Thursday, 19 July 2012

SINGING TO LEARN

'In the patterns of music and all the arts are the keys of learning.’ ~ Plato  


                                                              (Image: Keystone Creations ~ Educational Songs)        
            
My first-born daughter started school this year – as a TEACHER!

There was great excitement in our house, as we waved her off, and were thrilled to receive a text message from her at recess time, to say she LOVES her job and the other teachers are SO nice!

It seems like only yesterday, I made the same journey into my first classroom, as the actual teacher, brimming with excitement, enthusiasm and a passionate desire to help children learn.

I am still, if not more passionate about teaching, and feel so privileged to be able to pass on the benefit of my knowledge and experience to my very own child!

In my previous post, I shared my personal childhood experience of learning through song, and I will go to my grave (hopefully not for a long time yet!) espousing my firm belief in the importance and endless benefits of song-based learning.

This multi-sensory activity helps children to learn because it activates and exercises the WHOLE brain.

Singing is a very powerful medium for so many reasons. Songs can tell stories, convey important messages and information, espouse values, aid recall, create unity, and extend literacy, through rhyme, rhythm and vocabulary, and on and on.

The big plus for teachers, is that singing is FUN, so it’s almost guaranteed to attract disengaged students!

(Image: Facebook: Music Teacher's Helper)


The influence of song across the human lifespan is undeniable.

From an early age, children are introduced to nursery rhymes and other educational songs that assist with early language development and social skills. There are numerous songs teaching everything from the alphabet, number sequencing and animal names, to the weather, personal hygiene and months of the year.

As children grow older, songs infiltrate their daily lives via television shows, jingles, radio, films, interactive computer games and pop culture. 

As teenagers they listen passionately to “their” music on stereos and iPods, avidly following their music idols and aspiring to be legends in their own right.




I know that I’m not alone, when I say that rhythm helped me to learn and remember (even to this day) my Times Tables. I can only IMAGINE the difficulty of trying to order (let alone remember) the 26 letters of the English Alphabet, without the aid of rhythm and melody!

Music is the one truly universal language. It has no barriers of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.

It is the language of today’s youth, and Gerald Ford, former President, United States of America went as far as to say,  “…The future of our nation depends on providing our children with a complete education that includes music.” (I live in Australia but the same principle applies!)

Song is one of the most powerful resource tools we have at our disposal for helping children learn, making it such a shame that so many teachers balk at using it in the classroom, citing reasons such as lack of talent, confidence, time, etc.


                                                              (Image: Humortrain.com)

The GOOD news is that we don’t need to be able to sing like Adele or Pavarotti (or indeed, be able to sing at all), to provide children with the many benefits of this learning medium. Nor is the time factor relevant, as the right song choice can actually cut learning time in HALF, and ensure retention of the content being taught.

There is no reason for music to be the reserve of the specialist music teacher (if there is one). Modern technology, i.e. the good old-fashioned CD player or smart board puts daily music integration for learning, within the reach of ALL educators!

Weaving relevant songs into lessons is not only fun, it can help to achieve learning outcomes across the curriculum.

Here are a few suggestions for you to consider:

USE SONGS FOR:
  • Setting the mood for the day
  • Introducing and summarizing new units of work
  • Kick-starting discussion
  • Reinforcing learning content
  • Extending literacy
  • Assembly & performance pieces

SIMPLE GENERAL TIPS:
  •      Be intentional about the use of songs in your classroom
  •      Select, a song that best suits your needs and use it to introduce lesson
  •      Older students often respond better to songs from the Rhythm and blues, hip-hop and dance genres
  •      Younger children like anything catchy and repetitive

  •      Play and listen to song - Repetition! Repetition! Repetition!
  •      Read through lyrics, then read along while song is played
  •      Unpack and discuss the lyrics, line by line
  •      Define new/difficult words
  •      Maximize participation by learning chorus first
  •      Sing the whole song
  •      Move to beat

  •      Play simple body/music percussion (clap, click, tap, stamp…)
  •      Allow students to bring in their own CDs

In my next post I will be sharing tips and suggestions for using songs to extend literacy and achieve outcomes for comprehension, talking, writing and grammar.

Until then, I'll leave you with these inspired word from Plato, who said:

Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education.’ 

Yours in Singing to Learn,

Nuala  ♫ 



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DID YOU KNOW?  

During the Middle Ages, few workmen, could read or write, so they relied on songs, rhymes and chants, to help them to be organized to build the great cathedrals of the world. 

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