How to Teach Students to Memorize Music and Be Concert Ready

You’ve picked the music so now what? Here’s how to prepare your students for a concert.

  1. Learning the Music
  2. Performance-Ready Tips
  3. The Finer Points
  4. In Case of Emergency
  5. Other Concert Season Links

Learning the Music

  • Project lyrics using Google Slides or PowerPoint in grades 2 and above. For PreK-Grade 1 you can project some key words/image icons that begin phrases although many times, I taught the songs by rote with no projection. I tried to pick songs for the younger kids that had lots of repetition so learning the text wasn’t a problem.
  • Have students analyze the text looking for repetition, similarities, and differences.
  • Let students find the rhyming words and use color-coding on your slides.
  • Depending on the song, you may want to echo sing phrases, learn by listening to a recording, practice a few probable melody or rhythm trouble spots with echoing.
  • If the song is wordy, learn the chorus first and then slowly add the verses.
  • Sing a cappella sometimes so they can really hear themselves and the class.
  • As much as possible, do not sing with them. They will become stronger singers as you get away from singing with them or using full-performance tracks.
  • It’s really hard for kids to learn a song by repeatedly singing with a full-performance track. A full performance track can be an introduction to the song. Use the accompaniment track if you aren’t using piano, guitar, other, etc.

Now that the melody/rhythms are sung correctly…

  • Hide the last couple of words in each phrase to begin the memorization process. Hide more words and eventually, you will be down to the first word in each phrase and then I’d sometimes take it down to the initial letter of the first word in each phrase.
  • Adding choreography or some kind of motion (especially with younger children) will help bring the words to life and help them remember. (sometimes this can occur in the learning the melody/rhythm phase)
  • Play an elimination passing game with the song. Sitting in a circle, pass a single item (such as a ball) around the circle to the beat as you sing the song. By the time you are down to your winner, they will KNOW the lyrics! (Beat-passing game tips)

Performance-Ready Tips

Create and display a checklist. This really drives home some finer points to teach your kids appropriate concert practice. It adds a little subtle competition too that kids usually enjoy.

The goal is to get everything checked off in the top rows and once that is done, the STARS! area gets a big CHECK or STAR in it. Some areas are subdivided because once is just NOT enough to say they have that down.

This checklist is for ONE song in four classes of fourth grade.

This will also help you keep track of the progress of each class so you know where to begin the next time you see them!
  • Sing with lyrics means that they can correctly sing melody/rhythms while looking at the projected words.
  • Memorized-Correctly sing melody/rhythm and all lyrics with no aids.
  • Know motions-If most had them down I’d check it off. If only 2/3s performed the motions correctly, I would not check it off.
  • Begin & End Quietly-It is some kind of unwritten kid rule that as soon as a song is over it means, “Let’s turn and talk to anyone and everyone.” If anyone talked during the introduction or 5 seconds after the last note ended, they did not get this checked off. I subdivided this area because doing it one time did not drive home the point.
  • Expression-This is a hard one. I just said to use your eyes and remember that you are telling a story for the people in the audience. At the end of songs sometimes I’d use a student as an example. “I kept looking at Dominique because I could tell from her eyes and how she was singing and moving that she wanted me to love the song. Great expression, Dominique.”
  • Focus-Look at the teacher. Ignore people around you who are distracting.
  • Stars! If all the above items are checked off, this is the final one to end the checklist.

The Finer Points

Do you need 100% perfection to check it off? Here’s my take.

On the memorization, as a group, YES!

On motions, no. I’d tell the kids that if most all of you had it down, I’d check it off. They always breathed a sigh of relief because they really wanted that check and didn’t want someone who was having a bad day or being obstinate or shy or whatever to hold them back.

If they do not deserve a check, don’t give it to them. However, I kept the forward momentum going by using PENCIL checks. Instead of our colorful marker, I’d put a pencil check and tell them it was SO close and I knew they’d get their marker check soon!

If your checklist is on a slide instead of hanging in the room, how cool to use fun icons for your checks!

In Case of Emergency

If you didn’t start learning your music soon enough or stuff just happened, here are some emergency measures.

