How to Teach Singing Time without Singing


Oh the irony! Primary Music Leaders have always struggled getting kids to sing. Now, with the global pandemic, primaries who are now able to meet back together cannot sing! How do you teach singing time without singing?

Camille's Primary Ideas: Singing Time without Singing

I personally feel the answer is simple.  We need to just change our mindset! Have the kids PLAY with the song instead of sing it.  They’ll learn it, trust me!  And actually, this is how it should always be.

This has been my philosophy for singing time for pretty much ever.  No boring drilling found here!  We just play around with songs so they can be listened to, repeated, then EVENTUALLY, sung.

You don’t have to take my word for it!  Sharla Dance says:

If you engage the children in a multiple of different ways with the song, the words slip in the backdoor. The kids seem to just magically know the words, because their brain learned them subconsciously while they were actively engaged in a variety of activities with the song.

Find her quote HERE and lots more insight.  She’s totally right!  Meaning the kids don’t even realize they’ve learned a new song when they are engaged!

If you think about it, how do you as an adult learn a song you’ve only heard on the radio?  By simply hearing it over and over again!  You don’t begin to sing along until you know the melody and then words, right?  The same goes in primary!

Primary kids do not have to sing the song to learn it!  In fact, it’s best to not sing – at least in the beginning.

Attention Getter

I almost always start teaching a song with an attention getter. This is the first listening activity that gets the children acquainted or familiar with the song.  It Introduces the meaning and melody.  There usually shouldn’t be any children singing during the attention getter.  Pat Graham always asks, “how can they sing a song they don’t know?”  They can’t!

How to Play with Songs

If you want specifics on how to play with songs, all you need to do is browse all my lesson plans HERE!  They are chuck full of activities that play with songs.  When creating activities, I have a standard list and vary from there:

  • Sign language – teach the children to sign the song instead of sing it!  Modified ASL is perfect for singing time and I use it regularly.  I’ve got a post HERE for teaching ASL in primary.
  • Actions – teach actions, the options are limitless!  Some actions are pretty straight forward like The Wise Man and the Foolish Man HERE or others are ones you make up!
  • Position cards – also known as Primary Yoga!  If you don’t know what this is, you are missing out!  Check out more details HERE!
  • Bells – a wonderful substitute for singing!  If you aren’t utilizing bells in primary, you are missing out!  Check out more details HERE
  • Rhythm instruments – my music bag HERE has TONS of instruments and props, perfect for teaching primary songs without singing!
  • Puppet shows – these are so fun!  Create puppets or have the kids draw their own, then put on a show!  I’ve done a few HERE and HERE.
  • Word activities – word scrambles HERE are easy and effective!
  • Sing-along videos – since we’ve gone to more home centered singing time, I use a sing along video almost every Sunday!  These have become a very valuable resource!
  • Scarves – LOVE scarves!  I have lots of posts HERE that use scarves.
  • Coloring – get the kids coloring as they listen to songs!  We color all the time!  My lesson plan for When He comes Again HERE is a good example of that.
  • Music Theory – teach some basics of music including notes, note values, dynamics, etc.  I have a lesson plan HERE that goes into a little more music theory detail.

The list goes on!  If you notice, I use all of these activities ALL THE TIME!  It’s how I teach singing time.  My main modification has been to use pre-recorded songs either on the church’s Gospel for Kids app (find more details HERE) or sing along videos on YouTube .

I’ve seen this question asked on the Primary Music Leaders FB page so often!  Make sure to check out more answer to this question HERE and HERE.


You may also want to check out this post HERE which includes “Ways to Sing When You Can’t Sing” cards.  Totally Clever!!

Other Questions?

Do you have a question or problem related to singing time?  Just ask!  If I haven’t already answered it before, I’ll get information on it!

Check out other posts HERE I’ve written that stem from questions I receive.

Camille's Primary Ideas: How to Teach a Primary Song in singing time

So now I ask you…how do you teach singing time without singing?  Leave any comments and ideas you may have on the subject!  You may just help inspire someone else who is struggling with this concept if you do!


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2 thoughts on “How to Teach Singing Time without Singing”

    I just need the monthly everything emailed to me I have a hard time printing it! I’m sure i me, I would love to play a video with every song I need help with that too!
    Thank You,
    Kristie Roche

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