It has certainly been unprecedented times we are living in. There was a sense of trepidation when our music businesses were stalled to a complete halt. The only solution was Virtual/online classes. What choice did we have, we must adapt or die.

There have been a fair amount of challenges hosting online classes, but have positives out weighed the negatives?

My main business is delivering music programs at Child Care Centres and Kindergartens and our program was geared to teaching in those environments. When COVID 19 happened I was receiving phone calls to postpone classes as they couldn’t have outsiders enter into childcare. Luckily I had used Zoom in the past for interviews, so I had a good sense on how to use Zoom and could see the benefits of doing virtual classes, but like most experiences, there was learning to be had.

My first Zoom class was with a Kinder group, I proceeded to teach our usual Rhythm Rumble program, but as I found out adjustments needed to be made.

Here is my list of do’s and don’ts when offering online music classes

Don’t Ask Questions

During a music class one of my favourite ways of teaching children to be independent singers is through Echo and Call & Response songs. Or asking for their feedback when we sing a song such as animal sounds. What I noticed was there is a delay through Zoom, so it became awkward when I sang my line and waited for their turn I would invariably miss it and start singing over them. Also sound quality was an issue as so many children wanted to talk it was a muddle of sounds through my ear piece. Obviously when it is a smaller group it is easier to do these kinds of activities but remember my classes are usually for children under 5 years old age.

Solution: Choose songs that are simple and repetitive while tapping the beat on an instrument. This will have a more profound affect on their musicality than struggling with “zoom delay” and they will start to join in once they understand the songs is repeated.

Choosing songs that can be interchangeable with instruments or body percussion

Many times the Room that the virtual music class is being held is not the room the children or Educators are accustomed to. Instruments are not readily available, so songs that can be swapped up and changed around to suit the environment are best.

Solution: If You’re Happy and You Now It

This is a great song to sing because you can use instruments if you like but it’s also wonderful for body percussion as well.

Dramatic songs work a treat.

Any song that you can add drama too is always a winner. Every virtual class ends with a dramatic song where I ask the children to pretend to go to sleep. They are so excited for the Boo or Roar that it engages everyone. From a musical point of view these types of songs are brilliant about teaching children about timing and dynamics. My new favourite is “Sleeping Bear” but there are so many I have started adding them to my Youtube channel.

Other favourites are:

  • Sleeping Bunnies
  • Dingle Dangle Scarecrow
  • Pop Goes the Weasel

No recorded music.

During our usual Rhythm Rumble music classes we often play instrumental music to teach children movement through music as well as music appreciation skills. But this does not work well in a virtual class. Maybe I’m not very savvy with technology but I have not worked out how to play music through my device so that the children can hear it clearly. Even if I could do that I wouldn’t be successful in connecting with the children as I would in person.

Usually the movement is organic and fed from the children’s feelings and insights during the lesson, as we first take a moment to listen to the piece of music and then we start with the movement session. During a Virtual class I’ve noticed that it is a bit difficult to implement. I find offering directed movement in a song works better.

Solution: Use simple movement songs such as Kye Kye Kule or A Ram Sam Sam.

Felt board, puppets and props are brilliant

Puppets and felt boards have become my new best friend. I relied on props during my Baby lessons pre COVID 19 to assist in engaging the babies and teaching through the puppet and visual aids. But I have found that props work wonderfully with older children as well.

Felt board’s have been an amazing resource to help tell stories or counting songs. I have included a video below to show how engaging felt boards can be.

To learn and gain the most out of a lesson children need to be alert and engaged. Using props such as puppets gives the teacher the opportunity to make it fun and educational. Puppets are wonderful way to sing songs with children as they pretend to be the puppet with their own hands or are happily watching.

I have a snail and and a mouse puppet and I sing this song using the puppets to demonstrate fast and slow. I have experienced children using their hand to emulate the snail puppet and the mouse puppet running up their own arm/body:

Slowly slowly very slowly

Creeps the garden snail

Slowly slowly very slowly

Up the wooden rail

Quickly quickly very quickly

runs the little mouse

Quickly quickly very quickly

round about the house

Overall the virtual music classes have been a wonderful way to connect and teach with my young students. Face to face classes obviously have their benefits, but I don’t think children are missing out while learning online. While some children need the interaction from the peers, there are children who feel more comfortable with the distance online learning offers. These tips have been discovered through trial and error. As we approach our “new normal” I feel that virtual classes are a genuine option that people will be offering, I know I certainly will continue.

For more song ideas you can find me on Youtube or visit our website for more ideas, musical instrument and classes.

Youtube. & Rhythm Rumble Website

Happy Music Making

Lola Papas