Make a Joyful Noise – The Transformative Power of Music Education

Sing Education shows how music education unlocks pupil wellbeing, promotes self-expression and accelerates language learning.

Schools

Done well, whole school music can completely transform your primary school – from academic reputation to learning outcomes to pupil experience. Whether you’re responsible for early learners (EYFS), children with special educational needs (SEN) or students where English is their second, third or fourth language (EAL), to unlock these benefits you just need to tap into music’s unique ability to:

Very much music to our ears. Read on to learn how.

Make room for joy! EYFS Music

Joy.

According to Oxford Languages, the world’s leading dictionary publisher, “joy” is defined as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.”

It’s such a universal emotion yet so individually experienced. Perhaps you’ve felt it when you were completely and wholly absorbed in a hobby. Or when you were frolicking in the sea while on holiday with your family. Or when you watched the winning goal being scored in a cup final. That feeling of passion, happiness, accomplishment. That’s joy.

Yet not everyone has equal access to this emotion. 

Research shows that young people are particularly struggling at the moment to find opportunities to experience and express joy in their daily lives.

 “The current climate of post-pandemic stress, increased screen time, rising mental illness and rising poverty is showing as an increase in anxiety in young children. Opportunities for sharing joyful time needs addressing as a priority in early years settings and homes.” NW1

And whilst the science of joy is pretty clear… “neuroimaging studies and measurement of brain chemical transmitters show that when people are engaged and motivated and feel minimal stress, information flows freely, they achieve higher levels of cognition, make connections, and experience ‘aha’ moments” NW1 in education – where young people spend more time each day than in any other institutional setting – the function of “joy” is less well understood.

Sing Education would like to change that. 

Consider us your joy specialists!

Download the full case study here.

At Sing Education, we fundamentally understand how important emotional wellbeing is to developing healthy minds, bodies and spirits – that’s why we build joy, fun and wellbeing directly into our music curriculum. 

Along with Government, arts organisations and national/regional music hubs, we are united in support for wider participation in music education because we know the benefits are clear:

  • improved self-esteem
  • improved self-confidence
  • improved social skills
  • more positive attitudes to schooling
  • improved musicality. TE1

That’s why Sing Education lessons always contain active music making, engaging pupils throughout with the use of singing games, percussion, rhymes, rhythm activities and more. Plus we invest in extensive and ongoing training for our music specialists so they can confidently deliver our very unique brand of high-energy music education which directly supports joyful expression in the classroom.

paintint with the words choose joy
Girl is playing a black ukulele in a playroom

Express Yourself! Every Need is Special (SEN)

At Sing Education we lean heavily upon the first instrument, the voice, because we believe that all children – those from EYFS through Year 6, those with special educational needs or not, those with English as a first, second or third language – should be able to confidently access not only musical knowledge, skill and progression but also their emotions, sense of belonging and wellbeing. We give our pupils the building blocks to experience joy through both musical and self mastery.

This approach is directly in line with DfE guidance which states that “[a]s part of their statutory entitlement in schools, we believe that every child, including those with special needs, should have access to a wide range of high quality live music experiences and a sound foundation in general musicianship.” TE1

Moreover, there is deep recognition and agreement among primary educators, MPs and arts funders that “[p]riority action is required to redress existing inequalities in provision for children and young people who are vulnerable or marginalised through social, economic or geographical disadvantage or through having special needs. Every child should be assured opportunities for transformative musical experiences that can help to raise attainment and self-esteem, lead to behavioural improvements and promote greater social cohesion.” TE1

On this note, Good Schools Guide encourages schools, parents and carers to proactively coordinate their efforts to identify the best music education for pupils with special needs. “Children with learning needs can enjoy learning an instrument but ensuring that you recruit a teacher who ‘gets’ them and the way they think is more crucial than ever.” GSG

The Schools Guide goes on to recommend that SEN music strategies need to include considerations like:

  • An improvisation-based approach may work far better for children with concentration or other learning difficulties that make it a struggle to decipher notation.
  • If a pupil struggles with fine motor skills, part of the lesson might involve strengthening or co-ordination exercises (such as touching different fingers together).
  • For someone with processing difficulties, instruction needs to be slower paced, with frequent recaps. You want a teacher who won’t flinch from the endless repetition – and who’ll take almost as much pleasure in your child’s progress, however small the steps, as you do. GSG
Download the full case study here.

When working with SEN pupils, Sing Education are particularly proud that we can deliver bespoke music learning to meet their needs – within varied settings from classroom lessons to after school clubs to 1:1 instrumental tuition. 

In a curricular lesson, for example, working through rhymes and games – with lots of singing and instrumental exploration included – our music specialists have the flexibility to build in as much improvisation, motor skill work and/or repetition as a pupil with special needs might require. 

We don’t hesitate to use colourful props, memory aides, animated presentations, etc. as part of the lesson either. We’ll do whatever it takes to communicate and reiterate that day’s or week’s learning objective. Our lessons support all types of learning styles as well – visual, auditory, reading and writing, or kinesthetic.

