"Wait—we haven't been singing all year? Oh, yeah."
How do you teach music—especially to children in nursery through grade 2—when singing isn't allowed? This is not some dystopian sci-fi, it's a real COVID-era restriction. This droplet-dispersing conundrum has been negotiated by nearly every in-person music teacher in America this year, including at Lab.
As a matter of pedagogy, music teacher En Chen says, "I moved away from our singing/skill-based curriculum back to more of an experience-based curriculum." Such modifications, shared by all N–2 music teachers, created windows of opportunity for new experiential learning. "Even hand sanitizing is now a part of the lesson," Chen says. "The first and last thing we do during first grade music is to clean our hands with hand sanitizer to a song. Then everyone gets more pumps of hand sanitizer before and after we use shared instruments and equipment in class."
"Instead of singing at school, students have been humming, chanting, and moving to new and old songs," says music teacher Larena Code. "I record myself singing weekly for use in class as well as to post on our music website so students can still hear and experience the joy of singing together at home. Dances have been modified to reduce contact using pool noodles instead of holding hands and rhythm sticks for hand-clapping games."
"Wait—we haven't been singing all year? Oh, yeah," one student says.
Music teacher Julia Jaworowicz makes sure to teach hand motions or movements to the words of all the songs in class. "A big part of my planning is to look for ways a student can experience a song without actually singing it," she says. "This year I can concentrate on the rhythmic aspects of a new song and hope that next year I can work on the melodic aspects."
And in case your life is simply incomplete without a Community Sing, they modified that, too. Community Sings have always been one way families come together and spotlight holidays and traditions from the Lab community. This year, they have been hosting them on Zoom every month with a regular attendance of 100-200 families. Although families are muted, you can see each child is singing and moving along with the songs. Check here for more information about the next Community Sing (everyone is invited).