Stephen Jeffery - Andover Primary School The first term of Primary

Stephen Jeffery - Andover Primary School
The first term of Primary Robins at Andover Primary School is going excellently. The children are
coming on leaps and bounds, both in terms of confidence and musicality. Whilst some of the Year 1
children have had problems with reading and memorising the songs, their enthusiasm for songs such
as 'London's Burning' and 'Puff the Magic Dragon' sometimes sees them singing the songs before I
even arrive! I'm also reliably informed that some of them have been listening to CDs of the songs at
some of the older pupils tend to think singing isn't for them and are reluctant to get involved,
preferring to laugh and joke about it, but in most cases they're beginning to come around to the idea
and some have even started volunteering to come and sing at the front of the class! I must say that
these reluctant pupils are impressively few and far between at Andover Primary School though,
where the behaviour levels are generally excellent and a testament to the staff.
What has surprised me with the pupils is an appreciation for what I would consider to be the more
grown-up songs in the song book. Every week there are several requests for 'Sunrise, Sunset' from
'Fiddler on the Roof' which, while being a beautiful song, is perhaps not as exciting as things like
'Consider Yourself' or 'Yellow Submarine'.
It's the enthusiasm and commitment of the children that has impressed me most though. One Year
6 pupil requested sheet music of all the songs so that she can practice at home with her mother who
is a pianist. Another educated me in the "way better" lyrics for Yellow Submarine in a fine solo
"We all live in a Yellow Submarine.
We didn't like the colour so we painted it Green.
The Green went mouldy, so we painted it Red.
The Red attracted Sharks and now we're all dead."
Molly Malone, with her Cockles and Mussels, will now forever be 'Millie Malone' at the request of
Millie (and everyone else) in Year 5.
Lisa Moffat – Mengham Junior School, Hayling Island & Sharps Copse Primary School,
Warm Ups:
Huming down five note scale, then opening to numbers 5 4 3 2 1. Rising in semitones.
C major scale octave sung on numbers 1-8, continual no stops, and split into two groups in a round.
Tongue Twister: The Lips the Teeth the Tip of The Tongue, also in a descending scale, rising in
semitones. Getting faster… they love anything that gets faster and enjoyed performing this as
soloists to the class later in the term.
Occasionally clapping games, repeating a rhythm, or clapping semibreves/minims etc to show
practical application of note lengths. They love clapping!
Terms and Music Theory
Semibreve, dotted minim, minim, crotchet, quaver.
Time Signatures (mostly Mengham older classes)
Crescendo/Diminuendo (older years)
We looked for the learned note lengths in the music, talked about adjectives in the music, the
meaning of different verses and choice of dynamic (Molly Malone), quizzes asking for details they
have just sung etc.
Songs Learned and Notes
Puff the Magic Dragon
This was a favourite. We sang all verses and they enjoyed the story about the dragon and his
friend. We talked about what sealing wax was and used for.
Yellow submarine
Another favourite. We sang both verses and they learned to wait for the break and listedn to the
‘Band’ section in the piano. We talked about whether they thought the story was real or make
believe and why.
Danny Boy (Mengham only)
This was some of the girls favourite, but most children found the range to large and instead of
singing the chorus properly went into mock squeaky singing and giggles. Very mixed response so we
didn’t sing it too often.
My Favourite things
This song was a hit with the girls who often knew it already, but some boys found it not for them
and dragged their feet a bit. A good example of 3/4 timing that they enjoyed.
London’s Burning
Most of the kids knew this already and the boys particularly liked this. As there had been a travelling
theatre production about the Great Fire the kids were able to tell me lots of facts about this songs
origin, which they enjoyed and sang easily in 2 teams.
Sur la pont d’Avignon
The children mostly liked this, especially after getting to do the actions. The words are repetitive
enough and the translation helpful to get them talking and thinking. The boys who did not want to
curtsy were encouraged to act more, and perhaps curtsy in a mocking way, with a sarcastic idea of
the ‘beautiful ladies’. They really enjoyed that idea. Any actions instantly make the classes very
The French was difficult for the kids even after lots of repetition. But I think that was partly in
classes with poorer readers. They all gave it a good go.
