Bible Songs in Sunday School Classroom
Here's the why and the how of teaching Bible Songs in the Sunday School classroom. A collection of songs you might find useful is here: Bible Teaching Songs. Two different types of songs are traditionally taught in the Sunday School curriculum, namely
- Teaching Songs - fun songs that help children remember and understand lessons
- Hymns and Anthems - serious songs that are part of the Church services in many traditions
This article is about the former, the use of songs as a lesson activity - although the material on how to teach songs to children would generally apply to both types.
Song as a Lesson Activity
Children, as are we all, are attracted to rhythm and rhyme. Rhyme and melody stick in the mind far easier than non-rhyming language does. Certainly you remember some from your own general schooling, such as 'In fourteen hundred ninety two Columbus sailed the ocean blue?' The use of rhyme (and sometimes melody) as a mnemonic or memory aid is age old. In times before words were written, book length epic poems, in rhyme were learned and re-told by bards. Surely such a time tested technique should be considered for your students.
Song reaches children who best mode of learning is related to song, rather than listening to instruction. Music lends itself with movement, which is another mode of learning - which will reach even more children.
Music can help focus a young child's attention. (Recall the alphabet song sung to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) Add movement, even sign language, and you'll have even more chances to impress the message.
The ancient bards that sung the epic poems of history used the exact same aid, and in the absence of the written word, passed amazing amounts of their cultural heritage down to the current day.
Music can create 'prior knowledge.' We all know it's easier to learn more about something we already know about. Learning songs can introduce facts and concepts, creating a level of prior knowledge that will ease later learning.
How to Teach Songs
Start with the words first, then introduce the melody. If you can play the piano or other instrument, and have one available to you, introduce it last, after the children have gotten the song fairly well learned. Otherwise it could be more of a distraction than an aid.
Call and Response, or Echoing the lyrics is a tried and true method of learning lyrics. Sing out a line, and then have the children sing it back to you. Move on to the next, and continue so all the way through. Once you've gone through it like that once or twice, you can start to sing together.
Use Movement to enhance and re-enforce meaning
Use Props, such as felt board figures, puppets, or other items. They tend to reduce your inhibitions, while adding a fun element. They can also re-enforce the meaning, while providing a reminder of the next verse.
Can't Find the Right Song?
Write your own! Choose a well-known melody, with lots of repetition, and few words, like BINGO, Row-Row-Row Your Boat, or Farmer in the Dell. Then just replace the words with ones that work for your lesson topic.
Or, for slightly older children, have the class come up with the lyrics as an activity. If they write a song about it, they will learn the lesson far more deeply than if they just listened to.
So, go ahead, in the words of the Psalm, Make a joyful noise unto the Lord with your class!