Wednesday, September 21, 2016

If you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing (Zimbabwe Proverb)

It was a very rainy day today. Horrible day really. We really couldn't go out, so we asked the children after snack time, what they thought we should be doing now. And they all agreed that they wanted to dance and play fun games with the music.  So that's what we did. 

The bee dance

I asked the children to follow the rhythm: they had to pretend to be little bees. When the music was fast, they had to dance fast ; when the music slowed down, they had to slow down too. They LOVED it!! They had so much fun, it was amazing. 

Musical statues

We also played musical statues and I chose tunes which went very quiet and suddenly very loud: Flight of the Bumble Bee by Rimsky Karakov, In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg  or The Return of the Animals by Danny Kosarin. The children had to concentrate a lot. At the beginning, they thought I had paused the music and froze, when the music had only really got quiet. It took them a while to get it right and adjust their movements to it but this was part of the fun! How wonderful it is that with very little effort, a teacher can bring such happiness to children each day just by providing the opportunity to do a little something with music. 

it prompted us to thin about our curriculum and to refelct on how we introduce music and movement in our classroom.

Rainbow rings or balloons dance

We actually do lots of other music activities in our classroom. One of my favourite ones is dancing with our Rainbow rings. The children made them a couple of years ago and they are still in use! The children simply try to follow the rhythm of the music I choose to put on. Fast, or slow. It helps them control their movement and concentrate, without jumping or running and master their physical self. They learn coordination and begin to understand what they can do with their bodies. If you don't have any rainbow rings, use balloons, scarves or even ribbons.


The tissue dance

Here’s how we play it. I have everyone put a tissue on their head before you play any music.
Then start the music and we all begin dancing, but the idea is not to let the tissue hit the ground. If the tissue starts to fall, the children are allowed to catch the tissue and put it back on their head.  However, if they miss and the tissue lands on the floor, they are out! Last one with a tissue on their head Wins! It's a fun game. And it always feels great when we can work language and cognitive concepts into physical games for kids like this one.  It gets them moving and teaches them how to follow instructions and rules. That kind of learning is the kind that really sticks!

Music and movement is such an important tool to enhance the children's learning experiences and to make sure that they bloom emotionally and socially. Music doesn't mean you have to move, jump or dance. Music can be incorporated across the curriculum to reinforce a new concept or introduce a topic:
  • we use songs at circle time to remember the days of the week or to talk about the weather or the seasons. 
  • Whether we are exploring bugs, dinosaurs, food, or butterflies, songs and sounds can be used to further reinforce learning and to make it "funner". Lately, we have been using rainsticks when it's raining, at circle time. Children love the sounds of rainsticks and the motions required to make those sounds. After letting the children “rain” for a few minutes, I like to ask them if they can come up with ideas about how other weather sounds: "how would snow sound like?" or "what would falling leaves sound like"?  For the snow, for example, have a plastic bottle filled in with cotton wool! And for the leaves, crumple up some paper in front of them and ask the to do the same with smaller paper sheets. 

  • we also use a CD I received from Better Start program to teach the children how to express ans share their feelings. The music on the CD represents the different types of emotions we can go through: anger, sadness, happiness, loneliness, excitement etc.. I often play it in the classroom and ask the children to listen and to let me know how the music makes them feel. Music helps the children to convey a specific mood through and reveal their feelings and emotions. Snack time is a good time to play that game as the children are all sitting down, eating away. But you could do the same at circle time or as a group activity during the session.
  • we use music to help children learn about other cultures and other lands (I use  World Playground CD – by Putumayo Kids )
World Playground 
  • we use music to teach letters, shapes, numbers or any other concepts in the curriculum: Chicken Fun by Mary Jo Huff (counting), the Animals went two by two, Six little ducks, 5 fat sausages sizzling in the pan etc..
Mary Jo Huff : Chicken Fun

Music should be an integral part of any preschool curriculum. I actually always have music playing in the background during free play. And each transitions is marked by a song. During tidy up time, we sing "clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere, clean up, clean up, everybody do your share". We also have a song for washing hands: "Wash, wash, wash your hands, soap will make them clean. Scrub the germs til they fall off, germs go down the drain."

Montessori herself said: "Just as beautiful speech comes from years of listening, music appreciation and accomplishment comes from years of listening to music." ( Child of the World, Montessori from Three to Six Years). She also wrote about singing: "There is no such thing as a no-musical child, there are just non-musical adults who did not get this practice as children. Songs give children a way of expressing emotions, and the very act of singing is a physical release. I have always watched for the casual, unintentional singing in class, knowing that it is a positive sign. In our home, hearing our son sing in bed as he went to sleep at night was a reassuring sign that his life is in balance. We do not need beautiful voices to model singing for children."  Montessori was not the only one praising the benefits of music. Music is a way of knowing, according to psychologist Howard Gardner (1983) who reckoned that music intelligence is as important as logical - mathematical intelligence, linguistic intelligence, spatial intelligence, bodily - kinesthetic intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, and intrapersonal intelligence. That says it all.

In more simple terms, music gives children an opportunity to express themselves and develop their creative minds. There are actually so many benefits. Research over the last 15 years has shown that music helps to enhance listening abilities, concentration, counting, spatial-temporal reasoning and physical coordination to mention a few. 

Maybe this year, with our "butterfly" group, we could try to play a piece of music and ask the children to draw a picture showing how this made them feel? 

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