Researching Music

This months recommended resources for music, play based learning and some music to use at home.

Anita Collins Music:

I was privileged enough to do a six month mentor ship with Anita and she is absolutely brilliant! Her website is filled links to fantastic research and videos of her work such as her TEDx talk (http://www.anitacollinsmusic.com/tedxtalk/)

Why play-based learning:

Play based learning fosters a sense of autonomy in young children as they can choose what they would like to discover. This is a fantastic way to encourage a love of learning in even the tiniest of humans.

Julie Wylie Musical Play:

I have had the pleasure of meeting Julie and she is such an inspiration! Her blogs are well worth a read as she presents up to date research in an accessible format. She has created 13 fantastic CD’s (that are available on iTunes and from her website) and I use them every day.

Catalyst- Music on the Brain:

This Australian Program doesn’t just look at how music affects children, but also adults and the elderly. It was this program that inspired me to work towards inter generational music programs as it can be so beneficial for everyone involved.

The advantages of an in-service music program

When I worked in Early Learning, there was no music program. I worked for three years to build up an incredible Music Education program but unfortunately, the program was not seen as a necessity and was dropped due to budget restrictions. While I can completely understand why this happened, I don’t believe it was in the best interests of the children.

After this occurred I was unemployed for three months, and I took some time to really think about what I wanted to do. I knew I loved music, but I didn’t want to be an external music provider due to how costly these can be to Early Learning Centers. Often, only centers who have large budgets are able to book these programs and I can’t help but feel bad for all the children who miss out.

This is where I discovered my calling. Teaching Early Learning staff how to deliver these high quality programs themselves means that

  • There is consistency on what is taught to the children
  • Staff know the children better than anyone and can really focus the music program on their interests and can cater to the needs of individual children
  • The program is visible to parents in terms of planning, reflections, documentation and feedback
  • Staff can feel empowered and confident when it is Music time instead of taking a step back
  • Musical resources can be accessed during the day for children to explore in their own time
  • Every child has access to Music. When hiring an external program, it is often only 30 mins, one day a week. When staff teach music, every child is able to participate in music, no matter what day they come to care.

My goal is to make music accessible again. Not just for those who have deep pockets

Singing when you’re not a singer

The one comment I hear over and over in my profession is “I’m not a singer, so I can’t do music at home”.

Let’s get one thing straight, everyone is a singer, and the most important audience you will sing for are your children. You don’t have to be in tune, sing with the melody or even be in time! The most important thing is that you are confident and put yourself out there. This will not only strengthen the bond between you and your children as they observe that you are not afraid to express yourself in front of them, but the more you sing the better you will be! Like anything, practice makes perfect.

So, how do you get started?

  1. Find a song you like

This can be any song you have a connection with, but  would suggest a song with easy words and a simple melody. Some great examples are You are my Sunshine, Here Comes the Sun, Morning town Ride and Raindrops keep falling on my head. 

2. Learn the song so you could sing it in your sleep

Play the song all the time. In the shower, in the car and when you wake up. Look up the lyrics and make sure you sing the correctly. I sang ‘Our lips are sealed’ as ‘Alex the seal’ and was very confused as a child! If you are going to sing this song to your children, it’s important you are singing the right words, otherwise you end up with confused faces looking back at you!

3. Build up your confidence

Find a version of the song you really like on iTunes or Google music and sing along with it until you begin to feel confident with the words and the melody. As your confidence builds, turn down the music bit by bit, so you can hear your voice over the top of the music. Do this for as long as you need to!

4. Practice, practice, practice!

Keep at it! Children need repetition to create strong pathways between different parts of their brain. If they are asking for the same song over and over, it means they are still learning things from it.

Tips:

If you have the music turned down very low, but still aren’t feeling confident, try and find a karaoke version of the song, so you still have some kind of backing track to sing along to.

If singing makes you nervous and you forget the lyrics, print out a copy of them to read off. Building your confidence will take time, so if this helps, go for it!

The only audience you need are your children, no one else needs to hear you sing. I guarantee they will adore sharing this time with you, and one day they will feel confident in joining in.

 

So, why music?

This week, someone asked me the question “Why did you choose to focus on Music Education rather than another artistic discipline?”

Aside from the fact that Music is my passion, I thought I should explain why there needs to be a push in our Early Learning Services to make Music Education more accessible, compared to the other artistic disciplines.

Art

There is a huge amount of emphasis given to art in Early Learning, as its more accessible. Every educational setting has easy access to paper, pencils, paint, stamps, natural materials and easels. Educators and Parents also have no issues in modelling art and artistic techniques such as holding a paintbrush or pencil correctly and using creative mediums such as twigs and leaves as paintbrushes.

Drama

Let’s face it, being an Educator or Parent requires a lot of improvisation. You are always making things up as you go and adapting to new circumstances. Through these situations you are modelling this important technique to your children. Also, children use drama almost every day! Things like playing ‘house’, pretend and role playing sets up the foundation for more complex dramatic techniques.

Dance

Children naturally move to music without inhibition and quite often babies will be positively reinforced when they start moving to music as Parents and Care-givers smile, clap, laugh or move with them. When playing outside, children practice their Fundamental Movement Skills such as jumping, side stepping and skipping which is then transferable to dance.

What about Music?

We have unintentionally created a culture in which Educators and Parents are ashamed of their musical skills. No one is a perfect singer, yet many adults are unwilling to sing to children in their care, even though they are the most receptive audience they will ever find!

This is not to say that Specialty Teachers are not required in Art, Dance and Drama, but in Early Learning we are more inclined to give them ago compared to Music.

Supporting Early Music Making

When the children in our care are exploring musical concepts for the first, fifth or fiftieth time, it can be tricky for us (as adults) to say the right thing. Everybody has a memory of being a child and being told you cannot do something or that you aren’t good enough, and it can completely destroy your confidence. To make sure this doesn’t happen to the children in your care, here are some things you can say to continue encouraging them without harming their self confidence.

If a child continues to sing the same song over and over and over again…“Wow, you really know that song! I don’t think *insert name here* knows it very well though, do you think you could teach them?” This not only gives you a little break, but it also instills confidence in the child, as you really need to know something inside out to be able to teach it. This can then lead on to a great reflection process on how their teaching went. Why did it work? Why didn’t it work? Did they like the song?

On an occasion when a child is singing/playing really loud and you need them to be quite… “You’ve really mastered singing/playing loudly! Do you think you could sing/play softly?” Sometimes life happens, and you just need five minutes of quiet while you take a phone call, finish getting lunch or recharge your mental batteries. This is a great way to start exploring dynamics without discouraging their creativity.

When all else fails, think of it this way: If a colleague did a presentation for you on something they are passionate about, what would you say to them? How can you be respectful without discouraging their effort? If a child wants to sing or play for you, they are beyond excited to share this special gift with you. Just sit back, and enjoy it!