“Just as certain selections of music will nourish your physical body and your emotional layer, so other musical works will bring greater health to your mind.” – Hal A. Lingerman
I am sure you can think of a song that when heard, affects your emotions, your thoughts, and even engages your memory. When I hear “Summertime” by Will Smith (don’t laugh), I am transported back to high school and I specifically remember a carefree, happy day riding around with friends with the beloved sun roof open, singing at the top of our lungs. I still play it every year when summer is around the corner. It lifts my spirits and brings me back to those days. Did you ever make mix tapes (I realize I am dating myself now) of songs that you could listen to over and over again because of the way they made you feel or the images they conjured up? As a child, I could spend hours and hours making mix tapes! In another way, I remember a song from fifth grade chorus that taught me the 50 states in alphabetical order and I can sing it accurately even today.
Children respond wonderfully to music in their learning. Even though I know how effective music can be as a teaching tool, I am often thrown off when I hear my young students singing a song we wrote while digging on the playground or washing their hands for lunch. The music effects their moods as well as reinforces learning that I want them to remember. When we made a large eagle nest model earlier in the year, they would break into rousing rounds of “I can work with one hammer, one hammer, one hammer” as they literally hammered away on the nest foundation. My class could sing verses of “Down By The Bay” until my fingers fell off from playing the guitar so long….and they are THRILLED with their ability to adapt and transform the words on their own. They are having such a good time and learning so much at the same time.
Research shows great benefits to learning through music. Here are a few points to consider:
- Music encourages expressive language.
“When children feel that they are free and secure in an accepting atmosphere, they can begin to express themselves. (Mori, 1996)”
- Music accommodates all learning styles.
“Through music, children experience the wholeness of language. (Kolb, 1996). Children use auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning in a developmental music program.
- Music helps to develop phonemic awareness in young children.
All of these areas are important considerations in learning. When children have a mastery of phonemic awareness, they can manipulate a song to create new words to familiar tunes that maintain the correct rhythm and flow. My classes over the years have written amazing songs about Types of Rocks, China, Bald Eagles, Bullfrogs, and even Jackson Pollack to tunes like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” It is really amazing how much information they can retain, but even more exciting to me is the way they can fit their new words into the same number of beats as in the original song. Children have to really understand and internalize the rhythm of the English language and a steady beat to accomplish this. We also play a lot of rhythm games to internalize a steady beat. A favorite in our class this year is “Bald Eagle, Bald Eagle, Who Do You See?” The children keep a steady beat with their bodies, “pat, clap, pat, clap” as we say “Bald Eagle, Bald Eagle, Who Do You See? I see Mrs. Burton looking at me.” It continues until every member of the class has a chance to see someone else. The challenge is to say the next line without missing a beat. Another fun one is “Who Stole the Cookie from The Cookie Jar”.
One of my favorite times of day is our second circle when we do a lot of singing. It is impossible to be grumpy or worried when you are singing with children. They are so joyful and truly thrilled to be singing together. So, get on I-Tunes and download “Summertime” or another equally cheesy song from your youth! Also listen with joy to the songs your children sing over and over again…and know that they are learning!
Happy Holidays from me and my little chorus!
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