Blogger Liza Purdy

Essential Storytime Skills: Leading Group Singing

I started a series last month on essential storytime skills. First, we looked at prep work that you can do to raise your confidence as a singer. Now, we’re going to look at some important ways to successfully lead groups of people in singing.

Stand up if possible. If you can’t stand, then sit up very tall in your chair. Try hard not to squish your shoulders up by your ears, or strain your neck. All of this will lead to less projection. Projection is key!

Speaking of projecting your voice, use a microphone if it is possible. Use the best quality microphone that your team can afford. You get what you pay for. That being said, even the least expensive mic *should* be helpful in getting your voice to the back of your room. You want to set your volume at a place that is loud enough for everyone to hear, but not so loud as to be uncomfortable. It is a delicate balance. I suggest grabbing a work buddy to act as a second pair of ears while you’re setting up your sound.

Start your song at a high enough pitch! One mistake I’ve heard people make time and time again is starting a song too low. Pitching a song too low will make it hard for you to project, and really hard for people, especially children with their sweet little high voices, to sing along. I would say, as a rule of thumb, start your song at least two notes higher than you think you need. Better to have to reach for a few high notes than spend the majority of your song in a vocal basement.

Introduce a new song in parts. If you’re introducing a new song, start by teaching the group the chorus. Make sure they know their part before you move on to verses. This will give everyone a way they can participate. Choruses tend to be easier to grasp than verses.

Movement or gestures are key. You will want your song to have some movement or gestures to it. This will add another element that people can do while they’re learning the song, and the movement tends to reinforce the words and lead to all sorts of other types of learning.

The author leading zoom storytime participants in a song. “If You’re a Fox and You Know It.” YouTube, uploaded by Santa Clarita Public Library, 10 Jul. 2020,

Repeat, repeat, repeat! Children learn through repetition, as do adults. If you are introducing a song, plan on singing it at least three times at first, especially the chorus. Repetition is essential! We just celebrated Christmas, and I noticed how much people enjoy singing carols that they have likely heard hundreds of times. It gives everyone a chance to relax and feel confident. So with storytime songs.

Change your repeated songs each semester. You will want to have the same opening, closing and maybe one movement song each semester. Kids will look forward to these, and really engage in them. However, I recommend changing these repeated songs at least every semester so that you don’t get completely sick of them!

Sing some songs acapella, and some with recorded music. If you’re playing with recorded music, make sure you sing along with as much gusto as you do when singing unaccompanied. No lip-syncing! Children model what they see.

If you use an instrument, make sure you practice ahead of time. Learning to play an instrument is SO GOOD FOR YOU! If you’re just learning an instrument, wait to introduce it to the group until you’ve mastered a song. You will most likely be a little nervous about playing a new instrument in front of the group the first time or two you play.  You hands might shake, or you can forget what chord I need to play next. But once you’re fluent in the song, and can play it in front of colleagues confidently, TAKE IT TO THE GROUP! There’s nothing better for getting kids’ attention than an instrument played live!

Have fun! Sharing music is a joy!  Even if you feel unsure at first, slap a smile on your face, tuck your pride into your pocket, and let your voice and body loose! Your storytime crowd will love you for it!

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