Musical experiences are incorporated into the daily life of the classroom, through use of a classroom music center, classroom books and song cards, and by incorporating singing times into the daily routine. Children sing and listen to music from a variety of repertoires and cultures, and are encouraged to develop comfort in singing alone and with others (in tune singing). A wide dynamic range is encouraged, as children sing, whisper, chant, or talk, at a variety of levels. Music readiness skills in rhythm (keeping the beat) and basic movement are explored.
By using basic patterns and tools over time, children become increasingly comfortable improvising their own rhythmic and melodic patterns. A variety of instruments from diverse musical traditions are available to children both for free exploration and for use in more formal music times. Time and space is set aside regularly for singing and movement games, chants, and creative dance with music. Children become aware that systems of notating music are useful ways to remember and share musical ideas; from this beginning understanding comes awareness of common musical notation.
Musical experiences at Learning Circle include:
- Free use of diverse multicultural percussion instruments daily in each classroom
- Songs and chants that support transitions and messages throughout our classroom day, including “hellos” and “goodbyes”, cleaning up, and outdoor play
- Spontaneous singing, dancing, or instrumental experiences incorporated into classroom activity times
- Singing, playing circle games, and using chants and finger play as a whole class daily
- Enjoying sound and word play
- Thinking together about the “science of sound”, and how sounds are produced
- Improvising patterns of rhythm and melody
- Using music to enhance puppetry and drama, and to help set a mood or tell a story
- Teacher initiated small group music times organized to support concept/skill development as children sing, dance, and participate in creative movement activities
- Introductions to musical materials that relate to classroom themes or projects and diverse cultures and traditions
- Drawing freely while listening to a wide variety of musical styles
- Finding ways to represent musical ideas on paper (free notation)
- Whole school singing on a regular basis
The school’s “outdoor classroom” incorporates music in many ways, including the user of pentatonic outdoor instruments especially designed for preschoolers. These instruments sound beautiful, encourage creativity, enhance drama and are a wonderful addition to the playground.
When one child made a flute from recycled materials, many children became interested and made their own. Following the children’s interest, teachers brought in native flutes to listen to and investigate together. We then played recordings of flute music from a variety of cultures, drawing to the music and dancing as well.
In our music groups, we do lots of singing, clapping and patching, fingerplay, and joining circle and movement games. We also want to encourage children to listen to, and think about, a variety of musical forms and styles.
One of the best ways to do this is to encourage children to draw as they listen to music. First we talk together about how lines can show the sounds we hear and the feelings we experience as we listen to music. We practice a few possibilities together – thinking about how short high sounds might look, or how music that is very smooth or quiet might look. We talk about how sometimes we can hear something in the music more than once – that some parts come back in a pattern. After the children seem to have the basic idea, we put on an excerpt of music – in this case from the beautiful Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings – and begin. One teacher typically guides the children as they draw at first, pointing out changes in the tempo, dynamics, instrumentation, or form. When the music ends, we take a few minutes to look at each other’s work and talk about our lines and what we heard.
If you watch carefully, you’ll see just how well some of the children are listening – the lines they create are wonderful representations of features that can be heard in the music. Each child is representing something different and has a unique approach to their drawing experience, but each has found some element of the piece to represent.