Sing in your classroom K-6 masterclass with Donna Riles

Primary teachers
With Donna Riles
Creative Resource Music
Tags: Teacher professional development (PD)

Produced by the Department of Education, Arts Unit in collaboration with the Orange Regional Conservatorium, this 30-minute video will equip K-6 classroom teachers with fun and engaging ways to sing with students. Singing is an accessible way to achieve curriculum outcomes and plays a key role in each student's overall musical development.Explore the concepts of music, introduce fun warm-up songs, rounds, partner songs and music of various genres and places. In addition, this session will help build your confidence to model singing in the classroom.

About Donna Riles

Donna Riles (Bachelor of Music Education, Sydney Conservatorium) is the Music Director of the Orange Regional Conservatorium and has served as a passionate advocate for Music Education in the Western Region for over 30 years.

After a long and distinguished career as a music teacher with the Department of Education, in 2002 Donna was awarded the Director General’s Award for Excellent Service to Public Education. Donna delights in being able to provide quality music education experiences to students K-12, nurture and maintain links between local schools, provide professional learning workshops for classroom teachers and conduct school and community choirs.


Sing in your classroom — K-6 masterclass with Donna Riles

Duration: 32:17
Video transcript – Sing in your classroom — K-6 masterclass with Donna Riles

[music playing]

DONNA RILES: Hello and welcome to the Orange Regional Conservatorium. My name's Donna Riles, and I have the privilege of serving here as the music director. Orange Regional Conservatorium is one of 17 conservatoriums around the state of New South Wales who work very closely with the Department of Education to deliver high quality music programs into our public schools. So whether you live in Wollongong or Wagga Wagga or Wee Waa, there'll be a music education program to fit your school. We can work with you to tailor make programs for your students.

So this little PL that we're working together on is about kickstarting music in your classroom. So if you're a classroom teacher from K to 6, I'd like to be able to provide you with some little help along the way to be able to have your students discover the enjoyment of making music. And of course, our voice is our first instrument, and what a great way to come and use our voices in the classroom.

Now, we're not all trained singers and we're not all great musicians, but we all have the ability to be able to open our voices, use our lungs, and sing. And singing is so beneficial for our health and well being, our mental health and well being, for socialising, for student focus, listening skills, developing so many areas of their life. And more and more, science is discovering how music ignites all sorts of passages in our brains, and is very important in the development of student's understanding of literacy and numeracy in the classroom. So if we can be giving students the enjoyment of singing and music as we do our work together from day to day, what a wonderful thing to be able to give our students and ourselves.

So today, I'd like to demonstrate for you some fun little activities that we can use as warm ups and lesson breaks, and then we'll develop our program into other songs that are a little more complex and some for performance for eisteddfod or for the assembly, songs with movement, songs that we can perform to by singing or playing musical instruments, and of course, at the same time, achieving the outcomes that we're required to under the syllabus requirements. So of course, we're performing by, as I said, singing, playing, or moving, we're organising sound by having students improvise or create their own music, and listening-- a very important musical skill, obviously.

And by doing all of those activities, we're helping students to understand the musical concepts of duration, pitch, dynamics in music, tone colour, and structure. And all of those things can be taught just by teaching simple songs. Now, when I'm working with students in some of the smaller schools in our district, for instance, I love to have the students stand in a circle. In a circle, we're all equal.

And if you've got some students who are a little bit doubtful about this when you're starting out, it's great to be able to have them, perhaps, stand beside you or stand by some of the students that are a little more confident in singing and just working with each other and showing leadership. So some of our schools who have K to 6 all in the one classroom can easily use these songs, beginning in Kindie and extending the activity around the songs for our year 6 students, and then use the song for performance.

So in conducting my lessons with students, as I said, I love to have them come and form a circle around me, and then we might begin with some crazy warm up activities. And one of my favourites is this little one called the 'Rubber Chicken.' We love to do this with our choirs here at the conservatorium, and it's a fun way of breaking the ice when we go into the classroom. So the 'Rubber Chicken' is as simple as--

(HIGH PITCH) --using our high voice to warm us up.

And we want our students to understand that warming our voices is just as important as warming our bodies before we run a race or we play in a game together. So warm ups are really important. So the--

(HIGH PITCH) --'Rubber Chicken' in our very high voices--

--is getting us to shake our hands and count to eight.

(HIGH PITCH) One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two. One. One. One. One. Rubber chicken!

And by that stage, we've had a bit of a stretch, we've warmed up our voices, and we've had a bit of fun. And when we're doing that with our younger students, if you have kindergarten, year 1 and 2, just slow the tempo down of a song like that or a warm up like that, and the students will achieve that much easier-- they're having to think very carefully about what comes next.

