What a Difference a Day Makes
The class who are coming through the door on this Thursday morning usually have a music lesson at 9.30 on a Monday. However, at the start of this week I was out of school with ninety Year 4 children at a Singing Workshop in Bow School, our local secondary, led by the Apollo 5 vocal group.
We begin by marching around the room selling Hot Cross Buns.
I describe the street scene a little bit. Of course, we eat a few as well; and naturally they really are very tasty. Bringing everyone together we sing the song again and pat the beat on our legs. I refer specifically to “the beat” and ask how else we could show it. There are a number of suggestions and we try them out. I tell them that our hearts make a beat as well. Patting my chest, I say ‘bmm, bmm, bmmm’ to the beat. Many children join me doing this. “Can you see your heart?” I ask. This gives me the opportunity to state that we cannot see the beat in a song but we can feel it. The class seem more focused and enthusiastic than they normally are on a Monday morning.
I sing Hello Everyone and the class echo this. I sing it higher and they match my pitch. To be precise: most of the class are able to match my pitch so that the general impression is that the whole class is doing so. In reality some are not singing at all and one or two are more talking than singing. We use hands to show the higher or lower ‘Hello Everyone’. Volunteers come to the front and lead the hello Everyone. Many people want to volunteer. It’s like a different class! I emphasise the fact that, each time, the class are matching the pitch of the leader. This is perhaps too technical for such young learners but there is a real sense of engagement now.
I explain that I am going to sing Copy Cat showing the beat and that afterwards they should all sing the song and copy my beat action. I sing it and tap the beat on my nose. Only one or two join in with me. This is remarkable as it is usually far more than this in any Reception class. A child’s instinctive drive to copy an adult’s actions is very powerful. It takes self-control to wait. Music is so good for this sort of thing. Again I invite volunteers to lead the activity. And again there are many who want to do this. Developing the confidence to perform is another element of a good music education. Staring the process at such a young age makes it natural and just another thing that these children can do, and want to do. I tell them I am going to “clap all the words” and I clap the rhythm while singing the song. I ask them if they can do it too. Many can, though not all. I tell them that we are now clapping “the rhythm”. I’m not expecting them all to remember this next week but some will and in a year or two they all will.
I clap the opening rhythm of Copy Cat (ti-ti ta ti-ti ta) and then do so again saying the words ‘Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear’. It’s the same rhythm! We say the rhyme and then I change it into a song by adding a simple two note melody. We all sing it together.
We sing Up and Down (this is the way to London town) and have fun changing the name to orange town, chocolate town etc. We make a circle and pretend to move an imaginary parachute ‘up and down’ to the beat. We repeat this with a real parachute. If you’re 4 or 5 years old this is about the most fun you can possibly have at school.
Ending on a calm note I sing ‘There Was a Lovely Princess’. Each verse is short and repetitive and it has a simple ‘long, long ago’ refrain. Quite a few children join in quietly with the refrain. It’s a song that tells a story (Sleeping Beauty). It always captures the imagination of children when I sing it.
I am astonished by how quietly focused the class have been. Why should this Thursday morning session be so different to the usual Monday morning time?