VERSAILLES — Some residents of the Versailles Health Care Center enjoyed Christmas caroling, Monday, from the Versailles Exempted Village School District’s first graders.
About 100 students crowded in to spread Christmas Cheer, lifting their voices to the direction of their teacher Rachael White. Their hand-decorated songbooks helped create a festive picture for the attending residents. According to White, the students have been singing the caroling tradition for more than 20 years.
“Bringing the kids over here is reinforcing that community connection,” White said. “Teaching goes beyond the school, and the residents love it.”
Ashlee Slavin is a Board-Certified Music Therapist at State of the Heart Care, in Greenville. She said music is really close to the part of the brain that stores emotional feelings.
“Some patients may have a flat affect when you go to see them and they don’t interact with you very much,” she said. “They can’t express how they feel inside. But you start playing some of their favorite music and interacting with them musically, and all of a sudden they may become bright, they may smile, they may cry and show emotional expression. That is very powerful for people.”
Students have been practicing the songs and preparing for the event since before Thanksgiving, White said. They also made Christmas cards and decorations to hand out after the concert, for the residents to hang in their rooms.
In addition to preparing the songs for the residents, the students also teach the kindergartners the songs, White said.
“It helps the first-graders feel like they have a responsibility, where they can share their reading to the younger students” she said. “When they learn those songs by heart, they seldom look at the writing and the reading of them. Now they look at “Jingle Bells and say, ‘Oh yeah.’ They get that connection between the Christmas carols and the written words. We work so hard on sight word recognition. When they see words in the songs, they don’t have to sound them out because it just makes sense. Putting that all together makes them stronger readers.”
Versailles Elementary School Principal Brenda Braun was in attendance during the caroling at the Versailles Health Care Center. She said it gives the students purpose to what they do in the classroom.
“They are not just memorizing songs, they are going out and doing it for a reason, and it means something to them when they have an audience,” Braun said. “If they only sang to the people who hear them all the time, it wouldn’t mean as much. It’s important to put that into practice, and to bring the people some joy.”
Students sang the Christmas classics, such as: “Up on the House Top” and “Jingle Bells.” But White had only the qualified students stand for the song, “All I want for Christmas.”
“Only those students missing their two front teeth should stand for this song,” she said.