There are four types of musical activities you should do with your students; those that help the child find and be comfortable with their singing voice, those that advance the child’s audiation ability, which is the ability to think in music and sing what has already been thought, those that develop moving to the beat of music to which they listen, and those that develop moving to music for expression.
For most if not all of you, developing singers is not what you are about. This being the case, you may wonder why I would have you help the child learn to use his or her singing voice. After all, isn’t that the job of a music or singing instructor? The answer to this is found by again comparing music to language. How many of you would teach your children language skills by never having them talk? After all, you’re not trying to develop great orators or actors, so why spend time teaching them how to speak? Clearly, speaking has value beyond mere elocution. Speaking gives voice to thoughts birthed in language. We want children to be good at thinking in and using words, so we want them to speak. It is the same with music. We want children to give voice to ideas birthed in music, and that is done not with spoken words, but with sung notes. In so doing, we are helping those young minds not only become musical, but also to develop beyond what they would without music. And so, we must give some attention to singing, which, as I hope you now realize, is the equivalent to speaking in language.
There is another, and perhaps for you more compelling reason why you should give singing attention in your classes. Music instruction significantly increases children’s mathematical capacities, specifically in spatial and temporal reasoning. provided singing, rhythm, piano, or no lessons to groups of preschool children for two years. Before beginning the lessons, the children were given a pretest that measured cognitive skills. After the two years, the same children were given a posttest. Those who received rhythm lessons scored higher than the piano or singing groups on temporal tasks. All children who received music lessons scored significantly higher on spatial and temporal skills than those who received no lessons, and the scores of those who took piano lessons did not differ from the scores of those who took singing lessons. Spatial reasoning is calling up images in the mind and then reasoning with those images. Temporal reasoning is predicting when something will happen, or recalling when something did happen, and using the influence of time to reason. Because the two primary elements of music is pitch, which is perceived in relation to space, and rhythm, which is perceived in relation to time, it is easy to see how music would strengthen both types of reasoning. A child first experiences space through music by means of vocal sounds. Those first random and then purposeful vocalizations we learned about are a child’s early forays into musical space. A child will sharpen her understanding of that space as her skill at using her voice to navigate that space becomes more precise. The child in essence discovers new space when the voice goes from being just a speaking voice to also being a singing voice. In order for that to happen, the child must learn to use her voice in non-speech like ways. So now that I’ve convinced you, or so I hope, to guide young voices into their singing voice, I’ll next show you how it is done. I promise I won’t carry this too far, and I will keep it within the bounds of practicality for your situations.