At the start of the year I love to start off with a lot of singing. As in A LOT. We sing on the first day, first thing in the morning. We spend a good part of the morning singing. We sing in between activities, waiting in lines and just before we go home.
Since my grade begins the year each year making a racket through the corridors, lots of teachers ask me why I do it. There a quite a few reasons.
- I love singing. I love it so much that half of my conversations are in song. When you teach grade 2, they always love to know what their teacher likes and it’s a great way for me to share something of myself with them.
- It’s a lovely icebreaker. Icebreakers often show themselves in a form that lets the confident kids feel more confident and the shy kids feel stressed about what’s going to put them in the centre of attention. Singing allows the confident kids to make some noise and enjoy themselves, but it also allows the shy kids to make some noise and enjoy themselves – but in a way that doesn’t require them to speak openly in front of a group or partner/stranger. Basically, they don’t end up spending a whole morning in a new classroom with new people without saying a word for two hours.
- Songs are a great way to learn new language and expand vocabulary. I see EAL students eagerly joining in with songs (especially when they are repetitive) when they might not normally feel confident to try out those words or speak in full sentences and phrases. Any activity that extends language use for students who are working hard to learn English is fine by me.
- Reading! So much reading! I give the students lyrics and watch them reading the words and mouthing the song to themselves in their independent reading time.
- Depending on which songs you pick, the lyrics are fantastic for analysing. I don’t mean in the way my year 8 teacher had us analyse what Eminem was talking about when he wrote ‘I’ve created a monster, ’cause nobody wants to see Marshall no more – they want Shady, well I’m chopped liver’; I like to choose songs about friendship, values and identity for the start of the year so we can begin conversations about that stuff – the glue that will hold the grade together for a whole year.
- It’s not difficult to find research that tells you singing and music are beneficial for children – from releasing endorphins, to improving mathematics skills, to increased confidence, there are many great reasons to sing with your students, but the main reason I do it? My students enjoy it. It’s an activity they all love and the magic of it is that singing seems to form some kind of bond between them for those three minutes of the song that sometimes I don’t see elsewhere.
Here are some of the songs we started with this year if you need ideas to get you going:
Does anyone have any interesting experiences with singing in the classroom? Any experience with older students? My only experience has been with early years so I would love to know singing might be received in a middle years setting.