This summer I had the privilege of attending a week long HighScope® training on music and movement. As a movement and physical activity specialist, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in this highly respected professional development course.
I met people from all over the world–India, Dutch Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and the United States, from Michigan, Tennessee, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Washington. I did a lot of moving, dancing, and singing while learning new strategies and techniques for sharing music and movement with young children and successful methods for integrating movement and music into other curriculum areas. Here are several that stood out and which I am beginning to incorporate in my teacher trainings and workshops:
Provide a safe and supportive classroom environment where the children feel they have a say in their own learning. Have children stand in a loose formation, rather than a circle or a line, so they can be anonymous when working in their personal space, making sounds and doing actions at the same time as the other children. This allows for children to express themselves more readily when using exploration and problem solving.
Ask the children to describe movements as they are doing them. Having children think about and label their movements leads to those movements becoming purposeful and planned. For example, “I am patting my knees with my hands.” Children develop language skills as well as self-confidence.
Once children are comfortable with a movement activity, suggest that they lead it in their own way. Depending on the activity and the length of time available, one, a few, or all of the children can be leaders. Over time, make sure that every child has a chance to lead some activities.
Use only one method of presenting an activity or concept. Give verbal directions or silently demonstrate the movement or silently provide tactile guidance. Children respond better when you use only one presentation method.
Remember the child’s pitch range for singing is high–sing higher. Children have short vocal chords and will sing in tune more easily when you pitch songs in their higher range (middle C to A on the piano). As an adult, you may need to call the cat (“Here kitty, kitty”) to feel that place in your voice that is best for children and lead from there.
Steady beat is the consistent repetitive pulse that lies within every rhyme, song, or musical selection. Pat steady beat with both hands or rock to the steady beat. Mother Goose nursery rhymes are wonderfully appropriate for incorporating steady beat.
Action, thought, and language are combined in “Learner SAY & DO,” a strategy that helps children organize steady beat movements and movement sequences. Children speak words that define actions or body parts touched (SAY) and the match the movement to the words (DO). For example, to learn the locomotor movement of marching, children say “March” each time weight is alternatively transferred from one foot to the other.
When first introducing equipment (balls, scarves, bean bags, rhythm instruments, etc.) to children, allow for opportunities to freely explore and play with it before expecting them to use the equipment correctly. Don’t just jump into the “game or activity” you have planned. It’s fun to put out several different pieces of equipment together and see what the children do with all of the pieces, whether exploring them individually or using the pieces together with a friend.
To acquire children’s attention while moving, sing “YOO-HOO” and have the group echo it back to you as they cease all activity. You can also say, “STOP SIGN.” Then you are able to give directions for the next activity or movement.
As you introduce movement experiences to children, remember these “golden rules:”
- Keep them short.
- Keep them simple.
- Make them enjoyable.
- Design them to assure success.
- Suggest rather than direct.