Monday, October 10, 2011

Teaching Music to Preschoolers

This weekend I was privileged to teach a class to local childcare providers on how to teach music to preschoolers.  The class consisted of apx. 85 teachers from local child care centers, with nearly 75% of them working with 3, 4 and 5 year olds.   Let me share with you today a synopsis of what I taught.

Part one of the presentation dealt with using classical music to teach 3 basic musical concepts:  Using the Singing Voice, Keeping a Steady Beat and Improving Listening Skills.  Whether you are a well trained musician or haven't had a music class since elementary school, every preschool teacher (or parent of a preschooler) can implement these elements into their music classes. There are certain points you need to remember in implementing these concepts into your curriculum:

Using The Singing Voice:  Remember to use simple tunes with an average of a 5 or 6 note range, use music that falls into the range of the natural speaking voice (nothing too high or too low) and don't expect that the children will be able to perfectly match pitches (this skill will develop over time).

Keeping A Steady Beat:  This skill will not be mastered until around age 5 or 6, so again, don't expect perfection.  Use your whole body to teach rhythm; don't limit yourself to just clapping the beat - stamp the rhythm, patch the rhythm, shake to the rhythm.... If you are using rhythm sticks with your children, they will have greater success if they tap the sticks on the floor instead of trying to tap them together.

Listening Skills:  Talk to your children about what they heard in the music:  Was it loud or soft?  Fast or slow?  Did it sound happy or sad?  What instruments did they hear?  Use real musical terminology with them - don't simplify it too much!

Some great classical music to use with your preschoolers includes:

The William Tell Overture by Rossini
Surprise Symphony (2nd Movement) - Haydn
The Flight of the Bumbleebee - Rimsky-Korsakov
Twinkle, Twinkle Variations - Mozart
The Carnival of the Animals - Saint-Saens

When using classical music with your students, always print a picture of the composer and explain to the students that a composer is a person who writes music.

Part two of my class discussed the pairing of picture books to teach music.  There are many picture books of familiar songs that you can sing. Also look for books that have a strong rhythmic pulse that you can speak in time or even add a simple melody to and sing.  Books that use onomatopoeia (words that sound like what they are, such as zing, bang, splash and animal sounds) are a great option for using rhythm instruments with the book.

A few great books to use in music class are:

Sunshine On My Shoulders - words by John Denver, pictures by Christopher Canyon
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything - by Linda Williams
Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You - by Dr. Seuss
No Matter What -  by Emma Dodd
Raffi has a large collection of illustrated books of familiar songs, such as This Little Light of Mine, Down by the Bay and Baby Beluga, among others.

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