I am heartbroken at the thought of not being able to sing with my kids ~ especially the littles ~ during our time together. Although studies are ongoing, not singing seems to be the safest bet. So what’s a music teacher to do? We all have standards that include singing and melody work ~ how are we going to meet them? Instruments? Well it is possible, but for large schools or for those of us on a cart, it will be nearly impossible to either clean them in between classes or to haul them around. If you can do it, more power to you! Then I thought about having kids make their own melodic instruments, but if we are committed to teaching solfege correctly, the chances of any homemade xylophone being pitch accurate are slim. (NOTE: If you know of one, please share in the comments below!! )

In order to not let Covid get the best of us, here are 5 ideas to provide singing/ melodic opportunities for your students:

  1. Tape yourself singing 2-3 songs per grade level and post ~ This is the easiest! You can choose the songs that you feel are most important for your kids to learn or that you want your kids to sing along with when they are home. Find a spot, tape yourself singing, post to YouTube (weekly or monthly) and make it private. Then send links or post on your website and voila! You are all set!

The drawback, of course, is that it isn’t interactive, but if you are already teaching full time, this will get it done.  

  1. Weekly or monthly sing-alongs ~ If you are interested in a more interactive experience, you can add (to above videos) or schedule a time on Zoom to meet one grade level at a time and choose familiar songs to sing together. The kids will enjoy seeing your face and you can use it as an opportunity for kids to choose 1-3 songs to be featured. Win-win!

The drawback is only the technology. Zoom doesn’t really allow everyone to sing together in real time. If you know of a better platform PLEASE post in comments below!!

  1. Video Exchanges ~ This is great for small groups like your choirs or for an informal singing club. There are a variety of ways to use it:
    1. Sing part of a song on a video, send it to kids and they need to videotape themselves singing the rest of the song and send it back.
    2. Sing an entire song on video and have them add instrumentation while they sing and have them send it back to you.
    3. Send a video of you humming the melody to a song while providing accompaniment. Encourage them to sing with the video. Then have them send you back a video of them singing it with the actual lyrics OR lyrics that they themselves created!!

The drawback is that this might be time consuming ~ depending on how many kids are involved.

  1. Curwen Hand Signs while you play the piano or a xylophone ~ This is AWESOME for developing audiation! Show a video of you singing several examples of Sol and Mi (and Do) with hand signs in class. Kids can do hand signs with you while video plays. Afterwards, have kids give you a series of 4 hand signs. Have them close their eyes and see if they can hear it in their heads. Play the pattern on a piano or a xylophone on a cart.

The only drawback is that you can’t hear what is in the child’s head.  After they have had some practice with it, use part of a Zoom sing-along or meeting to have them sing their patterns!

  1. 1-3 Xylophones at a time ~ Due to a lack of time and space on a cart, this might be your answer to melody work ~ it can highlight a pentatonic scale and give kids a chance to improvise. The idea is to take 1-3 glocks or other small xylophones (if you are on a cart) and let 1-3 kids play while the group claps an ostinato. Because there are so few instruments, cleaning them in between classes will be feasible.

The drawback is that only 1-3 kids play per class.

These certainly are crazy times, but our work is essential to keeping the human spirit alive and well. Although we can’t sing together in person, these substitutes will continue to build relationships and strengthen our school communities as a whole! Happy singing!