Whether pulsing to the percussive rhythm of the voice, the glockenspiel, the drum or a pair of maracas, lessons are purposefully multisensory. We introduce rhythm flash cards, balls, bean bags, whatever supports the learning – to convey key concepts and theory.

This flexible, engaging, multi-pathway approach means that whatever a pupil’s individual learning needs, they are able to make appropriate progress in their music learning.

Chew Your Words - EAL Learners Flourish

Open vowels. Closed vowels. 

Pure, long and short vowels.

Diphthongs. Triphthongs.

Chewing your vowels.

 

No, we’re not making Alphabet soup. We’re talking about vocal performance. 

As professional singers are trained to perfect, singing vowels beautifully is the key to unlocking their highest quality performance. “[Vocalists] form vowels by adjusting the tongue, soft palate (or velum), jaw, and lips. All of these “articulators” influence the shape of the vocal tract, giving each vowel a distinct sound and colour. Vowels are even more important in singing than consonants.” LAB

So when Sing Education students sing in the classroom, they naturally learn to recognise, understand and then reproduce both vowel and consonant sounds, along with other elements of the musical curriculum such as rhythm, pitch and tone. This makes vocal performance such a perfect medium for supporting learners with English as an Additional Language (EAL) needs.

Download the full case study here.

For example, in our teaching practice, we incorporate a lot of English folk songs, as well as music from around the world, such as Asia and Africa. This really helps with developing language skills, especially for children with EAL background and needs. Where English is not the dominant language in the home, learning to sing in English can help tremendously because it naturally uses the rhymes and rhythms of the English language.

In addition, whether a child has English as an additional language, has a special educational need or disability, or is a high academic achiever, music is a subject that all children can access in an equal way. This factor allows pupils to build a great sense of confidence, pride and accomplishment irrespective of their musical starting point.

In a piece for the British Council’s Voices Magazine, Richard Stokes, Professor of Lieder at the UK’s Royal Academy of Music, spoke passionately about the strong impact that music can have on language learning.

“If you’re learning a new language, you’re going to find unfamiliar sounds that your mouth won’t have made before – the ‘a’ sound in ‘cat’ in English, for example, is very unfamiliar to German speakers.

It’s easy to get away with that when you speak, but when you sing, you have to rest on those vowels. Singing forces you to open your mouth and chew on the words. You have to get hold of consonants and pre-voice some sounds. You have to project, and that forces you to take risks and be expressive. All that carries through when you speak the language.” BCV2

Person playing the Morin khuur, a traditional mongolian stringed instrument
Primary pupil, girl, holding drum in one hand, other hand raised above the drum, three primary pupils in the background.

Music Education: It Comes Full Circle to Joy

“Traditional songs and rhymes can be delivered using role play, fun actions and funny noises to keep children engaged and to encourage them to follow your lead, being silly and joyful.” NW1 Yet the professional journal Nursery World observed the fact that “joy” is not mentioned anywhere in the current EYFS standards nor in Development Matters, the non-statutory curriculum guidance for early learning.

They noted, however, that despite this clear oversight, founder of Inspired Children and well-known play expert Ben Kingston-Hughes encouraged all educators “to see the importance of emphasising this aspect of regular music practice in early years. 

Ben praised the importance of early music education, saying that schools shouldn’t focus single-mindedly just on the “benefits for language, physical, social, emotional, literacy and maths development [without fully acknowledging these outcomes are fundamentally] a result of the magic that happens in the joyful moments of musical play.” NW1

Sing Education couldn’t agree more.

To learn more about Sing Education, including how our music provision, online instrumental lessons and at home learning resources contribute to a well-rounded music curriculum, please visit www.singeducation.co.uk/schools

For even more info, practical tips and guidance, click below to download your FREE CASE STUDY “St. George’s: A New Direction for Primary School Music”

Download the full case study here.

 


 

About Us

Founded in 2014 and serving more than 16,000 children each week, Sing Education is a first class provider of primary school music education. Focusing on high-quality, singing-led tuition, we deliver a complete solution for schools which includes teacher recruitment, training and management, bespoke curricular resources and educational consultancy services. 

Through music lessons, singing assemblies, choirs, after school clubs and instrumental tuition, Sing Education works with students from Nursery right through to Year 6. Our core philosophy is that “Every Child Has A Voice,” and, as educators active in the classroom, our directors and teachers know firsthand how much young learners benefit from exciting, rewarding music education. 

#SingEducation #MusicInFocus #HubsAndSpokes

Sources:

  1. EYFS Activities – The joy of music NW1 Nursery World1
  2. Making music with SEN pupils TE1 Teaching Expertise1
  3. Music lessons for SEN children GSG Good Schools Guide
  4. How to sing your way to language success BCV2 British Council Voices Magazine2

What You Need to Know About Singing Vowels LAB LiveAbout.com

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