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:
- Dr. Jean’s Rise and Shine song = good morning ritual
- Frog Street Press = colors
- Frog Street Press = shapes
- Dr Jean = Days of the week
- Stephen Fite = months of the year
- Dr Jean’s Nursery Rhymes and Good Ole Times = nursery rhymes
- Jack Hartmann’s Rhymin’ to the Beat = nursery rhymes
- Dr. Jean’s Scissors Snip = cutting skills
- Dr. Jean’s Name on Your Paper song = routines and procedures
- Heidi Songs Sing and Spell = sight words
- Heidi Songs = Numbers
- Dr. Jean’s Totally Math = patterns and numbers
- Sweet Honey in the Rock “Oh My Goodness Look at This Mess” = clean-up routines and procedures
- Dr. Jean’s Good-bye Friends song = good-bye ritual
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.