Musical Memory

Get singing and boost pupils' literacy and numeracy skills, says Maurice Walsh

The QCA scheme of work for music at key stage 1 encourages consistent singing practice. And outside the music lesson it's quite easy to combine singing with memorising useful facts your children will need when working by themselves with words or numbers.

To help you and your class, here are some simple songs you can use immediately in your literacy hours and daily maths sessions. The tunes are mainly traditional and easy to pick up - you probably know most of them already. They could be learned in a singing assembly or taught by you in class.

The fact that children enjoy singing together so much gives us an opportunity it would be wasteful to miss. While they are enjoying themselves and immersed in a song, they will also be memorising facts that will be useful when they have to work independently. And the songs'

repetitiveness is not only good for reinforcing the facts, it also allows special terms (such as "totalling") to be used over and over again, familiarising the children with vocabulary they might otherwise hear only occasionally.

Singing can also provide a welcome change of mood in a lesson. It will certainly help some children find their singing voices while intent on "playing" the game of the song. And it often helps involve those children who are difficult to engage. You can also vary the pitch, the tempo or the dynamics, which means you will be delivering other aspects of the music curriculum as well.

Shared song-writing

Here's something for you and your class to sing just before they settle down to a story-writing session. The idea is to remind them of all the things you want them to remember. To write the song, brainstorm with the pupils through a menu of all the key elements you have taught them.

Individuals then take their pick as you sing the song.

Their list might include:

"Remember finger spaces"

"Your sentences should make sense" "Make them sound exciting"

"Keep it neat and tidy"

"Letters all the same size"

"Capitals and full stops"

"Question marks and speech marks"

"Try an exclamation mark!"

"Think about a story start"

"How are you going to start it?"

"Don't forget connectives"

"Put the date and title"

"How are you going to end it?"

Miss King says

When we write a story,

A story, a story,

When we write a story,

Miss King says: (here someone chooses)

Remember finger spaces,

Remember finger spaces,

Remember finger spaces,

Miss King says.

When we write a story...

(and so on)

What shall we do today?

The following song can be sung or chanted. Say or sing it for them, leaving a space for them to reply with their own answers - the rhyme will give them the clue. When they know it better, you can then vary the way you sing it, by having one group answering another. Or individuals can lead and the rest can answer. Children seem to enjoy singing this one even more when they know it well; possibly they like the certainty.

The Days of the Week

Week's just begun day Sounds like: MONDAY

Putting on your shoes day Sounds like: TUESDAY

Playing with your friends day Sounds like: WEDNESDAY

Pussycat purrs day Sounds like: THURSDAY

Really going to try day Sounds like: FRIDAY

Let's have a natter day Sounds like: SATURDAY

Having lots of fun day Sounds like: SUNDAY

These are the names of the days of the week!

More songs

Here is a rap to use when practising the soundsphonemes in CVC words (the words "phoneme" and "sound" can be interchanged to accustom children to the two terms): CVC rap

Hey there, Bart,

What's the phoneme at the start

Of a little old word like "cat"?

Hey diddle diddle

What's the sound in the middle

Of a little old word like "cat"?

Hey, my friend,

What's the phoneme at the end

Of a little old word like "cat"?

Pairs of numbers that total 10

(Tune: London Bridge Is Falling Down)

Pairs of numbers totalling 10?

Totalling 10, totalling 10?

Do your thinking first, and then Put your hand up.

(Child gives an answer, using cubes, fans, cards, fingers, if necessary.

Keep singing the song to give them more thinking time.)

Pairs of numbers that total 20

(Tune: Bobby Shaftoe)

Pairs of numbers totalling 20?

You should be able to think of plenty.

Twenty-one pairs that total 20.

Can you find them all? (Still some more to find Now we've found them all) The process is the same as the preceding song. The results could be written up as you progress, as a visual reminder.

You can use a counting square, or a number line to begin with. When pupils are accustomed to the song, they can put their hands up to choose the starting number.

Counting up in 10

(Tune: E I Addio)

We're counting up in 10,

We're counting up in 10.

E I Addio

Let's start at 21.

...and counting down in 10s

We're counting down in 10s

We're counting down in 10s

E I Addio

Let's start at 96.

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