If I Listen with My Heart: Action Word Actions

How do you represent words to a child that doesn’t read?  One way is Action Word Actions.  A young child learns best through his body (think of learning to crawl, learning to walk, touching everything), so using his or her body to learn words is VERY effective.


Here are some suggestions for this song:


“Can your hands follow my hands?”  Sing the song and do these actions:


If I had been (point to self)

a little child (pretend to touch the heads of three little children in front of you)

when Jesus lived (hand sign for Jesus)

on earth (big round arms like a huge world globe)


I would have liked (point to self)

to walk with Him (pretend to walk)

and listen to (put hands behind ears as if to hear better)

His words (point to mouth)


But as I search (point to the palm of your hand and move finger back and forth as if searching)

the scriptures (put hands together like an open book)

I can hear (point to ears)

His words of peace (point to mouth and do hand sign for peace)


And if I listen (put hands behind ears as if to hear better)

with my heart (point to heart)

I hear (point to ears)

the Savior’s voice (hand sign for Jesus)


Extender activity:

Once the children have followed your motions for the song, tell them you are going to “sing” the song inside your head and only do the motions.  Have the pianist play the music while you mouth the words and do the actions.  Have the children follow your hand motions. (Again you are mouthing the words, not singing.)

Now ask the children to sing the song with their voices outside of their head (singing) while you all do the motions one more time. Sing and move with action word actions with the children.


The children are using their body to represent the words.  Their brain takes those movements deep into the brain.

23 Responses

  1. Laura Bickmore

    Do you do this with both younger and older children? Or is this geared more towards the younger ones?

  2. Lori

    These are great suggestions! Do you have any suggestions for the other versus?

  3. Sharla Dance

    This is an activity for younger children, but could work with older as long as there is another “puzzle” or something included with the activity.

  4. Victoria Wilcox

    Did you answer Kathy’s question about what sign you use for peace? If so I missed it! Thanks!

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Victoria (and Kathy), I googled an ASL dictionary to find the sign, then checked it with a friend. I wish I could describe it, but it would be so much better on the dictionary site. Thanks for asking…

  5. Becky Fluegge

    When I sign up for email is this where I will get the lesson ideas and plans? ?

  6. Dessie

    I love teaching signs to my kids! I feel like they get it way faster and it really sticks. Do you have a simplified sign language for the 2nd or 3rd verses?

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Dessie, I will think on that. I am not teaching the 2nd verse until March, so it hasn’t popped up on my radar! Take care, Sharla

    • Sharla Dance

      I taught the chorus of Hold to the Rod and the chorus to Search, Ponder, and Pray to support the Sharing Time. I am teaching Scripture Power. And I am teaching If I Listen.

      • Tisha

        Can you let me know how you are teaching Scripture Power? That is one of our monthly choice songs and I’m not familiar with the song. Thanks.

        • Sharla Dance

          Dear Tisha, My plan for Younger Children included 1. teaching the chorus with action word actions (the first week), then 2. putting up a lot of visuals from lds.org with Christ and children, children reading scriptures, children praying, and children helping children around the room. I sang the song as I touched different children on the shoulder to go get the visuals and bring them to the front for everyone to see (so I sang it over and over). We then we sang the whole song with them following my actions. Point to myself on the word I, Do the hand sign for Savior on that word, putting my hands together like a book on “reading His instructions,” pointing straight ahead on “following His plan.” Holding both arms up like a muscle builder on the word power, hands like a book on “His words,” and pointing to myself on the word me. Put one arm out for changing, and then the other arm out for the next word changing. (second week). Third week was a body rhythm pattern as they sang. Fourth week was a paper plate pattern as we sang.

          For Older, I did a Crack the Code (the first letter of every word in 8 or so word strips, the children put them in order as I sing), complicated body rhythm pattern as I sing (2nd week), and a paper plate pattern (3rd week).

    • Sharla Dance

      Coming, but not yet. I’ve been teaching workshops that require about 6 Singing Time demonstrations of other songs. Coming!

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Wendy, For the 3rd verse, I will be doing a combination of action word actions and sign language. The sign language sign for Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit), the Savior and for the words truth and right are the first signs I teach. I put my arms around me in a hug for comforts. I look concerned and scared for the word need,and I put my arms out in front of me for testifies. Speaks I point to my mouth, quiet ways I cup my hand behind my ear and lean forward as if I can’t hear, and I do the hand sign for the word peace.

      Take care, Sharla

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