Our Singing Children II

“Sing for or with the children, but always remember that you must be able to hear them in order to assess their singing accuracy.”  — Charlotte Mizener

When you teach a song to your students, adapt to the singing skills of the children and to the nature of the song in question. Stay aware of the children’s responses to various song-teaching techniques, and adjust accordingly.

Provide an appropriate vocal model for your students. A nonvibrato singing model brings out more accurate responses from kids. Child or adult female nonvibrato are the best models of singing for children. Men, try using falsetto.

Get the kids moving! Have them use their imagination! Research has shown that doing some physical action while moving the voice up and down can help kids improve the accuracy of their singing. Visual images and movement patterns to mirror and accompany various vocal tones can also help.

Move the voice up — do an upwards motion of hand, body, etc.
Move the voice down — bend, squat, move hands down, etc.

Have students throw an imaginary ball and sing “woo” starting on a high pitch level and make their voice follow the arc of the ball as it travels to the target.

Have students lightly touch their chests while inhaling and with their hand, physically track the breath as it fills their lungs.

Have students reach their hands high and sing “ah” starting at a higher pitch, and move their hands down as their voice descends.

Have children start singing songs with neutral syllables, then move on to the use of hand signs and solfege in second and third grades. “In my experience, many students informally remark that when echo singing melodic patterns, the visual and physical use of hand signs makes remembering the patterns easier,” says Charlotte Mizener.

Regular breathing instruction can improve singing accuracy in kids as young as second grade. Have them take part in physical conditioning and posture development exercises. Exercise can help them become aware of the breathing motion of muscles in the torso. Once these breath management exercises are mastered, then add a singing tone.

Inhale/Exhale Exercises:
Inhale: students pretend to take short and long sips through a straw; gasp; yawn.
Exhale: students blow up a balloon; keep bubbles afloat; blow out birthday candles.

Try all these without sound, then connect it to sound.

Have the students “sigh” and determine if they are exhaling or inhaling.
When students sigh again, they should notice the sensation of where the sound is produced.

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

–Sue Rarus, April 1, 2009, © National Association for Music Education