Gaining Confidence in Singing

Often students have difficulty learning to sing because they lack confidence. The following are suggestions for helping students feel more confident about their singing.

  • You should not sing with the students. If you sing with the class, the students will become dependent upon you and will not develop confidence with individual singing.

  • Repeat songs many times. Repetition is what makes young students comfortable with the song material. Also, do not add activities to songs until the songs are very familiar to the students. It usually takes several lessons before students really know a song. Think to yourself – could they sing this song while walking to school? If so, it is probably familiar enough to add activities.

  • Develop a procedure for teaching new songs and use it consistently. The students will become familiar with the procedure and as a result will learn songs more quickly. The procedure should include opportunities for the students to do the following.
    • Hear the new song performed several times.
    • Echo short phrases of the song after the teacher.
    • Echo longer phrases after the teacher.
    • Sing the whole song.

  • When teaching a new song, do not be tempted to "practice" it with the students or to review problem phrases on the first day. The time for this work is when the song is reviewed in follow-up classes.

  • Accompaniment should be used differently for different settings in the classroom. It should provide a harmonic framework for the song but should not drown out the singing of the students. If piano is your only accompaniment instrument, use simple and quiet chordal accompaniment. Use of guitar or Autoharp is always acceptable, as is a cappella singing.

  • Create in-class performing opportunities for your students. The students can perform for each other or their classroom teacher. After the performance, allow time for students to compliment each other, for you to compliment them, and for the students to compliment themselves. This validation process will encourage confidence and pride.

  • Encourage applause in your classroom for even the smallest of accomplishments. This will create an atmosphere of excitement and enthusiasm. In addition, teach students how to accept applause graciously so that they feel encouraged and not embarrassed.

  • Sing routine classroom tasks. For example, the teacher sings names, and the students respond by singing "hello" on sol-mi or mi-do.

  • Give uncertain singers opportunities to shine at nonsinging tasks in addition to – never in place of – singing tasks. This will enhance students' confidence so they will participate and may develop singing skill.

  • In activities that require everyone to take a turn with a solo, offer a "pass or play" option. Some students may be willing only to speak their response at first; others may be reluctant to respond at all. This option removes the stigma if the ground rule is that a pass is okay at first.

  • Use the "radio game" to encourage inner hearing and concentration. For this game, you hold a poster board radio with a dial that can move from "off" to "on." The class "hides the song in their heads" when the arrow points to "off" and sings aloud again wherever they are in the song when the arrow moves to "on." You control whether they are singing out loud or silently, as well as, eventually, dynamic levels in between. Be sure to change at obvious phrase divisions first and then make it more challenging by changing at unpredictable places in the song. Eventually, have a child be the "radio dialer."

  • Invite the students to sing on the easy, repetitious parts of songs initially. You sing the more difficult sections.

  • In pre-K and kindergarten classes, begin each music session with a greeting or theme song that is easy to sing. Young students appreciate the ritual, and the frequent repetition will help beginning singers. Later in the year, try experimenting with the song's tempo, pitch, articulation, dynamics, language, and so forth.

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