Me? Teach Music?
I remember sitting in my undergraduate music class that first day, listening to the concerns expressed from fellow students about the preconceived difficulty of the music course they were about to take. Many thought it was out of their realm of comprehension – ergo, they feared the worst – that they were about to embark on the most strenuous of all courses they had to take. As many in class experienced, music isn’t difficult. More important, one doesn’t have to be an accomplished musician to reap the immense benefits music has to offer.
This blog is for primary educators (musical and non-musical), parents, and children. It offers ways to develop musicality in the classroom and at home. Explore the songs, rhymes, poems, and finger plays that appear over time for ways to encourage learning while keeping children entertained in the process.
Rainbow by Nancy Ellington/Bill Ellington
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Maria Montessori“We cannot know the consequences of suppressing a child's spontaneity when he is just beginning to be active. We may even suffocate life itself. That humanity which is revealed in all its intellectual splendor during the sweet and tender age of childhood should be respected with a kind of religious veneration. It is like the sun which appears at dawn or a flower just beginning to bloom. Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child to open up himself to life.” Maria Montessori
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Category Archives: music brain connection
According to researcher Howard Gardner, there are nine ways of being smart. Children are “natural” learners and learn best in ways that are “natural” to their innate learning style(s).
Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences…
- Body Smart
- Music Smart
- Picture Smart
- Number Smart
- Word Smart
- People Smart
- Self Smart
- Nature Smart
- Existential Smart
It’s interesting to note that music lends itself to all ways of being smart when it comes to acquiring pre-reading skills in early childhood. Here are just a few examples of integrating “music smart” with “partner smarts” to make learning basic pre-reading skills interesting and fun.
Body and Music Smart
- Move body to form letter shapes to music.
- Jump rope to the alphabet song.
- Sing vowel sounds.
- Use lyrics to simple songs to find and circle letters.
Picture and Music Smart
- Illustrate and label pictures to a song.
- Create an adaptation songbook.
Number and Music Smart
- Count the number of bunnies in a song.
- Order events in a songbook.
Word and Music Smart
- Sing the “Word Family Song”.
- Find and circle words in a song or lyrical poem.
People and Music Smart
- Share and teach favorite songs with someone.
- Sing with a buddy.
Self and Music Smart
- Sing aloud to a stuffed animal friend.
- Listen to a rhyming songbook on CD.
Nature and Music Smart
- Text to real world connections. Name the living things you see outside? What songs do they remind you of?
- Sing and dance to “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” while circling a tree or bush.
Existential and Music Smart
- Find letter blends in the song “Giving”.
- SIng a friendship song. Brainstorm the ways to be a good friend.
Multiple styles can and should overlap in any learning activity but it should be noted that including music turns a not so interesting lesson into one that piques a child’s curiosity and attention span!
Music Lessons Enhance Brain Function in Disadvantaged Kids – Pacific Standard: The Science of Society
Click on the link below for an enlightening article on information we should inherently know. Parents, teachers, and community – join in and speak up for children. The arts – in particular music, play a critical role in high student achievement. The problem that presents itself in education is many non-musical people set the curriculum guidelines that all educators must follow. I once had a kindergarten teacher tell me she did not see the value of music to kindergarten students. My heart sank! How much time are your children or students allowed to take part in the arts at school? Head’s up! Thirty minutes a week is not enough.
Music is a positive supplement to any curriculum. Using music to enhance curriculum – especially in early childhood, stimulates the brain’s neural coding which aids learning in later years. Here are just a few of the ways music can enhance your classroom curriculum:
- Singing encourages language development. Music is generally processed on the right side of the brain and language on the left. Singing involves both words and music and results in stimulating hemispheric interactions.
- Music is not just for listening, but can be expounded upon the same way any good literature choice can. In a study of preschoolers’ responses to auditory and vibroacoustic stimuli, J.M. Standley found that comprehension of literature was greatest for those students listening to the music-only version of the story.
- Children can listen to music with eyes closed and create a picture in their minds. Writing about their picture enhances phonemic awareness and focus skills.
- Singing favorite songs develops pitch and intonation skills required for vocal cord development, thereby improving oral language skills.
- Discussing the meaning behind song lyrics is a positive way to develop higher order thinking skills.
How do you use music in your classroom or home?
Campbell, D. (1997). The Mozart effect: Tapping the power of music to heal the body, strengthen the mind, and unlock the creative spirit. New York, New York: Avon Books.
D’Agrosa, E. (2008). Making music, reaching readers: Making powerful connections possible for young students. General Music Today (Online), 21(2), 6-10.