  • If the kids don’t know the words, especially the verses, put a strong singer on a microphone for the verses as the rest of the kids sing along too. Not a true solo but just support.
  • Put key first words on a giant piece of paper and hang it on the back of your music stand (or piano) or somewhere where they can see it but is unobtrusive.
  • Quietly speak the first word or two of the next phrase, a beat or two before they sing it. You can feed them their lines like this in a pretty unobtrusive way.
  • Begin motions a beat or two BEFORE the kids are meant to do them. This gives them thinking time to get THEIR hands in place.
  • You are going to have some classes that have a big beautiful sound and some classes…that do NOT! It’s amazing how each class has its own musical personality! If you have 3 sections of fourth grade, I’d put the strongest in the middle of the risers and then the other two classes on either side.

If you need any help or have any questions, send me an email or comment below!

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Amanda Gorman Music Resources and Ideas

Music Resources & Ideas for the works of Amanda Gorman.

Change Sings

With her poetry of words, Amanda Gorman’s “Change Sings” uses a story full of music vocabulary to invite children to be the change in the world with acts of kindness. Here are songs that fit into that theme.

The Change Is You

Amanda Gorman’s book, “Change Sings”, inspired this new 3-part round song that uses an African proverb to begin the journey of a call to action to be the change in the world.

Change the World, With Kindness

Written for younger singers, this song reinforces the act of kindness themes in Amanda Gorman’s book, “Change Sings.” With lots of repetition and sequencing, this easy-to-learn song is a perfect concert selection. The resource includes suggested movements and opportunities to create your own movement.

I Dream A World by Andre Thomas

This gorgeous melody set to Langston Hughes’ words is in 2-parts which could easily be adapted to a single melody line. In “Change Sings” Gorman writes, “I scream with the skies of red and blue streamers. I dream with the cries of tried-and-true dreamers.” Hughes writes, “”I dream a world where man, no other man will scorn. Where love will bless the earth and peace its paths adorn.”

I’ll Make the Difference by Moses Hogan

The Dream Keeper by Rollo Dilworth

Stage Decorations for Elementary Concerts from Easy to Elaborate

From backdrops to props, decorating your stage for concerts takes a lot of thought. Everyone’s performance venue is different. Teachers use walls, the front of the stage, items hanging from the ceiling, to nothing at all. Remember, if you use risers, any decorations behind them will be hidden when your students are there.

On this page…

  1. How to Make Paper Bag Snowflakes
  2. Stage Decorations
    1. Winter & Holidays
    2. Any Time of the Year
  3. How to Implement Dazzling Lights for that Fun Concert Vibe

How to Make Paper Bag Snowflakes

Easy-to-make paper bag snowflakes. Students can help!

Stage Decorations

Winter & Holidays

Any Time of the Year

How to Implement Dazzling Lights for that Fun Concert Vibe

Get information for finger lights, black lights, flashlights, glowsticks, light-up drumsticks, and more!

A weekly newsletter for the latest videos, concert ideas, music database info, and…FREEBIES!

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How to Implement Dazzling Lights for that Fun Concert Vibe

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay 

This is an ever-growing resource for implementing lights and other props into your concerts.

HatsStreamersFinger LightsGlow SticksFlashlightsBlack LightsResourcesBucket Drumming LightsLight up Drumsticks

Links to sources on this page may be affiliates and as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


These hats are so cute! A classroom teacher friend had “glow” day! Current price is 12 for $12.99!!! (paid link)

No-Cleanup Streamers

These streamers are very long and would pop out toward your audience but remain attached to the packaging for easy clean-up. (paid link)

Finger Lights

Finger Lights from Amazon. Bundled in a pack of 80 Finger Lights come in 4 colors: blue, green, white, and red. Each color has 20 pieces. Powered by high capacity batteries, each finger light lasts up to 24 hours. (paid link)

Glow Sticks

Foam LED Glow Sticks, 3 batteries from Amazon.

More foam glow sticks from Amazon. Click on the pic below for the link. (paid links)

This is a glow stick routine that could also be used with neon scarves, sticks, etc and Black Lights.