The next thing I love to do is to think about using our pitch for the first time and we can be warming our bodies, first of all. We can be continuing with some shoulder stretches, stretching our hands up, and flopping down like rag dolls, shaking out our legs, shaking out our hands, shaking our fingers, having a bit of fun together. You don't even have to talk to do this. The students will just follow your crazy activities. And as a reward, a little face massage before we start to sing. And to get our pitch going, sometimes it's fun just to do some sirens with our mouths closed.

[imitating rising and falling siren]

And we can demonstrate shape.

[imitating rising and falling siren]

And have a bit of fun with the students. They're learning to listen about pitch, where it's going, and watching the shape as if they were watching a graphic piece of music or a notation that they have to then interpret in their own way. So that's a fun thing to do. Start with some humming, some sirens, and then one of our favourites here is to stretch our arms open wide and sing--

(SINGING) I love to sing.

Then we can take that up another pitch.

(SINGING IN HIGHER PITCH) I love to sing.

Now sing it out to the playground.

(SINGING) I love to sing. Singing to the principal as he walks past the door. I love to sing.

And that little one is just using all the elements of opening up our voices, reaching high with our pitch, and of course, opening up our chests as well for physical enjoyment. And then a very easy little warm up that I like to use is a chant that I'm sure you've probably heard. It only uses a couple of notes. And this little one just is very simply I'll sing and you sing after me.

(SINGING) Everywhere we go--

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) everywhere we go,

(SINGING) people always ask us--

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) people always ask us

(SINGING) who we are--

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) who we are

(SINGING) and where we come from.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) where we come from.

(SINGING) And we tell them--

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) and we tell them

(SINGING) we're from Orange.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) we're from Orange.

(SINGING) And if they can't hear us--

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) if they can't hear us,

(SINGING) we'll sing a little higher.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) sing a little higher.

That song can easily be adapted. The words can be changed, we could be singing it together as we walk into the classroom after we've lined up from recess or lunchtime to walk in. Ask the students to make up some crazy lyrics to it, and learning about call and response singing. We might take it up a step and change the lyrics up a little bit.

(SINGING) Everywhere we go--

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) everywhere we go,

(SINGING) people always ask us--

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) people always ask us

(SINGING) who we are

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) who we are

(SINGING) and where we come from.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) where we come--

(SINGING) and we tell them

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) we tell--

(SINGING) we're from outer space--

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) we're from outer space.

(SINGING) And if they can't hear us--

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) if they can't hear,

(SINGING) we'll make some kooky noises.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) we'll make some kooky noises.

[blubbering tongue]

And the kids I know make up their own sounds and have a bit of fun with that. And you see that I added some body percussion with it as well, just to build it up a little bit and extend what we've already started to do by warming up our bodies. The students, again, can organise the sounds themselves or create and compose their own pats to go with, something as simple as that little chant.

The next favourite warm up of mine is demonstrating pitch from low to high across one octave, which is simply eight notes. And when we're teaching pitch and working with songs, we have to be careful that we're not singing too low in our own pitch.

(DEEP PITCH) A lot of us like to sing-- think that we're an alto or bass, and we like to sing down low.

But the students won't be able to achieve that pitch. If you have a xylophone or an instrument in your classroom, a piano, for instance, if you know where middle C is on that instrument, that's as low as we want our students to sing. So middle C is a good starting point for a little warm up like this one. And I'm going to sing for you a little warm up called 'Ebeneezer Sneezer.' And I'd like to sing a phrase to you and then ask you to sing it back to me.

(SINGING) Ebeneezer sneezer,

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) Ebeneezer sneezer,

(SINGING) what a kooky man.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) what a kooky man.

(SINGING) Walks upon his elbows

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) walks upon his elbows

(SINGING) every chance he can.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) every chance he can.

(SINGING) Dresses up in paper,

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) Dresses up in paper,

(SINGING) even when it pours.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) even when it pours.

(SINGING) Whistles 'Yankee Doodle.'

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) Whistles 'Yankee Doodle.'

(SINGING) every time he snores.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) every time he snores.

(SINGING) Oh, Ebenezer, what a man.

[claps]

Yeah. All right. You can hear in that song how we've stepped up the musical scale-- the major scale. And students are hearing you, first of all, at each pitch. And it's really important that we do it steadily so that they can hear the pitch and the shape of the contour that we're taking them along. And again, slow it down for our little people, our Kindies, K, 1 and 2. And by all means, make it a little bit faster for your seniors.

