I was always one for trying to find the best way to remember – my memory retention was terrible and still is – having short term memory loss doesn’t help.
As a teacher – instructing and performing in front of children was always less stressful as I had words and teachers note sitting front of me to refer to. Also, children are in the main, less critical if you make an error.
Totally different when they have to perform to an audience though, and trying to help practice and remember songs became just as important to me. It was even more apparent when I started performing to live audiences. To this day, I still have my words and chords in front of me when performing live – probably due to the fact I do not want to make an error in performance – but more than likely my failing memory.
That is why there are so many memory games and activities to develop the cognitive side of the brain these days – and not just crosswords and Sudoku.
I employed a number of well-known dramatic and arts based strategies to achieve better retention, not only of songs, but of routines that went with them, and these were implemented for not only my compositions, but for others as well. I believe that auditory and visual inputs are remembered for only a short time, however, when you combine these with an action, the chance of retaining the written word and auditory sound (music) enhance the memory process.
It has always been my aim to make the learning of songs in the classroom and for Children’s worship FUN. Actions can help the process of not only memory, but also of understanding.
As such, the use of mime, role play, re-enactment, dance, art and design can all enhance the process of learning and of children’s understanding
How I have used these in the classroom and children’s Liturgy are explained in what follows, including references to songs I have written as examples.
Enjoy the exploration – I know the children do.
Children’s music integration and implementation strategies into Classroom and liturgical worship
Mime – Role play – Re-enactment
A great deal of my songs are STORY TELLING songs. I have paraphrased the Gospel stories and have usually put them in between a chorus that all can sing. I am usually singing the story with the children joining in the chorus. This allows them to enact the story in action through mime, role paly and re-enactment.
Their understanding of the concepts behind the teaching, story or parable is enhanced. I think it also a great way to engage the children in discussing and creating the actions, so that it becomes their own.
Catechesis examples: The “Water of Life” collection has several of these story songs
The echo parts song is just the easiest to get a children (and adults alike) to sing. It requires a good leader (or the recording) and the rest just copy the leader.
Works extremely well with very young children. This is evident with Creations echo – which was purposed designed for this sort of interaction.
I have often said chants are simply a form of “rote learning” put to music –“Repeat after me, and repeat and repeat,…until you have it engrained in your memory and then – end!
Problem is – sometimes it can get too long unless there is variation – and then you have a little uncertainty in just exactly where the end should occur.
Examples of chants can be developed by utilising simple chorus’s from known songs or hymns repeated. An example of this style of song is “Let us Go” off the Water of Life collection. A great Liturgy exiting song, it trails off into the distance on the recording, but live, you would have to have a choir master to dictate the finish.
These are generally songs that have simple actions assigned to the lyrics. The activity I generally use is breaking the group into sections and assigning a part of the song to each to come up with their own “custom designed actions for that section of the song. There are 2 examples of the result of this on Water Of Life collection and many on Jump for Gods great collection. The actions have stemmed directly from this very activity session. The results can be very diverse.
Art and design
Incorporating art provides other activities children less performance wise inclined can be a valued part of the development of the song presentation. Artistic expression of the Visual nature has a profound effect on the audience, as well as enhancing their experience.
Art and design comes into set designs for staged events as well as costume for dramatic presentations. It seems to work into every aspect of all of these approaches.
Art can also be an outward expression of inner feelings, emotions and understanding that some cannot put into words. Every song could be treated this way but there are a few examples of songs below that have some developed art activities designed for you.
I am not exactly blessed with poise or dance ability and I am sure I am not alone. A simple dance sequence to the below songs probably shows that. I believe there are many more talented in this area, but sometimes the children can provide the best and most creative movements.
You just have to find those budding choreographers.
My solitary example of a song game – associated with the clock face song – which is probably going out of date with digital on phone and most advertising most prevalent these days. However, it is still a fun activity – designed for a purpose.