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Music/PE: On a cold and frosty morning

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By Helen JohnsonOut of the Ark Music

Wake up to the benefits of singing and help warm up your class during the winter months

Children stretching

They say that eating a healthy breakfast is the best way to start off your day. We are all familiar with the TV adverts that seek to persuade us that their particular breakfast cereal is the best way to kick-start the morning. I’m certainly not going to argue against the importance of a healthy breakfast, but I am going to quote a certain John Harvey Kellogg who recognised that as well as Corn Flakes: ‘Singing promotes health, breathing, circulation and digestion’.

The health benefits of singing – both physical and psychological – are long acknowledged and well documented. Martin Meader (writer of children’s stories and film scripts, musician and composer) knew what he was talking about when he said: ‘Singing is a gymnasium for the body and soul’. So before we look at how to use a couple of specific songs to warm up on a winter morning in school, let’s just remind ourselves of some of the medical facts about singing – they’d make for a tremendously powerful advertising campaign!

It has been proven that singing:

  • improves lung capacity and circulation
  • encourages you to take in more oxygen, leading to improved mental alertness and aerobic capacity
  • benefits posture (expands the chest, straightens the back and shoulders)
  • boosts the immune system
  • exercises major muscle groups in the upper body – including toning facial and stomach muscles
  • increases confidence and self esteem
  • improves your mood – it releases the same ‘feel good’ endorphins as chocolate, leaving you energised and uplifted (without the calories!).

In fact, such are the benefits of singing on our well being that the Sidney De Haan Research Centre (Canterbury Christ Church University) is working towards getting the NHS to provide ‘singing on prescription’. Now that’s pretty cool!


  1. Wake up!
  2. Clap hands! Stamp feet!
  3. Further ideas & resources

1. Wake up!

‘Wake Up!’ from Out of the Ark Music’s_Songs for EVERY assembly_ (£22.95-£39.95) is a simple and accessible song that has proven hugely popular with children. A good amount of physical movement was deliberately written into the lyrics, but none of these make unrealistic demands on space, so it works well even within the confines of a whole-school assembly.

So, how to use it? It’s never a bad thing to introduce a new song by putting it into context. Do the children like waking up in the morning? Do they have to be woken up? How? What do they do to get themselves properly awake? When was the first mechanical alarm clock invented? What did people do before that? Talk about or demonstrate different types of alarm clocks – wind up, mechanical/digital alarm clocks, radio alarm clocks, MP3 alarm clocks, snooze buttons, and so on.

Words on Screen™: This innovative system is an exciting and time-saving way of projecting song lyrics. Music and lyrics can be synchronised at the press of a button. It is fully compatible with interactive whiteboards; ideal for classroom teaching, rehearsal and for use in assembly.

Afterwards, learn the song ‘Wake Up!’ by listening and following the music and Words on Screen™. First, sing the song without doing any actions. (This will be hard – children will spontaneously ‘do’ the song as well as sing it. Asking them to sit down will help.) Next, get the children to perform actions to as many of the lines as they can. You could decide on a ‘standard’ set of actions for your school/class by allowing the children to demonstrate their own ideas for the ‘open-to-interpretation’ lines of the song (for example – ‘Wake up! Wake up!’ and ‘It’s another new day!’).

Warm up

Make the song a ‘tight’ choreographed performance. Discuss the power of synchronisation – every individual movement being mirrored as tightly as possible. Demonstrate the difference between half-hearted, weak movement and strong decisive actions. What difference does that make in the enjoyment of the song?

Use the ‘Instrumental’ section to enhance and improve the ‘warm up’ potential of this song. Children can choreograph and perform their own ‘workout’, maybe doing a different ‘move’ every four beats. For example:

  • Jog – 2 – 3 – 4
  • Star – jump – 3 – 4
  • Clap – left – clap – right
  • Jump – 2 – 3 – 4

For a bit of variety and a great lesson in diction, try doing a version of this song that’s purely for the facial muscles with no other actions allowed. Think of the proverbial ‘wide-mouthed-frog’ and as you sing, try to ‘emph-a-sise-ev-e-ry-syll-a-ble-as-clear-ly-as-you-can’. Endings of words are as important as beginnings. Sometimes it helps to simply speak the lyrics this way first, before attempting a ‘sung’ version. Feels very silly, but it’s great fun!

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2. Clap hands! Stamp feet!

