If we really want to engender a love of singing and make people feel confident as singers, the bottom line is that we have to sing often and normalise the activity of singing, drawing in the whole community. There is actually no reason not to sing many times a day in a primary school. Think of all the times you could sing across one school day. From lining up in the playground, tidying up the classroom, going to assembly, singing the register and moving around the school, you can help children to focus, to change the mood in the classroom and to promote positive and productive engagement. We are playful with our voices when telling stories and acting – we need to be playful with our voices when we sing, and also playful with the material we choose and create.
We need to encourage singing in all contexts, whether as part of play, playground games or singing in the classroom or around the school. The repertoire needs to take into account children’s own musical ideas, tastes and preferences alongside unfamiliar and new musical experiences. (But we need to be aware that even some commercial recordings of what we might term ‘children’s songs’ are in unsuitable keys for children to join in with!) We need to be brave in our choices, not underestimating what children will enjoy, what will challenge them and what they might choose themselves.
As a teacher, it is critical that we join in with whatever we ask children to sing. Singing makes musical learning make sense – for example, the ukulele is now often taught in primary schools as part of a whole class programme, and strumming the chords makes far more sense when you sing along. Then there is the kazoo, a simple instrument into which you hum or sing – another way of developing tuning and confidence. The possibilities are endless!
And then there’s you. Their teacher. Their role model. Take any opportunity you can to sing – in the classroom or out – and how about taking some singing lessons? Staff choirs are another brilliant way to have fun, learn repertoire and develop confidence and a sense of community, and Sing Up have shared some advice on this1. There is even a National Teachers Choir. They are a really friendly choir who meet termly and are open to any teacher joining, and there are no auditions. Here is some information –definitely worth a look!2
Children love to see and hear their teachers singing, whether on stage in a choir or rock band, on a video with all the staff performing a Christmas song or in the classroom. This engagement in, and by, the whole school community is crucial if we are to convince children that music and singing really are for everyone.