“There are creative ways to help children develop the full range of their singing voices and use their peaking voices expressively,” says Janice Smith, choral expert.
“Carl Orff used expressive speech and chant to help children develop their inherent musicality,” she says. Here are some of her other tips:
- Using stories with repetitive lines, such as “The Gingerbread Man,” cue students to repeat the line “Run, run, run, as fast as you can—you can’t catch me—I’m the Gingerbread Man!” in a high voice whenever the line occurs during the storytelling.
- In “The Little Red Hen,” children can use different voices for the various characters: “Not I” can be spoken by the rat in a high voice, the cat in a medium voice, and the dog in a low voice. Another version is The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza, featuring a saxophone-playing cat in a beret among the illustrations.
- To work the upper part of children’s ranges, try “cat conversations” for a minute or two in which questions and answers are spoken in “meows.” This is especially effective when first- and second-grade students are learning about question marks and the difference in inflection that punctuation can create. With other students, give the “cats” a context, such as having the first cat try to sell something to the second.
- In October, use seasonal sounds such as wind, ghost howls, witch laughter, bat squeaks, and monster roars. In November, try turkeys gobbling in different ranges.
- “Buzz” a song using lip trills, allowing lips to vibrate in a loose, flappy manner while singing the pitches, not the lyrics. This tiring exercise will strengthen sound production. (See John Feierabend’s The Book of Pitch Exploration: Can Your Voice Do This? for more ideas.)
- “Individual-response songs and games also help young children match pitch,” says Smith. Solo singing should be routine in the primary grades, as it allows students to build confidence. Greeting/response sequences allow teachers to hear students’ pitch-matching individually.
Adapted from “Every Child a Singer: Techniques for Assisting Developing Singers” by Janice Smith, Music Educators Journal, November 2006, pp. 31-32.
MENC member Janice P. Smith is an associate professor of music education at the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College, City University of New York, Flushing. She is also the coauthor of Minds on Music: Composition for Creative and Critical Thinking (MENC / Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2009).
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—Ella Wilcox, September 14, 2010, © National Association for Music Education