The Musical Me

What Your Year 1's Should Know! // The Musical Me

What Your Year 1’s Should Know!

Firstly, this is based around the United Kingdoms ‘Model Music Curriculum’. This is still applicable to teachers in other countries, but some of the ideas and terminologies might not suit other curriculums, but stick with us, I’m sure you’ll find something useful within. 

When we were looking through the Model Music Curriculum, the first thing we thought is that it is actually quite a lot that they are expecting year 1’s to be able to do. This is especially true for the musical elements that children are expected to pick up. Year 1’s may find it challenging to pick up elements such as the beat/pulse. The model music curriculum is a great starting put, but it doesn’t give you much advice or guidance on exactly how to teach. It has some good repetoire listed in it, but there is nothing modern that your children will actually have listened to already. There is no repertoire that will particularly excite your children into listening to. 


Singing is a big part of teaching year 1’s about music. The MMC states :

“Sing simple songs, chants and rhymes (e.g. Boom Chicka Boom) from memory, singing collectively and at the same pitch, responding to simple visual directions (e.g. stop, start, loud, quiet) and counting in”

Essentially, this is just running a little choir in your class. It specifically says at the same pitch, so in Year 1 there is no need to create any kind of harmonies in your class. Just the whole class singing the same notes, which is also called Unison singing. To be fair to teachers, this relies a lot on conducting from the front of your class. At The Musical Me, we have a great CPD course all about conducting and singing from the front which you can find here.

Where it says “responding to simple visual direction”, this just means using your body language to start and stop your singers. For example, using a flat palm to get your class to stop. Start is easiest done by using a clear count in, and a flick of the wrist to emphasise the first beat where all your singers are coming. You can show your class that you want them to be loud by making your body much bigger and taller, and show quiet by crouching down or moving your arms towards the floor. You could even put a finger to your lips like your ‘shhhing’ them. The count in is really important to remember to do, as it gives your class a clear indication of the speed that you want them to sing at. 

When thinking about the repertoire you want to teach your class, do not feel like you HAVE to do one of the songs from the MMC. It is there for guidance and suggestions. Why not try to do a song that your class already know? If you feel like it is too hard for your class, you could always simplify it down by using only a few of the notes. It is going to save you a lot of time when you don’t have to teach every single lyric in the song. The only thing there is that you might have to learn it yourself, but that’s going to be a lot quicker than getting your class to learn it. 

The main thing about Year 1 singing, is that you just have to be able to get your class to learn simple songs and sing them at the same time, and at the same pitch. 


The MMC states : 

“The teaching of music is enriched by developing pupils’ shared knowledge and understanding of the stories, origins, traditions, history and social context of the music they are listening to, singing and playing.”

Now that’s a lot! Don’t feel like you have to go into a crazy amount of detail behind the history of each song imparticular. Just teaching the era that each song is in is enough. For example, if you choose to go with a Mozart song, just teach your class about the history of the classical period. There is no need to go into exactly when each individual song was written. 

The key thing here is to choose your pieces wisely. Choose 2 pieces that are from widely different eras and genres, and you will find it much easier to show the difference in origins, history and social context. So for example, if you choose Mozart for one of your songs, why not make another one a modern song? 

Again, don’t think like you need to stick regimentally to the pieces that the MMC suggests. If I was to pick a piece of film music to teach a Year 1 class, why not pick the Harry Potter theme instead? 


The MMC States : 

“Improvise simple vocal chants, using question and answer phrases. 

“Create musical sound effects and short sequences of sounds in response to stimuli, e.g. a rainstorm or a train journey. Combine to make a story, choosing and playing classroom instruments (e.g. rainmaker) or sound-makers (e.g. rustling leaves).”

We’ve talked about using sound effects, and making a story out of your percussion instruments before. This is a really interesting way of letting your children find how different sound effects they can create relates to the sounds they hear in every day life. 

It also states : 

Understand the difference between creating a rhythm pattern and a pitch pattern.

It’s important to note the difference ourselves. Pitch is melodic, and is talking about high or low sounds. Rhythm is the pattern of notes over the pulse. The easiest way to distinguish it is that you can sing a pitch pattern, and clap a rhythm pattern. 

To hear the rest of our conversation through what your Year 1’s need to know, click here to listen to the Podcast Episode.

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