Singing and vocal work

Introduction

'We all have extensive and evolving playlists of songs, chants, melodies and fragments in our head built up from experiences throughout life. Singing and songs in the ‘rest’ of children’s lives outside of school are ever present, whether individually or communally. It is possibly the most inclusive activity there is. Our voice is the instrument we carry with us everywhere we go, unique to each individual. If we seriously want to develop a singing culture, we need to make it a normal part of the culture in school, building a community where singing is frequently enjoyed and where the whole school community of children and adults get involved.'

Daubney (2017: 33)1

Go into any school playground at break time and just stand and listen. Somewhere – and likely from more than one location – you will hear children spontaneously singing, chanting and playing games involving songs (and often involving skipping ropes and complex clapping patterns or choreography!). Young children make up their own songs as they swing backwards and forwards at the park or as they walk down the street, morphing their own words into known melodies. Parents sing with their children as they rock them to sleep. Thousands upon thousands of people sing in football crowds and at festivals. We sing in the shower, we sing in the car. We sing at weddings and funerals, at birthday parties and around the campfire. If you have ever taken a school trip out, you will know it isn’t long before the singing on the coach starts up. It is a natural part of who we are and what we do. 

Yet, the potential for singing in the classroom and through the school is sometimes diminished, and our impoverished view of singing can be limited to attitudes such as ‘we have a school choir’ and ‘they are the singers’. This part of the toolkit aims to help you gain the confidence to use vocal work throughout your own teaching and spread the joy of singing through your school. It is written in conjunction with Sing Up, the award-winning organisation with a wealth of experience in leading singing in primary schools across the country. This research article by Professor Graham Welch highlights the benefits of singing2.

Task

Listen out for the singing and vocalising – planned and otherwise – that you hear around the school in one day. Who is singing? What are they singing? Who initiated the singing?

1Daubney, A. (2017) Teaching Primary Music. London: Sage.

2Research article by Professor Graham Welch.