Today we are looking at the 4-5 year old child, who is just branching out into a new world, especially if they are starting school. This is a time of change and children are learning new rules in many areas of their life. How can music help? Where do we start when incorporating music in their learning environment?
In music we have four basic areas of musical development (rhythm, pulse, pitch and listening) which incorporates many child development steps, such as language, emotional, social, physical and cognitive development. Incorporating these elements in fun engaging music activities, incorporates many general development milestones making it an ideal medium to use. Lets look closer at these four areas.
Rhythm is a pattern that varies to suit the music. Predominately we are working with patterns that children can produce vocally. These rhythms (rhythm perception) is what children use when learning speech patterns. By developing a strong sense of groups of patterns this can in turn help with phonemic awareness. In the 4-5 year old child these patterns are generally limited to Ta, Ti ti, and Ta-a. These different notes can be represented in gross motor movements such as Ta is a walking note, etc. Through use of chants, poems, clapping, stomping and singing, these patterns are introduced and progressively increased in difficulty. Children can self direct their learning by incorporating suggestions for expression of these patterns. By using a chart with different actions such as tapping legs, arms, hands, fingers or sticks etc. children have a way to express rhythm patterns not only on a vocal level, but also on a physical level. Rhythm pattern work develops areas such as social, physical, speech/ language, cognitive and listening skills.
This is similar to rhythm except we are looking at the underlying beat to the music. Feeling the 4/4 or 3/4 feeling is a beginning to the more complex rhythm patterns associated with melodies or vamping. By using the same rhythm notes Ta, Ti ti, and Ta-a children can learn to feel a steady pattern associated with music. For example by using the Ta note and walking with music children learn to listen and feel how the music is moving. Expression of the pulse can be self-directed learning by the children, through choosing a gross motor action such as stomping, jumping, swaying or twirling. These physicals action along with chanting will develop a strong sense of the beat. This sense of pulse can also include fine motor skills in tapping of fingers or manipulating small rhythmic instruments. Pulse pattern develop areas such as social, physical, cognitive and listening skills.
The 4-5 year old child is quite comfortable with singing, and have a good grasp on using a light singing voice. With an increased vocal range from A/B below middle C to treble C" or D", this allows for learning of many favourite nursery rhymes or traditional songs. They are very happy to sing as a group however may need encouragement to sing as an individual. Developing a singing voice through songs with 2,3 or 4 note melodies allow children to grasp a good tonal awareness. This also allows for limited reading of notes on a stave with some help through visual or aural cues. Using songs that use echoing or have a call and response pattern are good fro encouraging participation. This also reinforced by using songs that are playful, joyful and sometimes a little silly (nonsense syllables). This also encourages children to explore new speech patterns while in a relaxed atmosphere. Singing, vocalising, pitching are all useful in developing areas such as social, speech/language, cognitive and listening.
Focused listening skills are important to a child's growth and development. This is especially important in music to reflect on what they hear and interpret. To gain the most benefit of music we want the young child to internalize what they hear. This ability to express what they interpret increases their creative flair and allows them to emotionally connect to the music. Most of all we want the young child to internally interpret what they hear and then reflect that interpretation. By practicing intentional listening we increase attention span over time.