“Teaching Primary Songs,” Ensign, Apr. 1998, 73
Leading music in Primary may appear simple, but it can actually be a very complex task. By learning a few basic teaching techniques, music leaders can be more effective in teaching children the Primary songs.
The first step in teaching children new songs is to review any new words and have the children practice pronouncing them. If children understand what they are singing about, they will not only better remember the words but they will also better comprehend the meaning of the song.
To begin teaching the song, the music leader can break up the song into short phrases—maybe six to seven words at a time—that are more easily remembered. Sing each phrase several times, and direct the children’s listening as they practice. For example, if you are teaching the song “Listen, Listen” (Children’s Songbook, p. 107), you can say to the children, “As I sing this song, listen carefully to hear what you should do when you have to make a choice.” Directing their listening will help children to understand and remember the gospel principle being taught through music.
Help the children learn the rhythm of any unusual timing in the melody by quietly clapping as they sing or by listening as the pianist plays that part several times.
Another idea is to link phrases. Sing each phrase only with the preceding phrase instead of starting the song over each time a new phrase is added. When all the phrases of the song have been practiced and linked together, sing the entire song.
Additional helps for music leaders can be found in the Children’s Songbook, p. 300, and in the video How to Teach a Song to Children (item no. 53005).
Pictures often help the children remember each song phrase. Caution should be exercised when using rebus-style pictures because they can be confusing, especially to younger children. For example, don’t use an eye to represent “I” or a Halloween-style ghost for the Holy Ghost. Pictures should accurately represent the words they are portraying, reinforce gospel principles, and reflect the spirit of the song.
Another helpful technique is to involve children physically while learning a song. Encourage movement by teaching songs with the suggested actions or have the children help improvise actions. Clapping or using rhythm instruments to keep time can also help children learn. Another idea is to sometimes find someone to teach the words to the song using American Sign Language.
Besides teaching children new songs, music leaders can add interest to singing time through a variety of activities. One leader held up a cardboard bee when the children were to hum the melody. When the bee disappeared, they were to sing the words again. Letting children select songs from a hat or bouquet of flowers or other visual aid adds interest. Using a “barometer” that measures how well children are singing can serve as an incentive to sing better. Playing only a part of a melody and letting children guess what song it is helps them recognize and remember songs. And dressing up in simple costumes adds fun.
As music leaders, we can help children find joy in singing. With help from the Spirit, we can testify of gospel principles as we teach children to praise the Lord in song.—Delores DeVictoria, Antioch, California