“ba ba ba ba”, says baby.
“Baby-baby, sleeping in the bed, wake up, wake up, you sleepy head,” momma sings back in a so-mi, “sing songy” melody.
I sang to my children every day, probably all day.
I sang them to get dressed, to clean up and to eat.
Every night I pulled out my guitar and I sang them to sleep.
Even now when I want to get a student’s attention and I “sing” their name. The class quiets down and giggles as if it’s something unique for a music teacher to do! But I get their attention!
SINGING FOSTERS BRAIN AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
I sang to my children because I believed (and now more firmly believe) that singing made anything sound better–but also it helped them remember it better. It was a “fun” way to get them to do some of the mundane things that mother’s want their children to do. It also taught them about their world. Children respond to singing differently than speaking. Singing can help a shy child express them self, an angry child calm down and an anxious child relax. Singing reaches them in more ways, makes different connections and is internalized differently than speaking.
Sitting in the car waiting for my parents to finish their shopping, I always coerced my younger siblings into singing a song with me. At the time I tried to get them to sing “Beach Boys” songs and thought that it should be easy for them to sing in harmony at the young ages of 9 and 7.
When I was a teenager I wrote a lot of angry and searching for life’s meaning songs. I wrote my feelings in my songs and shared them whenever I got the chance. It gave me the chance to express myself.
When children sing they learn a different way to express themselves. It helps them validate their feelings too. Singing “freedom” songs with my 3rd graders helped them feel what the slaves might have felt. They sang their songs with heart and soul, something that might not have happened if we hadn’t done a Martin Luther King Music program. Singing is important because it gives children the opportunity to express themselves in a different way than speaking.
SINGING HELPS STUDENTS LEARN BETTER
How many times have you brought to tears during a musical program? How many times have you gotten the “chills” during a special song? Music touches our hearts in a way that speaking doesn’t. It somehow reaches into our emotions and turns the tap on more efficiently. It has the power to soothe, motivate, inspire and frighten us. Singing with children can help them turn away from anxiety, fear and frustration. It can help them to memorize information easier and can help them to just pay attention to you. Singing about an important fact will help students remember it better and longer. Singing develops language skills in rhythm and meter, pronunciation, reading and more. Singing develops listening skills and also teaches story telling and patterns. Some of my favorite songs are Nursery Rhymes and Folk Songs. Singing songs is a important tool for any teacher to employ because it brings a focus to emotions and thoughts more than speaking or reading. The brain retains information better when it is sung. Shouldn’t we sing everything?
SINGING BUILDS A SENSE OF COMMUNITY
Whether at school singing the School song or at a Baseball game singing the National Anthem, singing together creates a bond, a strong sense of belonging. Having children sing in your classroom can help build a classroom environment based on mutual respect and inclusion. We can all sing together, because we’re in this class together, and we’re all here to learn together.
It doesn’t have to be complicated– Kindergartner’s singing “The Wheel On the Bus” who join together in the swish-swish movement of the wipers, or the “honk-honk” of the horn connect with each other on a different emotional level than just reading a story together and it’s because they are PARTICIPATING together in voice and actions and emotions. They are sharing their togetherness through song.
Singing is a skill that anyone can develop. We come with all the necessary parts to sing a song. It is the primary musical experience. Children sing naturally and easily when in an environment of singing. I always marvel when a new student comes to our school and we all start singing a hello song and they get this look on their face like, “what on earth are you all doing?” I smile and know that after a few classes they’ll be singing too.
They’ll be part of our singing community and having fun!
As a music teacher it’s a big responsibility to get everyone singing, especially if the children have not been singing before you arrive. Here’s some of my tips:
1-Begin class with a song–any song–just sing together at the beginning of every class. It could be a patriotic song, a favorite song, a hello song, a character counts song. It doesn’t matter! Just Sing!
2-Choose songs where the students are singing and playing games or dancing. Movement with Singing is even more powerful. Every song we sing has either sign language, choreography, dance movements—and if it doesn’t, it’s because the best way to share the powerful emotion of the song is to stand still and just sing. They will remember these songs the most too.
3-Teach them to listen to you first and echo your voice-or the voice on a recording. I have found that listening is essential to the speed of learning a song. We listen first, then we echo, then we sing it our way.
Only sing with the children after they have learned the song. Expect them to sing without you.
4-HAVE FUN! Use puppets, visuals, movement, stories, books–anything you can to inspire them to have fun.
Get everyone singing in your classroom and you will have a great year!