10 Ways to Repeat a Song

Children learn songs best by repeating the complete song over and over (for longer songs, repeat a chorus or verse over and over instead of the entire song). The following are strategies for repeating a song, keeping it engaging every time, and exploring musical and other concepts in the process.

1. Add actions
  • Be creative. Develop actions that go along with specific words or phrases. You might use sign language, if you know it. Let the students develop actions.
2. Count lyrics
  • Count and identify specific words, rhymes, phrases, alliterations, etc. Ask the students to count how many times they hear a specific word or type of word (e.g., words beginning with 's' or words that rhyme with 'door'). Sing the song, then call on students to share their guesses. Don't say 'yes' or 'no'; simply sing the song again and double check as a class. 
3. Replace lyrics
  • Replace words with sounds, actions, or silence. You could even sing the entire song or portions of the song on a neutral syllable (la, la, la). In addition, it is engaging and can develop inner hearing to have a signal for turning the sound on and off; of course, the song continues while the sound is off. 
4. Follow a lyric sheet or map
  • Give each student a copy of the lyrics or provide the lyrics projected at the front of the class. Track individually or by having one student point to the lyrics. Or, develop a series of images to remind students of the lyrics. Specific lyrics could be blocked out to memorize the song. Also, students could identify (by performing a specific action) parts of speech (nouns, verbs, etc.) or expressive devices (e.g. alliteration).
5. Play the beat or the rhythm
  • The beat stays the same throughout the song; it's the underlying pulse--the part that we dance to. The rhythm consists of the patterns made by the lyrics (each syllable). Show the beat or the rhythm of a song using body percussion (pat, clap, stomp, snap, etc.), movement (e.g., walk the beat), or rhythm instruments (can be home-made). For variety, change body percussion, movement direction or type, or instruments on different phrases. 
6. Show the melodic contour
  • Show the melodic contour (the relative height of pitches) with bodies (finger, thumb, belly-button, head, etc.). Draw the melodic contour on individual pieces of paper or on the board. Try to follow the contours others have drawn. 
7. Add accompaniments
  • Add repeated beat or rhythm patterns with voices (additional lyrics), body percussion, movement (make up a dance), or instruments. An accompaniment is more than simply the beat. It is a repeated rhythm pattern that accompanies the song. Use a drum circle (overlapping repeated patterns) to develop a groove to be used as an accompaniment for songs, poems, times tables, etc.
8. Change the song
  • Make up new lyrics (songs-that-teach). Vary the tempo, volume, pitch, or tone quality (different voices like a duck, bear, mouse, etc.). For singing games, make up new ways to play the game alone or with others.
9. Discuss the meaning or context of the song
  • Talk about or research the meaning of specific words or phrases, events mentioned in or associated with the lyrics, or other contextual factors (history, culture, social interaction, etc.). 
10. Combine ways 
  • Do two of the above activities at the same time. For example, make up new lyrics and explore the beat/rhythm or add accompaniments. Or, have some participants do one thing while others do another thing. Sing the song or perform the actions in small groups or as solos. Sing the song without the leader/teacher. Be creative. However, it is important to stick with one way of doing things for awhile and transition gradually to a new way of repeating the song so that students don't become confused. 

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