PLEASE NOTE: Guidance may have changed since this page was written and it's important to make sure you follow your school's and the Government's most recent updates. We believe that there are lots of useful ideas here that can be applied to different types of learning situations, so please do read on!
Education has certainly been no exception. As schools return, many have developed or are developing recovery curriculums (based on the excellent work of Barry Carpenter, Professor in Mental Health in Education at Oxford Brookes University) to help repair the damage done by the COVID-19 outbreak, and it is clear that this year will need even more careful thought than usual. The success of Out of the Ark’s @HOME offering has demonstrated just how important singing has been as part of families’ lives during lockdown, and as children return to school in September, it is clear that music will be an essential tool in helping them to settle back into school life, establish new routines, and importantly transition to a new normal of education.
Let’s take a look at some simple, effective ways in which music can help you quickly re-establish routines, restore relationships and social interaction, rebuild confidence and community, and rekindle a love of learning in your classroom.
Re-establishing RoutinesRoutine and structure help children feel safe and secure, easing anxiety. A good song or piece of music can really assist in establishing routines – the perfect cue to tidy up, line up, wash hands, eat lunch – or as a signal to transition to build energy and focus, or to calm things down a bit!
If singing is not yet an option in your setting, try playing the vocal tracks for the children to listen to. Can they pay attention and respond to the instructions in songs such as The Tidy Up Team, Tidy Up or Be Quiet?
This Day from Songs For Every Occasion: an uplifting song to put everyone in a positive frame of mind for the day ahead. Sing the song together and talk about the ways you can look for lots to be glad about and someone to think about.
It’s Nearly Playtime from Songs For Every Singing School: play the song It’s Nearly Playtime as a cue to tidy up. Once the class is sitting down, play the song again and create a rhythmic accompaniment using the items on their table. Try drumming fingers on the table to the pulse of the track or tapping a pencil on the first beat of the bar. For an added challenge, create a rhythmic ostinato by repeating the rhythm of the first line It’s nearly playtime over and over.
Restoring Relationships and Social InteractionProviding opportunities for children to reconnect with their friends will be a high priority in September, and songs and music activities can provide the perfect framework for practising important social skills. A simple call-and-response song such as Good Morning from Songs For Every Singing School works well in small groups and encourages children to listen carefully to each other. Try inserting children’s and staff members’ names into the song to create a personalized version.
Rebuilding ConfidenceLearning at home might have been a solitary experience for some children, and even those from large families will have become used to much smaller groups than they will experience when back in school. Songs that give an opportunity for solo or duet performance are very effective at helping children to re-establish their own ‘voice’ and regain confidence in expressing themselves with others.
Seeds Of Friendship from Sing™ Harvest: This song starts with a solo and builds through a duet, quartet and octet until finally everyone sings together.
Music is an important tool for self-expression, and the ability to express themselves will rebuild your children’s confidence. Try building regular opportunities for children to listen and respond to a range of music with some Musical Doodling. Look to repeat this activity over a sequence of lessons and perhaps try creating a Doodle Display in your classroom.
How to Doodle:
- Provide the children with a piece of paper and explain that this is their musical doodle board!
- Next, play a short extract and ask everyone to move an imaginary pen in the air in response to the sounds they hear.
- Listen again, this time making marks with a pen on the paper. Explain that the music should ‘tell’ their pen what to do! Dots, dashes, squiggly lines… anything goes! How does the music change the doodles? Maybe their pen moves faster as the tempo increases, or perhaps quieter sounds encourage smaller marks.
- Listen to the music again and ask each child to follow their musical doodle board with their finger. Can they match the sounds they hear to their doodles on their board?
(This video was created before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic).
Rebuilding CommunitySongs that instil a sense of school community and identity are great for helping children feel safe and cared for at school. At the time of writing, the government advice is that ‘schools should avoid large gatherings such as assemblies or collective worship with more than one group’. Assemblies within groups of ‘bubbles’ are, of course, OK, but here are some simple, creative suggestions for keeping the spirit of whole-school ‘togetherness’ alive.
Rekindling a love of learningProvide open-ended creative activities that allow children to put their own individual stamp on a piece of work. Song-writing is perfect for this and is also a brilliant tool for self-expression, as well as a great way to develop important literacy and musical skills.
GET ACTIVEThe mental and physical health benefits of physical exercise and outdoor play are well-known, and it is likely that finding creative ways to get your class active will be an important part of your curriculum in September.
Why not try an action song such as Hey You, In The Middle from My World: All About Me? Choose a child to be the ‘leader’ and invent some weird and wacky actions for the class to follow. These sorts of songs are also perfect for developing important social skills: listening, eye contact, turn-taking, cooperation, self- confidence.
Written by the Out of the Ark Education Team: Antony Copus, Nikki Hewson & Peter Taylor
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Out of the Ark Music has been providing schools across the country – and world – with wonderful primary school musicals and primary school songs for nearly 30 years. Our Christmas musicals and nativity plays make children sparkle and shine, year after year, as they proudly perform their school Christmas play. Our extensive collection of fun and joyous Easter songs, harvest songs, school assembly songs, leavers songs and even space songs, fill schools with laughter and give students and teachers alike, a reason to sing every day of the week. We’re glad you’re supporting us in our dreams of creating the best music for schools around the globe. Read more about us here.