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How Do We Develop the Oral Language and Singing Skill of Young Children?

The most common scenario during music sessions like circle time (at least here in my country) presents a whole class singing together following through a pre-selected audio-video resource online by the teacher. The practice provides easy access for both teachers and students. In addition, it can provide an instant entertaining guide full of auditory and visual stimuli appealing to the students, or even the teachers. To what extent will this practice support early years learning, in the context of music and oral language development?

Benefits of "Live" Singing

Who would not like to have flexibility in choosing a focused concept, topic, or skill when we are given this opportunity? Just like reading aloud to children, singing "live" allows us to reinforce, recreate, and even set the pace of learning. If we want children to have better phonological awareness, together with clear enunciated words, then we should take this opportunity to enable us to do so. Recorded audio and visual videos cannot completely facilitate this.

Teaching Practices that Lead to Honing the Singing Skill of Young Children:

A. Model the use of the singing voice

It has been a common practice of teachers to choose the music that they can sing comfortably rather than thinking of what is the ideal range for children. In our teachers' workshops, we always make use of our "head tone" voice so we can help teachers learn it themselves so they can model this singing voice for their children, and not be used to using their speaking voice. Find out more about how these sources of voice are different.

B. Accompanied or unaccompanied singing should focus on:

  1. developing better pitch recognition

2. choosing an appropriate music key, the vocal range for young learners

To be able to do this, teachers must:

- Find and practice with their singing voice so children can embrace this too

- Use a melodic instrument to play the melody of the song (only if capable and available)

and lastly...the most realistic...

- Choose and use audio/video resources that are purposely created for children's overall developmental learning, and are supportive of their musical singing development. Without discernment, technology and media can deter us from our goals. Oftentimes, the sophisticated graphics or presentation can overly stimulate or redirect the children's or adults' focus on why the resource was chosen and used.

As teachers, let's keep in mind that singing is highly supportive of the children’s oral language development. Good music resources allow us to at least:

  1. Manipulate the tempo to a slower speed so that the child can listen better, follow through and enunciate the words clearly

  2. "Live" performances give both the teacher and student opportunities to improvise and create their own words to a given song

  3. For "live" performances, the teacher can always adjust the key of the song so that the songs support the natural singing voice of the child rather than the adult

The following music teaching videos were created with young children in mind.

1. One version is slower than the original to ensure that children can follow through better (knowing that early learners do not speak the words that fast). The original speed version of the music is also available on this YouTube playlist.

2. The selected musical key used in these songs encourages the use of the "head tone" singing voice. Most children's singing videos in YOUTUBE (especially the Filipino Children's Songs) are written in a key intended for adults' range. It is usually low, thus young children imitate this low range. One of the many reasons why children are growing up without knowing what is the difference between their speaking voice and their singing voice.

Have you ever heard the line?

........."I cannot sing!"

Let us always be selective of online content that we use for teaching. We might be doing these young children more harm than benefits.

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