Emma Worthy, Music Coordinator/Teacher at Winscombe Primary School, North Somerset
Can you begin by telling us about your class? How many pupils do you teach and what are their ages?
I am a cover/PPA teacher with a specialism in music. I have worked as a music teacher for over 20 years, and I am a professional singer and Musical Director. I teach every child across the school from Reception to Year 6 for 40 -60 minutes a week.
Could you tell us a little about how you’ve been using Sparkyard in your school?
My school provides all our 1:1 Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) with a login that enables them to take their child outside of a chaotic, noisy classroom whilst still engaging in the same activity/learning as the rest of their peers. This is also helpful during singing assemblies when one class per term leaves school for a swimming lesson. The children are able to learn the new songs that I teach during the assembly time with their class teacher at another time that week and are therefore prepared for the rest of the following term’s assemblies.
How has this impacted your pupils and your teaching?
The ability to do this has made an immeasurable difference to our SEN children. Music is often a subject that they can excel in as it’s an expressive subject. It fills these children with confidence and enables them to feel that they are an included member of the class. As a cover teacher, I am fully aware that the LSA is far more experienced in working with their child and, by allowing them access to the lesson/song outside of the classroom, I know that the child will be taught at their own pace in a way that they learn best. This ability to be fully included and to achieve the same outcome as their peers is confidence-building, which is so crucially important.
From a personal perspective, can you describe your level of confidence and experiences with singing and music in the classroom?
As a music teacher/Musical Director and professional singer, I am very confident at providing an inspirational, achievable and rewarding curriculum for music. However, Sparkyard is a fantastic resource for current, child-friendly songs with cross-curricular impact. This helps me to support less confident class teachers or non-specialists to teach what is often thought of as an alien subject!
Can you describe any impact on the wellbeing and learning experiences of your pupils by incorporating singing and music in the classroom?
Having access to all the songs from Out of the Ark has meant that I am able to drastically extend the children’s assembly song bank. By doing this, we have been able to consolidate learning across the curriculum with relevant songs. This is also the case for PSHE. There are many positive songs that deliver messages appropriate for this age range that focus on Being Me In My World, My Feelings, The World Around Me, etc. We all know that music and singing in general has a massive impact on positive mental health and wellbeing; singing and music-making are scientifically proven to release endorphins that stimulate positive feelings. We are singing about it whilst our bodies are doing it!
This, in turn, promotes self-esteem and a feeling of self-worth and belonging. Using Sparkyard on a 1:1 basis with our SEN children especially enables the child to learn the songs at their own pace, providing a sense of achievement on an equal level with their peers, particularly as songs aren’t ‘differentiated’.
Our children have hugely benefitted across the curriculum from using Sparkyard. We have used the maths-based songs to promote times tables in our Year 3 class; similarly, we have used many literacy-based songs to learn about nouns/verbs/adjectives etc.
Our Year 2 children have really benefitted from Henry VIII songs, consolidating their topic-learning, as is the case with The Great Fire Of London.
The parents have commented many times towards the end of the academic year that they always know when they have had a music session as their children come home singing about things they have been learning.
From your experience, what impact does singing and music in the classroom have on the learning experiences for SEN pupils?
In my opinion, singing is as important within a classroom setting as pencils, rubbers and glue sticks. It is a tool that not only helps to consolidate learning across the curriculum but encourages positive mindset and promotes personal growth. It raises confidence, teaches teamwork, and enhances mental health. I am yet, after 20 or so years of teaching, to find any negative impact. It does not discriminate against race, religion, orientation; it teaches kindness and inclusivity. It is achievable by all, regardless of ability of SEN and encourages a sense of self-belief.
I am a music specialist; it goes without saying that my classroom will always be a singing classroom. However, now that all staff and SLT have witnessed the positive impact on the children and their learning, singing and music is of core importance and embedded in all areas at my school. This is greatly achieved and enhanced by having Sparkyard as a resource.
I would like to tell you about a particular pupil: Ruby is a KS1 pupil with Down’s Syndrome. Mainstream school is a challenge for her at times. Despite being a highly inclusive setting, and the fact that Ruby’s friends adore her and include her in everything they do and play, she still faces daily challenges that her peers don’t have to experience.
However, despite being almost non-verbal with her speaking voice, Ruby LOVES to sing and dance. She spends a lot of time outside of the classroom, away from her peers, for learning. But, in my music lessons, I always insist that she is present and stays in the classroom.
Without fail, she beams throughout her hour lesson, fully engages, sings loudly and proudly and dances the whole time. This is helped by the fact that I always teach ‘singing with your hands’. I am, by no means, a Makaton specialist, but I make it a point to sign with every song we sing. In our singing assemblies, Ruby sings and signs with the whole school and is an equal part of the sound we are making. She has her place in the room in the same way that every other child does, and she achieves in exactly the same way and at the same level as all the other children. The beauty of this is that Ruby’s class friends have also learnt to sing every song with their hands too and, therefore, I have a class who sing with their hands all the time. This lovely little girl has taught her peers and me more than she’ll ever know and all through the power of music and singing. I am incredibly proud to teach her and to be taught by her. I never underestimate the power of music and singing – this is the proof in the pudding.
If you haven't already, start your FREE, 30-day Sparkyard trial now! It only takes five minutes to get set up and there's no obligation to subscribe – no credit card details required.