Singing Time Ideas For Teaching a New Song

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How DO you teach a Primary song in singing time?  It seems a simple question with a simple answer. Yet, it can be terribly hard, especially if a lot of your Primary children are non-readers!  These tried-and-true steps for how to teach a Primary in singing time are effective and simple!

Camille's Primary Ideas: How to Teach a Primary Song in singing time
This is probably the most common question asked by Primary music leaders!  Especially those who are new!
 
A reader contacted me with the following 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…

How to Teach a Song: The Children's Song Book Preface

One of the BEST resources for teaching Primary songs in singing time is the The Children’s Songbook preface.  It has some FANTASTIC information!  It states:

The purpose of this songbook is to teach children the gospel of Jesus Christ through music. The Children’s Songbook is designed for use in Primary, in the home, and wherever children’s songs are appropriate. Many of the songs are simplified so that beginning musicians can be successful in playing them.

Songs of similar subject and mood are generally found in the same section. For example, the section about the Savior tells of his birth, childhood, and ministry. It concludes with songs that remind us of his role in our lives today and that tell why we want to be like him. Songs placed in a specific section should not be limited to use in that category only. For instance, you may wish to look at “Jesus Christ—Example” in the Topics Index (p. 309). Notice that the songs listed under that heading are located in several of the sections.

  There is a link on the church’s website for Primary Music that has wonderful information as well.

Camille's Primary Ideas: How to teach a primary song in singing time

Basic Steps for How to Teach a Song to Kids

There really are only a few key components in how to teach a Primary song during singing time:

1. You

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!

2. Attention Getter

An attention getter serves 2 purposes:

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

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.

 

3. Repeat Activity

The 3rd 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.

So after the attention getter (which also counts as repetition!), continue on with the repetition process of teaching the Primary song through a repeat activity!

The best way to keep kids’ attention as you repeat is to keep their hands busy (mostly for Jr.) and their minds engaged (mostly for Sr.).

4. Bear Testimony

The 4th 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, relating it back to the gospel.

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 try ending with a “reverence breath!” 

Camille's Primary Ideas: Maintaining Reverence in singing time

5. The Lord

There is a 5th component and it is 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 singing time 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.  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.

How To Teach Kids A Song using repetition

  • Bells to play
  • Props to hold
  • Actions to follow 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!

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

For more ideas on repetition, look through the lesson plans of particular songs HERE.  If you notice, there is no set method for repetition.  The more variety, the better!

Video: LDS Singing Time Tips for Teaching a Song

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):

You can also find this video on my YouTube channel.  I’d love it if you’d like and subscribe!

Access the printables found in the video at my Resource Library.  Instructions for accessing the Resource Library are found at the bottom of this post.

How to Teach a Song to Kids: Singing time organization

If you are struggling with implementing this method of teaching in singing time, my Singing time Organization series will help!  It allows you to implement all of this!  

Camille's Primary Ideas: Singing Time Organization Series Cover

How to Teach Kids a Song using singing time to go

If you want singing time all planned and prepped for you that implements the method shared above, you need Singing Time To-Go! It makes singing time SO easy!  All you do is simply download, print and go!  

Camille's Primary Ideas: Singing Time To-Go Membership

What are your singing time ideas for teaching a new song?

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

P.S. If you like Sharla Dance, you’ll love her post that gives more tips and ideas for teaching Primary songs!

Check out this quick tutorial video for accessing the Resource Library:

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

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Singing time just got even easier!  With my Singing Time To-Go, all you have to do is print!  Be prepared for the entire month – every month!

Camille's Primary Ideas: Singing Time To-Go Membership

7 thoughts on “Singing Time Ideas For Teaching a New 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!!

  3. SANDI CLAYTON-BURGESS

    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?

  4. I am only subbing for one Sunday so I really appreciate your help. You have made my job easier. Lots of great suggestions! Thank you!

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