Don't you love this graphic that Vanessa Levin (pre-kpages.com) made for me? This has been one of my most popular blogs, so since I'm singing and dancing in San Antonio today I thought it might be an encouraging thought before school begins. To me, music is a gift that binds us and brightens our days. Last fall at the NAEYC Conference someone asked what I did to adapt my songs for children with special needs. I smiled and said, "I don't." Music is a universal language, and I just put it out there. I've had children in wheelchairs, children with no arms, children who are visually impaired, children with emotional issues...sing and dance with me because they are children first. The music touches their hearts and makes them one with everyone else. And here's a sweet comment from a teacher I'll never forget. She said, "I have a little boy who has limited speech and movement, but I know he's singing and dancing with us in his head."
This is definitely a difficult blog for me to write because I’m always hesitant to give advice when it comes to behavior issues. You really need to know the age level, classroom situation, and individual child before passing judgement. However, someone recently requested I make a few comments on what to do when children don’t sing, so I’ll do my best. When I do free concerts at schools, 95% of the children are right with. There are a few that look at me like I’m nuts, but I ignore them and by the end of the concert I’ve usually gotten most of them to smile and sing.
First of all, look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I capturing the children’s attention? Am I enthusiastic? Would I want to sing with me if I were a child? Are my songs engaging and FUN?” No matter how entertaining you are, there might be one or two children that don’t participate. My best advice would be to ignore them. I don’t think you should ever force children to sing or make it a power struggle. Focus on the positive with comments like, “The more you sing the happier you will be.” “Singing is good for the brain and will help you learn.” “Music helps us love each other.”
Second, think about why a child might not be singing.
*If you’ve ever taught a selected mute (child who refuses to speak), you might as well accept their silence because there’s not a thing you can do about it.
*Perhaps a child feels shy. Give them a little time and they may feel more comfortable and confident in joining group activities.
*Divide and conquer! Sometimes you’ll have two children that will sabotage everything you do when they sit next to each other. Separate them!
*Have a little chat and ask the child why she isn't singing.
*Ask children what their favorite song is and incorporate that into your music program.
*Provide musical instruments or other props that might get children involved. (This could be as simple as paper plates or tissue paper streamers.)
*Offer a wide range of music and movement activities, such as chants, dances, exercises, hand clap games, etc. There’s usually some special song that will capture their interest. (“The Banana Dance,” “Pizza Hut,” or my cheers usually do the trick for me.)
*Discuss the issue with parents. Sometimes the child won’t sing at school, but they sing the songs at home. By providing parents with lyrics to songs they can enjoy the music at home with their child.
*One first grade teacher said she used a behavior system in her classroom where the children moved their clothespin from green, to yellow, to red. The students learned if they were on yellow or red and they participated enthusiastically in music they got to move their clothespin back up to green. She said it worked like a charm for her.
Every class, every child, every situation is unique. From the first day of school put on a happy face and act like singing is the most wonderful thing in the world!!! Because it is!!!