Our Singing Children III

“Teaching children to sing and helping them to develop a desire to sing are two of the most important things the elementary general music teacher can do.” — Charlotte Mizener, MENC member

To sing alone or with others?
It always depends on the individual situation, but remember, “The music educator should keep in mind that classes or groups do not learn; individuals do,” advises Charlotte Mizener

So, how can you get kids to sing alone in the classroom with as little “pain” as possible? There ARE effective ways to do it! Make singing alone a routine event from the beginning, and kids will take it in stride. Try singing conversation songs with puppets – this usually works to get two students singing “alone”. There are many songs that offer great opportunities for individual singing. (See Mizener’s “Our Singing Children: Developing Singing Accuracy.“)

Perform with or without accompaniment?
Using an appropriate accompaniment with simple harmony can help singing accuracy. It doesn’t adversely effect the kids to have a quiet accompaniment. Using a guitar’s chordal accompaniment is a good option, as the guitar doesn’t overpower the voice like a piano can. Also, with a guitar, you can watch and listen to the kids more effectively than while playing piano.

Use text or neutral syllables?
There is greater singing accuracy when singing without text. Individual pitches and simple glides tend to produce more accurate responses than patterns, and patterns tend to have more accurate responses than songs. Add words to the tunes when kids can sing the melody securely.

Song selection?
“Thoughtful song selection can give the developing singer a fighting change to sing accurately,” says Mizener. Range, interval size, quality, and text of a song affect singing accuracy. Pentatonic songs are best with young kids, and stepwise melodies are easier for children to sing than melodies with skips and leaps. Students will have greater success singing songs with appropriate ranges and melodies using steps and small intervals like the seconds, thirds and fourths.

Frequency of music instruction?
Regular singing is necessary for improvement in singing accuracy! Ideally, children would have music 90 minutes per week, with 20-30 minute periods for primary grades, and 25-45 minute periods for intermediate and upper levels. Research has shown that for kindergartners, it’s more effective to teach singing skills for shorter periods, and more frequently, than it is to teach for longer periods and less frequently.

See Mizener’s full article for details of the research, and singing activities.

See parts one and two of this series.

Based on “Our Singing Children: Developing Singing Accuracy” by Charlotte P. Mizener; General Music Today, Spring 2008. MENC member Charlotte P. Mizener is an associate professor and director of music education at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.

–Sue Rarus, April 8, 2009, © National Association for Music Education