Consider Yourself
A good song for the boys as we talked about context which they enjoyed.
‘Who wrote Oliver Twist?’
‘Was it Oliver? Did Oliver write it?’
Luckily they all know the Muppets Christmas Carol so learned a bit about Dickens!
The chromatic parts of the phrases were difficult for a lot of the pupils, unless they really knew it
Molly Malone
A favourite with the classes, they enjoyed singing this song with the verses and choruses changing in
dynamic after we talked about the meaning and story. Also, many pupils have Irish relatives so this
made the song even more appealing.
Richard Gooding – Laurel Avenue Primary School, Durham & Burnhope Primary
School, Durham
All year groups are enthusiastic, although I suspect they haven't done much singing in the past.
The KS 1 groups are challenging in that some children are either incredibly shy, lack some basic
language skills or cannot understand very simple instructions. However, they are improving. Some
very simple rhythm games were impossible at the start of term, but when I revisited these last week,
there had been a marked improvement. I think this is partly because their musical skills have begun
to develop, and partly because they are getting used to me and opening up a little.
Pitch skills vary at KS1. Vocal ranges are narrow, but not significantly narrower than one would
expect in very young children.
Reading skills at KS 1 are not sufficient for the books to be useful as a practical tool. However, they
are nice things for the children to own and in that sense are useful for engendering enthusiasm.
The KS 2 groups appear to enjoy their singing and are more likely to request specific songs from
the book (including ones they haven't yet learned but want to). Basics of rhythm and pitch are
present, so I have been working more on posture, vocal technique and the development of a clear
upper register. The children are responsive and are progressing.
Last week the school held an open afternoon, at which each class in turn sang from the Primary
Robins book.
KS 1
We sing in a circle and sometimes dance. George, my orangutan puppet, often helps. The year 1
children are lovely and enthusiastic. They are singing with confidence and are generally in
tune. Rhythmic sense is improving and the children cope well with pitch. Literacy levels at this age
are insufficient for the books to be of practical use, but the children here are able to approach more
of the repertoire and even manage to sing in a two-part round.
KS 2
There is much enthusiasm. As at Laurel Avenue, I am working on upper register, posture and
general technique.
It is noticeable at this school that the staff take on board and reinforce the things I do with the
children - so that when they held their Harvest Festival, they applied the lessons in vocal technique
to songs they were learning outside the Primary Robins programme.
Adriana Festeu – Lawn Primary School, Kent & Horizon Primary Academy, Kent
My aim for this first half term was to help the children build a positive attitude towards music and
singing in particular.
During these six weeks we worked on approximately six songs – the focus was on getting them to
remember the melodies, rhythm and words accurately but also to encourage them to sing out, sing
high notes confidently and to perform the pieces as if for an audience.
The results have exceeded my expectations on some of these groups as they became confident
enough to request to sing solos.
In the first lesson I focused on talking about why music is important and why singing is such an
extraordinary activity. Then we started off with some musical warm-up games - which helped me to
assess their musicality and got them in the mood for singing. Ever since I always start off the lesson
with a couple of warm-up exercises and then ask them to stand up throughout the session. Initially
they didn’t like the idea of having to stand up but once they learned the first song and started adding
some ‘acting’ and movement to it they became very eager to sing standing up.
What makes me most happy at the end of these six weeks is the fact that along with the obvious
progress in their singing, I can see that the children love it so much; their faces are lit up when
they’re singing and they’ve also become freer in their expression: they swing along to the rhythm
(some of them even jump about) and are so expressive. Their diction has improved a lot and they
are actually performing the songs. They usually come and chat to me before and after the lessons
and always tell me about how they sang to their parents at home.
For the following half of the term we have more songs planned and I’m hoping to get them to be
more aware of dynamics and their own voices as ‘instruments’. All in good time.