Music is a vital element of the school curriculum, particularly amongst infant- and primary-aged children. Yet the real impact and power of regular exposure to music is often underestimated amidst more academic subjects like maths and science. Interestingly, it is the perfect complement to many of these core curriculum subjects as it enhances learning retention, language development, listening skills and concentration – all of which benefit a child’s developmental curve. But why is music so important and how can we improve and continue to improve classroom interaction and response?
If we look at some of the associated benefits of involving young children in musical activities, we can start to see a pattern which actually forms part of the many building blocks of life. For instance, movement to music using a beat or rhythm helps with physical development like balance and coordination, bodily control and spatial awareness. Music which involves minor addition or numbers can be advantageous for mathematical and memory skills, but taking part in musical activities can also have a dramatic effect on a child’s personal, social and emotional development and has been connected with sharing, taking turns and building self-confidence as well as encouraging creativity and imagination.
Whether it’s about stimulating communication and language development or improving listening and concentration skills in class, music can really help, but the way teachers interact with children is also vital if they are to get the most out of their musical escapades. Exploring elements like pitch, pace and dynamics can prove useful, as can looking at how silences can affect the mood of a song. Encouraging children to explore these through musical games, exposure to a variety of music and also through playing musical instruments in differing ways can result in simple and fun activities that will help pupils to recognise different moods, sounds and effects.
Using a range of music will also help to encourage additional learning across other subjects. Using music from around the world, for instance, will expose children to different types of sounds and also to the cultures they represent. Even differing genres of music such as classical, pop and jazz can be used to get children thinking about what the piece of music represents and how it makes them feel (the emotional effect).
Above all, music is all about interaction and involvement. Think about how you can make music relevant to your pupils, but also how you can capture imaginations and inspire new ideas. Do you have a singing club already? Could you stage a school concert or record a ‘live’ concert, which is not only great fun but introduces a technology and production element into the learning process too.
Movement is also an important part of the whole musical package. Acting out songs, encouraging creative expression and physical involvement, is always recommended. Discussion of movements using appropriate vocabulary and different types of music will also help the exploration of other themes such as feelings.
Instrument-playing can help to boost hand-eye coordination and help children to develop a sense of rhythm. Using themed props regularly will also aid learning and stimulate participation even in those who are usually the quieter members of the class. The key is that children are both making and responding to music with enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, many popular reality talent shows have transformed the act of singing and dancing to music into more of a sport to be judged by others. We need to go back to basics and change that mindset, because singing is for everyone; it’s not about who sings the loudest or has the best ‘tones’, it is about expression and should be enjoyed and participated in by all.
Jo Jingles provides music, singing and movement experiences for babies, toddlers and primary school children. W: www.jojingles.com