HOW To Teach A Primary Song

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How DO you teach a primary song?  It seems a simple question with a simple answer. Yet, it can be terribly hard and confusing teaching a basic primary song to primary kids!  Especially if a lot of them are non-readers!

I have simple steps for how to effectively teach a primary song during your singing time lesson plan!  This is probably the most common question asked by primary music leaders!  Especially if you are new!

Camille's Primary Ideas: How to Teach a Primary Song in singing time
I had a reader contact me with the following question and wanted to share my response just in case it may help others out…

Here’s the question:  

“How do you actually teach a new song? Do you print words on paper, have the kids repeat what you say, use pictures to represent words? This is where I am stumped. The ‘how’. Jr Primary doesn’t have a lot of readers so posting words wouldn’t work well for them.  Any advice you can give would be great…

Before you read my response below, I’d first suggest you go to The Children’s Songbook preface.  It has some FANTASTIC information!  You can find it all HERE.  There is also a link on the church’s website for Primary Music HERE that has wonderful information as well.

This was my response: 
I believe there are only a few key components in how to teach a primary song during singing time:

The first component is YOU!

You are the most important tool in teaching the kids!  Not the props you bring, not your lesson plan and not even your musical capabilities.  Only YOU and your attitude you bring to primary!
  • Know the words!  If you don’t know the words to every song you are teaching, GUARANTEED neither will they!
  • Sing confidently!  If you don’t, (and note, I didn’t say “well”), neither will they!
  • Have fun!  If you aren’t enjoying yourself, they most likely aren’t enjoying you either!
  • Demonstrate when you feel the spirit!  They may not understand why certain emotions are portrayed if you don’t explain them.

They are all little sponges and will imitate and mimic how you act, sing and behave in singing time.  Your attitude will be reflected by their actions.  They can sense when someone interacting with them doesn’t want to be there with them.

If you go in with a great attitude, sing with love and are full of happy energy, they will copy you!

The 2nd component for teaching a primary song is REPETITION.

The only way non-readers (I’d even say readers as well) will learn a song is to hear it over and over again.  How do you think we come to memorize songs merely from hearing them on the radio?  I like to get creative and repeat as differently as I can so neither they (nor I) get bored.

I begin my process of creating repetition with an attention getter.  An attention getter serves 2 purposes:

  1. Teaches the meaning of the song
  2. Introduces the melody of a song

The attention getter doesn’t have to be lengthy or complicated.  Simply demonstrating some simple hand actions as the kids listen to the music and watch you is enough.  Asking a simple question to help them discover the meaning as you play the song on your phone works great too!

If you look through my singing time lesson plan ideas, you’ll notice that most of them include an attention getter.  Something that helps the kids find the melody and introduces its meaning.

After the attention getter, we continue on with the repetition process of teaching the primary song through a repeat activity!  I’ve found the best way to keep kids’ attention as we repeat is to keep their hands busy (mostly for Jr.) and their minds engaged (mostly for Sr.).

Ideas for repetition include:

  • Bells to play
  • Props to hold
  • Actions to complete or create
  • Things to point to
  • Word scrambles

There are SO many options!!  These options give you the opportunity to sing the song OVER and OVER and OVER again.  No one will realize that you sung the same song 5-10 times if you have a great repeat activity!

The repetition is the only way they will come to be familiar enough with the songs that they will be comfortable to eventually sing it.

I maybe suggest looking through some of my lesson plans of particular songs HERE if you want more specific ideas of how I teach.  I don’t have a set method as I feel the variety is best. 

The 3rd component for how to teach a primary song is to BEAR TESTIMONY.

It doesn’t need to (and probably should’t) be elaborate.  Try to leave one minute at the end of your allotted time to reinforce the meaning of the song.  This is all it takes to bear your testimony of its message.  After all, our main focus isn’t learning songs.  It’s learning doctrine and feeling the spirit through music.

Then I suggest ending with a Reverence Breath!  More details HERE.

There is a 4th component and it is probably the most important – THE LORD.

If you are struggling, turn to Him.  You were called for a reason, and if you hang in the calling long enough (I suggest at least 3 months), you may find out why.

