Singing in two or more different parts does not just happen over night. There is a lot of learning and preperation that goes in to it. Teaching children how to sing and stay on their own part is a wonderful process to be a part of.
The best way to get children to sing in different harmonies is to start out singing rounds and partner songs. At this point in the year, third, fourth and fifth graders are learning a lot of well known and some not so well known rounds. We start by learning the rhythm of the song and using body percussion to memorize it. The next step is to add the melody with movements. Once all of the students have memorized the melody and are able to sing it without my help we begin to try and sing it in a two part round. To jog all of your memories, a round is when one group begins singing a melody and the next part(s) sing the same melody, just starting a little bit later. The first group should be finished before the next group and so on. Once the students have mastered singing a two part round, we sing in three and four parts. The final step is adding instruments. Whether it is melodic, or rhythmic, adding instruments allows the children to create a full performance.
Being able to see the children learn through each step of the process is very rewarding. They develop a great sense of accomplishment and musical independence. From that point it seems that every song we learn, they ask me if they can sing it in a round. Even though not every song works as a round, it can be very fun to try. From here, we move to partner songs, which are two different songs with different words and melodies that go together well when sung at the same time. We have not gotten to this stage yet, so until next time enjoy this video of Mrs. Adams third grade class singing the round Are You Sleeping. If you listen closely you can hear all three different parts at once.