‘Clap Hands! Stamp Feet!’ from Songs for EVERYbody is another simple song to learn, with a two-verse structure that is repeated, picking up pace throughout. As with ‘Wake Up!’ (see above) it features actions and movements that should be easy to manage in either a whole-school or class situation, and can be given the same kind of ‘treatment’ as the previous song. It does, however, open up more scope with some creative language and artwork.

Learn the song using the Words on Screen™ and then add the actions. For the first two lines of each verse, it works best to ‘do’ the action after singing them. For example: ‘Clap hands’ (clap, clap). ‘Stamp feet’ (stamp, stamp) – the actions come in the musical gaps. For all remaining lines, the actions can be done as they are sung.

Getting some action

Get the children to identify all the verbs in the ‘Clap Hands! Stamp Feet’ song. If they need reminding of verbs, check out the interactive resource ‘Grammar safari park: Nouns, verbs and adjectives’. Can they add to the list of action words related to different types of body movement? Working in pairs/groups how many can they find (for example twist, shake, wiggle, bend, flick, and so on)?

Draw around a child on a large piece of paper and get the rest of the children to label as many parts of the body as possible, starting with all those mentioned in the song. Display all the body-movement verbs that children identified earlier on by attaching them close to the relative part of the body. Each verse in this song ends with the line ‘Make yourself look…...’ and provides an adjective to demonstrate. (For example happy/grumpy/ugly). Can they think of any other two-syllable adjectives that would work? What about three or more syllable words? Again, if the children need reminding of adjectives, use the interactive resource ‘Grammar safari park: Nouns, verbs and adjectives’.

Expressing emotions

If you are working in the classroom, have the children sit in a circle. Establish a steady beat – two taps on the legs, followed by two gentle finger-clicks, repeated over and over. Choose a child to start, who then chooses one of the describing words used above, and speaks it out in time with the beat. The rest of the class repeats the same word as they ‘act’ it, over the next four beats:

1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 ‘happy’ ‘HAPPY’

1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 ‘sleepy’ ‘SLEEPY’

The second person chooses a different adjective that the class then echoes and demonstrates. How many times can they do this without repeating a word? There’s some great creative work to be had here with emotions and facial expressions. Take a closer look at how children ‘do’ the emotions described in each verse. Ask what happens to facial features to create the different affect? For example, what happens to the position/shape of eyes/eyebrows/mouth in a grumpy face? Using mirrors, or partners who ‘pose’, do some life-size ‘emotion paintings’ and display them in the classroom. Put the adjective ‘labels’ dotted around in between the portraits so children can try and connect the words with the paintings. Alternatively, given access to a digital camera, you could take photos of the children doing various faces and display them in the same way.

The ultimate workout

For some scientific experiments and fair testing based around the song – explore the concept of heart rate. Get all the children (or just one or two) to measure their pulse rate before singing the song. Experiment to see what happens to their heart rate after singing the song with no actions and then after singing the song with actions. Find out what sort of actions increase heart rate most drastically by allocating different movements from the song to individual children. Children could predict which of these actions will alter pulse rate the most. Children can then perform their action for the duration of the song and share their findings.

3. Further ideas & resources

Discuss the value of singing with your class. Tell them about the goals of the Sidney De Haan Research Centre. They could write/plan a TV advert or write their own ‘singing prescription’ for the NHS. Alternatively, challenge the children to design a cereal-style box to promote singing. The wording could read: ‘Singing’ – the healthy way to start the day. It doesn’t have to cost a penny.’ And when you’ve tried the two songs we’ve provided for you, be sure to build up your own ‘play list’. As Ella Fitzgerald said: ‘The only thing better than singing is more singing!’

Don’t forget to download the music and Words on Screen™ for ‘Wake Up!’ and ‘Clap Hands! Stamp Feet!’ so you can join in with the singing fun.

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Out of the Ark

Other ‘Wake Up/New Day’ songs from Out Of the Ark ( include:

  • ‘Sun Arise’ and ‘New Day Blues’ from Songs for EVERY Singing school
  • ‘Today’ and ‘Count your Blessings’ from Songs for EVERY assembly
  • ‘Back in School Again’ from Songs for EVERY occasion
  • ‘Life is a Wonderful Thing’ from Songs for EVERY Easter
  • ‘Busy Body!’, ‘What A Flexible Body!’ and ‘Parts of a Body’ from Songs for EVERYbody.