One of the questions I see asked over and over again in Primary Music Leader online forums is HOW do you actually teach kids the songs? I remember feeling the exact same way as a new Primary Music Leader.
It can feel daunting and overwhelming to think about having to teach about 12 songs in a year, or sometimes many more! You’ll have only a little over an hour each month to teach new Primary songs to the kids. But don’t fret! It’s totally doable!
How to Teach Music to Children
Your children will learn a new song with just a few necessary “ingredients” to success:
Teach A Primary Song with Repetition!!
I can’t stress this enough! The most important factor in teaching the children new songs is simply giving them the opportunity to sing the song over and over again. They need the exposure to the melody, music, lyrics, and feeling of the song.
To accomplish this, you’ll need to limit speaking (skip the long explanations and lesson plans) and focus on the song itself! You can use flip charts to help introduce a new song. I have a list of printable Primary flip charts available, but you can also head to this helpful post on how to make flip charts to work with any of the different songs you’re trying to teach!
The next most helpful thing is your own enthusiasm and excitement towards learning the song. Do everything you can to know the song yourself. Don’t worry if you miss the melody by a bit or mess up a word, that happens to all of us. But prepare the best you can. Then, let your happy attitude help the children also be excited to learn the new song.
Variety of Learning Styles
The last key to success is reaching children in the best way they learn. This may mean a little extra prep work on your part to come up with up with a variety of activities, but it will really help invite children to connect with those favorite songs you want to teach!
Not everyone is an auditory learner (learning by sounds) or a visual learner (seeing visual aids) so you need to be able to reach all of the older children — including those that need hands on or logic or other learning styles to be able to make those connections in their brain to learn, remember, and be able to recall the songs for a lifetime!
That’s what this website is all about! Whether you’re teaching a religious Primary song or you are working with kids of various ages in a school setting or are focused on teaching music within a homeschool group or toddler play time — all the ideas and activities here can be easily adapted to fit any song!
Almost all of our resources are completely free, but we do also have some amazing instrument and movement cards available in our digital shop that are perfect teaching tools to use to teach song and music
7 Easy Ways to Teach a Primary Song
1. Teach Song Melody
It can be really helpful to start by hearing the music, first thing. That can be as simple as having the children just listen to you sing the song once before you begin or have your pianist play through the melody one time.
Or you could try something with just a little bit of extra prep, like using a music song video or playing an version of the song without lyrics! I’ll usually introduce the song with just 2-3 minutes one week, then come back to it on a future week. (The last week of December or 1st week in January is usually a quick introduction to all of that year’s songs!)
Don’t be afraid to sing acapella. It is a powerful way to learn the music and hear the notes more clearly then having an accompaniment.
2. Use Flip Charts or Word Charts
I don’t often put a lot of emphasis specifically on the flip charts when I use them but even just having the key words available can help reach those that learn with words and encourage the child sings along with the words. It also helps encourage the adults or other teachers to sing along! Plus, it will help include those that don’t come every week to join in.
I shared a post on 10 different ways to use flip charts for Singing Time that has some fun ideas for incorporating flip charts for a no-prep lesson plan!
3. Teach the Song Line-by-Line
Teach just one line the first time, then add the next, and the next building up the song as they learn each part. You can do a simple repeat after me activity or even have the kids have the words in front of them in an unscramble game and try to find the first line, then the next, etc!
If the song is really long, then you can start with the chorus first to get them excited to learn the rest of the song, like I Will Be What I Believe or Gethsemane, those longer songs can use the support of the chorus the kids LOVE!
4. Create an Association
I read this memory book once upon a time about being able to memorize names, dates, chapters of a book — anything you wanted. My dad used the technique on his mission to memorize what every chapter of the Book of Mormon was about! The key is making an association in your mind.
This is a really powerful tool for teaching that isn’t often talked about. I’ve used in myself throughout schooling years to remember important dates or how to spell a difficult word, for example.
For example, linking the phrases of the song to a hand action. Each time you start to demonstrate the hand action, their mind can recall the words they’ve learned tied to it! Another great way is building a picture in your mind that tells a story. Like, this happened first, then this, next this. As you chain one thing to the next it helps your brain form connections and recall more easily what comes next.
5. Have fun with the Song
I don’t typically go very far out of my way to dedicate time to “teaching” the song. Instead, I rely on repetition and a little introduction before jumping all in on having fun with the song!
You can pull out instruments (egg shakers, jingle bells, rhythm sticks) or have fun with manipulatives (rhythm wands, dance scarves, paper plates) or get the kids drawing and matching pictures, etc! See all the fun things I recommend purchasing for your Primary with your budget!!
6. Steady Beat vs Rhythm
One of my go to methods to teach songs to kids is analyzing the beat, melody, rhythm, and how they all combine together to make a song come to life. I actually designed a free printable mini course to help walk kids through beat, rhythm, melody, time signature, conducting, and more. It’s jam packed full of information that would be wonderful to use with any class on teaching music!
Beat is the steady heartbeat of the song (consistent every measure) while the rhythm is the flow of the words across the beat. Some words are held while others might be extra quick. When you help demonstrate how the two interact together, it can build connections to the song. Here’s another lesson plan example of how I used beat vs rhythm to teach music!
Just to be clear, you don’t always have to use the a standard conducting pattern, such as with your right arm up in the air. I more often than not use my hands in a more meaningful way – like adding emphasis or highlighting what’s coming next like holding my hand high for that high note or making a symbol with my hands to help direct to what part is next.
7. Use Instruments with Music Teaching!
I love to make the music come alive by involving instruments. You can use simple egg shakers or rhythm sticks to follow along with the beat or melody. It is a really great way to add purposeful repetition into your singing lessons and keep kids hands busy in a meaningful way.
Throw in hand bells or even a fun strumming pattern on a drum to add excitement and interest with the music you are teaching.
I’ve shared tons, and tons of ways to teach songs through activities, specifically head over to see my planning worksheet to help you jump in with a variety of fun way to engage with the song.
It will almost certainly feel counter-intuitive to jump in to singing the song over and over with an activity in the mix. It will probably feel like you are just “distracting” the kids. But honestly, the opposite is true! Keeping their hands busy and their minds active is a very effective way that will help younger children quickly pick up the songs through the repetition, even if you don’t see them singing along!
Head over next to grab our free printable flip chart to teach the Article of Faith songs!
What other easy techniques do you use to teach a Primary song?