The Power of Singing. It’s Far More Than Music.

Yesterday a child in my class had a very difficult drop-off.  All the words in the world from Mom, and all her hugs and reassurances just didn’t make a dent.  I was equally unsuccessful in helping Mom to say goodbye and leave.  Eventually she just had to leave.  And, there was her child, crying and not wanting to be consoled at all.  We headed outside to the playground, and this child simply sat down on the walkway, three steps beyond the door, full of tears.  I sat down right beside her, and then I started to sing.  The first song was, “Oh Mr. Sun”.  I sang that song so many times, yet each time I would change phrases like, “please shine down on me”  to substitute the name of that child.  Then, I changed phrases to name other children, the ones that she could see close by.  At this point she was not crying, but certainly was not ready to play. 

So, I sang again.  Actually, it was non-stop singing, making up words to any tune that came into my head.  I just kept singing about  the children, the playground, the birds; anything that popped into my head.  When I did this, I made sure the words were rhyming words.  If I started a phrase, I often stopped at the rhyming word.  Eventually, she chimed in to fill in that word.  Then we moved to the big swing.  I made the swinging match the beats of  the music.  This is where things changed.  The swing added natural rhythm to the song.  That rhythm is the core of music; it’s what brings all feelings to the surface.  It is soothing, whether it makes you cry or feel good.  It is the heart of passion in music.  We sang, swinging in the swing, over and over again.

I kept on singing, and she sang along.  She laughed when I grasped for rhyming words, or when I made up a tune that was fast or slow, high or low.  Now she was part of this.  Together, we sang our hearts out.  Singing works!  In the simplest of ways, it makes you feel good, and it is pleasurable.  In a deeper way, it is very connective, bonding you to a person, a time or a place.  Music does this too, but singing brings music full circle.  Pretty powerful stuff.

I frequently do my singing in the children’s bathroom at school.  I’ll sit on the bench while they do their business and wash their hands, and just make up something; often about our current chapter reading book, or about a math game.  It’s easy and fun to sing words, any words at all.  We’ll sing adding numbers, sing about the characters in books, sing about each other.  A song seems to ‘cement’ words and concepts, make them more powerful.  It reinforces what we have learned in a fun way.  A song can be a mini lesson, much more than rhyming and syllables.

Most importantly, singing is the heart and soul of connecting with each other.  There were no words to help this child when she came to school.  Even a hug was rebuffed.  Yet, singing brought her comfort, and that comfort allowed her to participate in so many things.  I didn’t need my autoharp; the singing alone did the job.  It was a wonderful morning.



About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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7 Responses to The Power of Singing. It’s Far More Than Music.

  1. Lynn Kessler says:

    What a beautiful story!

  2. mrseager says:

    You ROCK, Mrs. Jennie!!

  3. LOVE this post – linked already, btw. I actually got a bit teary (I tear when I’m touched). I wish ALL kids had teachers like you.

    Long-time readers of my blog (especially those who read the comments) have been reminded repeatedly that my military family moved OFTEN throughout my childhood. My mother made up simple, repetitive tunes to teach our new addresses to the little kids, should they ever get lost. My brother Rick and I (older) were encouraged to sing along so that the little guys would follow our lead.

    I don’t recall ALL of them today, but I can still sing the “249 Harwood Avenue” song almost half a century later. My youngest brother took quite some time to be able to sing it, so all 5 of us heard it (and sang it!) a bazillion times. It was our last address in Florida, right before we moved to the DC area, when all of us were finally old enough to memorize our address and find our way home.

    Words sung to simple music STICK. I’ll bet most of us recall the supercalifragilistic-expialidocious word sung in the Mary Poppins film (and I’ll bet some of us can even sing it – I can!)
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, yes, and yes! Oh, you know, Madelyn. Those simple ways of singing whatever seems important, becomes important. I wrote a post about singing in the bathroom at school. Teachers stand at the doorway, not me. I sit on the low bench and sing till the cows come home. I have often thought that this simple, close time was my best teaching of the day (next to reading). Like you said, it brings a closeness that is a warm blanket. Thank you so much for your kind words and for linking this post!

      • Of COURSE – it is so directly related! I think your bathroom tale is in the Technology post – at least that is where I recall reading about your bathroom songs. 🙂

        Come to think of it, I’ll bet potty-training would come easier and faster accompanied to a tune including the entire sequence of steps.

        I’d use Lazy Mary — “now is the time to go to the potty . . . all the way to this is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands,” etc.)

        hmmm – maybe a generation of male children taught to song would FINALLY remember to put down the seat, “put down the seat, put down the seat.” LOL 🙂

      • Jennie says:

        I love this!! With all the singing I do in the bathroom, I will add putting down the seat. Their wives can thank me down the road. Ha! Yes, the bathroom tale is in the technology post. I wrote more in another post. I don’t understand why people can’t sing something important, or just enjoy how music and singing makes them feel. Sounds like a fixer-upper to me, and I mean that in the sincerest of ways. Supercalifradulisticexpialidocious. 🙂

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