People have been asking me about teaching children singing lessons--how do you do it? What do you do differently in a child's lesson than you would do in an adult voice lesson? Today I'll break down the structure of my voice lessons, and talk about teaching methods for children; I've also included a free printable set of cards you can use as a "game" in children's singing classes. (If you want to know why I think singing lessons for kids are a good idea, see this post).
I typically teach 30-45 minute voice lessons. Longer lessons just mean that a voice student has cultivated greater vocal endurance and is tackling more difficult repertoire, it doesn't actually impact the structure of the lesson. Ideally, my student will have sent a "practice report" notifying me of any breakthroughs or frustrations during their week of practicing. I will then structure my lesson plan around working through the difficulties and capitalizing on the momentum of the breakthroughs. The time generally breaks down like this:
When I'm teaching children I basically keep the same structure: Warm-ups, memory checks, new repertoire, and verbal review. The main difference is that I try to make everything seem like a game.
When we're reviewing repertoire, I might switch between the staccato card and the legato card. This keeps practicing from getting monotonous and teaches musical expression. When we begin learning a new song, I like to isolate melody from words (for both children and adults), so I might have my student sing through the piece on "Baa" (the sheep card) or with the tongue-extended "Ahh" (going for primal sound and a relaxed jaw). Switching between the two cards can be fun as well.
My goal with teaching children is to teach singing concepts without the child knowing they're being taught, in an organic way. I want kids to learn music and singing like they would a language. So while I do teach music theory concepts like a teacher would teach letters or numbers, I want to teach singing concepts more like a playmate would teach their friend a new word--just by playing with them. I steer clear of outright correction and instead include games to address issues that I might hear such as intonation or rhythm problems.
I also focus a lot on imagery (hence, all of the illustrations), and stay away from mechanical explanations or asking children to mimic me (except when teaching a truly new thing like primal sound).
I've included a PDF of the game cards below. They're the perfect size to print out and glue on index cards. Or just print them on card stock and cut them out!