Sing, Connect, and Solo

Hello! This is Tanya from Teaching Music: Tanya's Kodály Aspiring Blog talking today. Several grades in my school are currently focused on standardized testing this week and, honestly, there is a feeling of stress radiating off the classroom teachers and many students. This has caused me to refocus on a few basic ideas that are important in my music classroom. What do I do with my students that will contribute to their growth as people? There is a well known quote from Maya Angelou that I think rings true: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
My goal is to make them feel joyful, empowered, and confident through music.

I have a faded purple notecard pinned above my desk that has lived there since I saw Julie Swank present a ROCKE workshop in 2006.

Julie Swank spoke of how she aimed to include these 3 activities in every class every day.  This really resonated with me and right after her workshop I wrote out this purple card and tacked it up on my wall.
Here are a few reasons and examples:
1. Sing
(Of course!) If you are reading this blog, I'm assuming you already understand the value and importance of singing. In tune, artistic, musical singing is a skill that can be taught and learned. Our communities should be reminded frequently that singing is a skill and not a magical talent that some have and others do not. If our society valued singing as much as we value reading and writing, and our schools and families were focused on strengthening singing, wouldn't everyone be able to sing? 
(I realize I am preaching to the choir!)  In my music class, we will sing in every class. When we are playing recorders in 3rd and 4th grade we sing our recorder pieces on solfa and letter names first. There are many strategies to get students singing and keep them singing.
(Aileen gave some excellent examples of how to incorporate more singing throughout the class period.) Fun, non-sensical, quality songs can be included to turn kids on to the joy of singing.
As Ella Fitzgerald said: "The only thing better than singing is more singing."
Here's a 4th grade favorite song, The Hippopotamus. It's a good song for anacrusis and tim ka (dotted eighth sixteenth), and students love singing it in canon. It can be found in Katinka Daniel's Kodály Approach Book 4:

2. Connect 
Julie Swank mentioned that she uses the word "connect" rather than "join hands." I like the term "connect" because when we engage in a dance or play party that is what occurs; we are communicating and connecting with others. Sometimes a new student will come to my school and is initially taken aback by all the "connecting" that happens in music. Once he sees that this is the norm and everyone is doing it, he joins in. (We take hands, not sleeves or wrists, please.) Students most likely won't be joining hands during math class or during reading. Even during team sports they will not get to work together in same way a folk dance, a singing game, or a play party, requires. What a great opportunity we have in music to show the social bonding and community building that can happen with music! So yes, we will connect!
This week my 3rd graders are letting off steam after their testing with the dance Galopede from the Amidons Chimes of Dunkirk.

1. Solo 
Why solo?
These are my top two reasons:
  • Students improve their skills at a faster rate than if they are only performing within a group
  • Solos build independent, confident singers who begin to feel comfortable taking musical risks

There are many songs with solo opportunities. 
Yo Ho, I Pull the Anchor is a favorite with older students. (The opportunity to pull on a big, heavy rope with classmates sure is enticing!) This is another great tim-ka song. 

I have a collection of finger puppets that I pull out for short solo singing activities. My collection is a bit out of control, I have more than one for each student in my largest class, but hey, if they continue to increase my class size at least I'll be prepared with finger puppets. Once upon a time Starbucks sold seasonal finger puppets, (they came atop sticks of candy,), and I just could not stop buying them!
You can play Who Has The _______? with anything, when I was student teaching, my cooperating teaching used every opportunity to connect with classroom themes and students sang. "Who has the igneous rock?" "Who has the sedimentary rock?" "Who has the metamorphic rock?"

I'd rather use my Beatles's edition finger puppets:

In the younger grades many solos are not sung, but very short spoken solos within chants. 
A good example is Rooms to Rent.

Rooms to Rent

Rooms to rent, apply within.
When I move out let _________ move in!

Solo work is not regulated to singing; there are many opportunities for students to solo as the drummer who chooses our tempo, the xylophone player who plays the ostinato, or the hand chime player who accompanies with a simple harmony. I want my students to build their musical independence and feel good about making music.

Have a great week!


  1. I so enjoyed Julie as my Level I teacher, but never heard her give those words of it!!! I also really love that quote by Ella Fitzgerald...never heard that one. Thanks for the fun ideas!

  2. Julie was your Level I teacher? That makes sense! I've only seen her present that one time but she gave us so much material and wonderful ideas.

  3. Yes, she was awesome! And then Bruce was my Level II teacher. They are an amazing couple!

    1. Yes, they are wonderful! I saw Bruce present at our state music ed conference a few years back. He is who introduced me to the dance/game for Cumberland Gap.

  4. What a great idea for finger puppets! I have a TON from when I taught grades 1/2. Can't wait to incorporate them into my music class.

    (PS - Ikea is a great place to find them!!)

    1. Finger puppets are also fun with call and response songs, ("all creatures with wings sing the call, all without wings sing the response!") Thanks for the IKEA tip!

  5. Thanks Tanya for the great ideas!!! And I inspiration - I needed them both!

  6. Love "Yo, Ho I Pull the Anchor!" Thanks for the post!!

  7. I also love Yo, Ho, and Pull the Anchor/Who is the Captain Now. Is it folk or composed? It is in One, Two, Three Echo Me book but no composer is listed but this was published before the new crazy copyright system was in place.


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