Singing Phones: A DIY project for Elementary Music Teachers
By NAfME Member Jennifer Hibbard
Do-it-yourself projects aren’t new to teachers of any subject or grade level. Teacher-made tools are often a necessity in elementary music classrooms, where limited classroom budgets are meant to provide for an entire student population. Sometimes that means making enough items for 500 or more students on a budget of $50 or less. Perhaps that’s why blog posts featuring Puffball Rhythm Monsters, Teacher ToolBoxes, and Pool Noodle Ponies are so popular among elementary music teachers. If a project is both budget-friendly and fun, then it’s sure to be a hit with teachers and students alike!
Whisper phones are one example of a budget-friendly and fun classroom tool. They’re used in elementary English-language classes to help students with sentence fluency, enunciation, and volume. They’re made from PVC pipe and are extremely durable. Considering that music is a language, it’s not surprising that music teachers have also found ways to use these fun tools for their own classroom. Singing phones can be used to help with matching pitch, dynamic control, and diction.
What You’ll Need
- ¾ in. PVC Pipe cut into 3 ½ in. sections (10 ft. will make about 30 phones)
- ¾ in. PVC 90° Elbows S x S (2 for each phone)
- Colorful Duct Tape *optional
To save money, you can try convincing the hardware store to cut the PVC pipe into 3 and ½ inch sections for you. If you’re unable to do that, then you’ll need the following additional items:
- PVC Pipe Cutter
Assembling Your Phones
Use the ruler to mark your PVC pipe into 3 and ½ inch sections. Then, cut it using your pipe cutter. PVC pipe can be extremely difficult to cut depending on the quality of your cutters, so be sure to have a strong helper nearby during this step.
Once your pipe has been cut into sections, simply attach an elbow to each end, and you’re finished!
When attaching the elbows, be sure that the smooth end of the elbow is facing out. As you can see in the picture below, some elbows have plastic snags, on which a student could easily catch their ear or hands.
To add some variety, you can apply colorful duct tape to the center section. I used some patterned washi tape that I had on hand.
You can easily clean the phones with a disinfectant, such as Sterisol. You could also run them through a dishwasher. However, if you have tape on the phones, you’ll want to try a test-run on one first, to make sure the tape stays intact through the wash.
Using Your Phones
As mentioned earlier, these phones can be used to help students match pitch, improve diction, and control dynamics. Here are a few more ideas to consider:
- Have students use the phones while singing partner songs. Try pairing Frère Jacques with Three Blind Mice for a fun and easy partner song. HERE is a video showing movements to go along with it.
- Practice singing rounds with the phones. Scotland’s Burning and Music Alone Shall Live are two good options.
- Use the phones to practice inner hearing. To do this, have students cover up or underline one word on a song sheet. They will sing through the song as usual, but will sing the covered word in “their minds only”. You can also do this with kindergarten using the ABC song. Read about the game details HERE.
- Try using the phones as an extra incentive during whole-class instruction. For example, you could start by passing phones out to students who are displaying good singing posture. This is an easy and quick way to encourage other students to follow suit.
- Consider giving these to your shy students to inspire confidence while singing alone or in small groups.
If you plan to try out singing phones in your classroom, please share your thoughts in the comments section and on Amplify. Describe how you plan to use the singing phones. What concepts will you teach with them? Most importantly, how do you think your students will respond?
About the author:
NAfME member Jennifer Hibbard is owner of the Yellow Brick Road, where she designs and creates music education resources with an emphasis on music literacy. Mrs. Hibbard holds a Bachelor of music education degree, K-12 general, vocal, and instrumental music and a Master of education degree in curriculum and instruction. Her writing has been featured in Teaching Music Magazine and the Music in a Minuet blog by the National Association for Music Education. Her membership with professional organizations includes the National Association for Music Education, the National Education Association, and the Indiana Music Educators Association. You can read more about her and discover more lesson ideas for elementary music at her website: yellowbrickroadblog.com. You can also connect with her via her social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Read Mrs. Hibbard’s past articles “How to Create Lesson Plans for Non-Music Substitutes” and “Keeping Students Musically Active during Summer Break.”
The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.
Elizabeth Baker, Social Media Coordinator and Copywriter. December 12, 2017. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)