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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

How Can I Get My 5th Graders to Sing?

It's amazing what a difference a couple of years can make! Lower elementary students will quite literally cheer with excitement when you suggest singing a song together, but somewhere along the line they hit a point when suddenly singing is one of the worst activities you could possibly suggest! There are a lot of factors that obviously play into this change, and there are a lot of things you can do to foster a classroom culture where singing continues to be fun well into the upper elementary and middle school grades, but today I want to share my favorite tip for getting those reticent big kids singing less painfully.

For me the key has been to get the students to focus on something else and make the singing secondary. A big part of the resistance to singing at this age is obviously self-consciousness, so anything you can do to keep their mind on other things besides their singing will help! Any time I want to sing a song with older grades (or actually any grade!), I make sure I have something else for students to do while singing. This could include:

  • an instrumental ostinato / accompaniment (pitched or unpitched)
  • a body percussion pattern
  • hand signs / sign language / motions to go with the lyrics or steady beat
  • dance / movement
  • a cup routine
  • movement or passing game with props (scarves, bean bags etc)
  • hand clapping game 

With younger grades, I may teach students the singing first and then add the movement / accompaniment parts later, teach them simultaneously, or start with the added part. But with upper elementary students who are resistant to singing, I always introduce the added part without the singing first. It may seem silly to do motions silently without any lyrics, but it actually just adds to the mystery! The key is to make sure that the movement / accompaniment part is challenging enough to engage their brains and force them to focus in order to do it correctly (one simple way to make an added part harder is to speed it up!).

Once they've learned the added part, I challenge them first to do it without my help, then to do it while I sing a song. Now the song is an added challenge- a "level up"! Once they can do it while I'm singing, I pause and teach them the song (or part of the song if it's longer), then challenge them to do the previous activity while they simultaneously sing. This process has the added bonus of giving the students an opportunity to hear the song a few times before they're asked to sing it, making them more comfortable with the song before they even open their mouths.

Want some fun lessons to get upper elementary or even middle school students singing and learning important rhythm and pitch concepts? Download this free 5th grade curriculum set for the first month of school to get several great lesson ideas along with the materials to teach them:

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