And then the next thing we can do to continue warming up our voices is to take it up another step.

(SINGING) Ebeneezer sneezer,

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) Ebeneezer sneezer,

(SINGING) what a kooky man.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) what a kooky man.

(SINGING) Walks upon his elbows

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) walks upon his elbows

(SINGING) every chance he can.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) every chance he can.

(SINGING) Dresses up in paper,

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) Dresses up in paper,

(SINGING) even when it pours.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) even when it pours.

(SINGING) Whistles Yankee Doodle

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) Whistles Yankee Doodle

(SINGING) every time he snores.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) every time he snores.

(SINGING) Oh, Ebeneezer, what a man.

[claps]

Yeah. All right. That's a fun little warm up going quite high. Now, the next song, the last warm up or lesson break song I'd like to work with today is a very simple one called 'Baby, One, Two, Three.' And we're singing and we're using body movement as well, and it's as simple as singing--

(SINGING) Baby, one, two, three, head and shoulders. Baby, one, two, three, head and shoulders. Baby, one, two, three, head and shoulders. Head and shoulders. Baby, one--

[snapping]

(SINGING) Baby, one, two, three, shoulders, elbows. Baby, one, two, three, shoulders, elbows. Baby, one, two, three, shoulders, elbows, shoulders, elbows. Baby, one. Baby, one, two, three, elbows, hips. Baby, one, two, three, elbows, hips. Baby, one, two, three, elbows, hips. Elbows, hips. Baby, one. Baby, one, two, three, hips and knees. Baby, one, two, three, hips and knees. Baby, one, two, three, hips and knees, hips and knees. Baby, one.

Baby, one, two, three, knees and toes. Baby, one, two, three, knees and toes. Baby, one, two, three, knees and toes, knees and toes. Baby, one. Baby, one, two, three, head and shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and toes. Baby, one, two, three, head and shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and one. Baby, one, two, three, head and shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and toes, head and shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and toes. Baby, one.

Well done.

Once we've warmed up in our lesson and we've had a bit of fun moving and stretching and getting our voices all ready for some further singing, one of my favourite things to be able to do with students is sing rounds, or songs that work together in teams. Sometimes those rounds can be partner songs, where two songs can work together and work in groups against each other or with each other musically. And it's a wonderful way of starting students on singing in harmony with each other.

Again, they're having to work very carefully as a team to be able to perform their part of the piece against what the other team are doing. And as they become better at singing in rounds and various parts, you can split your class into groups of four or eight, depending on the song that you're introducing. So I love to use rounds after warm ups, and one of my favourite rounds is one called 'Little Liza Jane.' And I'm going to demonstrate that song for you again.

(SINGING) I'm going to start on an E.

And again, if you're not sure where an E is on a piano or if you've got a ukulele or a guitar in your classroom, finding that first note will be helpful. And I'm going to teach it to you today in the same way I would teach it to my students. So I'll sing a phrase and then I'd like you to sing a phrase back. Then we'll review it and I'll sing two phrases, then you sing two phrases back. And by this stage, we're memorising the song and students will pick it up extremely quickly.

So let's sing together 'Little Liza Jane.' I'll sing first.

(SINGING) I know a girl that you don't know,

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) I know a girl that you don't know,

(SINGING) little Liza Jane.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) little Liza Jane.

(SINGING) Way down south in Baltimore--

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) Way down south in Baltimore,

(SINGING) little Liza Jane.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) little Liza Jane.

(SINGING) Oh, little Liza,

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) Oh, little Liza,

(SINGING) little Liza Jane.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) little Liza Jane.

(SINGING) Oh, little Liza,

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) Oh, little Liza,

(SINGING) little Liza Jane.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) little Liza Jane.

My turn.

(SINGING) I know a girl that you don't know, little Liza Jane.

Your turn.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) I know a girl that you don't know, little Liza Jane.

(SINGING) Way down south in Baltimore, little Liza Jane.

Your turn.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) Way down south in Baltimore, little Liza Jane.

My turn.

(SINGING) Oh, little Liza, little Liza Jane.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) Oh, little Liza, little Liza Jane.

(SINGING) Oh, little Liza, little Liza Jane.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) Oh, little Liza, little Liza--

Let's sing it together.

(SINGING) I know a girl that you don't know, little Liza Jane. Way down south in Baltimore, little Liza Jane. Oh, little Liza, little Liza Jane. Oh, little Liza, little Liza Jane.

OK. So we've started to let the students feel some rhythm there. And here's an opportunity for them now to learn to sing it again, but to also think about how they can create some patterns to go with it. What I'd like to do, quite easily, is think about part of the rhythm of the song and take an idea from that rhythm to perform it on another instrument, such as the Cajun drum that I'm sitting on. So let's have a think.

