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Here is something I struggle with that I could use some insight on. I have had various primary callings over the past few years and all during that time, the teachers all sit in the back, sometimes singing or sitting quietly, sometimes talking to each other, but not really participating in singing time and really being there to help with the children in their class. Now that I am the music leader, I really need their support with the children who have a hard time as well as passing out/taking up props and being my back-up singers for my somewhat weak voice. I make sure that they have the words to the songs and reached out to one teacher to sit near a child having a hard time to which she responded positively. I offer them props, but they generally turn them down. How can I lovingly invite the teachers to be active participants in singing time and maybe arrange the seating to make it conducive to having them sit with the children?
Dear Kerri, You are not alone. I often hear from music leaders that struggle to get the teachers involved in music time. I would definitely arrange the seating so that the teachers are sitting with the children. You mentioned that you reached out personally to a teacher…I would continue to do that individually. Ask for help as you sing. Ask for help to help the children with the different patterns of the rhythm sticks, egg shakers, or paper plates. Ask a teacher to come up front and do the basic beat while you do the rhythm. Ask a teacher to help out a group as they do the envelope game. Ask a teacher to help pass “hints” to the children as they try to figure out the Crack the Code activity. The principle is that if the activity is not engaging and challenging to them, the children won’t want to participate. The same goes for teachers…they want to be challenged and interested and engaged too. I think part of our job is to provide those 6 to 7 minute song specific activities that engage and challenge an older child because that way the teachers will fill the pull of those activities, too.
For your podcast, could you briefly go over what these activities entail: covered balloon pass, popcorn branch and numbers, numbers, numbers?
Also, I have tried doing some maori stick activities where they are being passed around in a big circle, but I have been very unsuccessful. Could you give some tips on how to make a big group activity like that a success?
Lastly, do you have any tips for encouraging teacher participation?
Covered balloon pass= make or buy a balloon cover out of fabric. (It makes balloon popping possibility go way down lessening that risk.) As you sing the song, the children pass the balloon. You stop the song and have the child holding the balloon sing the next word (they can ask for help), then sing and pass again. If you have a large Primary, I would use at least two balloons.
Popcorn branch= I use this for the song Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree. Glue kernels of popped popcorn onto a branch. Bring it into Primary and sing while you show children close up. It peaks their nature intelligence and gives a visual of what they are singing. It isn’t really an activity, just a visual.
Numbers, numbers, numbers= for those budding mathematicians and computer scientists in the room, you add a numbers question to the activity you are doing. “If the donkey can go this many miles a day(hour) and it is this many miles that Mary and Joseph had to travel, how many days(hours) did it take them to get to Bethlehem?” Then you continue on with the other activity singing the song and using purposeful movement or visual intrigue. Those that take on the challenge of that logic problem while figure it out as you are singing the song and definitely want you to know they have solved the problem.
Maori Sticks= there are three stages that make it successful. (This is for older children)
1. Ask the children to pretend to hold Maori sticks while you demonstrate the pattern (floor, floor, click, click). Sing part of the song while they pretend to do the pattern with you. Call out Freeze! Ask them if they think they have the pattern (they usually answer yes). Ask the teachers to pass out two Maori sticks to each child. Meanwhile you start right into the pattern even if all the children do not have their sticks yet. Sing and do the pattern with the children.
2. Tell the children they were good enough that you have a new challenge. Ask them to do this new pattern. (floor, floor, click, click, touch left for two beats, touch right for two beats) Sing the song and do the new pattern.
3. Congratulate the children and tell them you have a new challenge. (floor, floor, click, click, pass left, pick up right) Practice it for a few times (they are sitting in circles on the floor in small groups at this point), then call out Freeze! Now let’s sing the song and do this new pattern.
You may have to call out Freeze! a few times to get lost sticks back to the children, but the enthusiasm and excitement they have for this activity goes directly into their memory paired with the song you are singing.
I’ve been listening to the podcasts! Super helpful!
Thank you for this podcast, it is super helpful. I have 2 questions I haven’t been able to find answers to on the website or podcast. First, Sharla briefly mentioned using a Hoberman ball in Primary, which I had never heard of. I looked it up and ordered one but now that it has arrived I’m not sure how to use it. Could you share ideas for that, and is it effective in both Jr and Sr.? I can see our wiggly 3&4 year olds each wanting to try it out, but there wouldn’t be time for all of them to do so. Second, how important is it for Jr Primary children to have small chairs? We recently divided our Primary into Jr and Sr. Our Jr Primary singing time is after Sr and there is not time to switch out the big chairs, so I was told to just have the Jr Primary children use the big chairs. It seems like it makes it more difficult for me to have them active and up and down. Am I over thinking? And do you have any other comments on the physical room considerations? I’m not sure how to make the most of our transition, which is only about 2 minutes by the time the last older class leaves and first Jr class arrives.