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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2007, 12:37 GMT
Why is singing good for learning?
The Magazine answers...

Tony Blair
Singing can improve mental agility
A 10m national campaign has been launched to get primary school children and their teachers singing more. How can it help learning?

It's not often pupils are encouraged to raise their voices in school, but that's what the government wants them to do.

Over the years singing has almost disappeared from the classroom but a 10m national campaign has now been launched to get pupils in primary school singing - and their teachers.

Experts say that singing not only building children's confidence, it is also a valuable teaching tool. Why?

Music can be used to reinforce challenging concepts, numeracy, motor skills and language development, says Howard Goodall, composer and the government's singing ambassador.

"When children are singing they are taking in information and training the brain but they don't think they are, they think they are just having fun."

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Rhythm is a good example. When a child is taught about it they also learn about mathematical concepts like ratios, fractions and proportion. Rhythm also translates in other subjects, such as talking about heartbeats in science.

Learning song lyrics can improve mental agility and reading skills.

The medical evidence is also there. Singing is an aerobic activity that boosts oxygenation in the bloodstream, increasing mental alertness. Experts also believe that the variety of skills needed for singing, including coordination and listening, help develop the brain.

With one voice

Oxford Gardens Primary School in west London is part of the Voices Foundation programme, which aims to teach the music requirements of the National Curriculum through song.

Young children are encouraged to sing as much as possible during lessons - including English and maths. One class is even learning German purely through singing.

Head teacher Liz Rayment-Pickard says singing has made a positive impact on all areas of the pupils' learning. Teachers have seen more academic success and an improvement in pupils' behaviour and concentration.

"I'm passionate about singing in schools," she says. "We have seen amazing benefits from using it in lessons. It's changed the school dramatically. Everything is much calmer.

"The children have learnt to listen to each other, to have the confidence to sing solo. These skills are very easily transferred into learning to read and work in maths."

And everyone is involved, she says, not just those with musical ability.

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