More Reasons to Start the Day with Music in Your ClassroomAug 28, 2022
In my last blog post, I talked about music in the classroom being a good way to set the stage for the day and to lower the affective filter. Two other reasons I start the day with music is to work on phonemic awareness and language acquisition and to connect both hemispheres of the brain.
Phonemic awareness is integrated with vocal music by nature. Think of the rhyming songs from your childhood and the predictable nature of the rhymes: “Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are, Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky.” Children begin to get an “ear” for rhyming, ending sounds, etc. through familiar songs.
Add to this language acquisition. This was especially important to me as I was the designated teacher for our entry-level English language learners. (I speak Spanish and taught a portion of my students in Spanish for a few years in the 90s.)
One favorite song I teach my students is “Senior Don Gato.” (You can Google videos/lyrics for this one!) But to give an example of what can be done with a simple story song to help with language, comprehension, and other skills that help with reading, I’ll show you the first stanza:
Oh senior Don Gato was a cat, on a high red roof Don Gato sat.
He went there to read a letter, “meow meow meow”
Where the reading light was better “meow meow meow”
‘Twas a love note for Don Gato!
- Who is our main character? Don Gato
- What is the setting of this story song? A roof
- What words describe the roof? High, red
- Why is don Gato there? To read a letter
- What was good about the roof to read? The light was better
- What was the letter about? It was a love note
- Start singing the song, then stop before the word “sat” and have the students fill it in. Then just say, “cat….sat” to reinforce the rhyme. This can be done with each rhyming group as you see fit.
Singing in a larger group allows mistakes to be made without being spotlighted, and I know I’m more comfortable singing with a crowd than solo!
Here’s another great example of using music to work on other reading/language skills using the song “Down by the Bay.”
After each chorus, there’s the line “Did you ever see a _____…” with a rhyme. Example: Did you ever see a goat, rowing a boat?
I’d make a list of 4-5 different animals that were of the same category when we’d sing this—cat wearing a hat, dog sitting on a log, bunny acting really funny, guinea pig wearing a wig. Pausing before saying the final word that rhymes with the animal name, let the students predict the word using the context of the sentence along with the rhyming. After the song is sung, list the animals and ask what they have in common. You can do this with animals with wings, animals with fur, zoo animals, etc. So many skills can be touched on using songs in this way!
Near the end of the school year, I start putting student names in the song. (I ask if they’re comfortable with it—some aren’t!) For instance, “Have you ever seen Mary eating a berry?”
Music also can be used to prepare the brain connections for the day. Brain Gym is a great resource for the whys and hows of techniques to incorporate cross-brain activities into your classroom routine. I would use hand motions and dance moves strategically in our morning music to get the brain hemispheres connected and prepare the brain for learning So Simple Sight Words also uses hand motions for most of the cheers to be a part of a multi-modal method to retain knowledge and allow for easier retrieval during reading and writing activities.
Using sign language along with songs was also instrumental in helping my students gain language under a low-stress environment. I use sign language with students for a number of activities in the class. It offers kinesthetic advantages and more use of different brain areas. Learning the alphabet and practicing signs offers more ways to help children retrieve knowledge from the “files” in their brains. A quick article with advantages of using sign language in your class is here. A great video sign language dictionary is here.
Students who are afforded music time during their day are better prepared for reading. A number of studies show this, so when I see primary classrooms that have NO music during the day, I’m just itching to preach! Below are some quick articles showing the connection and importance of reading and music, but there is a plethora of information to be found if you want to dig further!
The Connection Between Music, Reading, and Language Development
Did You Know Reading Skills Can Be Improved by Singing Songs?
Reading, talking and singing with your child helps boost their brain power
If you want some to read a scientific study of preschoolers and the effects of music on phonological awareness, read this!
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