Wigmore Hall Learning Scrapbook

Singing Resources from Singing INSET Day at Wigmore Hall

(scroll to the bottom for the audio playlist of tracks and attachments)

The following singing resources are some thoughts from the singing INSET day, along with notes from the three carousel sessions with the different leaders. Some thoughts to get us started!

Creatively, there is no right or wrong– try and get away from the need for everything to fit perfectly into what we, as adults, think a song or vocal piece should sound like. Record what you do– children often love listening back to themselves and this can create an amazing opportunity for them to listen back to their own creations and voices! Don’t worry about making a mistake– for some reason everybody gets very nervous about making vocal mistakes in singing. Take a breath and try again…just as you would tell a child to do! It really doesn’t matter! Give it a go– chances are, if you do, your students will. It’s all about having fun, improving confidence and discovering YOUR voice.

Singing in the classroom – back to basics! (with Issy and Dom)

Introductory songs

  • Using the “playground chant”, sing questions with your class e.g. “Who wears glasses?” If it’s true for you, sing the response “I wear glasses”. Sung as call and response, get different people to be the caller.
  • Using the same “playground chant” for Doggy Doggy:

Everyone: Doggy doggy where’s your bone?

Dog: Someone stole it from my home

Everyone: Who stole your bone?

Thief: I stole your bone

Once participants are familiar with the song, get the individual singing the dog part to sit in the middle of the circle with eyes closed, so they have to guess who the thief is by listening to their voice.

Why not try singing Senwa Dedende?

(Lyrics for this song can be downloaded at the end of this webpage.)

Senwa dedende, senwa Senwa dedende, senwa Senwa dedende,
Senwa dedende,
Senwa dedende, senwa

This song can be sung as a round: divide into 2 groups. Group 1 starts; Group 2 begins when Group 1 has sung the first “Senwa dedende”.

Using “inner ear” or “listening voice”:

Sing Senwa Dedende all the way through, but this time leave out the word dedende. Encourage the group to internally hear the silent words, training the inner ear to hear the pitch even when it is not sounded out loud. Repeat omitting the word senwa.

What other songs do you use for “inner ear” listening?

What about Heads, shoulders, knees and toes and B-I-N-G-O!


Most primary aged children will comfortably have a range of 8 notes. This might not coincide with the notes that are most comfortable for us to sing so we need to be aware about where in our voices we are choosing to start songs.
The comfortable range of notes for children is from middle C up to the next C, which is 8 notes above middle C. There are many online resources that can help you to find this range of notes. For example:

http://thepitchpipe.com click on the letter C (at 3 o’clock on the dial), which makes the central letter become a C. Then press this big central letter C to hear the pitch. Practice singing this note back. It should be comfortable/fairly low in your voice. This is middle C – the lowest note in the average vocal range for children. Try singing “Twinkle twinkle little star” starting on this note to give you an idea of a suitable vocal range for EYFS and KS1.

https://virtualpiano.net shows you a piano keyboard. If you are familiar with the keyboard layout you can click on notes to hear them. If not, press letter “t” on your keyboard and you will hear middle C. Press letter “s” to hear the high C 8 notes above this. These two C’s give the lowest and highest notes of the comfortable vocal range for primary children.

Helpful tips when teaching a new song

  1. Give the starting note and speed of a song by finding the starting note and singing “off we go” or “1,2,3” in tempo
  2. Use your hand to indicate where the notes go up and down in a song: make your hand flat with your palm facing down and use a range in line with your belly for lowest notes to your chin for highest notes. 
Elevator is a really useful song to help gain familiarity with the first 5 notes.
  • Note 1 is middle C: 
Elevator why don’t you take me up, up, up, up, up
Elevator why don’t you take me down, down, down, down, down
1-2-3-4-5 (everyone sings back 1-2-3-4-5)
5-4-3-2-1 (everyone sings back 5-4-3-2-1)
choose any 3 notes to sing slowly and everyone sings them back e.g. 1-2-3 (everyone echoes back); 5-1-1 (everyone echoes back)

Structuring a 10-15 minute singing session in the classroom

  • start with a physical warm-upg. shakes in sequence of 8
  • breathing exercisesg. making sounds of the sea (shhhhh, sssss) to slow down breathing; 
panting big dog/little dog (double speed) to energize breath and engage diaphragm
  • make some swooping/sliding sounds (can be done as call and response); motor bike sounds 
to brrrrrrr are effective but also experiment with vvvv and sliding vowels (eeee/oooo/ahhh)
  • use a simple song like Doggy Doggy which has a small vocal range sing/teach a song with a wider vocal range – experiment with singing rounds (e.g. Senwa Dedende, Frère Jacques, London’s Burning) so the children can experience singing in harmony 
REMEMBER: little and often is the key to success! You only need a few songs up your sleeve to keep you going for a half term. Also, the more you use your own voice, the more confident you will become. Sing in the shower to increase your own vocal range!

What to sing in the classroom (with Penny)

Step 1. The plan

The plan is to have at least 1 song for every topic, in every year.

It can be one you find fully formed, one you change the words to or one you create together. It doesn’t have to be performed, but it can be. It will help you change the atmosphere in your classroom, get focus and heighten attention, as well as connect with your topic in a different way.

Step 2. Purpose

Simply, what is the song for? It could be just one of these or several at once.

