Post from Helen Glass at Abingdon Primary

Working in a multilingual school with children from many nationalities and various levels of English, the First Thing music programme has been a brilliant way to get all the children involved. So far I have had two entirely non- English speaking children join my class and one of them had never even been to a school setting before. At first he used to cry and scream at having to come to school, wouldn’t sit down on the carpet and definitely wouldn’t join in with social times such as playtime or lunch with the other children but gradually he would come and sit at the back of the hall during our music and then (with a little encouragement from my TA) he joined the circle. After a short while he was willing to join in with our welcome song and then he was the postman with ‘Early in the Morning’, which he did on his own! He now comes into the hall along with the others and participates with the others despite having no English. As for classroom behaviour, he is still struggling to sit and listen to stories and he’ll wriggle etc but if I sing his name or sing an instruction he will turn and correct himself! This is an absolute difference to when he first arrived.

On behaviour management/expectations

Picking up Behaviour

Hello to all the teachers taking part in the First Thing Music research project!

We hope you’re enjoying the daily interludes of musical playfulness out there in your classrooms and halls. We were impressed at the creative ideas that came out of the training days – passing Copy Cat around the circle in canon, being the crew of a pirate rowing boat for Swing Me Over The Water, and using ‘thinking voices’ to great effect, especially with body percussion!! In one school in Darlington, one of the children even asked to perform a song in thinking voice with eyes closed, and still everyone jumped together at the end….

If you have any more of these ideas, do bring them to the next training session, and we can try to film some of them to share on this website.

This project is about measuring the impact of daily musical activity, (informed by a Kodály – based approach), and as you know, we are focusing on two mail areas : literacy, and behaviour.

Behaviour is something that we understand is very important to class teachers, if they are to create an atmosphere of creative enquiry and to meet planned objectives.

In our experience, building a little music into the day actually has a very positive effect on behaviour. It is something that came to the attention of Head Teacher Sally Hey at Foxhill Primary School in Bradford, once she had invited Lucinda Geoghegan of the British Kodály Academy in to introduce her staff to Kodály-based activities in 2011. (See the video here.)

If you have any instances of challenging behaviour in your class, please do support those individuals to be included in the music sessions. Think of the sessions as behavioural interventions, just as much as music, literacy or simply enjoyable activities. If a child does not seem to engage at first, give them time to observe, or occupy themselves with something that feels right to them at the time. Gradually, the inclusive interaction should reach them, and draw them into the group.

We’ll be interested to hear of your experiences, so please let your Music Practitioners know of any developments in this area.

“Music is one of those artistic activities that requires the greatest degree of discipline

and exerts discipline itself: it takes place in time, supposes simultaneous participation

and accommodation to each other as of the utmost importance.” Kodály

As a postscript, Zoe Greenhalgh writes :

There is something in the rules of a game that children respond to – the unwritten laws of children’s own culture. The game element and being playful are therefore really important. It is one thing to abide by the laws of childhood and another to conform to the expectations of teachers…

How marvellous if both can be managed simultaneously!


A recent question arose in one school because the sessions have been going really well – “can colleagues come in to observe the sessions?”  Well, we don’t want to be dictatorial!  But we would be worried about cross contamination, ie a teacher starts introducing a bit of the singing into the control classes, which would nullify the trial.  Of course if you only have an intervention class in your school then it wouldn’t be a problem.  Please do ask Lindsay if you are unsure.