Music and curriculum


music notesMusic 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.

Standley, J.M. (1992) Child development and music.  Psychology of Music,  Vol.20, pp. 80-85.

Ensure a strong bond between music in the classroom and music at home


children music lessonChildhood 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.

Music and curriculum – a “win-win” situation for all


!cid_3172757604_597645Infusing 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!

Music Lessons Early In Life Increase Brain Development


children playing musicNew 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.

Music Lessons Early In Life Increase Brain Development.

Music and Language: A natural rhythm to learning…


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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.

Music and its importance to learning


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.

MB900184975I 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.

One of the most important books on this subject is This is your brain on music written by Daniel J. Levitin.  For more information you may want to explore –

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

http://daniellevitin.com/publicpage/books/this-is-your-brain-on-music/

Enjoy and be sure to listen to music!