  • Focussing attention, calling everyone together, changing the atmosphere – a gathering song.
  • Embedding vocabulary and information, creating ownership of topic material – a topic song.
  • Enhancing musical skills and bonding as a group, using song for an assembly – a performance song.
  • Creating your own song based on your topic or the children’s interests – a creative song.

Don’t forget about musical skill – singing a song in two parts hones listening skills and teamwork. If this is tricky, try creating a mashup where each class learns one song, which then fit together in performance.

Step 3. Finding repertoire

  • Don’t underestimate YouTube/ Google for finding cool songs. You can always just use one chorus or a bit you like. Try and look for things which would be good unaccompanied so you can sing it any time.
  • Sing Up is an amazing resource for classroom singing – you can search by age, topic etc.
  • Your own head! We had a quick brainstorm on three topics and you discovered that you already knew what to sing: for Black History Month, the blues or spirituals, for Explorers, sea shanties, and for 1st World War, ‘pack up your troubles’ and ‘it’s a long way to Tipperary’.
  • Choose songs you like. If you feel like writing your own words to a catchy 80’s pop song (e.g. We Will Rock You for the Stone Age) you can do it yourself or make it an activity with the children.

Step 4. Learning and teaching

  • Make sure you are confident teaching your song so that you feel comfortable. Practise teaching it to an adult who doesn’t know it (another member of staff, your partner, anyone else) to see how it will feel.
  • Don’t worry about making a mistake when teaching. It doesn’t have to be perfect and you can always say to the children to make a change.
  • Sing each line together. Isolate learning the tune by pretending to be a relevant animal and singing it to ‘meow’ then add the words.

Step 5. Creating your own repertoire

Writing words with children:

  • Provide prompts for them to finish the sentence and do it as a class activity, e.g. ‘Tiggereeyoo’ rhyming the year 1861 with something which happened on the railway. Or for Stone Age, ‘we live in ……………’.
  • As a group activity, use pictures as prompts and write descriptive and exciting language all over the paper. Swap papers and choose your favourites from the new sheet. Use some of these words to write lines as a class on the board.
  • Alternatively, in groups or individually, write according to a scenario and then share back some good ideas. E.g. for ‘explorers’ you might ask ‘you wake up in your hammock in the ship’s hold. What can you hear, and what can you smell?’

Writing a melody with children:

This can often be the hardest part but could be done as a small group or a whole class.

  • Draw a melody picture of each line – where are the important words, where do you think it goes up and down? Draw a spaceship’s journey, a pirate’s map etc. for each line.
  • Use a xylophone – choose how many notes up and down each bit of the journey goes. Then ask for changes. It’s a lot easier to change something than come up with something new.
  • Use a backing track – there are lots of backing tracks on YouTube which loop around. You could put one on and ask for ideas of melody or rap of the words over the top.

Soundscaping and Graphic Scores (with Lucy)

Making vocal sounds that don’t necessarily have a melody or words is still singing… Use soundscaping and graphic scores to create another opportunity for a child to make music, be creative and find their own voice!


With any story or curriculum topic you are exploring in your classroom, you can create a soundscape. There are numerous ways that you can do this: your soundscaping can go alongside the storytelling, it can be a musical interlude in the story or poem, or can be its own stand along piece. Don’t forget to record and listen back to these new compositions!

  1. Whilst reading the book ask the children what things in the story (including the setting and time of day) might sound like e.g. the sea, the dark town, the animals etc. Once the children know the story really well, try taking away the words and just tell the story through sounds. This is great for memory and you’ll create a musical piece whilst doing it!
  2. Pick a specific setting, or scene in the story, or topic (e.g. the sea) and come up with four sounds that represent it. Pick a conductor to create their own piece using signs that represent the sounds, as well as start, stop and carry on. You can divide your class into four and create your own soundscape orchestra with each group doing a different sound. Remember to introduce the conductor’s/composer’s piece with a name, their name and the fact it’s a world premiere!
  3. With slightly older kids why not try adding a tempo or time frame? Just like the warm-up we did with Issy you can easily create a 16 beat pattern. Taking the topic of the sea, let’s imagine 4 sounds:

Wooooosh – Splash – drip drop – bird sound

Your pattern could look something like this…

1 2 3 4           Wooooosh (for 4)

5 6 7 8           Splash rest splash rest

9 10 11 12    Drip drop drip drop

13 14 15 16  Bird sound (for 4)

Once your class feel confident with their soundscape pattern you can put it into a round- Group 1 starts and Group 2 can start 4 or 8 beats later.

Graphic Scores

Whatever your curriculum topic is, you CAN make a graphic score! It can be in the more conventional way (i.e. something that looks like music) or as abstract as you like! Again, remember to record and keep any scores.

  1. Exploring your topic with your class, find four sounds (this can be more as your class gains confidence in creating scores) that may be heard within your topic.
  2. Come up with a shape or symbol that represents the sound and draw this on a sheet of paper.
  3. Fill the paper with lots of different symbols and discuss how you can ‘read’ it e.g. Is it left to right, right to left or up to down? What happens if the symbol is smaller?
  4. Pick a conductor and get them to conduct their own piece- this can be with a baton, or if you have created a giant score (possibly with laminated symbols for EYFS) wherever the conductor is standing on the score.
Thina Simunye score - G

I See Your Soul Song (Lyrics .doc file)