freeze for Younger Children (If I Listen with My Heart)
  4. Hand Slap Patterns for Older Children
  5. Take It In – Take It Out for Older and Younger Children
  6. Lip Synch Detective for Older Children

46 Responses

  1. Brittany Chase

    I’m intrigued to know what “Flag patterns” are for younger kids!

    Also, if I used “waves of the sea” for younger kid, are there any modifications I could do? Or any special extenders for older kids?

  2. Lynne Marie Palmer

    Sharla, in reviewing a song that has 3 verses, such as ‘As a Child of God’ is it best to review one verse each week in a different way or if I hadn’t done egg shakers could I use them with through the whole song? Thank you for sharing your time and gifts. (And I am loving my brain work out).

    • Sharla Dance

      Great idea, but I would change the pattern for every verse!

  3. Becky

    Yes please. What are the flag patterns and lip syncs detective activities?

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Becky, Make “flags” out of rolled up newspaper, then wave them for 8 counts up, 8 counts down, 8 counts to the side, etc. They also like to march with them and wave them.

      The lip sync detective is you mouthing the words, and they have to put the printed word cards in order up on the board just by watching your lips.

      Thanks for asking!

      • Jennifer

        These are such fun ideas! Thank you! Do you do the lip sync detective with or without the piano playing? And do you choose a few children to come up to the board or do they all work together as one big group?

        • Jennifer

          I now see the description down below, not sure wh I missed it before. Thank you, thank you!

  4. Myrna Councilman

    I’m a newcomer. Where can I learn about Flag Patterns?

    • Sharla Dance

      See my reply in the comments for a bit more information. I haven’t done a post on it, but I will with The Wise Man Built His House Upon a Rock!

  5. Ann L

    Hi Sharla, thank you so much for all your help, I have learned so much from attending your workshops! My question: for songs we taught last year like Stand for the Right, can we use the same activities we did before, or do we need to do different ones this year?

    • Sharla Dance

      You can use some of the same activities, but I would add one or two, knowing that the brain craves variety, yet needs repetition. Thanks for asking.

  6. Jennifer

    Thank you so very much. This is so true. I had been looking for ideas for ways to teach one of the songs from the Friend that our Primary is learning and this helped me do that. Thank you so much for sharing your time and your talents with all of us.

  7. Edith Teemant

    oh my… oh my …. oh my….
    i am speechlees.

    thank you. i am just started to explore your work and… wooah. i have some good work to do. but thank you.

  8. Edith Teemant

    how do you categorize a song? i have permission to do the Gethsemane song from Melanie Hoffman. i am no sure if it is a gentle or doctrinal song? also how do you come up with stories? do you use like friends stories or come up with your own?

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Edith, Yes, to me Gethsemane is a gentle song. It doesn’t inspire me to march, it doesn’t sound vigorous, it doesn’t feel like I could go jump up and throw my hand in the air, so I know it isn’t in that category. It feels smooth, but heavy to me. It feels slower and full of thought to me. I’m sure you have some other feelings about it to add. When I mention doctrinal, it is a stronger feel than this song (although this song is full of the doctrine of Jesus’ atonement).

      I make up my own stories. Many people look in the Friend and adapt them. It is such a strong way to help the kids relate to the song.

      Thanks for asking!

  9. Mary Lee Rogan

    Thanks for helping. I am new and a little overwhelmed trying to figure everything out, and and absorb it. Maybe if I watch your YouTube videos. It will help. Right now, I am feeling like a total klutz.

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Mary Lee, One of the main principles for teaching the songs to children is to teach line upon line, precept on precept. And the same goes for each of us as teachers…. just learn one activity, one principle at a time. Don’t try to get it all down right now. I’m still learning and being challenged (which isn’t very comfortable for me ). Take it slow. And if it’s learning different movements with the song, you can always ask one of the teachers or one of the children to come up with you and be the model. That has helped me in the past.

      Take care,Sharla


      I know the feeling! I had been a Primary music director for 1 year when I found Sharla’s wonderful blog and book. I was so excited! I had limited experience with music, and never taught it so I felt very inadequate for the job and very overwhelmed!! I had been a Primary teacher for years, however, and I knew that I wanted a interactive experience teaching the children the songs! Sharla’s approach to teaching music was exactly what I was looking for! I have now been the PMD for 2.5 years and I feel like I am finally getting my legs under me. It was overwhelming at the beginning, partly because of my lack of experience with music, but it got better and better as I kept at it. It has been very rewarding for me and the Primary children. Our Primary Program went very well last fall and the kids really sang from the heart, even the little ones. I love these ideas and even plan to use many of them in whatever I am teaching. Even as an adult I get tired of “Blah, blah, blah.”

