A Study of the Social Skills Practiced Through Children's Participation in Traditional Singing Games

October 28, 2010 / By: Ann Marie Wieseckel

The problem of this thesis was to identify specific social skills developed through children’s participation in traditional singing games. The research process involved isolating the key social skills children develop during the early elementary grades, selecting traditional singing games that develop these social skills, and determining how each social skill is developed during the process of playing the specified singing games.

Consulting experts in the field of childhood social development determined essential social skills.  Seven social skills were commonly cited by the experts and used for analysis of traditional singing games in this study: listening, cooperation, conflict management, self/other awareness, sharing, turn-taking, and emotional awareness.

Twenty-seven singing games were selected for inclusion in this study based on their alignment with the researcher’s second, third, and fourth grade music curriculum.  All of the singing games are found in the top four best-selling singing game collections as reported by West Music, a national music education retailer.

Each singing game was analyzed for the opportunities it presented game participants to practice and develop each of the seven social skills.  Further analysis determined the specific actions and/or interactions within each game that comprised practice opportunities.

Although the combination of social skills practiced in each game varied, fourteen of the twenty-seven singing games provided opportunities for children to practice six of the seven social skills; thirteen singing games provided opportunities to practice five of the seven social skills.  Only one skill, sharing, was not practiced in any of the singing games evaluated.  Although some social skills were practiced through specific actions and/or interactions, practice opportunities for other social skills, such as conflict management, vary with each experience of a game.

Five recommendations are made based on the results of this study: (1) additional research is needed regarding social skill development through singing game participation by children in younger and older grades; (2) research is needed regarding the role of instrument ensemble participation on children’s social development; (3) although musical content should always be the primary selection criteria for music teachers when choosing singing games for use with their grade-level curriculum, awareness and education are needed to inform them of the extra-musical benefits that accompany children’s participation in traditional singing games; (4) further research is needed to explore the ways all educators can encourage and enhance their students’ social development in the classroom setting; and (5) given the results of the present study, further research is needed to consider the benefits of incorporating traditional singing games into social skill lessons for students in life skills and character education classes.