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Chapter 12     Applying Children's Natural
                        Musical Ability

From Day One

From the day a child is born, it learns to respond to sounds made by people around it. Music presents a series of sounds which may be soothing, jarring, melodic or frantic. Infants quickly learn to move with music that they hear.  They dance, jiggle, gyrate, wave and sing. Children the world over respond to music so it is natural for teachers to  take advantage of this in the classroom.

Lullabies put infants to sleep.  Kindergarten teachers could use lullabies during 'nap time'. Some of the children will have heard the tunes/songs before and will automatically associate them with sleep.

At about three, children start to develop their music interest and ability. At this age children are almost continually in motion: walking, jumping, running, swinging, galloping, stomping and clapping. Teachers at these ages have many daily opportunities to apply these fluid motions in the classroom through songs and stories.

Music makes everyone feel good. It raises spirits and, in general, makes one a happier person. Singing games such as "Ring Around the Rosies," "London Bridge Is Falling Down," "Old McDonald had a Farm," and the "Hokey Pokey" are ideal for initiating movements and bringing children together in a cooperative, happy experience.

Children, ages 4-5, are continually creating and using music in their daily activities  By the time children are 4 or 5, they are ready for structured musical experiences. Listening to music, singing, playing simple musical instruments, including creating their own tunes are good activities that teachers can use.  An ESL component can easily be added without detracting from the fun and musical excitement going on in the class.

Also, by the time children are four or five, they are more likely to be able to sit and listen to a song or tune.  They may have an interest in learning to play one of the school's musical instruments and so would be prepared to listen to tunes performed on that instrument.

Marches are good. Children love to strut about to a stirring march (such as any by John Philip Sousa). Many stories are, or can be, set to music. Music adds to the drama of a story and will add drama in your classroom as well.  Let your students listen to a musical piece and then make up a story in tune to the music.

Most young children love to sing and love to be sung to. At ages 4 and 5 many little voices will not be able to carry a tune. It is important not to place too much emphasis on singing in tune and building musical skills at this time.

Children should be exposed to many songs that are easy for them if their singing voices are to be encouraged. Use songs that have a limited number of pitch leaps, ones that do not wander all over the keyboard.  Good examples would such songs as "Deedle, Deedle, Dumpling" and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

Songs that make use of repeated words, musical phrases, or repeated rhythmic patterns are good choices . An example of this is "Do You Know the Muffin Man?" Unlimited potential exists in these rhymes for fostering language and speech development by teaching awareness of pitch (high, low), dynamics (loud, soft), tempo, and meter (e.g. rocking, marching).

Encourage student involvement by teaching children simple nursery rhymes. Rhythmic beats through such movements as clapping, patting, tapping or marching. When children know the words, simple percussion instruments like rhythm sticks, drums, tambourines, woodblocks, bells and cymbals help them keep the beat and participate.

Finger Plays, chants and songs are three common activities you can use to instill rythmn and repetition. Young children like finger plays. They give children the attention of important adults in their lives. Physical nearness and imitation, eye contact, and shared expression of feeling all stimulate activity and build confidence.

The movement of fingers, hands, and other parts of the body develop kinetic awareness and muscular coordination. Some well know examples of these are "Where Is Thumbkin?", "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed."

Chants and movements develop an awareness in the young child of the beat underlying music. They also introduce him/her to the experience of accent and meter. "Peanut Butter" and "Hambone, Hambone, Where You Been?" are two good examples of changes.
Song-stories combine chanting and singing to tell the story with motions to keep the beat. Based on folk or nursery tales, they contain much repetition and follow the syncopated rhythms of natural speech.  The familiar story of "The Three Bears" can be turned into "The Three Bears Jive" when a snap and clap are added. The "Little Red Hen" can be transformed as well into "The Red Hen Rap" when side slaps and stomps are used.

Choosing Songs

It is extremely important to select song material that is appropriate for a child at a specific age level. Choose songs where the subject matter and words are closely related to the child's understanding and interests. Younger children particularly enjoy action songs and singing games, contemporary and television-related songs and songs about:

the space age,
their own names,
fun and nonsense,
their families and friends,
nature and seasons,
school activities,
their bodies,
animals and pets.

Short songs will probably bring more success, but longer ones like "Puff, the Magic Dragon" and "Over in the Meadow" should not be ruled out. Question and answer songs, such as "Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar?" are favorites with children. Songs of this type also help develop critical thinking. Teachers should also look for songs that contain no more than two phrases and utilize the pentatonic scale.

Another key element that should be examined when selecting music for children is the relationship between the words and the melody. The meaning of the words should be reflected in the style of the music. The phrasing of the words and the melody line should coincide. The goal should be for the words and melody to fit together like a hand in a glove.

One of the main objectives of music is to make children's lives richer through musical experiences that will help develop their aesthetic senses. A balance of musical activities can contribute to the development of all children according to their individual patterns of growth. Teachers and parents alike must recognize and plan for well-balanced musical experiences for all children, adapted to their physical, emotional, and intellectual capabilities.

The role of songs and rhymes

Memorization or rote-learning plays an important role in students committing 'chunks' of language to their long-term memory. Songs and rhymes can therefore be seen to provide an excellent opportunity for rote learning without the perceived inauthenticity of choral/individual repetition and drilling usually associated with the EFL classroom. At best, learning songs and rhymes by heart may form part of a child's linguistic data base from which generalizations may be made.

Many songs and rhymes can be easily adapted to practice various areas of study, from simple structures to vocabulary, pronunciation to functional exponents. In addition to this, many songs are associated with physical movement and so a dramatic aspect can be introduced.

Chapter 13
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