When I was called in a previous ward, there was a little 11 year old boy who was the “hard” primary child.  He detested primary and I’ll be honest, most of the leaders felt kind of the same way about him including me – at first.

I prayed for a way to reach out to this boy.   My answer didn’t come overnight but by the time he graduated, he was my best helper and singer in primary.  I was guided to help him feel needed in primary.  So I unofficially made him my “assistant.”  Amazingly he gladly did anything I “needed” help with.

Sometimes I had him “officiate” our review activities.  As he was “officiating” he’d be in the front of the primary singing his little heart out.  Eventually he’d come up to me when I was setting up or cleaning up and ask if he could help.  I loved him and he knew it.  Which in turn helped him to love me and ultimately, love singing time.  I truly feel like I was placed in primary at that time to help this little boy who was struggling.

If you follow my schedule (find my monthly singing time schedules HERE), I try to make it easy for other primary music leaders to keep things simple, yet engaging through a variety of learning techniques for the kids.  Your style may be different from mine but you’ll eventually figure out what works for you.

A great singing time idea for primary - a singing time schedule

So I ask you…HOW do you teach a primary song?  Leave a comment with any ideas you’d like to share!

If you like Sharla Dance, you’ll love her post HERE that gives more tips and ideas for teaching primary songs!

You can view my YouTube video using a lot of this information as well.  The printables in the video are available at my Resource Library (details for accessing it are at the bottom of this post).  Make sure to check it out here (I’d also love it if you’d like and subscribe to my YouTube channel HERE):

All my printables are free and can be downloaded from my Resource Library.  Access to my Resource Library is sent to you via email and not linked here.  If you need initial access to my Resource Library or need access sent to you again, click on the button below, fill out your information then check your email.  Instructions for accessing each printable on my Resource Library are below the button.  Check out my email tutorial HERE for more help.

The printables I used in my video are filed on my Resource Library page under Category Title > Staying Organized.

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5 thoughts on “HOW To Teach A Primary Song”

  1. Your ideas are right on BUT! I thought that picture of you was a video! I clicked on it hoping to watch you in action! next time, kay? 🙂

  2. Camille – I think you are right on with what you wrote… it's exactly what I would have written. Sometimes I feel like a rock star – – kids come up to me before church, at Wal-Mart, and even walking around the neighborhood on Halloween I heard over and over "Hi Brother Bennett!" or "Hey! There's Brother Bennett!". The kids FEEL when you love them and care about them. I NEVER had the music book in front of me – – If I don't know the song well enough to pay attention to the kids instead of the words, we don't sing it. I also expect alot from my kids…. I expect them to be quiet, or I sit down and we don't sing. I expect them to learn harmonies, I expect them to sing (especially the boys) and I make sure they know what I expect…. and when they know what you expect, they deliver! I also talk to the kids alot about why we sing in the first place – – to show love to our Heavenly Father and Jesus, and to feel the Spirit. I have helped them understand that our whole purpose in doing a primary program each year is to help do missionary work by helping others feel the powerful Spirit they can bring by their singing. Our Primary Program is now like a Stake Conference – – standing room only….. friends, relatives, neighbors are all invited, and we have had baptisms in our ward that have been sparked by the primary children. I try to help them understand that they can hasten the work that President Monson speaks about even at their age. I also try not to use alot of visuals…. I might use some to introduce the song and get them singing – but then put them away – – I don't want them to be reliant on seeing them. And then it's ALOT of repetition made fun through different review methods. Finally, I get involved with the kids….. I get down on the floor when we sing "Once there was a Snowman"…. we have a 'see how fast Sister Anderson can play Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes' time…. and, as you guys know, I like to do different arrangements of our primary songs that make it more interesting to the kids…. We only did 1 song this year in our program directly out of the primary song book. This all sounds like alot, but it's really not – just love them. I have felt Heavenly Father's guidance SO much in this calling – probably more than any other I have had. He knows and loves His children, and He will help with your singing time!!


    I’m new to this primary chorister position – have always led the ward and stake choirs and productions in Irvine, CA. How do I effectively teach the junior primary songs?

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