Why We Sing: Hooray For Monday!

December 7, 2020
By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching

Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students. 

This past week along with my colleagues Jenna Fournel, Judy White, and Christine Sheridan, I led a virtual Inspired Teaching Institute for teachers. We called it An Element of Joy.

Like all of our professional learning, this past week’s sessions were 100% engaging – intellectually, emotionally, and physically. We opened with breathing exercises, recognizing breath as a starting point and fuel for movement; engaged in a physical warm-up; and learned strategies for infusing joy into subjects where it can be harder to find like grammar, analyzing standardized test data, teaching geometric proofs, and computer science. Judy exercised our imaginations as she guided us through an automatic writing exercise that led to more than 40 pieces with titles such as as, “It Takes A Village,” “Forest Friends and Mystical Adventures,” and “Unicorns Forever!” Jenna led us through an exercise in exchanging feedback while instigating thought, encouraging us to notice, wonder, and suggest. And we learned strategies for incorporating student-led dialogue into virtual and in-person classrooms, building on the work of Speak Truth.

As we do in all Inspired Teaching Institutes, we sang together. We closed the Institute with “Come As You Are,” a song – written by the teaching artists at Living Stage Theater, including the late, great Oran Sandel – that has been core to the Inspired Teaching Institute since 1996.

Teachers, whether you teach young children, elementary, middle, or high school, singing deserves a place in your classroom.

Here’s why:

  • Singing creates connections and builds community.
  • Singing makes us breathe. It rewards deep breathing; bigger, deeper breaths equal louder, stronger, and more resonant sound. 
  • It makes us vulnerable – we sound different when we sing than when we speak, so those in our community hear a different part of us when we sing.
  • Singing literally creates good vibrations – in our chests, throats, and heads. 
  • If we learn to read music, we learn fractions (time signatures and the circle of fifths) and many other mathematical concepts.
  • Singing supports language development.
  • Singing connects us to our elders and our youth, across generations. It carries forward the artistry of each song’s composer and lyricist, and of every person who’s ever sung that song before. In many cultures, songs were and are a key tool for capturing and sharing important elements of history and tradition. 
  • Music has the power to elevate our moods. Singing makes the day feel different. 

Despite what we may have been told, singing is something everyone can do. Singing is simply sustained speech. If you can speak, you can sing. And if you haven’t tried to sing with your students yet, this is a perfect Monday to begin.  

Wishing you joy, and song, this week and always.

September Inspired Teaching Institute

Teachers can’t control what happens between the time students wake up and when they arrive at school but they have a lot of control over what happens when students cross the classroom threshold. Participants in this fast-paced, idea-rich Institute will learn 20 different strategies for starting the school day!