Singing and Music in Elementary
by Rachel Larson, Elementary Guide
It’s almost time for the elementary children to go play outside. They are finishing up the work cycle and glancing at the clock now. The excitement to play out in the autumn air is palpable. I ring the bell and the children understand that it is time to clean up their work. They put everything away and then all sit on the rug to wait. I sit down with my six curious, creative, and energetic students and ask them if they would like to sing. Every time I ask this question, they respond with an emphatic, “Yes!”
I then ask them what song they would like to warm up with. This usually becomes a race for who can raise their hand the fastest and also a chance to convince the others that their song choice is the best. They always list most of the songs in our class songbook before deciding.
We warm up with one of the songs. These children sing with gusto and excitement. Whether it’s the song about Don Gato the cat, Fish and Chips and Vinegar, Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder, or Shearing Sheep in New Zealand, they sing the words with purpose and passion. After we warm up, I tell them that we are learning a new song today. A hush goes over the room and one of my children asks, “Is this your favorite song?” I respond, “Yes.” The song is Dona Nobis Pacem. This is a song that I grew up singing in choir. It’s one of the most beautiful yet simple songs I’ve ever had the privilege of singing. I teach the children the first line and they start asking what it means. I talk to them about the meaning of Dona Nobis Pacem and how important the idea of peace is to the world.
We finish the first verse and then I tell the children that we will learn another verse tomorrow. They are disappointed, but as soon as I remind them that it’s time to go outside, they are thrilled. Children of this age go from one activity to the other faster than lightening, but in the moment they are incredibly present. Later that day, I heard one of my students humming the melody to Dona Nobis Pacem. I thought to myself about how beautiful that sound was, and how these young children have no fear when it comes to learning music. They gravitate toward it because they love it!