Music and Literacy…A Perfect Match!


What “universal” language promotes reading, creativity, and comprehension skills all at the same time? MUSIC!

According to neurobiologist Norman M. Weinberger, music exists in every culture. Parents all over the world sing to their babies. Music provides us with a natural and rhythmic way to learn. Do you ever wonder why children learn to sing their ABCs before they can say them? Do you notice that so many of our favorite children’s books have a certain rhyme or rhythmic pattern? Many studies show that there is a very strong connection between literacy and music. Through music, children learn to:

·         Understand language (we must comprehend language in order to become “true” readers)
·         Experiment with rhythm, words, tempo, and melody (which are important skills in reading aloud)
·         Think creatively and holistically
·         Make the connection between print and spoken words
·         Practice motor development and motor coordination while experimenting with various instruments and dancing
·         LISTEN (we sometimes forget that listening is an important literacy skill)

Does this mean that we pipe classical music into the background all day and expect preschoolers and kindergarten children to miraculously begin reading at a third grade reading level? Of course not! Here are some more reasonable and practical ways to assimilate music into the lives of young children:

1.       Expose children to a variety of music from a young age. Different music has different tempos and rhythms so exposure to all genres of music, according to some experts, helps brain development.
2.       Do not use music as background “filler” all the time. I have been in classrooms where music is playing non-stop. Sometimes it’s ok to just let children hear their own chatter and their own thoughts! Besides, you don’t want children to become immune to the music as background “noise.” You want music to catch their attention rather than just be part of the background!
3.       Recognize the effect music has on children’s behavior. Classical music or jazz played at the right time of day can have a calming effect.
4.       When introducing a new song or poem to children, write it down on chart paper. This helps children make the connection between written and spoken language.
5.       Don’t rely only on recorded music. Sing to your children. Recite poems and finger plays. These activities should be a part of children’s daily routine.
6.       Provide children with a variety of instruments. While children should have time to experiment with instruments on their own, the teacher should also provide structured time where children learn to play their instruments to a certain rhythm or they can echo a rhythm played by the teacher.
7.       When listening to music, encourage children to listen and try to identify  various instruments that they hear.
8.       If you have parents that play an instrument, invite them into your classroom to show the children.
9.       Contact your local symphony to see if they have a free or low-cost outreach programs. If not, check with your local college or high school! The members of the band may be able to visit your childcare center or school!
10.   Hum a song and let the children guess what it is! This seems like a simple activity but it really encourages listening, thinking, and problem solving.
11.   DANCE! Some children are kinesthetic learners and movement is important to these students!

I have a ton of favorite children’s songs – too many to list here. But some of my favorite children’s musicians are

·         Ella Jenkins
·         Thomas Moore
·         Raffi
·         Greg and Steve
·         Hap Palmer
·         Putumayo Kids (This series has a great collection of world music.)
Here are some books that may inspire the musicians in your class:
·         The Philharmonic Gets Dressed by Karla Kuskin
·         Musical Instruments from A to Z by Bobbie Kalman
·         Meet the Orchestra by Ann Hayes
·         Ah, Music! By Aliki
·         Music, Music for Everyone by Vera B. Williams
·         Charlie Parker Played Be Bop by Christopher Raschka
·         Mozart Finds a Melody by Stephen Costanza
·         Ben’s Trumpet by Rachel Isadora
·         The Magic Flute by Kyra Teis
·         I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello by Barbara Garriel
·         This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt
Other Musical Resources:
·         Songs for Teaching
·         Music for Little People

Check your local symphony to see if their website has a link for teachers or children. For example, The Dallas Symphony Orchestra has the DSO Kids Club and The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has a link for BSO Kids
Written by Tonya Wright

Technology and Literacy in the Early Childhood Classroom


Remember the old Jetson cartoons where George would call home and his image would appear on the “telephone” screen? And Elroy had a computerized homework helper? We may not be living in apartments in outer space and we certainly aren’t flying around in space cars (yet), but some of that Jetson technology has become closer to realty than science fiction. These days most people and many businesses are Skyping, Tweeting, Blogging, Instant Messaging, and connecting through Facebook; these words didn’t even exist a few short years ago!

For a variety of reasons, the early childhood community has been slower to catch when it comes to technology. A recent survey of early childhood professionals by Child Care Information Exchange revealed that among child care centers, most that use technology only do so for administrative purposes such as accounting or record-keeping; and classroom use is often limited to educational software.

Technology can positively impact classroom practices.

Not only can teachers use the web to find endless lesson plan ideas, recipes, and classroom themes, but technology can also be used in the classroom even by preschool students! But first we must first get away from the concept that “educational software” is the only way to use technology with young students.

Children can use photographs that they (or a teacher) have taken and create slideshows or stories. Websites such as Slideshare and Voicethread can be used to enhance literacy in the early childhood classroom. There are e-pal sites where classrooms can communicate with other classrooms across the state, across the country, or even across the world! Teachers can also scan student artwork or work samples and create electronic portfolios.

Word-processing and desktop publishing software can be used with students to creates student books, classroom labels, signs, and much more! My kindergartners were able to type “Do not touch” signs, print them out, and label their block creations. They could also type and print “Wet paint” signs to put near their art projects. While traditional methods should not be abandoned, technology can be used to enhance literacy-teaching strategies that we already know are effective.

Chances are, if you are reading this blog, you have a certain degree of technology know-how. I hope that you take what you know about technology and share it with an early childhood professional that may be able to learn from you. Knowledge is power and we have to spread the word about technological literacy!

Written by Tonya Wright