Position: Choir Director and Vocal Teacher in Cheddar First School, Draycott and Rodney Stoke First School and Stoberry Park Primary School, as well as directing Cheddar Valley Voices (4 singing groups made up of children and adults from across the Cheddar Valley area.) I also teach individual pupils at Fairlands Middle School and lead vocal workshops for Somerset Music.
How important is singing to you and your schools? The short answer is "very"! I love singing myself, but especially love standing in front of a group of singers and encouraging them to sing their best. To be in front of a fantastic "wall of sound" is amazing and what's great is that everyone can join in, regardless of their academic ability. Singing is accessible to everyone and teachers have often commented how the confidence of pupils has grown through their singing sessions. All my schools appreciate the benefits that singing brings to their pupils... not enough room here to remind you of them all – see the Sing Up articles!
What do you think singing brings to school life? It unites a school when they sing together. It's a way to explore pupils' topic learning through a different medium. It makes for a happy school.
How do you use routine songs during the school day? Because I move around schools, I'm never there for a whole day to use routine songs, but I'm always sharing suggestions with my colleagues. With the younger pupils, we always start with a hello song and finish with a goodbye/lining up song. I will also use ones to grab attention, particularly if singers start chatting after a particularly rousing song!
What do you find most useful about using songs to move from one activity to the next? Getting children's attention, without having to raise your voice/repeat a direction! Once children know the musical cue, it's much easier for a teacher to just start the song (or press play on the Sing Up website) and then their pupils join in. Whether it's pack away time, lining up for lunch time or whether it generates their interest in what's to follow...
What would be your top tip to a teacher who is totally new to singing in school? Give it a go! Show enthusiasm for singing, even if you don't feel you're a confident singer yourself. Singing should be a fun activity – if you look like you're enjoying it, chances are the children will too!
Top tip for singing in the new school year? Simple is always best! I always think it is far better to sing a simpler song well, than to attempt something more complicated and then find it's not quite tunefully accurate. Just because there is a harmony part written for the song – doesn't mean you can't just sing it in unison! I've listened to many different singing groups over the years and have come across teachers trying something too complicated for the singers they have.
Favourite songs on the Sing Up site and why? Ooh – that's making me be selective! The ones I use the most are the ones I get great feedback from my singers Big Sing Up Mambo is one of my recent favourite warm ups as it gets children physically active at the same time. Warm-up and stomp canon is a must for KS1. Boom chicka boom has been around for sometime, but is always popular and great at getting older children to use their voices in different ways.
I also love it when songs fit into the schools' topics. These ones have proved extremely successful in the past: Hey, Mr Miller (WW2 link) Just like a Roman, Divorced, beheaded, died (Tudors). Sadly, I've only ever had one term of Viking topic, because Viking Rock is one of my personal favourites. Jean Petit qui danse – a catchy song to learn parts of the body in French. KS1 pupils have enjoyed Sunshine in my heart (no harmony) and and Plynie Statek was a surprise hit with year 2s – they loved the tempo change and singing faster and faster. Menu song I taught for the first time last term and has now become a favourite. (You definitely need the slower speed the first few times.) The children enjoyed the challenge of a cumulative song and I used pictures to help them remember each meal. Pirates can be a challenge to sing accurately, but children really enjoy it. I only teach one verse to begin with until children have got the hang of it. Shake your sillies out – a must for getting rid of that excess energy. Really useful after wet playtimes!
Singing games are great to use to encourage participation and turn taking – Witch, witch and The young Austrian is repeatedly asked for by KS2, Build it high is catchy, Raise my voice really appeals to the hard to please Year 6s and has good PSHE links and it's coming up to that time of year to teach Creepy Castle again. Hurrah!
With my choirs (ages 8-18) I have also used: (Warm ups) 1, 121 – which I've renamed "wobbly scale", Ka-re-oh (brain/co ordination workout) and My dog. We've had great success (and parents in tears) with Something inside (so strong), Can you hear my voice and This is our world. We've also sung Winter Nights, Basin Street Blues, I'm a believer, Oleo and one group is looking forward to learning Wish and Don't worry be happy this term! I could go on for ever...
Favourite singing resources and why? I'm really grateful for the new Sing Up Music resources, which allow me to help schools cover their music curriculum, even if it's just a case of my teaching the starting song and then class teachers continuing with the activities in class.
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