This is how to teach the Thankful song without visual aids, melody maps or any other complicated learning tool.
*I will say up front I’m not a fan of complicated visual aids or melody maps. I think they just steal your precious time and usually distract the children more than help them.
To help the children learn the melody of any song, do these four simple things:
- Have your accompanist play ONLY the melody for the first several practices. Only add the accompaniment after the children are very confident with the song.
- Sing out really loudly yourself. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a quality voice. Just hit the pitch the best you can, and make sure they can hear you.
- Use your hand at first – in a sideways position, raise and lower it with the melody (with definite ‘steps’, not smoothly). Do this until the children are very comfortable with the melody. Then transition to a regular 4/4 beat pattern.
- *If they struggle with a certain part of the melody, go over it very slowly a few times, using your hand and voice and the piano to guide them, and they’ll get it.
To help them learn the words, all you have to do is sing it repeatedly, and have them listen for something different every time. When they have the answer, have them sing that part with you. Then add the parts together.
This is a detailed teaching plan:
TEACH THE FIRST VERSE
- “I’m going to sing a new song for you. I’m not going to tell you anything about it. But after I’m finished, I want you to tell me what this song is about.” Sing the entire first verse and chorus, then ask, “Okay. What’s the song about?” Let them respond. Then ask, “When do you think might be a good time of the year to sing this song?” (They’ll probably say, “Thanksgiving,” and that will give you a good chance to say, “Yes! But it’s always a good time to be thankful, so this is a song you can sing any day of the year.”)
- “This song has a verse and a chorus. I’m going to sing it to you again and I want you to raise your hand as soon as you think I have started the chorus.” After you’re done, tell them, “Good job!” And then explain, “Actually, in this song, it’s hard to tell where the chorus begins, because there’s no real break between the verse and the chorus. They just run together!”
- “So I’m going to sing it again, and I want you to raise your hand when you hear the words, ‘for every.’” Sing the song one more time and they’ll raise their hands on ‘for every’ (hopefully), and then you can tell them that’s where the chorus starts.
- “Now you’ve heard the song 3 times. Let’s see how well you’ve listened. Let’s see if you can name all 7 things named in the first verse that we’re thankful for. Raise your hand if you know one.” Write the numbers 1-7 on the board and list their responses next to the right number. (I will be surprised if they don’t get all of them.)
- “Can we sing this part of the song together?” Sing it together with your accompanist still playing the melody notes only.
- At this point, you just want to repeat a couple of times. Here are some ideas for repeating. Use however many they need to know it well:
- Have the girls sing the odd numbers and the boys the even ones
- Sing it, but leave the numbers out
- Start very softly and get a little louder with every number
- Or start it loud and get a little softer with every number
- Now they will have listened to it 3 times and sung it 3 or 4 times. Tell them they’re amazing. Ask them to turn to whoever is sitting next to them and say something they’re thankful for. Ask for some of those responses in front of the whole group, if there’s time.
TEACH THE CHORUS
You may want to do this the following week, but if the verse learning went really fast, then just go for it!
- “[Last week,] we learned the first verse of the Thankful song. (Sing it together once if it really was last week.) Now, listen as I sing the chorus. The verse is full of numbers, and the chorus has some numbers in it, also. There are two of them. Raise your hand when you hear them.” Sing the chorus (starting at ‘for every good thing’) and then ask what the two numbers were. (A hundred and a thousand.)
- “Great! Can we sing that part together? It goes, If I counted a hundred or a thousand, I’m sure.” Then just sing that part. Chances are, they will continue to sing. But whether they do or not, say:
- “And the last two lines are what?” (There would still be more to be thankful for.) “Right! Now let’s sing just that part together – ‘there would still be more to be thankful for.’” Sing it, then put the two parts together, starting at “If I counted…”
- “Did you notice that the last 3 lines rhyme? Can you tell me what those three words are?” (Sure, more, for.) “Right! Let’s sing that part again, and when we sing those rhyming words, I want you to clap your hands on them.” Then do that.
- “All right. Now we know the entire song except for two lines at the beginning of the chorus.” Go to the board and write, “What? Who? When? How?” in a column at the left side of the board. “I’m going to sing them, and then I’m going to ask you to fill in these answers.” Sing from ‘for every good thing’ to ‘without number or end.’
- (This is the hardest question of the day – you may have to help them a little.) “Okay, first, what are we talking about?” (Every good thing that I have – write their answers on the board) “Who do all these good things come from?” (God) “When do they come?” (Every day, every hour) “And how do they come?” (Without number or end.) “There are blessings He sends without number or end. What does ‘without number or end’ mean?” Let them respond. “Now, let’s sing this part together, starting with ‘for every good thing’.” Repeat that, if necessary.
- “Let’s sing the whole chorus together, starting with, ‘for every good thing.’ Sing it with them.
“Okay great! I think you’re ready to sing the entire song.” Begin a process of repeating the entire song in different ways. Here are a few good ideas for that:
- Stand up the first time you sing a number, then sit down the next time, and keep alternating til the end of the song. (Don’t forget a hundred and a thousand – but don’t clue them in beforehand. Just see if they remember it.)
- Pass out numbers to every child, from 1-7. Everyone sings their number. If they have 3, then they sing the ‘3 for my family’ part. Everyone joins in on the chorus. After you’ve done that one time, have them pass their numbers to the right, and do it again.
- Make simple ‘loud’, ‘soft’, and ‘silent’ signs. Hold them up alternatively throughout the song, and have them change their volume according to the signs. When it’s silent, make sure the accompanist continues to play, then bring the kids back in by simply holding up the ‘loud’ or ‘soft’ sign.
TEACH THE SECOND VERSE
- “I’m going to sing the 2nd verse of the song. There are seven short little lines in it. That’s all we have to learn, and then we’re finished learning it! While I sing it, I want you to listen for something I could DO and something I KNOW.” Sing the verse, then ask, “Okay, what could I DO?” (I could go on and on.) “What could I go on and on doing?” (Counting the whole day long.) “And what do I KNOW?” (I know He is with me.) *You may want to take a minute here to explain that one of the ways we know God is with us, and loves us, is because all of the blessings He gives us.
- “Let’s just SAY those lines all together. Ready? “I could go on and on counting the whole day long. I know He is with me, for every good thing that I have…” Now let’s sing those lines.”
- “Great. Now I’m going to sing the whole 2nd verse again. When I get to the part you know, sing it with me.” This time I want you to listen for the last 3 blessings that are numbered.” Sing it, then ask what 3 blessings are numbered.
- “Let’s sing that part together.” Sing it one time, then sing it again, this time with actions:
- 8 for the chance to grow (stretch up taller)
- 9, heart and hands and soul (hands over heart, raise your hands, then bring them down with your palms facing out, like you’re displaying your whole soul)
- 10 for the eyes to see (point to your eyes)
- All God has given me (stretch your arms out wide, palms facing up)
- “Now let’s sing the entire second verse together and go on to the chorus.” Sing it, then repeat it as necessary.
- *You can use the same repeating activities as you did before, or use your kids’ favorite ones.
That’s it! Whew! You’re done. Enjoy the song, and I apologize up front if it gets stuck in your head.
Love & blessings,