Music, Movement and Memorization

Starring Jojo Holmby Stacie MacBush

Do your students need help memorizing text for a play or concert? Mine did. I teach kindergarten through eighth grade students. I get to see my students for general music one time a week for 45 minutes. That doesn’t leave much time for me to get them ready for plays, concerts, assemblies, reading music, and everything else that goes into a school music program.

I am not a huge fan of using music because it tends to looks sloppy and younger students look at the music more than the director. I wouldn’t mind my older students using their music because they are better at watching and holding the music in a uniformed matter.

The past two years I have been using movements to help student memorize the text. Students read through the text with me first. I have been using a new “fill-in-the-blank” method where I read and the students follow along. They say the missing word when I pause. This keeps everyone on task and on his or her toes, especially when I call on one specific student to say the missing word.

After we read the words we talk about the text and what the composer intended. I teach my younger students the text by echoing. I sing one phrase at a time then they echo back. After students are singing the correct pitches and rhythm they were forgetting the text from week to week.

I started adding movements to each phrase of music and that made a huge difference in my music programs. I am able to teach them the songs they need to know for our plays and concerts and I still have time to teach the other music concepts they need to know.

Adding movements to the music helped my students memorize the text. They are also better at watching me. I love this method! Please let me know if you have any other ideas to help students memorize their music.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephanie K.
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 02:57:15

    I think that adding movement to lyrics or text can be a great way to aid the memorization process. I will soon be working on Christmas material with my general music and chorus students, and I think I am going to give your idea a try. I just think you want to be careful that the movements really do align with the words and are not too hard. If the students are struggling to learn the words and the movements, then you are likely hindering your memorization progress.

    Another idea I have tried in the past to help with the memorization process is pictures. Instead of using cue cards with every line or lyric written on them, I have used a picture card as a trigger to help my students remember the upcoming line. This is probably more of an idea for younger students, but it can be as simple as picking out the most important word in a sentence or phrase and using a picture to indicate that word. When the students see that picture, it helps them remember the word, the surrounding words, and, therefore, the sentence or phrase. Again, you have to make sure that the pictures align with the words. Otherwise, the students will spend more time trying to remember what the word represents than on actually memorizing the line or lyric. Good luck!


  2. patti b
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 00:18:57

    Yes! I use movement with nearly every song I do in a musical. It is especially helpful with my Kindergarteners. I will even teach the movement as I teach the song for the first time. Their attention spans are so short that allowing them to move as they learn a song, in my opionion, is more effective. I have also used the picture idea that Stephanie has talked about, and it is great as well. My older students like to do movements with their songs as well.

    I would also like to mention an article that I came across as I was researching the topic of singing for one of my blogs. It was written by Rita Klinger, Patricia Shehan Campbell and Thomas Goolsby. It is from the 1998 Journal of Research in Music Education titled “Approaches to Children’s Song Acquisition: Immersion and Phrase-by-Phrase.” This article suggests that teaching a song by immersing the students with it (i.e. letting them hear it several times) can be an even more effective way of ensuring pitch accuracy than dividing the song up phrase by phrase. I found this very interesting since many music methods courses endorse the phrase by phrase and repeat strategy. I conclude from it that it may be best to keep in mind both methods as students, of course, learn differently. Many people like to receive the “big picture” or the “whole” before they have to break it down step by step. I thought both you and Stephanie might be interested in hearing about this article and checking it out for yourself.


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