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  • The Swaggie Man


Hi, I’m Kevin. I have been teaching music to Pre-schoolers for over 15 years now and I have developed a tried and tested program to not only get children interested in music, but also to help with their learning in all areas of the curriculum.

This article explains how music can be used as a learning tool and what types of music to use.

Can I use classical music for learning?

You certainly can. As far as classical music goes, you can experiment with different composers to find the music that speaks to your heart. Depending on the intensity of the music, some compositions are better suited for relaxation, while others are ideal to raise your heartbeat.

Try the following Baroque composers for a change: Handel, Bach and Correli.

Everybody responds differently to the stimuli of music. While some people become hyper-responsive, others fall asleep while listening to a concerto. People usually struggle to concentrate when they are over-stimulated or extremely worn out and tired.

You would be surprised how classical Baroque music can activate your concentration levels whilst helping you to soothe your brain and nerves. The easiest way to get into a study mood is by switching off all distractions from your environment.

To do this, invest into a good set of headphones and listen to Mozart or other classical music while you study and learn.

It is important that you experience this first-hand, so you will know the effects your children will be undergoing.

Why does music aid in the acquisition of language?

Language and music have more in common than what most people think. They both use the same areas of the brain for learning to occur, so if you use one to learn the other, you are stimulating more of the brain, and retention of knowledge happens more easily. Language and music are also

both abstract concepts represented by abstract symbols.

Children will respond to language the same way that they respond to music. For example, when they hear a song they’ve heard before, and when they hear a text which has been read to them several times, they will naturally join in.

Children listen for patterns and rhyme in music and in texts. Just think how children just adore listening over and over again to rhymes, rhythms and beats of language.

Children learn to write by pretending to write, and by using drawing. This is transferring the abstract to the concrete in a physical way. The same area of the brain used to do this is used to transfer the abstract concepts of notes to the physicality of movement and dance.

Music can focus the mind on the sounds and help with discrimination. Music and alphabet songs help to increase these listening skills and retain the sounds. After all, we learnt the alphabet by first singing it, didn’t we?

One of the reasons for children being able to learn better with music is that it increases relaxation, which is beneficial for students who are stressed or who find it difficult to concentrate and thus learn.It also renders the information more interesting as it sets the stage for listening. In other words, music creates an environment that is conductive learning.

Music increases listening skills, which are important for language development and, later, reading and writing.

The first steps of learning to read, and the successful acquisition of reading and writing, depend firstly on the acquirement of solid oral language skills. A child cannot write if they do not have a good vocabulary. They cannot communicate if they don’t have a good vocabulary, either. They will find it harder to recognise words in print if they do not have a good vocabulary – and what better way to acquire one than through song?

Music has always been a way for people and children from all around the world to remember stories and learn about their environment.

We all know of children who cannot learn to read but can memorise the whole script of a movie, or dozens of songs.

Good teaching involves tapping into a child’s already acquired knowledge and expanding on this. Since most children have been singing and moving to music from an early age, it would make sense to use this whilst teaching them language.

This is important as music links the verbal and non-verbal parts of the brain so that more of the brain is used in learning, and so that these two areas of the brain have an easier time working together.

How does this help my child’s learning?

Music causes chemical changes in the brain, which act like chocolate does. When you listen to pleasant music there is a rush of serotonin and dopamine, which makes you feel good. This, again, aids in the learning process.

This also has physiological effects, with a drop in blood pressure, pulse rate and body temperature that makes you more alert and able to concentrate. Baroque music was found to activate both hemispheres of

the brain when subjects were tested, which led to maximisation of learning.

A wonderful activity to do in an early childhood setting is to have children learn an insturment. Now this might seem daunting, but children catch on quickly.

Music, like language, is a skill acquired through imitating and memorising rhythms, tones, clapping beats and singing. Therefore, is it any wonder that both parts of the brain use the same area to learn?

Whilst learning music, children learn to decode and interpret symbols, which are very necessary skills for learning to read and perform mathematical computations. Whilst learning music, pre- reading skills about graphic notations are taking place, and the constant use of that part of the brain makes the area grow larger. The brain acts like a muscle, and that is why we get better when we do things over and over again.

Music allows children to distinguish specific sounds within words, and to have an increased awareness of the rhythmic structure of language, which aids in the ability to speak, read and listen.

These are just a few tips to get your child started on a positive learning curve. Next week I will show you a little more about how to use music as a teaching tool in other areas.

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