(SINGING) I know a girl that you don't know--

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) I know a girl that-- I know a girl--

There's a possible pattern. I know a girl. I know a girl. I know a girl. I know a girl.

[drumming]

(SINGING) I know a girl that you don't know, little Liza Jane. Way down south in Baltimore, little Liza Jane. Oh, little Liza, little Liza Jane. Oh, little Liza, little Liza Jane.

Now I said this song was a round, and it is, but already we can see really simple ways of developing the song, extending it, getting it ready for a performance, or just having a bit of fun with it. So the students will pick this song up very quickly and be ready to perform it pretty smartly as a round. So we can sing it as a round by commencing with one group--

(SINGING) I know a girl that you don't know, little Liza Jane.

Introducing the second one--

(SINGING) I know a girl that you don't know, little Liza Jane.

And as the students get to know it even further, perhaps the next day that you're singing it after you've taught it, we can split into four groups.

(SINGING) I know a girl that-- I know a girl that-- I know a girl that-- I know a girl--

Or--

(SINGING) I know a girl that you don't know-- I know a girl that you don't know.

And so on and so forth. So by adding musical instruments, we can value add the performance, preparing it for an assembly, any performance at all beyond the classroom, or just for classroom enjoyment. Now, perhaps you have all sorts of percussion instruments in your storeroom. Whatever it is, see if you can dust them off and see what might be of value for the students to be able to perform with.

As I said, I've got a Cajun drum, but I've also got-- perhaps you've got at your school a closet of ukuleles. Now a song like 'Liza Jane' can simply be played with one chord, C. And it's simply a matter of just keeping the beat.

[strumming ukulele]

(SINGING) I know a girl that you don't know, little Liza Jane. Way down south in Baltimore, little Liza Jane. Oh, little Liza, little Liza Jane. Oh, little Liza, little Liza Jane.

Pretty simple. It can be adapted for any other instruments, of course. But the next thing the students might like to do and to create themselves is some sort of movement. And it would be great fun if they could work in pairs. They should be able to come up with some sort of hand percussion, body percussion that they can sing together. And perhaps we could be all singing it and they can be improvising something as they go. And at the conclusion of the song, have them demonstrate what they worked on with their partner.

So it might be something as simple as that. It could be some sort of boot-scooting movement. Who knows? You've probably got some great dancers in your classroom. So--

(SINGING) I know a girl that you don't know, little Liza Jane. Way down south in Baltimore, little Liza Jane. Oh, little Liza, little Liza Jane. Oh, little Liza, little Liza Jane.

The next part of the lesson is all about teaching songs and having a collection of repertoire that we can use for all sorts of situations. But I'd just like to ensure that our students are always singing music that is age appropriate. So they're not singing the latest pop song that might be taking them in pitch areas that they can't sing or text content that is not appropriate for Kindergarten or our primary age students.

I'd always encourage you to consider carefully how we select some of the repertoire. But most importantly, is it fun? Is it enjoyable? Is it musical? And that way, the children will be highly engaged with whatever it is that they're singing. I'd like to teach you one of my favourites that I love to use in the classroom as a repertoire piece, but also as something that we warm up with, we move to, we can add instruments to, as well, and it's an all favourite of mine called 'Good Morning Happiness.' And I would teach it phrase by phrase, but I'd begin by teaching the chorus. And it very simply goes like this.

(SINGING) Good morning, happiness. Good morning, happiness. Good morning, happiness. What a fine day.

And I'd ask the students to think about the pitch of that chorus. What's going on compared to 'Ebeneezer Sneezer?' What's happening with the pitch? It's actually descending, it's coming down. So let's sing it again together, and then we'll talk about how we can move to it.

(SINGING) Good morning, happiness. Good morning, happiness. Good morning, happiness. What a fine day.

And then the verse is very simple-- simply sing it again, teach it phrase by phrase. And one--

(SINGING) Going to wake up with a smile.

And then they'd sing back.

(SINGING) Going to wake up with the sun all bright. Going to wake up with a smile. Open the shade, let in the light.

And then we sing the chorus.

(SINGING) Good morning, happiness. Good morning, happiness. Good morning, happiness. What a fine day.

Now, this is a song that's easily taught, easily sung, and we can have a bit of fun moving to it. One of the suggestions for movement, and it doesn't always have to be prescriptive, get the students to think about how they might move to it. One of the things I like to do, though, is to march around in a circle together.

