Our Singing Children I

“Children should feel comfortable singing and should want to continue to sing all through their lives.” — Charlotte Mizener, MENC member

“Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music” is the first of the National Standards. It’s first because music teachers typically spend about 1/3 of their instruction time on singing activities.

Presinging Activities to Learn Pitch Matching 

Encourage kids to explore and experiment with a variety of vocal registers and qualities in “presinging” activities. Have them describe vocal experiences, feelings, and sounds via a “discovery” and “asking” method, rather than an “instructional”, “telling” method. Examples:

Assign a vocal task (such as speaking in different registers/voices for Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Baby Bear), and then ask them to describe sensations they feel in their chest or throat (vibrations, etc.)

Ask the children to make animal sounds, imitating different sized animals with varying vocal tones — higher or lower, louder or softer, rougher or smoother.

Ask another student to describe the sounds the first child has created.

Let the students explore with environmental sounds, such as birds, animals, bells, whistles, cars, fire engines, etc.

Have children distinguish between whispering, calling, speaking and singing voices. Ask them to echo you as you say, “This is my (whispering/calling/speaking/singing) voice!”

Ask one child to say “My name is ________” using one of these voices, and have a classmate identify the type of voice their classmate used.

When children speak, sound comes out in bursts, but in singing, the sound comes out in a continuous sustained “ribbon.” To help them get a better feeling for sustaining the voice (singing), have children recite nursery rhymes in a sustained tone. Let them feel the continuous production of sound.

Have kids choose a rhyme, speak it at any pitch level and as legato as possible (essentially, they are “singing” on a single pitch). Don’t demonstrate for them, but rather let them choose the pitch level that’s comfortable for them.

After reciting nursery rhymes on a single pitch sustained tone, let kids move to singing the rhymes using two or three tone melodies, of sol, mi or sol mi la and then move to repertoire of a limited range of nursery and kids songs.

Based on “Our Singing Children: Developing Singing Accuracy” by Charlotte P. Mizener; General Music Today, Spring 2008. Dr. Charlotte P. Mizener is an associate professor and director of Music education at Lamar University in Beaumont, TX . See the full article for additional suggestions for presinging activities.

–Sue Rarus, March 24, 2009, © National Association for Music Education