Jun 21, 2015

Singing in the General Ed Classroom

You, as a music educator, find yourself walking down the school hallway; you hear a classroom teacher trying to get their class to sing a song, but the students are not responding the way the teacher wants them to, and they certainly don't sound like they do in your music class. Why not? Although singing is a natural process, a little preparation and awareness can go a long way in helping a classroom teacher (the “non-music-educator”) successfully prepare his or her students to sing. This article, then, is meant for the non-music teacher.

A. Age-Appropriate Considerations

Where do you start? Before diving into choosing and teaching a song, it’s helpful to become familiar with what is developmentally appropriate for your students’ ages. You will want to consider the following:

  • Memorization capacity;
  • Reading ability; and
  • Voice ranges.

Most teachers will be able to assess the first two items through their daily activities. Some questions to ask yourself are:

  • Have my students been able to memorize any nursery rhymes or poems?
  • Do my students ask to sing songs for me that they’ve heard?
  • What reading level are my students at in school?
  • To what level of complexity do my students understand verbal and visual instructions?

It is very important to be aware of what vocal ranges are most comfortable for which ages. If the child is not comfortable singing the notes, or perceives they are not comfortable (or you are not comfortable), it will create a barrier to learning the song. A quick internet search (or a conversation with your local music teacher) will afford you this information.

So what else should the classroom teacher think about when utilizing songs in their class?

B. Choosing a song. Please consider:

  • Vocal range;
  • Length;
  • Musical difficulty;
  • Text: content and meaning; and
  • A cappella vs. accompanied.

C. Teaching the song. Think about:

  • Being prepared;
  • First impressions;
  • Starting pitches;
  • Accompaniment; and
  • Choreography and rhythm.

D. Rehearsing the song. Yes—you need to practice!

  • Diction;
  • Dynamics; and
  • Vocal warm-ups.

E. Performing the song. It's time!

  • Placement (how will students be standing?);
  • Memorization vs. reading;
  • Accompaniment: live vs. recorded;
  • Conducting; and
  • Amplification.

The list above gives teachers a starting point, from which they can delve deeper in those areas that they feel they are lacking appropriate information. Also, if the song is going to be used in-class as a learning tool and not for public performance, the last couple of sections are not applicable. I hope you share this information with your non-music educator colleagues!
img
Moving forward,
Kathy
Ms. Snow has taught public school music for more than sixteen years and is currently the General Music teacher at Dickerson Elementary School in Chester, N.J. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Music Education from Teachers College Columbia University and a Bachelor of Music degree from SUNY Fredonia.

Besides teaching elementary school music, Ms. Snow’s other passion is Musical Theatre. She has been music director/conductor for such shows as Les Miserables, Sweeney Todd, Hello Dolly, Godspell, Into the Woods, and Grease. She has been involved in countless musicals across the northeast as a performer, conductor, music director, or vocal coach, and has been involved in community choruses for over 30 years, including being an original member of NJ WomenSong.