Music and movement allows young children to explore space, develop language and communication skills, increase sensory awareness, and express themselves through rhythm, gesture, time and space. Quality musical experiences will further enhance listening while encouraging children to learn vocabulary and sound/pitch discrimination. It improves memory, stimulates emotional and creative responses and best of all, provide many hours of fun!
A great way to start teaching music and movement to children is to use the “SONG STRETCHER™” approach. This is a kinaesthetic approach that guides learning by allowing them to internalise the whole music process, while building on children’s creativity. In this approach, songs are stretched in multiple ways through Singing, Body Percussion, Locomotive Movement, Instrument Play, and Notation.
As the children are singing the song “Little Red Caboose” ask them to tap on their laps to keep a steady beat. This constant tapping on their lap enables children to keep time and stay focused on their task. Research has shown that an awareness of steady beat can influence the way young children assimilate speech patterns, which in turn affects their reading and writing abilities.
Research has shown that children with steady beat independence are better readers and tend to be more successful in mathematics. Steady beat competency also contributed to children’s ability to concentrate, to understand space and distance and to have better control of their actions. Steady beat is a learned behaviour — teachers must provide planned experiences to enhance the steady beat competencies in children.
A further extension to singing is to include other elements of music such as dynamics where teachers can whisper the words “chug chug chug” rather than to sing them. This extension builds listening skills and improves vocal control in young children.
Start by using what children already have — their bodies. This allows children to think outside of the box as they explore the multiple ways of making music with their bodies. A few examples of body percussion are stomping feet, tapping on laps, and partner high-fives. This builds on children’s creativity to find various ways to use their bodies as a musical instrument. With reference to the song “Little Red Caboose”, you can ask children to explore multiple ways to use body percussion to tap to “chug chug chug”, “train, train, train”, “caboose” etc.
Children are born knowing how to move. Providing opportunities to move not only aids their muscular development, but also brings them enjoyment. Movement enhances both kinaesthetic and spatial awareness. Let children discover their own original ways to move and use their bodies to communicate their emotions and ideas.
Locomotive movement also develops a child’s ability to control his actions and behaviours to achieve a goal. In the song “Little Red Caboose”, children can move faster and/or slower, change directions and even freeze on “chug chug chug”. These variations in the activities require children to have the ability to control their movement which is fundamental to the development of self-regulation.
Children enjoy experimenting and manipulating musical instruments — this lets them build on their eye-hand coordination and aural discrimination. For example, children can figure out which instrument sounds most like “chug chug chug” and to play the selected instruments on specific parts of the song. Besides enhancing listening skills, playing with instrument allows children to explore yet another element of music — timbre. It is important to ensure that the music classroom is well stocked with a variety of musical instruments, including hand-made instruments.
Graphic notation as a pre-literacy activity can be introduced to older children, who have progressed from concrete to abstract thinking. Children can be asked to visualise and draw the patterns (form) found in the music. Writing or drawing their ideas on paper helps children develop fluency, critical thinking, creative expression and the ability to reflect.
An example of a visual representation of form can be drawn as follows:
The “SONG STRETCHER™” is a multimodal approach to early childhood music and movement that opens up all possibilities in music and movement where children sing, move, dance, play, create and express themselves. Through the use of different modalities of teaching, children’s learning will be enriched and internalised.
Lavina Chong is the Co-founder/ Director of Our Music Classroom Pte Ltd. She also serves as an adjunct lecturer with Wheelock College, SEED Institute, UniSIM and Ngee Ann Polytechnic.