Encouraging Individual Singing

Try these games and activities to encourage individual singing.
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Encouraging Individual Singing

It is important for students to sing individually in class, not only sothat you can assess the development of their singing voices, but alsoso that they can hear the sound of their own voices. Encourage studentsto sing alone by making it a regular part of each class. However, besure students are very familiar with the song or activity before youask them to sing alone. Students will sing alone, and enjoy it, whenthey are not put in an awkward position or asked to perform something with which they really are not familiar and comfortable.

  • Have students put on their "headphones" while singing. This iswhen the students cup their hands over their ears. It seems to amplifyand isolate each child's voice for himself or herself. Often a child shouts or sings in a speaking voice register to hear himself or herself.

  • To minimize the self-consciousness of the students singing alone,try these suggestions.
    • Use props. (The child who throws the ball sings its trajectory.The child holding the puppet pretends to be the puppet'ssinging voice.) Pass around a play microphone and ask thestudents to sing into it – just like karaoke.
    • Focus on somebody else. (The child in the center is the onewho must guess the name of the singer.)
    • Have the students close their eyes. (Students sing only when theleader taps them.)
    • Let students listen to the sound of their own voice or your voice through a hose or tube. (The tubes designed to make anoise as children whirl them around their heads are ideal.)Emphasize that the students should not sing when the tube isin another person's ear. The sound can be painfully loud.

  • Have students sing in small groups to help them develop confidence before asking them to sing individually.

  • Place students in some organized arrangement (let's say they are infour large rows). Have the students sing through a familiar song.Then sing through again and break the students into smaller groupsby simply standing beside a particular row. Let them sing a phraseor two of the song and then move to another row (your "move" hasto be in tempo with the song). After they have mastered small groupsinging, break up the students further by raising a hand indicatingcertain students within the selected row. Before the activity begins,inform your students what your signals mean. Keep an element ofsurprise so the students never know who is singing next. To achievethis, do not just move down the row of students for individualresponses. You can assess their progress and enjoy hearing themsing in smaller groups.

  • Use songs and activities that encourage individual singing, such asname songs and "fill in the blank" songs (for example, "Who'sThat?" – grades K-l; "Knock at the Door" – grades 2-3; "TelephoneSong" – grades 4-6). Have all the students sing each other's namesas a large group, then in small groups (boys and girls, for example),before individual singing.

  • Solo opportunities can be created by designating certain songphrases to be sung by someone alone. Songs with echoed patterns orphrases are naturals, but so are "Dinah" (the sol-mi patterns), thefirst section of "Goin' to Kentucky," and the first and last phrases of"Schlaf, Kindlein, Schlaf." It is especially helpful when the solo beginsin a part of the vocal range that requires use of the head register.

  • Musical Show and Tell: Have students sing about what they mighttake on a picnic, or where they went on vacation, or what they gotfor Christmas or some other holiday, or what color clothing they arewearing, and so forth.

  • "Penny, Key, and Thimble" (grades K-2). Use any three objectsthat the students can recognize and that can fit comfortably in theirclose-fisted hands. Students close their eyes and put their openhands, palms up, out in front of themselves. You sing a three-notepattern (begin with a descending pattern; descending major andminor tonic patterns seem to be easiest for helping students "pop"into singing register) with the words "Who has the ____________(name of the item)?" The class then echoes what you sang. Repeatfor each object. The patterns may be the same for each object or different. During this singing, place each object in a child's hand. Thensing "Don't let us see," have the class echo, all close their handstight, and open their eyes. Instruct the students to stand and sing "Ihave the ____________ (name of the item)" when you ask for theobject they have in their hands. Sing "Who has the ____________(name of the item)?" and have the students respond as described.Use this opportunity to give helpful suggestions to the studentsregarding their singing. When all objects have been located, sing"Bring them to me," have the class echo, and have those with objectsbring them to you.

  • Divide the class into two groups (at first make the groups equal andthen over several class periods diminish the size of the second group).Have group one sing the whole song and group two sing only the firsthalf. Eventually reduce the second group to just a few students.

  • Play games that encourage individual singing. One such game isPostman. The class sings a song about a postman or letter carrier.While they sing, you deliver mail to each student. (Mail consists ofenvelopes with pictures of various items like shoes, flowers, toys, andso forth. Make up envelopes so that several have the same picture,two or three with another picture, and only one or two with uniquepictures). You sing "Who has the __________ (name of the item)."The students with that item hold the envelope up, stand, and sing "Ihave the ___________ (name of the item)." Begin by asking for anitem that is in several envelopes before calling for those in only one, two, or three envelopes.

  • Play question-and-answer singing games. You sing a simple question or greeting to a child and the child responds using the same pitches.

  • Make solo singing a routine activity so it is no big deal to the students. Also, provide many opportunities for low-pressure solos. Forexample, select one child to be "it." "It" is blindfolded and sits in achair in front of the class with his or her back to them. The classsings a song together once while the teacher selects a "soloist." Thesoloist then sings the song. "It" has to guess who sang the solo. Theclass's visual and mental focus is on "it," and whether he or she willguess the right person, rather than on the soloist.

  • Build a chain. This could be a name chain with each child singinghis or her name, or a favorite food chain, and so forth. Have the students practice "I am _____" or "I like ____" together on a triad or athree-tone pattern. Then build a chain by pointing to students toadd their part in succession. It is sometimes helpful to have all thestudents sing a phrase in between each individual response, such as"Who are you" or "Food is good."

  • Pass the song around. First, have the students sing a familiar songtogether. Then have one student sing the first phrase, point to another student to sing the second phrase, and so forth. Again, do not godown or across the rows one student after another; skip around theroom. Also, do not hesitate to call on the same student more thanonce. Students tend to relax once they have participated, and theopportunity to participate more than once keeps them alert.


Provided in partnership with NAfME
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