The purpose of music in Primary is to teach children the gospel of Jesus Christ. Primary songs make learning the gospel more enjoyable, invite the Spirit, and create a reverent and learning atmosphere.
Use prelude music to bring reverence and invite the Spirit
Prelude music creates an atmosphere of reverence and helps children prepare to learn the gospel. Have music playing as the children arrive.
Invite the children to participate in the prelude music by having them sing as others are entering the Primary room. For example, you could hold up your hand and tell the children that when your hand is open they should quietly sing, and when your hand is closed they should hum the melody.
Play a song the children are learning during the prelude time; this can help them become familiar with the melody. Identify the song, and then hum the melody for them. Then ask them to hum the melody with you.
Music can engage the children from the first moment they arrive in Primary.
Use music to teach gospel principles
Help the children understand they are learning not only a song but also a gospel principle (see CS, iii). Ask questions or help them focus on the principle taught in the song through a simple activity such as counting how many times they sing a word or phrase.
Children testify as they sing. Remind the children to sit up tall and sing with their best voices. Compliment the children and thank them when they sing well.
How to teach a song
As you plan how to teach a song, ask yourself the following questions:
- How can I attract the children’s attention?
- What questions can I ask to help the children understand the gospel message of the song?
- What testimony can I leave with the children that will strengthen them? (See CS, 300.)
Always sing the words of a new song to the children—don’t just read or recite them. This helps the children connect the melody to the words. Children learn a song by hearing and singing it over and over again. They do not need to read to learn a song. For example, you could invite the children to be your echo. Touch your ear and have the children listen to a short phrase or a line as you sing. Then motion to them when it is their turn to sing the line back to you. Sing two lines this way, and then repeat them until the children know them. Repeat with the next two lines (and then the next two, and so on) until they have learned the whole song.
Review songs for learning and fun
Involve the children in choosing songs to review. For example, give each child a paper heart, and ask them to write their name and a favorite Primary song on it. Put the hearts in a container labeled “Songs of the Heart,” and have the children choose a few to sing. Tell the children that Primary songs can be a source of comfort, guidance, and inspiration and that we can sing them almost anytime, anywhere.
Use music to engage children and provide appropriate movement
Using movement while singing can help the children learn songs more quickly. It can also keep their attention. Ensure that the movements you use with sacred songs are appropriate. Simple hand gestures for key words or phrases can be appropriate for almost any song (see January helps for the music leader). For example, when singing “I Feel My Savior’s Love” (CS, 74–75), tell the children that every time they sing the word love they should put their hands over their heart.
There are several fun activity songs in the Children’s Songbook. Have fun with them, and the children will too. For example:
- Sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” (CS, 275) with the children at the regular speed, and then challenge them to keep up with you as you sing it faster and faster.
- Sing “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission” (CS, 169). Invite younger children to pretend they are riding a horse and carrying a Book of Mormon to people who live far away. (They could also pretend to be flying on an airplane or riding on a bumpy train.)
Practice at Home
To teach a song effectively, you must know the song yourself. Practice at home so when you teach the children you can look at them, notat your book. The woman in the picture at right is practicing in front of a mirror. You might consider practicing with a mirror, too.
Tip: Music can help the children calm down and prepare to listen and learn. For example, you could raise your hands high and tell the children to watch your hands as they sing. Tell them that as you lower your hands, they should sing more quietly or more slowly. Thank them for their reverence.
Tip: Using music effectively will invite the Spirit. When you have finished singing a song, remind the children that when they feel love and peace, the Holy Ghost is helping them recognize truth.
Tip: You do not need to be a skilled musician or have a beautiful voice to make singing fun and meaningful in Primary.
My Plan to Teach a Song
Use the following steps to develop a plan for teaching music in Primary singing time:
Know the song: Practice, Practice, Practice.