Here’s the Routine in Action

Danse Macabre Routine

Carol of the bells


Sleigh Ride


FASTPRO 18-Pack, 9-LED Mini Flashlight Set, 54-Pieces AAA Batteries are Included and Pre-Installed (paid link)

Transiberian Orchestra Carol of the Bells Medley

Winter holiday medley

Sleigh ride tutorial

Sleigh Ride

Sugar Plum Fairy

Black Lights

From Amazon. Teachers typically use 2-3 of these in an average-sized classroom. (paid link)

Blacklight Reactive Invisible Blue Ink Marker from Amazon. (paid link)

UV Flashlights
Invisible Ink Marker
Keychain UV Lights

Invisible ink marker and blacklight flashlight for “Write the Room” activities such as scavenger hunts, escape rooms, etc. Marker washes off with wipes or magic erasers. (paid links)


(paid links)

Lights that sync with music. Fun for classroom decor.

Blacklight streamers!

Bucket Drumming Lights

Amazon-Lights that can go under buckets. Wireless 16 Color Changing LED Puck Light 12 Pack LED Battery Powered with Remote Control Dimmer & Timing Function (paid link)

These lights from Walmart go under the buckets and are controlled with a remote that will change colors, power on/off. Each light needs 3 AAA batteries.

Light-up Drumsticks

(paid links)

Amazon Rockstix

Woodwind Brasswind Co.
Guitar Center

How-to Checklist for a Fabulous Music Concert

How-to checklist to put on a fabulous music concert!

Because each school is different, here are some general guidelines to consider when organizing your music concert.

  1. When to Begin Teaching the Music
  2. Checklist
  3. Choosing The Music
    1. Determining Who Sings
    2. Music selection & themes
    3. Tips & Tricks to think about
  4. Other Areas to Address
    1. Stage Decorations from Easy to Elaborate

When to Begin Teaching the Music

Please take the POLL below! Thanks to all who participate!

Early to mid-October is currently winning in the poll!

Don’t wait until after Halloween!


  • Timetable
    • Choosing the music. How to choose the music?
    • When to begin learning the music-you want your music memorized a week before the concert.
  • Physical location
    • risers
    • chairs
    • piano
    • decorations
  • Music
    • Will your program have a theme or random songs?
    • How many songs? If a song is 2 minutes in length, then 10 songs are about 20 minutes of minutes. How long for transitions between groups? Think in those terms. A typical length for a concert is 45 minutes.
    • Binder-put your music in a binder to keep it all in one place. Put all of your notes in there too so you have a record of what you did to refer to for the next concert.
    • Transitions-as one group exits and the next enters, will you have transition performances? piano solo, background music, audience sing-a-long, or nothing
    • Sound system-this is so different for each school.
  • Student logistics
    • Where will students wait before and after they perform?
    • Riser etiquette-how to get on and off the risers and how to stand on the risers once you are on them. Also, how much spacing between students.
    • I always created “riser spots” in my classroom so I did not have to do it during on stage rehearsal time. I had kids get in one long line by height, tall to short, and then I divided the number by 4. (3 rows on the risers and then one on the floor). A class of 24 then will have 6 to a row. The first 6 students become the back row, next six the third row, etc. Then I write down the names so I have a record for myself and for the classroom teacher if they are going to help me.
    • I figured riser spots a couple of weeks before the performance so that in music class we’d often practice getting in our riser spots and get used to singing in that configuration.
    • I taught at a school that had only about 25% participation in after-school concerts. The above idea of riser spots was great for our performance during the day, but was useless that night when so few showed up. My great PE teacher friend was always there backstage to place the attending kids in height order. The curtains would open and I never knew who would be there, but they always looked fabulous because of my PE buddy.
  • Programs
    • if you create paper programs, who will hand them out or where will they be placed for the audience to pick up.
  • Rehearsals
    • you must figure out if you are going to have rehearsals with individual classes, grade levels, or the entire performing group.
  • Attire
    • you must figure out whether you are going to have students wear school uniforms, dress up outfits, or a certain color top and bottom.
  • Communication
    • To parents-when, where, and what time for the concert and what their child should wear. Ask Ts to put the info in their weekly newsletters as well.
    • To teachers-are they helping with logistics the day/night of the program. Give them plenty of information about what to do.
    • To admin-I would meet with my admin and give them a rundown of my plan for the day/night and ask them any questions.
    • To custodians-Are they helping with setup, tear down, clean up. Make sure you have clearly communicated to them.
  • At the concert-I make a final list of what I need right there in front of me such as my binder, a music stand for my binder, my computer, and always a reminder to always turn off notifications on my phone and computer.