Childhood memories often include those times that music was involved. Sing songs you learned in childhood to your students. It’s often these traditional songs your students will ask to sing again and again. Songs like “Playmate”, “Bicycle Built for Two”, and “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” evoke the importance of our musical heritage and generate a curiosity to learn more. Anne E. Boyd says, “Ritualized singing at the beginning and end of play periods develops a meaningful bridge between the child’s home life and school life.” Surveying classroom parents to ask about their favorite family songs is a way to ensure a sense of comfort and safety for your students. Surveying your students for their favorite songs will help you select songs most familiar to all. When students feel safe, optimal learning can take place.
Boyd, Anne E. “Music in Early Childhood.” International Conference of Early Education and Development, Hong Kong, July 1989.
Infusing curriculum with music is one sure way to heighten targeted academic development. Children acquire skills easily in relationship to what they know. The songs and rhythms of early childhood spark enthusiasm for learning and build self-esteem. There are six elements to incorporating music into your daily teaching routine. How do we effectively incorporate them?
- Ensure a strong bond between music in the classroom and music at home.
- Incorporate music use with all elements of curriculum.
- Use music to facilitate effective transition times.
- Steer appropriate classroom behavior with background music.
- Develop a “Music and Sound Spot”.
- Allow time each day for movement with music.
Each of these areas will be presented in following posts to allow time for discussion of each separately. Be sure to look for future posts.
Also, this is a new blog and I would love to hear from you on the types of information you would like to see presented. Thanks!
New findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, state that
musical training at the age of seven or younger has a significant impact on brain development – especially as it relates to connections between motor regions – areas of the brain that support movement and coordination.
I learned this early on in my teaching career when kindergarten students rotated through classrooms on special occasion days to participate in different learning activities with each teacher. My activity was always based on music and movement. My students – taught with music and movement on a daily basis, were able to pick up on rhythm and movement routines quickly, but students from the other classes had a more difficult time.
Here’s an article to encourage everyone’s view on the importance of music to brain development and learning.
Tony was a kindergarten student of mine who carried the weight of a speech impediment with him, much to his chagrin. Other children laughed when they couldn’t understand what he said.
Tony loved to sing and play with puppets at choice time. To compensate for no puppet stage, I turned a table over that Tony could sing and act out his favorite songs and nursery rhymes behind. While there, Tony’s speech problem didn’t matter. He couldn’t see the other children laugh and they couldn’t see him strain to sing. Tony, in his own world, was happy. He shied away from speaking in front of others, but over time, in his “safe place”, Tony became confident with language skills.
One day, coming back from lunch, Tony tugged my sleeve. “Ms. Ellington,” he said excitedly, “I wrote a song!”
“Wow, that’s great Tony!” I said. “Would you like to share it with…” I paused, and then said “the class?”
He nodded “yes” and I said, “Great! We’ll do it as soon as we get back to class!”
In class, I told the children Tony wrote a song he wanted to share. The children glanced at each other. No one said a word. Tony stood up and sang a song about how much he loved the class, school, his friends, and me! He sang and sang… and sang and sang… and sang and sang … The others sat listening with mouths wide open. When Tony finished, a rousing throng of applause echoed throughout the room.
From that day on, Tony didn’t play behind a puppet stage. He was out in the open, communicating with friends!
From that day on, I realized the power of music to create enthusiasm for language learning and build self-esteem.
I was once asked what my greatest personal accomplishment was. My answer was a no-brainer. My greatest personal accomplishment was overcoming a birth defect to go on to make a living for many years as a professional vocalist, then teacher.
I was born with a hemangioma under my tongue which prevented me from speaking normally until after surgery at the age of five. The doctors said surgery would be too dangerous to attempt before then. It turned out that the age of five was almost too dangerous. As doctors were about to do a tracheotomy due to swelling, I began to breathe normally. I suspect God had a long list of things for me to carry out with my voice! 🙂 Healing wasn’t easy and I had just come through years of being teased by other children.
The taunting left me embarrassed to speak so my parents encouraged me to sing to use my voice. That I did! After surgery, my singing and a short stint in speech class found me off and running! (Or I should say “talking and singing”!)
Though my shyness remained, my junior high school music teacher helped me realize I had talent and encouraged me to use it. Because of his encouragement, I held many leading roles in high school and college theatre productions and went on to earn a living as a professional vocalist for many years before becoming a teacher.
I have long shared with colleagues the importance of using music in the classroom – no matter student age. I was thrilled to meet with my neurologist to review an MRI of my brain after falling and badly hitting my head weeks earlier. He shared the pictures stating, “All is well – you have a highly developed brain – especially your cerebellum.”
I knew the reason immediately. “I have been a musician all my life!” I shared trying to contain my enthusiasm.
“We see this development in people having experiences in music from an early age on,” he shared.
Music has great significance to learning – especially to children who may lack self-esteem or sit through class day in and day out trying to fit a “one size fits all” educational expectation. Learning is hard to without being provided creative experiences which create neurological connections that enhance learning.
Enjoy and be sure to listen to music!