Tips and Trick to use when your students are having a tough time remembering lyrics

Holiday and Winter concerts are quickly approaching! What tricks can you use when your young singers are having a tough time remembering lyrics?

Here are a few recommendations from NAfME members and fellow music educators:


kids concert

Carnegie Hall Kids Concert. Photo by Stefan Cohen.


  • Icons. Sometimes I use something that I can hang from my stand – this way they’re still remembering lyrics, but have a backup!” You can also come up with silly pictures for key words. Discuss this with your students and have them help you come up with ideas! Remember, the process is just as important as the picture. –Julie
  • “The teacher should say the first word, the students the next. Repeat this all the way through the song. Also, chant the first word of each phrase. Once they have the first word the rest will usually come fine!” –Catriona
  • “I like to post the lyrics on my iPad or computer, project it and scroll down slowly, revealing one like at a time. Then ask the students who knows the next line. If a child gets it correct, I give them a green ticket. Green tickets earn them prizes!” –Gary
  • “Repeating it over and over is boring for 3rd graders, so I have them echo a phrase 3 times each time using a weird voice (opera, country, nerdy, etc.) by then they have it. I will also have them “fill in the blank.” I usually sing it and point to them to sing the next word. –Elaina
  • “I printed pictures of the words from each verse and hung them on the back of the piano when we had a particularly difficult piece to memorize.” –Kathleen
  • “I mouth key words just before to help trigger memory. I also do facial expressions or little hand signs to help. Let them know you are there with them and willing to help at all times!” –Karen
  • “I pantomime the words as I direct. The results are usually rather fun.” –Andrea
  • “I overemphasize the words with my mouth and also use my hands as motion about one beat before they are going to sing the word. For example, if you were singing Santa Claus I would put my hands on my belly and move like a ho ho ho motion.” –Marilyn
  • Eraser game. Give their brains a chance to connect, visually. You can do this by making an outline (just first words, or important words in each phrase, or the whole song) either on a large white-board, projected or written…or a poster where you cross them out. When teaching new songs (that I will do over and over again) I take the time to write out lyrics on index cards or poster-board and then they sit in groups, put them in order, and then turn selected cards over. This maintains the feeling of the steady beat because they can see ALL of the music, but only some of the words. Start by turning over what they KNOW. It’s like Wheel-of-Fortune, in reverse…” –Helen
  • “For third grade-first, they listen a few times while we do motions or a dance relevant to the text. We echo phrases, and decode the rhythm in rhyme form or melodic phrases. We also spend some time discussing the meaning, and translation if it’s in another language. I also have a school webpage where I put the lyrics and mp3s/karaoke for them to practice at home.” – Linda
  • “I took a balloon one time in class put kids in circle and every time they sang the next words correctly I blew up the balloon. Then I let it fly around the room once it was blown up as a reward for the kids. We did this over and over until they really knew the words to the song. They loved it!” –Gina
  • “I made power points with the words to the songs. They really liked it. I also do the–look at this page, next time it won’t be there!! Sometimes I will have one class make one verse their “responsibility” and I give a different verse to a different class. At least one class is strong on each verse that way.” –Jennifer
  • Hand motions or even ASL for the songs…they even help me remember them too! Sometimes with songs with multiple verses in practice I see the ASL sign and remember the next verse!” –Kathy
  • “I love actions, especially if they are actual ASL signs. They are most effective when taught at the beginning as students learn the song. Also games. Another to add to this is the game Word King/Queen. Crown optional. One lyric-confident child goes out of the room. The group (or teacher) chooses a word to leave out. Might need to quietly practice leaving it out to make sure all understand. After inviting the child back in. Sing, leaving out the word. If guessed, a new King/Queen goes out, a new word is chosen. If they’re stuck, sing it a couple more times, and/or let the stumped student phone a friend. Lots of chances for targeted repetition.” –Lise
  • “As a last resort, I taped big posters to the floor of the stage in front of the riders. On the posters I just put the first couple of words of each line. They could get it from there.” –Dell
  • “Print out the words, poster size. Let a few kids come up & put a sticky note over a portion of the words. Sing song. Have a few more kids add more sticky notes. Sing again. Repeat this process until all words are covered! Kids get a kick out of this. A variation is to write words on the white board & let kids erase a few at a time until all words are gone.” –Julie
  • We speak the lyrics, one phrase at a time, going down the line, so one student starts, then another continues, etc. If they get stuck or try to sing it, they can call on a friend or ask for a cue. We used this for learning The Star-Spangled Banner and it worked wonderfully!” –Kim

Do you have any additional recommendations?

Share them with us in the comment section below!


Kristen Rencher, Social Media and Online Community Engagement Coordinator, February 13, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (