In her book “Teaching Singing to Children and Young Adults,” Jenevora Williams has expert advice on the topic of children studying the art of singing. In the book, Williams states several good reasons as to why it is a good idea to teach singing to kids. She starts by saying that “singing is good for you.” Williams also outlines various benefits that include… *Relaxation *Emotional benefits *Self-awareness *Educational benefits *Empowerment *Friendship *Health and fitness *Self–perception Keeping all of these benefits in mind, it is important to address how results can be achieved and how sequencing lesson time to address each one is important. Dr. Williams discusses lesson structure and practicing for young students in her book. The main idea behind lesson structure is to have a goal in mind, rather than just trying to “sing better.” The structure of a lesson allows the idea of having end goals leading up to performances.
According to Williams, logical structuring of a lesson should combine warm-ups, theory, sight singing, exercises, and repertoire. While approaching structure, the teacher should keep in mind a goal for each lesson, whether focusing on a particular skill taught or new ideas, etc. Williams notes that the singer should leave every lesson in better voice than when they started.
In my previous blog posts, I laid the foundation of how the Born 2 Sing Kids Sequence can help structure lesson time with young singers. The sequence is broken down into 5 different categories. Each category has several exercises that can be used, depending on the goal for each lesson. Starting each session off with a focused intention is key to initiating some great progress that can be made by the student. The first category in the Born 2 Sing Kids Sequence is “warm-ups.” The initial warm-ups are for mind and body and are not to be confused with “vocalizing”……(that comes later in the lesson.) The series of warm-ups that I use are laid out here, starting with muscle movers…. Muscle Movers: *Apple picking -reach up as if picking apples and extending arms. *Reach for the star - reach up and extend arms pretending to reach for the stars. *Ladder climb - reach up and extend arms pretending to climb an invisible ladder. *Hula hoop - pretend you have an imaginary hula hoop. *Rag doll stretch - reach up to the sky and slowly with arms outstretched, flop over like a rag doll. These are just a few of the stretches that I use. I find myself improvising and creating new ones all the time, especially if I just had a great yoga class, workout or a strength training class at the gym. Exercise is an important part of my life and I always incorporate ideas I get from my fitness instructors, who are very knowledgeable in kinesthetic awareness. Another important focus in warming up the body is to bring awareness to posture and alignment. Posture Check: *Zip-step - starting with feet together, zip the feet open by lifting the balls of the feet, opening to a V, then step the heels open, making the feet parallel hips width apart. *Squishy knees - once standing nice and tall, bounce from the knees to make sure they are not locking out the backs of the legs. *Shoulders away from ears - feel a lengthening from the spine that comes through the neck and creates space between the ears and shoulders. Repeating the phrase ”shoulders away from ears” is something I say constantly in a lesson to remind students of their alignment. Beyond just warming up the body, it is important to warm up the mind…. Mind/Body connections: *Knee to foot touch- This wonderful little exercise I found in the “Singing Lessons for Little Singers” book. Getting kids to watch you do a sequence of movements and have them repeat them back to you is an important step in getting their focus on the teacher. *My Aunt Comes Back – this is one of my favorite repeat-after-me songs. *Oh My, No More Pie- another repeat-after-me song. I love doing exercises that get the mind focusing on the teacher and the music. Young minds can get very distracted. When I do repeat-after-me songs, or any copy-cat games, I find it not only helps focus on the teacher, but students have to use their musical ear to repeat the phrase and correct pitches. Diction exercises-activating the articulators: *TT exercise - have the student repeat the phrase…“tip of the tongue and the teeth.” *Too Hot -“too hot, hot potato, potato pancake, pancake platter, platter scatter.” Say this exercise with an over exaggerated mouth stretching the lips over the teeth. *Count teeth - have the singer use their tongue to count their teeth. *Windshield wipers -use the tongue as a wiper back and forth along the front teeth. *Whether the weather - “whether the weather be hot, or whether the weather be cold, we’ll be together, whatever the weather, whether we like it or not.” Have the students say this with very exaggerated consonants. *Any fun tongue twisters - I have several different ones I use, adding new ones all the time. Pitch Exploration: *Poems- I use many of the poems found in the John Feierabend “First Steps in Music” series. *Stories - any short stories that can be read aloud to work on expression and pitch sound. I use pitch exploration exercises to help young singers discover the way they can resonate sounds with open and closed phonation functions. I also find that through reading poems and stories out loud, kids will begin to express themselves and develop an understanding of characterization, which can be useful for dramatic interpretation in their songs. Obviously I don’t use all of the warm-ups listed above in every lesson. I spend about five minutes using any combination of these exercises, which all depends on what the student appears to need on any given day. It is important for the teacher to keep a record of the exercises used in each lesson to check progress and development. Maybe you have exercises like these that you use in your lessons. Please comment on the sidebar to share your ideas. If you are not already following my blog, please enter your email address on the subscription tab and I will send you a copy of my practice log that helps keep track of student progress. Thanks for reading and please share my blog with your fellow teachers!