Teaching Tips: ALL Songs
What grade(s) are these songs for?
The songs were written for third, fourth, and fifth graders. However, what do third graders know? It doesn''t take a lot of teaching experience to figure out that the ability range of your students varies greatly! So this question is basically impossible to answer. There are many sharp first graders who are ready for these songs. There are struggling high schoolers who would benefit greatly singing these songs. In fact, let me ask you a question...what is a rhombus? Maybe these songs are for adults, too!
When is the best time to start teaching the songs: before, during, or after a lesson on the topic?
Different strokes for...well you know. I have found that the songs are most effective when they are introduced, practiced, and memorized over the week prior to the lesson. For example, if I will be teaching my students how to find the median in a data set next Wednesday, I begin singing the "Mean, Mode, Median" song with my class THIS Wednesday. We then sing it a few times a day every day for a week. Once I teach the lesson, we don''t stop singing it. We sing this song frequently while they are practicing the skill, and then taper off to an occasional revisit.
How many songs should I teach the students at once?
The students seem to soak them in better when they learn one at a time. As soon as the kids get one down with a reasonable amount of competence, add another. Teaching the students all or many of the songs all at once can be overwhelming. It''s also more fun to save the magic and spread it out throughout the year.
How in the world do you have time for singing with all of the other things we are forced to do?
Now that I''ve been singing these songs with my students and seen the results, I''m wondering how I ever got along WITHOUT singing. Here are a few suggestions for squeezing a song into your already overloaded schedule.
- Sing a song during transitions (clean up time, coming to the floor, walking into class, sending students back to desks to complete an assignment, etc.) It''s amazing how easy it is to engage the students and get their attention when you use singing.
- Sing a song while walking in line to or from class.
- Play the CD and allow students to sing along while they are working on cursive practice.
- Play the CD and allow students to sing along while you are checking homework.
- Encourage all your students to sing and practice the songs at home by doing an all-school fund raiser (selling the CDs to your families.)
Because I use these songs in my classroom, all students spend more time thinking, much less time off-task, and enjoy their time at school all the more!
How do you introduce a new song?
I normally teach the students to sing the songs without the CD first. I pass out song sheets to the kids, encourage them to read along as I sing, and then ask them to join me when they catch on, which normally doesn''t take longer than one time through. After we sing the song a couple of times without the CD, I turn on the CD and let the kids go for it. I even allow them to get up and dance as long as they maintain a reasonable amount of control. From that point forward, we sing the song both a cappella and with the CD, depending on the convenience of turning on the CD. Of course the kids would rather sing with the CD since it''s more fun and engaging.
What about hand signals?
Hand motions are extremely important to student retention (meets different learning modalities.) I have a few videos of my students doing the songs with hand motions here on the website (coming soon.) However, the hand motions were mostly made up as we sang the songs by both my students and me. So I would encourage you to do the same. The kids will take more ownership when they come up with their own hand signals.
How do these songs help students?
I am amazed at all the benefits for kids!
- Development of musical skills and interests.
- Improved reading fluency. If you print out the lyrics for the students when you first introduce the songs and insist that your students read and sing along, they will be forced to read more rapidly because the CD won''t wait for them.
- Easily retain hard-to-remember facts and concepts.
- Develop listening skills (must stay in time with the CD and/or other singers.)
- English language development. If you have English language learners in your class, they will be picking up on the language as you sing.
- Greater love for school and learning. These songs motivate kids! I have many kids in my class this year who never really liked school. They like it now! When we start singing, it''s like magic. The spirits in the room are always lifted...no doubt!
What do you do with kids who refuse to sing along?
No single pedagogical method (singing) works with every kid, and there is no one good solution for this problem. Even though, here are a few suggestions that might help.
- Model it. Your enthusiasm can be contagious. If the kids sense that you are not into it, neither will they.
- Wait the stubborn kids out. See if they come around with time. Ignore their bad attitudes.
- Counsel the stubborn child one-on-one. Explain that you understand how they feel and that you know they want to be "cool." Try to convince them of the benefits of singing along with the class (see question above.)
- Reward students who are making a great effort to participate.
- Hold an extra "rehearsal" at recess for those students who are not catching on to the new song.
- Give a grade for effort in singing.