  10. Sally

    This has nothing to do with this post, but I have a question and don’t know where else to address it. In your book you list scarves under Kinesthetic activities for older children but in a video I viewed of you in a workshop you stated that scarves is not a good activity for boys, so I am confused.
    One other thing, I signed up for the news letter and notification of new posts and I still have not gotten an email. I tried to sign up again but get the message I am already signed up. Is there something else I need to do? I check your posts regularly so I am getting the new information butI was just wondering.

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Sally, Sorry this has taken so long. In my experience if you use scarves with Older boys, it has to be very specific like, Can you do this exact pattern with the scarf? Can your scarf gather air like this as you pull it down? Things like that. Our culture makes it difficult for boys to use scarves and still feel comfortable without a lot of direction.

      I will ask my tech guy if your address is on the email list. I try to send out something every 6 weeks. Thanks for asking!

  11. Kimberly

    Thank you for posting this! I found that most of the songs we are singing this year are on the gentle faith filled side with multiple verses and I’m running out of different ways for the kids to learn them. Is it still effective if I just change up the patterns each week, but use the same method (e.i. use egg shakers for two different songs with a different pattern for each)?

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Kimberly, You can try that one Sunday and see how it goes for you. It might just work really well. However, the brain craves variety, so if you use shakers one Sunday, use something else the next Sunday in order to keep the children with you and interested. Thanks for asking!

  12. Jennie

    Could you explain Lip Synch Detective for Older Children? Thank you so much for all you do

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Jennie,
      Lip Synch Detective is what I call having the children put the words in order by watching me mouth the words. We have several deaf children with implants in our Primary, and they watch my mouth carefully. Why not have the whole Primary do that? Have key words up around the room, and a poster at the front which is missing those key words. Instead of singing the song, have the pianist play while you lip synch the song. When a child raises his or her hand showing that they know what word goes where, touch that child on the shoulder and have them come up to put the word in the right spot on the poster.

      They are using their inner hearing to put the words in the right spot, which is a strong way to learn. (If you have any children for whom English is the 2nd language, this might be a little tough for them, though.)

      Thanks for asking!

  13. Sally

    Sister Dance, I am praying for you and your family, I hope everything is okay

    • Sharla Dance

      Thank you Sally. I have been immersed in taking care of a new born grandson and I’m just now getting some sleep.

  14. Jane Zeyer

    I have been trying to incorporate your wonderful ideas of movement in our Primary Singing Time. One problem I seem to have repeatedly is this: We can use sticks, or shakers, or our hands etc. to clap the beat or rhythm but so many of the children FORGET TO SING!! They don’t seem to be able to sing AND experience the beat or rhythm. I am always saying to them “Sing Too!” Am I alone with this problem?

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Jane, Because this is a question that is asked at almost every workshop I have taught in the past 15 years, and because you have asked, I am currently writing a post about the power of what I call back door learning. I’m writing that right now, and hope to get it up today. (The short answer is they are still learning even though they are not singing.)

      Thanks for asking!

  15. Kiersten Carlson

    Sharla, I was wondering where you found your cute clipart for your pictures to put in order for the song “My Heavenly Father Loves Me.” If you could point me in a direction or share I would appreciate it so much! I bought your book and I LOVE it. Thanks for all the inspiration!

    • Sharla Dance

      I looked up different coloring books and chose a bird, a girl in the rain, a lilac (that one was hard to find), etc. for the song. I did them years ago, so I just colored them myself before I laminated them. Thank you for asking!

  16. Karen

    Thank you for your validation about how reviewing a song matters. I have always felt a little uncomfortable being overly silly with very reverent songs. Thank you for all of your ideas that I both use and that help spark new ideas for me!

    • Sharla Dance

      Thank you for your comments, Karen. I’d love to hear your new ideas. We learn so much from those around us!

  17. Sharee

    Sharla, Thank you for sharing your teaching ideas and tips! The older boys who wouldn’t ever participate or sing are now doing both!! All the kids love singing time! I have been using your method for a few months now. I got a comment today from the teacher of the 4 year old class. She says her kids don’t know the words to the Mother’s Day song. We have only practiced a couple times. My opinion is that they are so young and if they participate and enjoying singing time I am fine if they don’t sing or even know all the words. What is your opinion on this, what do feel that age is capable of? Is there anything I can do to get them to sing? What do I tell their teacher when she makes those comments? And lastly how do you get that age to sing during the program? Thank you!

