Christmas Crisis! Song is too difficult! How to memorize?

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    I am teaching General Music to K-4 at a small Christian school. The choir director selects the music for the Christmas program. One of the carols she wants the K-4 to sing is from another country, but we’ll sing it in English. The program theme is Christmas Around the World.

    The plan was to sing this in a large group, K-4, with the 3/4 graders playing boomwhacker chords or, preferably, handbells. This is my first year at this school and I assumed the 3/4 graders would have had SOME previous music reading experience. Turns out they have none, and were totally overwhelmed with the sheet music I gave them – I had typed up the song on Noteflight with just the melody and large lyrics. I passed out handbells and colored pencils, asking the children to color “their” note, which I showed each student individually, every time they saw it appear. I thought this would make it easier for the children to find and see “their” note and play it. The kids could not differentiate the pitches that were on a line or space adjacent to “their” note (for example, their note is C and they colored all the B’s and D’s too). Lots of confused exclamations and whining about how hard it was.

    With only 3 class periods until the concert, I am concerned that not only will they have difficulty learning the lyrics to an unfamiliar and somewhat modal song, they will not be able to play the handbells or boomwhackers. Each class is also singing a separate carol and they are doing fine with that. Any ideas on how to make learning this song easier? How to flesh it out with a background MP3 (I don’t know of any programs to create one)? If you have any tips for memorization of lyrics, that would also be helpful. I do not expect to use a large poster with lyrics and the K-1 don’t read, anyway. Thanks in advance!


    You already have done very good work with notation support. I suggest working with your students’ visual and audio strengths.

    For visual reinforcement: You can write/type out the text in different colors. For example,
    any place where the text is green, it shares the same melodic line. When students master the melody line, they gain confidence knowing that they can sing a larger percentage of the song.

    For audio reinforcement: Is there a video or auditory performance of the carol, sung in English? Hearing another group sing the carol can build aural memory. It also provides scaffolded support for students to sing the song.

    In terms of accompaniment, piano or keyboard is best, because you are performing with your students. If you choose to create a notated accompaniment, Noteflight is a web-based notation program whereby you can create a free account.

    Best wishes for your concert,
    Dr. Katie Carlisle
    Southern Representative NAfME Council for General Music
    Georgia State University

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