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New K-8 Teacher, previous teacher didn't sing...

 I have been CRAZY BUSY as you might guess with this first year teaching K-8 Music at a public Charter School in the little town I grew up in. The year has been going great! We had a very successful Winter concert for K-2, and now I am preparing the 3-5 for their April 10th Concert. We will be singing a collection of pieces called: “Creepy Creatures” A Stupendous Songbook or Preposterous Program for Unison Voices… About Animals Who Make Us Squirm! By Sally K. Albrecht and Jay Althouse. Recording Orchestrated by Tim Hayden. I bought it from Hal Lenard music company and am really looking forward to it!.)

I have been searching HIGH and LOW for anything that can help me with my biggest problem at this school. These children, K-8 have had nearly NO singing experience. I know it sounds preposterous, but it is true. Whenever I have attempted to even bring up singing something, aside from a few, the kids are SOOOO uncomfortable with it and don’t know where to start. They act as though the voices within them are a strange concept that they don’t understand. As I look at national/state standards and see that by 7’th and 8th grade they should be singing two part and three part harmony, I smack my forehead and wonder… yikes… how? Do you know of some materials I could purchase that would be a great help in guiding them through what Harmony is in a “fun” way or could you share with me other ideas you might have? Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your time. (Something with accompaniment would be ideal)

on February 19, 2014 11:24am
Maybe start with some material that is more chant than song? Old tunes like "Step Back, Baby, Step Back" and "Soup, Soup" are so hip and catchy, kids won't feel like you're asking them to sing - they just feel like play! Doug Goodkin's book Now's the Time, published by Pentatonic Press, is a great resource for taking these songs to the classroom and come complete with teaching ideas and Orff arrangements. The go-to resource, of course, for this type of thing is Step It Down by Bessie Jones and Bess Lomax Hawes, published by The University of Georgia Press. 
This is a video of Doug working with some music teachers, not kids - but you can get the idea of his aesthetic and influences.
Miriam Altman
on February 19, 2014 11:50am
A great way to introduce harmony is to use partner songs.
The book "Sing Together Children" published by Choristers Guild is a great resource for teaching a wide variety of singing concepts, including harmony.  It is more geared toward the younger set (recommended for ages 5 - 12) but there are certainly things in it that you can use with the older grades, and the concepts could be applied to age appropriate music as well.
Julie Ford
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