Sing Like There’s Nobody Listening

A guest blog by Johnny Rowlatt from Lea Primary

When I was at junior school I had a friend who loved to sing. He would sing loudly and confidently. However, he did not sing very tunefully and one day he was asked to mime by a teacher before a school concert. He was devastated. As an adult he is highly successful but to this day he says he cannot sing and will not do so. One casual comment crushed his self-confidence in an area which had previously given him so much joy.

“All children have a voice which should be explored, developed and celebrated. By developing their voice they will be developing their confidence. Their voice may not be a tuneful one but it deserves to be heard.”

So how do we create singing schools? We do it by ensuring that singing is at the heart of the school. This means it should be taken seriously. In early years, singing is a way of encouraging language and co-ordination. It is known that simple counting songs such as 10 green bottles have great value in early number development. Heads and Shoulders is a great way of remembering the names of body parts and a way of practising sequences. A child’s gross motor skills can be practised and refined in this way. Once a child has sound gross motor skills the building blocks are in place to work on the fine motor skills needed for pencil control.

However, as a child’s school career progresses, the role of singing in the classroom is often neglected. The need to secure sound ‘academic’ subjects is promoted, and singing is often left the music co-ordinator, so that there is something for parents and carers to listen to at school concerts.

his is a waste of a vital teaching and learning tool. Singing is a fantastic aid to memory. The lyrics of a song often contain really useful information which can be recalled quickly and easily when the tune starts. To this day, my own children can rattle off the Kings and Queens of England and Scotland in order thanks to a song they learnt by watching Horrible Histories in primary school.

Pupils in the school where I work recently learnt to sing Silent Night in German. It was part of a project to mark 100 years since the end of WWI. Pupils sang Stille Nacht to parents who were impressed with both their grasp of difficult German vocabulary, but also their grasp of the issues affecting both sides during a vital time in history. All from a song.

Learners need to be able to listen in a classroom. So much information is given verbally and if a child has poor listening skills then their progress could suffer. Singing really develops listening skills. Singers need to listen to the hear words and the tunes which they are learning. They need to hear changes in pitch and rhythm and to make adjustments accordingly. They also need to listen to others around them. Singing really develops and refines these skills which are then transferred into a classroom.

The teaching of singing does not need to be delivered by a specialist. Any staff member can deliver singing but they must be prepared to sing too. Loudly. Modelling is vital if we expect children to do as we ask. YouTube is an endless source of karaoke videos which are a great start as they have the music and pupils can read the lyrics as they sing them. This builds word recognition skills for reading. Backing tracks are a lifesaver and accompaniments can be found easily on line. There is no need for a skilled piano player in school anymore!

“A child who is happy to sing is a child who has self-confidence. A child who is not happy to sing is self-conscious.”

If a child can sing without fear of being judged then they will develop a good level of self-belief. This could lead to them being able to put their hand up to answer points and raise questions in the classroom and beyond. If they can sing aloud and not be afraid to be heard then they may well grow up to be adults who want to be heard. Schools need to create an environment where singing is celebrated and encouraged. Not all children will be brilliant singers but all children should be able to explore and enjoy their voice, even if it is out of tune. So get your pupils to “Sing like there’s nobody listening.”