Your guide to great assembly singing

Sing Up’s head of learning, Shelly Ambury, puts together a set of good practice advice and ideas for how you can ensure pupils and staff alike will enjoy singing in assembly

A new school year is the perfect moment to establish positive habits and regular routines as part of day-to-day school life. An easy way to nurture and root singing deeply into the culture of your school is through assembly singing.

Sharing and enjoying singing together regularly has a very positive impact on cohesion within the school community. Songs become the soundtrack to your childhood and are embedded in the memory for a surprisingly long time – often for life.

Many young people leave messages on Sing Up’s website saying how much they loved singing particular songs at primary school, and how they remember who taught the song to them or who they used to sing it with. It is no coincidence that in older people with dementia, even when other memories have been lost, it is very often familiar songs which are still remembered.

As the late neurologist and author Oliver Sacks said in his book Musicophilia, humans have an “extraordinary tenacity of musical memory, so much of what is heard during one’s early years may be ‘engraved’ on the brain for the rest of one’s life”. This is a key consideration in our song selection process here at Sing Up; we want to provide teachers and their pupils with songs that uplift your community and make for joyous singing occasions.

School assemblies are a focal point for the whole school community to explore themes and values such as friendship, resilience, kindness, responsibility, respect and tolerance

School assemblies are a focal point for the whole school community to explore themes and values such as friendship, resilience, kindness, responsibility, respect and tolerance. They also provide a moment of calm, a time to celebrate, a space for reflection and an opportunity to sing together.

Collective singing within this context gives an additional binding layer of expression and meaning to the exploration of values. It can also be a way of touching on difficult subjects like bereavement, conflict resolution, coming to terms with change or difficulties at home.

By always involving singing in your assemblies, you are positively reinforcing the lessons and celebrations of that moment you spend together each week.

Singing together is also a great boost to wellbeing for pupils and staff, and it has a surprisingly remarkable impact on health:

  • One in eleven children receives treatment for asthma in the UK, singing helps strengthen respiratory and cardiovascular health
  • Singing helps stimulate the brain. As f-MRI scans have shown, it literally lights up more areas of the brain than any other activity
  • The oxygenation of the blood increases alertness and good singing improves physical posture
  • It reduces stress and enhances the immune system by providing a natural boost to endorphins and oxytocin plus the reduction of stress hormone cortisol

How can you get the most from your singing assemblies?

Let’s start by turning this question on its head. What is your assembly for and how can you incorporate singing to maximise the value and deepen the experience for your pupils?

  • It might be an opportunity to allow pupils to experience music they might not otherwise hear. Music from different times and places will broaden their internal musical ‘library’ and widen their musical horizons.
  • You might incorporate a vocal warm-up to get everyone relaxed and ready for singing.
  • You could have some ‘school songs’ – ones that are familiar to the school and carry some meaning about the school’s ethos and values.
  • The act of singing together can instil some of the qualities you want to support children to develop – for example, respect, kindness and consideration. This is in part because singing is an act of very personal self-expression as well as a communal activity. It bonds us together. In the words of Dr Charles Beale: “It’s hard to hate someone you’ve just been sitting next to singing.”
  • You might want to incorporate a moment of weekly celebration where certificates are given out and achievements are celebrated and have a song to sing to enable everyone present to sing their congratulations.
  • Or for a topic assembly, there is no better springboard than a well-chosen song. It will help not only to cement the knowledge but also create an engaging performance for the audience, whether that is pupils or parents.

Improving your sound

Get into the habit of thinking about the quality of the singing – for instance the musical aspects, the tone, the expression – and encourage pupils to listen and watch for good singing behaviours themselves.

Get colleagues to help. You want to focus on the singing, rather than organising children and managing behaviour. Perhaps there are other staff or parents who can accompany the singing on piano too.

Will you use live or recorded accompaniment? Ideally, you would use both and include some a cappella singing as well. Is there a piano and someone to play it? Is there good quality audio equipment?

Establish some objectives and goals for these assemblies early on and think about what you want to achieve over, for example, a six-week period.

To begin your autumn assemblies in style we’re making our most popular harvest song available to everyone. Thank your lucky stars by Emily Barden is an instant classic with pupils, staff and parents, and you can download the song for free, simply sign up as a Friend here.

Fun, free and accessible for all, singing is the secret to transforming and improving every aspect of school life. Based on the research we have done over the past ten years; we have written a practical guide on how to begin your journey of becoming a Singing School.

Read more about Singing Schools here and get your copy of The Singing School Handbook here.

Through our award-winning digital solution, Sing Up provides you with the complete singing experience. Membership includes access to almost 1000 songs, specially arranged to promote good vocal health in young voices. Our wide range of resources, training and songs are designed to help you create a complete foundation for singing across the school, for musical learning, choirs and more, for early years to age 18 and beyond.

Make this commitment to music for your students throughout the year by becoming Sing Up Members today and harness the power of singing every day – click here to find out more.

Tweet @SingUpTweets or @singshelly to continue the conversation.


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