Singing is central to music classes in primary school. But with many teachers going online, we are facing new challenges that none of us were trained for. In all of my music teacher circles, people are asking for tips on singing with their students online. Here are some of my thoughts about keeping the music alive from your own home, whether it’s synchronous, asynchronous, or completely offline.

Synchronous online learning

Echo songs work well. You might have your students all mute themselves and echo you even if you can’t hear them. Your singing will be delayed for each student, but if everyone is on mute, then they can echo your singing in time on their end, and it will sound fine for them. It won’t matter if the delay is different for each student, because they’ll only her you and themselves.

For similar reasons, call-and-response songs can be another good choice. And in both cases, if you want to hear the students sing, you can ask them to un-mute themselves one at a time. You can even do assessments this way. Just be sure you remind the children about the delay, so they are ready for those extra pauses.

Have a sing-along, again with children muted. However, because the children will only hear you and themselves–not the other students–I recommend that you have some accompaniment. Play guitar, piano, or ukulele so that the students don’t feel so exposed.

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Asynchronous online learning

One of the great things about pre-recording the videos is that you can splice several clips together, or even side-by-side. I’ve done videos where I am singing in one half of the screen, and playing an instrumental accompaniment or harmony in the other half of the screen. I’ve also done a three-part round with myself, to which I received many responses of, “How did you get three Mrs. Larsens in that video?!” Pre-recording is great for action songs, where I split the screen again so that I can sing with my guitar or autoharp on one side, and then did the actions on the other side.

I actually prefer to have this as my biggest chunk of “teaching” time, because I know my kids go back and play these videos again and again. And three months from now, if they want, they can still go back and sing their favorite songs with me. If you aren’t sure what songs to sing, ask your students to pick their favorite songs, and record those! There’s nothing wrong with revisiting old songs, if the objective is getting them to practice their singing (or even just getting them to sing at home). Plus, you could get a bit more thinking out of it by asking students to justify their request, or write/record something that convinces you to choose their song.

When you’ve got bigger objectives than that, there’s room for that as well. With my Kindergarten classes, I was working on mood. So we sang a song that was quite uplifting, which I recorded for them to sing along with at home. At the end of the sing-along video, I asked the children to think about the mood of the song, and what they would change to make it sound happy, sad, or angry. The responses I got were great! The children were really motivated to take the song and sing it a different way.

Offline learning

If you aren’t sure your students have online, there’s still a lot you can do to get them singing. You might just give them a list of songs they know from class, and they can keep a calendar or a journal of the songs they sing each day. It could be as simple as the name of the song, or you can ask them to write a sentence or two about the mood, the lyrics, the form… Connect it to anything you are studying, or anything you’d like them to listen for. If that’s not right for your context, here are just a few other things you can do to get your students singing at home: 

music task ideas cover
  • Ask your students to sing a song to their soft toys.
  • Have them sing for a family member instead, even someone far away via Skype or FaceTime.
  • Challenge them to learn a song in another language. You could provide a few carefully curated YouTube videos for them to learn by rote.
  • Ask them to listen for some catchy jingles and learn to sing them.
  • Have them learn a new song from a friend or family member far away.
  • Challenge them to sing a conversation (opera style)–no talking voice at all.
  • Have them sing a familiar song at different tempos. They could add movements that fit each tempo.
  • Ask them to choose a favorite picture book and record themselves singing it.

You can adapt these ideas to different grade levels by asking students to document their activity in different ways, from a simple checklist to a video or even a little paragraph. If you are looking for more ideas for singing, as well as other musical activities your students can do at home, check out this packet of 250+ ideas, along with templates and ready-to-print sheets.

What are your other concerns with teaching online? What adjustments are you making to your program?

Singing and Online Learning
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