All in a circle I asked for a song title. A pupil suggested ‘Seagull, Seagull Sit on the Shore’*. It’s good to start with a song that everyone knows. Children suggested different ways to show the beat while singing this song e.g. pat head or clap hands. These suggestions give a sense of ownership of the activity.
I bounced a lightweight plastic ‘football’ to everyone in the circle one by one to a chant of ‘Bounce and Catch’.
We changed the words to ‘Fish and Chips’ and ‘Salt and Vinegar’ and then their suggestions e.g. ‘Chocolate Cake’. Again, there is a sense of ownership in the children suggesting suitable words. I passed the ball back and forth many times for those who found it difficult. These children were nearly always those who did not join in with the chant so I encouraged them to do so.
Next I introduced them to a simple song: Chest, Chest, Knees, Toes**. In this song chest is ‘so’ (A), knees is ‘mi’ (F#), toes is ‘do’ (D) with head being ‘la’ (B) and shins ‘re’ (E). The children have only just learned – or ‘made conscious/learned the names of – ‘so’ and ‘mi’; here the children are having an unconscious introduction to a very simple pentatonic song. It is perfect for this age because it is lively with the actions and these actions illustrate the pitch.
Next I brought everyone together sitting down in front of me. ‘Come and sit with me’ (s-f-m-r-d). I sang ‘Hello Everyone’ (s-m-ss-m) showing the hand signs. They sang back copying my hand signs. ‘Who can remember what these two pitches are called?’ A pupil named them, I encouraged him to sing them at pitch. We sang it again with these pitch names and I wrote up a simple s-m-ss-m showing the higher ‘so’ and lower ‘mi’. We read this from the board and I added a second line to our pitch picture: ss-mm-ss-m. We sang this together. Quite a few children recognised this as ‘See-Saw’ although some thought it might be ‘Copy Cat’.
I asked if it could be another song. I sang it in solfa clapping the steady beat (the actions that go with Hey Hey). One child named it as ‘Hey Hey’. We sang the song and clapped the steady beat. A few children clapped the rhythm by mistake. I asked for a volunteer to demonstrate. We counted the beat and I drew 8 hearts on the board. One volunteer tapped the beat then another tapped the rhythm (something we’ve been working on for some weeks). It took a second volunteer to get the rhythm correct. I asked them to help me write in the stick notation. Their recall of stick notation was good considering it was introduced in the last lesson three weeks ago. We then sang the song in ‘rhythm names’ (ta ta ti-ti ta etc).
We didn’t have long left so we finished with a favourite game: Tinker Tailor. This is a ‘so-mi-do’ song that the children love to sing because they enjoy the game so much. The many repetitions of the song embed this ‘so-mi-do’ feel. A volunteer keeps the beat tapping on hands around the circle; whoever is ‘thief’ has to sit down. It’s a favourite game in Year 1!
Five girls wanted to show the class a clapping game they had invented in the playground. They stood in a circle and sang ‘Seagull, Seagull’ and kept the beat by clapping and then clapping with the others on each side. It was great to see how they have taken a song and had fun with it by themselves. This too illustrates the ‘ownership’ mentioned above.
I sang ‘Goodbye Everyone’ with the same s-m-ss-m tune as Hello and the class were able to sing back in solfa and handsigns without my help.
* From the book ‘How Can I Keep from Singing’ by Celia Waterhouse that we sing in Year 1 Singing Assemblies
** From ‘65 Songs Children Sing’ by Michael Stocks ( Hummingbird Publications 2003)