Ask a Storytime Ninja: Forgetting Songs

We’ve all been there- You’re transitioning to the Itsy Bitsy Spider when suddenly you can’t remember the tune. Even worse, you forgot the words! Check out the great ninja advice for what to do when it happens to you!


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The Question:

How do you remember how a song goes (it’s tune) in the middle of your storytime? If I’m a total blank, I’ll try to chant it or just skip it. I’d love to hear some advice!


Shelley says:

I create a Power Point for every storytime and I embed the songs into the Power Points.  Before I did that, I used a cd player for all of my songs.  If you cannot do that one of those things, skipping the song is fine because it is your program and they don’t know what you planned.


Valerie says: 

If I don’t have a CD or other accompaniment, I tend to use the same few melodies over and over again and just use different words based on my theme. Pop goes the weasel, Mary had a little lamb and 10 little Indians are all surprisingly adaptable. I hope this helps!


Lisa says: 

You know, everyone blanks out now and then. It happened to me when I was doing a draw and tell story the other day, and I just laughed and said whoops and started over! I’ve also stopped a song and changed the key when I sound awful!


There’s nothing wrong with forgetting or messing up occasionally. in fact, I think it’s probably good for our patrons to see us making mistakes. Just relax and try again.


On the bright side, as I told some families a few weeks ago, an awful lot of children songs work perfectly well to just a few tunes, like “Twinkle, twinkle little star” ,”Skip to My Lou” and “Frere Jacques.” that is why there are so many dreadful piggyback songs out there from teachers and librarians, but it is helpful if you need them!

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One thought on “Ask a Storytime Ninja: Forgetting Songs

  1. Profile photo of Melissa DepperMelissa Depper

    I do a few things to help me remember tunes during storytimes.

    *Like Valerie, I have a few piggyback tunes that I love (Hello Five Little Ducks Went Out to Play, helloooo Skip to My Lou) and I use those over and over rather than try a million different ones.

    *I tend to like songs with lots of repeating phrases or verses as opposed to ones that have different words in every verse. This way I don’t have to spend as many brain cells on remembering the words, and I have more left over for carrying the tune. And BONUS! These songs are easier for the grownups to memorize and sing with me in storytime, and home with their kids later!

    *Before storytime, I look at my plan and will hum or sing the first line of every song. Yes, even Twinkle Twinkle. This feels like it brings the tunes up to my working memory and I don’t have to dig so deep while storytime is underway.

    *When I transition to a song during storytime, sometimes I will take an extra moment for a pause, a breath, and call to mind the first few notes of the song before I launch into it out loud. If you need a moment and you don’t want to present plain old dead air, you can always start clapping a beat, invite the kids to start clapping with you, and while they are all getting organized and in sync, there’s your moment to remember the tune.

    *Despite all these tricks I do find myself singing the wrong tune or getting the syllables on the wrong beats. If it’s a song the grownups know well, I just stop singing for a moment, let them keep going, and then jump back in. If it’s a song they don’t know well and they are relying on me to lead, I just say, “Whoops, that didn’t work! Let’s try again.” Sometimes when I completely blank out, I say, “I’m sorry, I’m really lost today! Can someone start this one for me?” And a parent will jump in and get us off on the right foot. This works because I’m usually in baby storytime where we do a LOT of repetition, and a LOT of very familiar tunes. If this isn’t your situation, you can always say, “Whoops. Let’s try that song another time and sing _____ right now instead.”

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