The pressures faced by schools and headteachers have been immense over the last few years. New Ofsted frameworks, a new primary curriculum and assessment without levels have all added to these challenges.
Recently the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has suggested that 10% of children between the ages of five and 16 have a mental health problem. YoungMinds, the children's mental health charity, says nearly one million children between the ages of five and 15 now have mental health problems such as depression and anxiety and the numbers look set to keep on rising. A study carried out by the NSPCC found that academic worries were the biggest cause of stress for nearly 50% of children.
So what has this got to do with singing? As the curriculum becomes squeezed, with an even greater focus on reading, writing, grammar and numeracy, it is inevitably at the cost of creative subjects, such as art, music and drama. No one is disputing the fact that children need to be able to read, write and add up, but by missing out a weekly music session, will our children become better readers, writers and mathematicians? Or might music and singing enhance learning, whilst helping to combat the stress levels experienced by some children?
Are there any benefits of singing?
Studies, such as this one authored by Bjorn Vickhoff, have shown that singing is good for you and anyone that has sung as part of a choir, at a place of worship, at a football match or in the bath will tell you that it makes you feel good! For those of you who have been watching ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ you can’t help but feel upbeat and positive after listening to a performance from the gospel choir ‘100 Voices of Gospel’. Singing has several physical and mental health benefits:
- When you sing, endorphins, the brain’s ‘feel good’ chemicals, are released which reduces stress levels
- Singing increases oxygenation in the blood stream and exercises major muscles in the upper body
- Singing aids memory – how many times do we amaze ourselves when we remember all the words to a song we listened to 30 years ago? But only if we sing it!
- Singing as part of a group increases a sense of community and belonging
- Singing increases confidence and self-esteem
- Singing improves posture and develops core muscle strength.
Top 10 tips for singing in the classroom
Here are some pointers to get singing back into your classroom and hopefully get those endorphins racing and stress levels reducing in our children and teachers.
1. Sing the register
This takes up no additional time at all. Start by singing on two notes and asking the children to imitate your pitch, for example ‘Good morning Ell-ie’, ‘Good morning Mrs Brown’.
2. Warm up your voice
Have a few favourite warm ups which you can use over and over. A good one is ‘Elastic band’. Ask the children to take an imaginary elastic band out of their pocket. Then, as they stretch the elastic band, stretch the voice higher and lower as the elastic band lengthens and shortens.
3. Off we go now…
By saying ‘off we go now’ before starting a song, children will start at the same time. Even better, if you sing ‘off we go now’, the children will start off at the same pitch i.e. the same starting note.
4. Use confident singers in the class to lead singing
It doesn’t always have to be you.
5. Use songs as an aid to learning facts
There is a wealth of songs available for helping children learn spelling rules, timetables and other facts.
6. Sing during transition times
Use a familiar tune and make up your own words for those transition times in the day. For example ‘It’s time to tidy up’ sung to the tune of ‘The farmer’s in his den’. Tidying up will be much more fun if the children are singing at the same time!
7. Use online resources to get started
‘SingUp’ is a brilliant place to start. Likewise, ‘Out of the Ark’ have a wide range of age and topic related songs for primary-aged children.
8. Offer performance opportunities
You may not be ready to perform at the Royal Albert Hall yet, but invite the headteacher, lunchtime organiser or parents into your classroom to hear your class sing. The children will get an immediate ‘buzz’ from performing.
9. Have a go
You don’t need to be the best singer to sing with your class - your class won’t mind. As a class teacher, we’re not asking you to stand on stage and sing a solo. Try singing with your class behind closed doors to begin with. Have a go - you may surprise yourself!
10. Have fun
Singing is contagious – try it and it might just catch on in your class too.
Have Your Say
What do you think about our ten top tips? Let us know in the comments section below.
For more information about singing and wellbeing, call Jo Buckler on 0844 967 1116