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April 12, 2008

Today’s Secret Ingredient is…Music!

Any experienced early education teacher will tell you there are three key ingredients that go into creating every recipe for classroom success: blood, sweat, and tears.  Just like any good chef, good teachers add their own flair, spices, and secret ingredients to their classrooms to make the flavor “just right”.   No two classrooms are the same because no two chefs teachers are the same.  What separates me from Ms. Hoffman the fifth grade teacher down the hall and Chef Boyardee culinary extraordinaire is music.

As a pre-k teacher, I'm continually thinking of ways to motivate my students to learn, while keeping them focused on the activity at hand. Learning the lesson is only one piece of the puzzle; ensuring the concept being taught is retained for future application is where success lies. I have found music to be the most engaging, beneficial way to give my students memorable and meaningful learning experiences while keeping them alert and on task. Simply singing or playing the first few beats of a particular song can allay dangerous daydreaming and classroom catastrophes. I incorporate music in my classroom as often as I incorporate technology – which is constantly.

Here are just a few examples of songs I use to teach skills and concepts in the classroom:

No discussion about music in early childhood education would be complete without a mention of visuals. For an auditory lesson to have maximum impact, singing a song is just not enough. Visual aids accommodate students of different learning styles while introducing students to new skills and reinforcing thier knowledge retention. Another obvious benefit, imagery assists ESL learners in easily grasping otherwise difficult English language concepts.  Examples of visual props to use with music include: 

  • Clip-Art: Pictures that go with a song (i.e. pictures of the animals to go with the song I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly)
  • Stuffed animals or puppets (i.e. a stuffed dog or dog puppet to go with the song B-I-N-G-O)
  • Toys (i.e. a toy boat to go with the song Row, Row, Row, Your Boat)
  • Actions: Using simple actions to accompany songs such as dance movements to Jack Hartmann’s Rhymin’ to the Beat Nursery Rhymes

To the trained musical ear, auditory lessons might not be considered “music” at all. And while This Old Man and Down by the Bay aren’t the revered works of Bach or Beethoven, they are effective tools that promote fun learning to otherwise un-captive 3 and 4-year-old audiences.  Integral to any early education lesson is the ingredient music.  There’s always room for a sprinkle of Raffi or dash of Rachmaninoff in a delicious pre-k recipe.   


Great blog post! Parents of my students look forward to hearing each new song we learn in class throughout the year, though a few have jokingly blamed me when multiple rounds of "Shake My Sillies Out" or "The Turkey is a Funny Bird" play over and over and over in their minds! Have you read "This is Your Brain on Music" by Daniel J. Levitin? It can be a tough read at times, but is sooooo interesting- especially when he discusses how we program or hardwire our brains early in life by listening to music, and making our own musical choices.

I love the songs that you are using in your lessons. I have most of them in my classroom. Do you have any songs that deal with respecting each other?

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