If there is a universal truth about teaching songs to children, it must be this – Children must listen to or have an experience with the song SEVEN times before they will even begin to start participating in the singing.
A lot of the frustration with teaching music to children is how to hold their attention long enough to get through a song seven times. Having many and varied teaching strategies to call upon will help. This idea also goes along with the philosophy of using teaching styles to match the various learning styles of the children. Singing and listening to the song plays to those who learn best aurally (Auditory/ Musical). Many song leaders will additionally just use Visual Aids, such as word strips and pictures, to teach a song (Visual/Spatial). That is fine for learners who primarily need visual clues in order to process information. But what about children who need to move or manipulate things (Kinesthetic), or talk through the ideas with others (Linguistic or Intrapersonal), or like to work alone (Interpersonal)? And what about the kid who needs to figure things out through reason or logic (Mathematical)?
Ideas for Teaching to the Seven Learning Styles
Auditory/Musical – Listening, singing, playing musical instruments, rhythm games
Visual/Spatial – Pictures, word strips, keywords, object lessons, pitch conducting
Kinesthetic – Hand motions, tapping rhythm, large muscle movements (marching, hopping, twirling, waving arms, bending, etc.), manipulating objects such as scarves, shakers, drums, rearranging word strips, conducting the music, bouncing balls, rolling dice, throwing bean bags, etc.
Linguistic – Telling stories, explaining the meaning of the lyrics, looking up scripture references, asking and responding to questions
Intrapersonal – Working in groups, playing in teams, judging the group’s performance, boys sing/girls sing, taking surveys
Interpersonal – Individual study, individual opinion, individual report on topic,
Playing a solo or showing one’s individual talent in some personal way
Mathematical – Games of strategy, keeping score, puzzles, riddles, ordering things
It is a good idea to plan to use activities in at least four of these styles every time you teach a song. Even better if you try to use all SEVEN! This is how we guide their listening by providing varied ways to experience the music. It also provides a certain momentum for learning and nobody complains about repeating the song many times if they always have something fun to do or something interesting to think about!
Knowing which strategies to use will also depend on what you know about each one of your students. Children who never volunteer are likely those who learn best solitarily. You can help them participate by asking their opinions or having them do a little report or demonstrate something they have learned on their own on the subject. You need to be constantly aware of the children and learn their various styles of learning.