How to teach songs

Most camp songs are learned by listening to others and memorizing the notes and words together. Hardly any of them are written down using notes and keys (although if you find any, feel free to share). Here I have the method I use when learning and teaching new songs. It can be adjusted to fit different age groups and abilities, but the basics are still there.


Usually there is just one song leader (SL) responsible for teaching. If there are others in the group that know the song, have them sing with the group (G) to reinforce the words and music.


I will use the general Verse, Chorus, Verse with 4 lines each as my example. Some songs don't follow this format, but mastering 4 lines at a time is the key to understanding. It's usually the end of a phrase or verse and you can go over 4 lines easier than all 12 or 16 or however many lines the song has.


SL: Verse 1, line 1

G: Verse 1, line 1

SL: Verse 1, line 2

G: Verse 1, line 2

SL: Verse 1, lines 1 & 2

G: Verse 1, lines 1 & 2

Make sure they are comfortable with these, repeat if necessary

SL: Verse 1, line 3

G: Verse 1, line 3

SL: Verse 1, lines 1, 2, & 3

G: Verse 1, lines 1, 2, & 3

SL: Verse 1, line 4

G: Verse 1, line 4

SL: Verse 1, lines 1, 2, 3, & 4

G: Verse 1, lines 1, 2, 3, & 4

Again, make sure they know it. Usually sing it twice.


Repeat with 'Chorus' where 'Verse 1' is, until Chorus is learned.

Sing Verse 1 and Chorus together.

Now learn Verse 2 in same manner.

Sing Verse 1, Chorus, Verse 2.


The key (if not apparent) is repetition. Once a song is learned in this manner, the song usually stays with you for a long time. It helps to refresh memories if you sing one or two songs at each meeting. Maybe have a goal to learn 10 new songs in a year or something. It also makes award ceremonies much more enjoyable and memorable if you learn Girl Scout songs like 'When E're You Make a Promise' or similar.


As for camp, Action/ Silly songs are best sung in the morning, to wake up the campers, whether day or overnight camp. When I was a counselor at a day camp, we would sing loads of songs in the mornings while waiting for all the busses to arrive. It's harder to teach in large groups like that, so pick songs that most know, and the rest will learn over the week. Slow songs can be taught/ sung around the campfire or rest time during the day. 


Share songs with other leaders/ counselors so they can spread it around in their own groups/ troops.


Any questions, feel free to contact me.