Name: Jackie Schneider
Position: Music Teacher
School: St Teresa's RC Primary School, London borough of Merton.
Can you tell us about your personal journey into becoming a music teacher?
Well, it was a bit of an accident! After a sabbatical from teaching I asked my headteacher if I could work for one day a week. I was told that I would have to teach something the other teachers didn't want to teach! Turns out that was R.E. or music. I had no specific musical background or training but I had always liked singing with my own class and had used Sing Up from its earliest days.
Can you describe what music and singing currently happens at your school?
Every class gets a music lesson with me. We sing, explore sounds, make up our own music and actively listen and respond to well-known pieces of music. We perform, we evaluate, we compose. In addition, each child in Year 4 gets to learn how to play trumpet, guitar and djembe drums. At different times we run a pre-school singalong for parents and children, a choir and a beatboxing rapping vocal group. We share our music on our school music blog.
How important is singing to you and your school, and why?
Extremely! The voice is the first musical instrument we have. Singing is a a fundamental part of being human and brings us together as a class, as a year group and as a school. We sing songs that reflect our school ethos. We also use songs to teach us about digital safety, to celebrate sports day and to teach us about history.
How do you make sure all staff are engaged in singing and music in your school, even if they're not teaching it?
I'm not sure how successful I am with this. The school staff always record a song each Christmas which gets us singing as a team! At every staff inset day I usually do a 20-minute ice breaker where we all sing. I find the African songs such as Senwa dedende really popular with staff. We add lots of body percussion and sometimes play clapping games to really wake the staff up. I try to make sure that I always build up playlists to support school events such as sports day.
You've composed some songs with your students in the past. How do you encourage composing skills in your pupils?
I start lower down the school by taking a playful approach to the songs we like singing and changing the lyrics. For example, we love composing silly rhymes for Down by the bay. Older classes take a song they like and change the lyrics to celebrate book week, for example.
Teaching music across the whole school, how do you select and use repertoire for different age groups?
I am guided by the Song Bank. I like to make sure there aren't too many leaps in pitch for my KS1 classes, and I like my KS2 songs to have the potential to add harmonies.
What are your top five Sing Up songs?
I have way more than five!
- Sunshine in my heart
- Tell me a story, shining star
- Let's harvest
- Digital breadcrumbs
- Sweet the evening air of May
Having worked with Sing Up for quite a while, what are your top resources on the website?
- The webinars - in particular the singing assembly webinar with Gitika Partington.
- I love the 'Teaching ideas' videos that Shelly Ambury does.
- I like being able to set up specific playlists for other teachers in my school to use. Our STEM week saw every class using my STEM playlist.
- The digital magazine.
You are active on social media. What tips can you give to a teacher who wants to join the online music education conversation?
If you are on Twitter I highly recommend that you follow the music education academics. I have learned so much about music education from John Finney, Ally Daubney, Martin Fautley and Gary Spruce. I also follow Sing Up, of course!
What are your aspirations for singing and music in your school?
I want every child to realise that they have a beautiful singing voice. I want every child to be able to 'play' with sound so that they learn how to manipulate it and become more sophisticated in their understanding of it. I want every child to have the opportunity to listen and learn about good quality music from all cultures. And I want every child to actively investigate their own musical interests.
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