Karen Kirkland explains why schools should get singing

Posted: 2nd Nov 2015

Music Montage2

Singing and games were the highlight of my school week but then I loved music and sport. I remember singing in assembly. What a great way to start the day!

Singing songs with a bit of humour and a tale to tell. Young minds absorb information very quickly. Singing must be a vital tool in setting the tone for the rest of the day. Literacy, numeracy, science, art and of course music can all be enhanced with the use of singing.

The benefits of singing are well documented for adults and children. I teach whole classes in primary schools and teachers have often commented on the improvements in concentration and behaviour. The all inclusive nature of singing means that every pupil can contribution to the best of their ability and gain equal praise. No child is singled out, unless they want to be, encouraging the ethos of working as a team.

I recently had the privilege to be involved with a project called “Shropshire Sings” organised by Shropshire Music Service. A county wide project involving 2000 KS1/KS2 children. The children performed 10 songs from my album “That Sounds Good to me”. They were taught the songs in their primary schools and then all came together for a mass performance. It was fantastic to see the end result of a year’s work. The children were so excited and proud to be in a mass choir representing their school. Teachers and children said it was a day they would never forget. Every child regardless of academic and musical ability will have a lifetime memory of that day. What a fantastic gift to give through the medium of singing.

It’s quite difficult as a composer to get the balance right. Children are great critics. They will soon show you if they think a song is boring. The reward when you get it right is to see the smiles on their faces and the enthusiasm in their movements. They become totally absorbed in the song and it’s story. I am always curious to see how the songs in my head will translate into the minds of children. They invent movements and hand gestures appropriate for each song. “Let’s go fishing down by the sea” very quickly had a hand clap on the word “snap”. “That sounds good to me” the opening song, will have a jump “like a frog” and a wriggle like a “fish that swims in the sea”. Singing encourages creativity and imagination, two important skills that can be lost when too much emphasis is placed on exams and assessments.

Children like repetition, which is ideal when constructing a song, but they also need a challenge. Can KS1 children cope with two part singing? My experience is yes, and they really enjoy it. A lot of my songs have two part harmonies, with contrasting rhythms and sometimes different words. “Hide and seek with an Ostrich” has a counter melody counting from one to ten “ready or not”, just like playing hide and seek.

Is music an important part of the curriculum? Yes and singing is an essential tool which can be used to enhance the musical experience of every child in a primary school.