If I Listen With My Heart: Paper Cup Pop for Younger Children

Patsch, Tap, Patsch, Tap.


The paper cup in my hand catches the children’s attention.  “Can your hands follow my hands?”

I begin to sing and do the pattern with the paper cup.  The children do not have cups, but are doing the actions.

We finish the song.  “You are ready to try this with a cup!”  I have several adults help me pass out the cups.  I start doing the pattern and singing even before each of the children has a cup (a group management technique to keep them engaged during the transition of passing out the cups).

After we finish singing the song with the pattern, I ask “Who can lead us in this pattern?” I choose a couple of children and they come up with me.  We sing the song again doing the pattern with the children in front leading.

At the end of the song, I ask each of the children who came up to choose another friend to take their place and come up as the leader.  With the new children in front, we sing the song and do the pattern again.

I thank the children in front.  I ask all the children to hand their cups to their teachers.

We moved to the steady beat, the children heard the song 4 times (without realizing it) while they were engaged and participating (the exact requirements for the words to slip in the back door), and it was fun!

8 Responses

  1. Lori Call

    This worked great with the little ones today! I feel that all the activities have really made learning the songs fun, as well as spiritual. I have had some ‘nay sayers’ express their doubts today that the kids are actually learning the songs, especially the words. It is quite discouraging to me, especially when I feel that I am reaching the kids. I have only been using these methods for two months and it is of course, very different from what most people who teach singing time do. What do i say to these people Sharla? How do I know if the kids are really ‘getting it’? The Jr. Primary will rarely know the words very well any way. I am not a professional musician and am learning along with the children. This calling is VERY much out of my comfort zone. I have to admit, it put a bit of a damper on my enthusiasm.

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Lori, What a great question! Thank you for asking.

      One of the reasons that music affects us deeply as human beings is that the words ride on beat, rhythm, and vibrations (such as pitch or harmony or timbre – which is the tones of different instruments or voices). In order for the song to touch a child deeply, they need so much more than words!

      What the ‘nay sayers’ may not realize is that when you teach a song, the words will ride solidly on the music if we do activities with the music, not just the words. The words come in the back door of the brain, and the children just think they “always knew” the song.

      The children learn the song in a long term memory way, and feel it more deeply if you work with beat and rhythm (paper cup pop, shakers, body rhythm patterns, etc.), with puzzles (crack the code, concentration match it, envelope game, etc.), with silent singing (take it in – take it out, action word actions, sing only these words, etc.), and other experiences. And that is the main point… the children have lots of different experiences with the song, and their attitude about the song in great because the activities are fun, and challenging, and always changing. It’s like getting to know a person in a positive way really well… you have to have lots of different positive experiences over and over again.

      It is March, and it is a long time (especially for a child) until September or October when we will ask the children to recall the song. They will need to feel the beat in their bodies. They will need to sense the rhythm of the words, especially if they are asked to sing two different verses of the same song. They will need to have an attitude of interest and engagement about the song. They will need to have a testimony born to their hearts about the song. They will need to have their inner hearing be able to recall the song (silent singing). And yes, they will have to remember the words , but it is only one of the parts!

      You are on the right track. I have a really good song leader who attended my workshop years ago. She did not want to come, but did it out of duty. Her children were already singing with gusto before she came. The workshop changed the way she saw things. She just stood up at my February workshop in Portland and told everybody how much her eyes were opened to the deep way of reaching a child’s soul through using what were completely new techniques to her. She said she would never go back because of what the children experience. Yes it is fun. And yes it is more spiritual. And yes it is different so it makes other adults uncomfortable. The proof is in the children. The proof is in your own experience. If you aren’t having fun, if you aren’t challenged with the activities, if you aren’t feeling the Spirit as you teach, then you know the children aren’t either.

      Hopefully this will give you some words to express what you are already feeling. Keep giving them different experiences with the song, and you will be amazed at how they sing with their whole hearts. And it will be more fun for you!

      Take care, Sharla

  2. Lori Call

    Thank you for your quick reply Sharla and your support. I just can’t imagine myself returning to my previous methods. They worked quite well, but mostly because I did a variety of activities with the same song. However, it was much more complicated to find and put together, I was spending a lot of time looking for ideas and the next glorious activity. I have worked with children in many capacities in school and church. I have seen first hand the despondent look and glazed eyes of disengaged children, or worse, children who are acting out because their little bodies won’t sit a second longer! My second oldest child is autistic, and I have personally seen what active learning can do to inspire and foster creativity, thinking and a love of learning! What a joy it can be! As I have said before, your teaching methods are just what I was looking for! They are fun, moving, expressive, simple, challenging, thought-provoking and, oh yeah, did I mention fun?!!:) The nice part is that you have a whole list of age appropriate activities. I can just pick the different ones I need for each part of the song we are learning. There was a learning curve for me, but I feel like I am getting better at figuring out any details that apply for the song and group of children. I love your videos and explanations. And thank you for putting into words what myself and the children are experiencing. They will come in handy when explaining it to someone else!

  3. Brittany I

    Whenever I do these kinds of activities I feel like the kids are learning the song and that they love it, which I think is the most important part. However, whenever I do these activities, they don’t sing, I am sure because it takes so much just thinking about it. Some of the other adults in primary point it out and tell them to sing. I have a hard time doing that because I remember I hardly ever sang when I was in primary. Should I be requesting them to sing more?

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Brittany, Your question is a great one! What you are sensing is so right… they are learning, and most importantly they love it. I just wrote a post called “But they are not singing!” with some ideas about why it really is okay to not always request the children to sing.

      I have been teaching children long enough to have them graduate to my stake youth choir. One boy in particular did not sing much in Primary, but he learned the songs well. He surprised me and came to my 14 to 18 year old stake youth choir faithfully all four years. (Who would have thought?) He sang once he got older, but it took that long for him to blossom into a singer.

      You are on the right track. Have faith in what your are teaching the children. Faith always requires the test of time.
      Take care, Sharla

  4. rufus

    hello sister dance my question is how to catch attention for those who have disabilities what should i use for singing time . also do you think it would be best to use sign language for non verbal kids thanks

    • Sharla Dance

      Dear Rufus, We have a lot of disabled children in my own Primary. What disabilities are you dealing with? Here are some ideas:
      1. Many Down Syndrome children need to be sitting in the front, no matter what their ages because sitting in the back is too distracting.
      2. Many Autistic children or Sensory Perception Challenged Children have to have order and routine. They also will benefit from sitting close to the front, but they also need earplugs or a way to cut down on the sound if possible.
      3. Almost all special needs children benefit from hands on experiences with rhythm instruments, paper plates, and other extenders.
      4. Every special needs child with disabilities needs an adult close by to be a go-between. The adult will help the child to connect different aspects of the experience that often don’t connect well in the child’s brain.
      5. Yes, sign language is a great thing for not only non-verbal children, but for all children. There is a recent study out showing sign language taught to verbal children drastically improved their language skills!
      Thanks for asking!

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