(SINGING) Going to wake up with the sun. Going to wake up with the sun all bright.

We're moving around in a circle.

(SINGING) Going to wake up with a smile. Open the shades, let in the light.

And then we might stop our movement in the circle and sing.

(SINGING) Good morning, happiness.

We could be marching on the spot.

(SINGING) Good morning, happiness. Good morning, happiness. What a fine day.

And as we've taught the second verse, have the students suggest a different movement. Perhaps it's leading in the opposite direction. Further repertoire ideas can be sourced from all sorts of places, and one that I've loved over the last couple of years since the movie 'The Sapphires' came out was the beautiful song that Jessica Mauboy wrote called 'Ngarra Burra Ferra.' And I love using it with students, and they particularly enjoy singing it unaccompanied or with a variety of percussion instruments. And the song goes a little bit like this.

(SINGING IN YORTA YORTA LANGUAGE) Womraka Moses yenyen wala

Wala yepun yepudge

Mara burra ferra yamini yala

Ngarra burra ferra yumini yala yala

Ngarra burra ferra yumini yala yala

Ngarra burra ferra yumina

Burra ferra yumina

Burra ferra yumina yala yala

Yenuk becu jesu

Braru bucana yumina

Mara burra ferra yamini yala

Ngarra burra ferra yumini yala yala

Ngarra burra ferra yumini yala yala

Ngarra burra ferra yumina

Burra ferra yumina

Burra ferra yumina yala yala

I think it's really important that students have the opportunity to learn music from all cultures and from all around the world and to sing in other languages, too. And how wonderful to sing a song in an Australian language-- traditional language. Another piece that I love to use, too, is a contemporary piece called 'The Middle' written by Jimmy Eat World.

And again, I sourced this one in an ABC sing vault, but it's a great, fun song for students to sing, and particularly if you,re farewelling your year 6s. It's got a bit of a theme and it's a lovely song to be able to use at that stage in the primary. But very simply, if I was teaching it, I'd be singing, again, phrase by phrase.

(SINGING) Hey, don't write yourself off yet.

And then I'd ask students to sing it back.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) Hey, don't write yourself off yet.

(SINGING) It's only in your head you feel left out or looked down on.

And then they sing it back.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) It's only in your head you feel left out or looked down on.

(SINGING) Just try your best, try everything you can.

And have them sing back.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) Just try your best, try everything you can.

(SINGING) And don't you worry what they tell themselves when you're away.

(SINGING MORE QUIETLY) And don't you worry what they tell themselves when your away.

Now, that's the verse. Ordinarily, I'd probably teach the chorus first because the chorus is often easier to sing. But either way, we're teaching the students about structure in music-- verses and choruses, bridges, introductions, conclusions, codas. It's a great way of having them think about the structure of how a composer goes creating a song, putting it together, and then having to perform it ourselves. So the chorus--

(SINGING) It just takes some time, little girl, you're in the middle of the ride. Everything, everything will be just fine. Everything, everything will be all right, all right. It just takes some time, little girl, you're in the middle of the ride. Everything, everything will be just fine. Everything, everything will be all right, all right.

Stand alone, unaccompanied, you can perform it, no problem. And again, using a variety percussion instruments, ukulele, guitar. Three simple chords which can be used to be able to perform this song quite rhythmical. Some of the teaching materials that have come with the ABC sing book suggests being able to just play some drumsticks with it. Have the students think about how they can create a pattern to perform with it.

Now, when you're performing, as I said, you don't always have to have a CD backing or iPod backing or a guitar or ukulele. Let the students be able to perform it well by doing it unaccompanied. As a bit of fun, perhaps you could introduce something as simple as a pair of drumsticks. As some students perform, others sing, or those that can do both.

(SINGING) Hey, don't write yourself off yet. It's only in your head you feel left out or looked down on. Just try your best, try everything you can. And don't you worry what they tell themselves when you're away. It just takes some time, little girl, you're in the middle of the ride. Everything, everything will be just fine. Everything, everything will be all right, all right. It just takes some time, little girl, you're in the middle of the ride. Everything, everything will be just fine. Everything, everything will be all right, all right.

Well, I hope that these little songs that we've introduced today are of a help to you. They're just a starting point. There's some ideas there that you can use for warm ups and rounds, lesson breaks, and songs for repertoire. So use them as you please or choose your own in your own way. But either way, I encourage you to feel confident about using singing in the classroom and bringing that enjoyment to not only the students, but your own enjoyment and health and well-being. Thank you.

[music playing]


End of transcript

Image
Donna Riles sitting on the floor surrounded by small musical instruments, a book of music and song lyrics.

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