Teaching kindergarten is unlike every other grade level! In this article, I’m sharing tips for teaching kindergarten music so that students are engaged and you feel successful.

Think about attention span

I was once told in college that when lesson planning, you should think about the child's age and transfer that to minutes to understand their attention span. So, a 5-year-old can handle a five-minute activity before losing attention, a 6-year-old can handle six minutes, etc.

I have found this rule of thumb to be very helpful, especially in kindergarten. My activities are typically five minutes or less, so we are doing many activities in a short amount of time, but all with purpose! When I had 35-minute lessons, I would sometimes have 10 activities all in one lesson, but with smooth transitions from one activity to the next.

Ramp up the energy level!

I try to be energetic with all of my grade levels, of course, but with Kindergarten it is so important. I once had a student teacher say it surprised her that you had to almost perform or act as a teacher, and it's so true.

When you're having a bad day, you have to act like you're fine and dandy, and this is especially true with kindergarten. I don't care if I'm tired or cranky or sick, I put a smile on my face and make myself high-energy. You lost a tooth? WOW! You have a boo-boo? I'm SO sorry!

But then I quickly bring them back into the lesson and we're off again! I was also once told in college to look each child in the eye as much as possible, so while I'm smiling and rocking back and forth as I sing "Oh here we are together" (more on that in a minute), I am also looking each one of them in the eye and letting them know how happy I am they are in the room.

Routine, routine, routine!

I learned in my Kodaly levels how important it was to start each lesson with music. I love bringing them into the room singing or chanting. After we play a game or move like a train around the room chanting “Engine Engine,” we sit down and sing "Here we are together," which is to the tune of "The more we get together." I use the words:

Oh, here we are together, together, together,
Oh, here we are together in music today.
With Macy, and Jenna, and ….(sing all students' names)
Oh, here we are together in music today.

After that, we do greetings, in which I listen to four students sing solos.

Then comes the rest of the lesson. I'm not advocating for everyone to start their lessons the same way; this is just works for me. However, I think the routine is really great, especially for kindergartners.

They love that they know what will happen...at least for part of the lesson! Singing the gathering song is also a wonderful way to help me learn their names, and to welcome each child to the class.

Leave them wanting more

When I first started teaching kindergarten, I gave every single child a turn at every single game. That's what I was taught to do, and I didn't think to do anything different, partly because that's what I was used to, and partly because kindergartners so badly want a turn at everything!

But then I started my training at Capital University's Kodaly program with Julie Swank, and heard her say the words "leave them wanting more." There is often just not enough time to give every single child a turn, and shouldn't kids learn that they don't always get a turn?

I know, it's a tough lesson for some 5-year-olds to understand, but it is still an important lesson! If you want, you could keep track of which kids have played which games to be completely fair. Other benefits of not giving every child a turn is that you will have more time for curriculum and kids will be engaged, and wanting more!

Keep it simple

I have often heard music teachers talking about teaching ta and ti-ti and sol-mi to kindergartners. Perhaps they see their kids more often than I do, but my kindergartners are not quite ready for those concepts...besides their development and frequency in which they come to music, I think much can be said for experiencing music in kindergarten.

We move fast, we sing quietly, we use different types of voices, we pat the beat, we clap the rhythm, we dance. The concepts covered in kindergarten are so foundational; they need to understand loud/quiet, fast/slow, high/low, beat, and rhythm well in order to move onto more difficult concepts.

Don't worry about getting them to read and write music yet...let them experience!

Remember to have fun!

Kindergartners are full of wonderment and awe, and they are also very funny. So have fun with them! Smile, laugh, take them on a journey (maybe on Engine No. 9, where you find Lucy Locket, and then when you get off the train you get stung by a bee!).

Also, keep your ears open for the awesome things they will say. They constantly make me laugh...I love that some of my classes have aides coming with the kids because then I have another adult to look at after a kid has said something very funny!

One of my favorite 5-year-old teaching stories happened when I was teaching Sunday school music, many years ago. For some reason I thought it was a good idea to tell them about Jesus' 40 days in the desert. As soon as I said the words "40 days," a kid yelled out, "MY DAD'S 40!" and another kid exclaimed, "I CAN COUNT TO 40! 1....2....3....4...."

That, to me, is the epitome of kindergarten. They are funny, they are joyful, and they are ready to learn! Have fun teaching!