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Sharee, I agree that enjoying singing time is way more important than learning all the words. However, I do know that 4 going on 5 is starting to be old enough to realize they don’t know things and to start feeling some negative feelings because of that. (It’s a catch 22!) One suggestion is to do action word actions for the words, using the body to express the words. That age of brain translates the movements into words much faster than other methods. Another idea would be to do sway or march(depending on the song) and freeze on certain words, then ask what the next word is or what the last word is. Part of the development of a 4 year old is to focus on the whole picture and feel of the experience, and not the details (the words). Stopping is not only good for them, it also helps them focus in on a detail like a certain word that they may not have noticed before.

      I feel your pain about the children not singing the words and the adults noticing… We have stake conference the week before Mother’s Day, so it will be a little shaky when they sing! You might want to hear the teacher and reflect back to her that you dearly wish the children could know the words, too. At least she knows your intent and feels heard.

      To get the little ones to sing in the program, they have to be able to sing the song AS they are moving in the singing time. That takes lots and lots of repetition of the song using different methods each time to keep the experience intriguing and enjoyable for the children!

  18. Kassandra Hansen

    Thank you again for your wonderful ideas! When you review a song with multiple verses, do you review all verses in one week with the same activity, or do you tread each verse individually and only do one review verse at a time? Thank you!

  19. Jayna C Smith

    I appreciate all I am learning from your website and book. We are planning stake auxiliary training in October and I am wondering if I could share some of your ideas with our ward primary choristers in a workshop.

    • Sharla Dance

      Yes. these are just principles that work, so I don’t own them. There is a video of this year’s (and another of last years songs) also if you would like to watch it. Thank you for asking!

  20. Jayna C Smith

    I got the video of the workshop that is offered on toteachachildasong. Just spent a very enjoyable 2 hours watching it. Thank You. It was the workshop with Come Follow Me, I Belong to the Church…/ Is this one of the videos? Where would I find the videos.
    I am hoping to put together some ideas for teaching 2018 songs. I have been looking through the songs for next year and all of them are slow flowing songs. That is going to be a struggle to have a change of intensity in the music time. I know that each chorister could choose songs for the two months they have a choice that had a strong beat to contrast…
    Any other suggestions ?

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Jayna, There are videos for each of the last three years. If you search “workshop” on this site, I think it will bring up the 2017 video.

      You are SOOO right about needing a contrasting song like “I belong to the church of Jesus Christ…” or “The Lord needs valiant servants….” in order to help the brain learn best. Yes, all of the songs for 2018 are slower, flowing songs. Because I haven’t yet seen the theme, I can’t really recommend specific songs, but I do know that several of these songs are familiar to the children. That doesn’t mean they don’t need experiences with the song this year (they actually do even if they know the song!), but it does mean you will be spending a little less time on those 6 Sacrament meeting songs and can turn your attention to an upbeat, march like beat song or an upbeat swing type song!

      I’m so glad you recognize the need for contrast!!!!

  21. Lynn Slocum

    I am confused on the difference between the video and the book. Am I correct in that the video is just a workshop and the book is only purchasable as a hard copy issue that is shipped to me and includes much more? From what I see on the website there is only one video?

    • Sharla Dance

      Every year I try to put out a video so that those people who cannot come to a live workshop can see some of the activities to each of the different songs, and so they can hear and see some of the brain reasons for each activity and principle. They also hear other people’s questions. The video is a download to your computer (unless you want a hard CD copy).

      The book came as a result of people pleading for something after the workshop because there was so much information they couldn’t remember all the details. I was prompted for many years, and finally did the work to put the different ideas into a book format. Consequently, the book is much more complete than any workshop could ever be. It is paperback and is shipped directly to you.

      There should be a workshop for the last three years. Perhaps searching for “workshop” would bring them up?

      Thanks for asking!

      Thank you so much for asking.

  22. Annie Hatala

    Would you mind explaining what Color Codes is? I love these review ideas and appreciate your guidance in helping us determine what kinds of activities work best for different types of songs. Thanks for allowing us to benefit from your expertise!

    • Sharla Dance

      Color Codes- Notice how many words in the song start with the same letter. If there are two or three prominent letters, choose two or three colors, one for each of the letters. Map out the song into colors, using a neutral or other color for all the rest of the words, but those specific colors for the words that start with that letter. I’m hoping to get a post up for I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus with a color code this week!

  23. Lynn

    Color codes sounds intriguing. I’m still confused. I will wait for your post!!!! I am thinking you write the song out using different color markers or crayons.

  24. MelAnie

    I love all your wonderful ideas and your willingness to share your expertise and talent. How would you go about teaching the song Gethemane to jr. and senior. Maybe you have already posted about this and I can’t find it. Thanks so much

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