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Karaoke Okay? Live Music for Children in the Classroom

My Scripture class is a very large, very mixed group of eight-year-olds. Singing a song is a regular part of every lesson, usually at the end of the lesson, often as a reward for keeping on task or as a change from sitting still and listening, but mostly because it reinforces the lesson content. Various songs are provided as downloads as part of the learning material, but sometimes we prefer to just stand up and sing.


Live or Pre-recorded?

Pre-recorded music has lots of advantages: it’s professionally recorded, with professional singers and backing; it’s perfectly consistent; it means you don’t have to sing yourself. There are also disadvantages: it’s always the same, you can’t make it faster or slower, or change anything about it. It won’t wait for you, or make allowances for you. You don’t have to sing yourself, so often you don’t, and the children don’t either. It makes things so much easier, and very often, if there’s no pre-recorded music, there’s no music.


Making our own music from time to time is a real option, and it too has several advantages. When we simply stand up and sing, there’s no delay setting up or choosing from a menu. We can sing as many verses as we like. If there’s a part of the group that’s not participating, it’s easy to stop mid-stream, give them some encouragement, and start again. We can mix the verses around, if one seems more relevant than another. We can make up our minds which song we want to sing on the spur of the moment, depending on how we’re feeling.


Teaching New Songs

It’s also one of the easiest ways to learn a new song. We can

  • sing slowly to start with while we’re learning the song, and sing faster when we’re better at it
  • sing it line by line with the children echoing
  • have one-half of the class sing the first two lines and the other half the second two lines – that way they feel as if they only have to learn half of the new song
  • stop at a tricky part and repeat it slowly until the children get it
  • learn just the refrain, if we like, and work on the verses another time


Making the Prayer Their Own

Songs are easiest to learn and sing in a classroom context if the music is fairly simple and has its own rhythm built in, and if they have words that are easy to learn. Ideally they’re fun to sing, and of course they should connect to the lesson in some way. The best songs are the ones where the students can make up words themselves. All the songs we sing are opportunities for prayer in one form or another, praising God in words, with singing, or with dancing. The freedom to make the prayer their own in even a small way strengthens that budding relationship with God. It is self-expressive, and cooperates in the creative work of the Holy Spirit.


If making up words isn’t an option, what about making up actions? I try to find songs that have at least one verse that invites free expression, so the children can make up their own actions or dance movements however they want, in whatever way they are able to. For classes of mixed abilities, or when space in the classroom is strictly limited, singing and moving are still possibilities, if the range of movements is chosen thoughtfully.


Putting Yourself Out There

If you are blessed with the ability to play an instrument, so much the better. Instruments that still allow you to lead the singing are great, and instruments which don’t entail turning your back on the class are better. Worried that you’re ‘not a singer’? Most of the children have the same worry.


Embarrassed about ‘dancing’ in front of the whole class? Start with small steps, literally. The children will usually imitate you, so if you are hesitant or embarrassed, they probably will be too. Do what you feel comfortable with, but do try. Live music is uniquely powerful. Music we make ourselves, no matter whether it’s in the right key or it’s in tune, is a living gift.


Suggested Songs for Classrooms with Flexible Words and Actions

God Made Me As I Am; Come Along and Follow Jesus; This Little Light of MineDon’t Just Stand There; Turn Our Hearts to You O God; The Whole World is in God’s Hands; Weave One Heart; Welcome to God’s House; What Did God Give Us Our Voices For; The Wonders I See; On and On; Look Up, Look Down.



Guest Writer: Patricia Smith

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