I Can't Sing.... Now What?
Under the current COVID-19 global pandemic, many music teachers have found themselves facing situations unlike anything they've ever taught in before. Some of us are teaching remotely (be it synchronously through video conferencing programs like Zoom, Webex or Google Meets or asynchronously through posting videos to Google Classroom, SeeSaw or other similar applications).
Some of us are back in our classrooms teaching face-to-face and some of us are facing the challenge of delivering both forms of teaching at once in a blended classroom!
Even for those who are teaching all their students face-to-face, many places around the world have now enforced health and safety protocols that preclude the use of shared instruments or even singing. How are we, as Kodaly-inspired educators meant to teach without singing?!
I, too, panicked at first. But then I remembered my mantra for this whole crazy year: "It's an opportunity for creativity".
No, it's not going to be my ideal music program for now, but there are still plenty of ways students can have meaningful musical experiences and gain skills and knowledge in your classroom.
My first thoughts went to rhythm - this is a great opportunity to get a lot of deep-level intensive rhythmic practice done! Check out my post here for some ideas on ways to practise rhythmic concepts.
These various activities such as rhythmic dictations, hula hoop dictations, rhythmic celebrity heads and even simple practice tasks like keeping a beat or clapping the rhythm of known songs doesn't require any singing.
You can also teach new songs through body percussion. Here are a few of my favourites:
Boom snap clap
This is a well-known body percussion pattern with a thousand and one variations. Even though the video here is designed to be done with a partner, it can easily be modified into a non-contact version where each person performs on their own.
Depending on the literacy level of your students, this could then flow into a rhythmic transcription or composition activity nicely!
Senua De Dende
Senua De Dende does have such a beautiful melody and is usually so great for teaching rounds and part singing, but to adapt it for a non-singing classroom, you could simply record yourself (in two parts if you wanted!) and then teach the students the body percussion to a recording of your voice.
One of the issues with shared instruments is that we have to go to great lengths to clean them and, depending on the type of instrument, this can often be damaging to the instruments over time.
So why not get creative and try to find some non-instrumental instruments you can use instead?
For example, get each student to bring along 2 pencils from their own pencil- case to use for drumsticks or an adapted version of some games like J'entends Le Moulin?
You could also have a class set of cheap plastic cups (which won't be damaged when cleaned with antiseptic sprays & wipes) and use some of the fantastic resource packs by the folks from Kaboom Percussion, like this "Fireflies" playalong?
Using a speaking voice to teach non-pitched chants can be a great way around the no-singing rule. There are some great ones out there, for a wide range of ages and abilities - everything from Fuzzy Wuzzy Was A Worm through to Moses Supposes
There are still plenty of ways to teach pitch through kinesthetic means. Depending on the rules where you are located, you as a teacher may be able to hum or you may have to rely on pre-recording your songs.
Either way, students can respond with known solfa hand signs, they can pitch-pattern (tap heads for the high note, shoulders for the low note etc.) or even as simple an activity as "raise your hand when you hear the new sound" ( I say simple...this task can be surprisingly demanding!)
Giving students (or having them design their own) personal solfa ladders can allow them to point and hum along with music and show an understanding of the pitch.
This can be a great opportunity to incorporate some dance into your curriculum (depending on the nature of your position, you may be employed as a Performing Arts teacher and be expected to do this anyway!)
Again, depending on the nature of your position, you may be able to incorporate some drama tasks into your lessons. Check out this post for some more ideas!