This week started with a very very hot day and lots of water play outside. As I was filling up one of the trays I flicked water at one of the children. I forgot that whilst my children may have special needs they are certainly not lacking in ingenuity. The child then waited for me to come out with more water and threw water all over me. We had lots of fun but were rather wet by the end of play! They all had spare clothes to change into….I didn’t. Then I remembered the music co-ordinator had a supply of sing up t-shirts and all was well!
Wearing the t-shirt for the day has brought back lots of memories I am really proud of. A couple of years ago now the music co-ordinator and I were having a chat about how we could promote music throughout school, and get a bit more enthusiasm for singing. We decided a weekly singing session could be the way forward. And so began the Big Sing. This happened at the same time Sing Up was launching its award schemes. If you have never heard of sing up this is the website, http://www.singup.org/ . It is an amazing resource with so many songs that link to a wide variety of topics. They have makaton signed videos on there too.
Sing Up has organised many events in our authority. Two of which I was able to attend with some of our children. These took place in the town hall with 1000 school children singing a variety of songs and listening to some exceptional school choirs. For any child to be a part of an experience like that is fab and for our children to be included was brilliant. This led to us going for a Silver Sing Up award and a very proud moment as we were the first special school in our County to achieve this.
Our Big Sing consists of a variety of songs, some with really simple repetitive verses and some more wordy ones for the older children. Alice the camel was a massive hit with everyone and one of the teachers designed an interactive display on the hall wall to accompany the song. A whole school, ages 4-16, love of a song was so rewarding and a joy to be part of. Some staff find it a little uncomfortable to be part of Big Sing. They don’t enjoy singing and that’s fine. They sit in and help the children or find another important job that just needs doing! The main thing is that all staff are supportive and all will agree that the benefit of the Big Sing is clear to see. Even down to behaviour. The children are so used to spending time together as a whole school that whole school assemblies are (usually) a fun occasion!
About the same time as we started Big Sing one of our wonderful teaching assistants became a Makaton tutor. I assume most people will know something about Makaton, if only from Justin and Something Special. The impact that signs can make on children’s communication and language development should never be underestimated. She began teaching signs to some of the songs we were singing.
Big Sing has evolved into a mixture of allsorts of songs. Sometimes I use boardmaker symbols on the large screen, others are signed and some are just remembered. To see all the children joining in continues to fill me with pride. Last term we learnt the signs for Take That’s Rule the World. To listen to and see a hall of children who all have complex learning needs singing and signing along was a wonderful moment that brought tears to many eyes.
There isn’t enough space to share all the benefits I have seen to singing with our children but it plays such a vital role to their learning. We sing all the time in class and it really does help reinforce key words and learning from topics. I love finding new songs to share with my class and school. We’re singing and playing along to three little pigs song this week, and a child who often struggles to remember key words is able to join in with the full song. Singing always lifts the moods of us both staff and children. I often find a quick reprieve of ‘Spread a Little Happiness’ can bring a smile to all our faces, although that could actually be smiling at my own singing ability! So to paraphrase Sir Bruce…Keep Singing!