Choosing The Music

These thoughts are MY opinions and experience and not written in stone for you.

Determining Who Sings

A typical program is about 45 minutes in length. Songs can last between about 45 seconds up to 2:30. But if your average song is 2 minutes, you would need 22 songs for that length of time. WHAT? If people only knew.

Of course, there will be some transition time but really, an audience doesn’t want to watch too many minutes of kids getting on and off the stage or listening to narration. So if you need 18 songs, how are you going to do it?

If you teach at a school with large grade levels, you will probably have grade level concerts so “The Third Grade Spring Concert!” You might not have room for all the third grade at once so you would divide the songs by the number of performing “groups” that you would use. The same idea is true if your school is smaller and you have more grade levels at one time so “The K-2 Spring Concert!” Maybe then kinders would sing together, then grade 1, and grade 2, so three groups. If you have 3 performing “groups” and if each group sang 5 or 6 songs, you’d be good to go.

Music selection & themes

Themes can be easier because it helps with song selection, what you ask your students to wear, and decorations. The theme should be broad enough to let you find the songs you need. If it’s too narrow (Frogs Are Fun), it’s going to be hard to find enough songs.

The Song Database page has some common themes and titles within the Google slide database and also below it on the page.

No theme though is a perfectly great way to include lots of activities that you’ve been doing in class. “The Spring Concert” could have singing, bucket drumming, recorders, ukes, etc. with a wide variety of songs and pieces and no over-arching theme.

Tips & Tricks to think about

These were my go-to tricks that might help you.

  • Start the music EARLY. If I had a December concert, I started the end of September/early October. Kids get bored with songs, but once they know them, you can always teach something else and then come back to the songs closer to concert time. There’s nothing worse than feeling like the kids aren’t going to be ready and if you wait and take it down to the wire, I can guarantee this will happen-
    • a grade level will go on a field trip
    • a grade level has been scheduled for their annual human growth talk
    • the teacher has a special visitor in to show the class about reptiles
    • picture day
    • makeup picture day
    • an all-school assembly program during your class time
  • Find your music through Facebook Music Group searches, my database (linked above), MK8, old textbook series (they have master indexes by subject, genre, etc), YouTube (search “elementary concert”), online music stores (JW Pepper, Sheetmusic Plus)
  • Accompaniments
    • Accompaniment Tracks-MK8, online stores (the mp3s are usually expensive, but…), search Apple music for “instrumental” or “karaoke”
    • Create your own accompaniment tracks using Noteflight. Here’s a tutorial to get started. Or use GarageBand, Soundtrap, Bandlab.
    • Get an accompanist
    • Let kids accompany on ukuleles
  • Mass Groups-I always liked to have as many kids as possible performing so I had risers on the stage and on the floor so I could get 4 classes singing together. This made for a gorgeous big sound and if you had that one class that didn’t know the music as well as the others, it didn’t matter.
  • One Extra Song-In the early stages, if possible, teach/introduce one song MORE than you think you’ll need. After a couple of weeks, you’ll find that there’s one song that just isn’t working and you can just let that one disappear and go with the ones that are proving to be better and stronger.
  • Student Choice-Do NOT let the kids pick the songs because one class will pick Song A and the other will pick Song B and then you’ll be in a pickle. If a class is performing by themselves, then you have the same problem because half the class will want Song A and half will want Song B. I always found it a no-win situation.

Other Areas to Address

Stage Decorations from Easy to Elaborate