Thursday, September 15, 2016

Seven Foundational Elements of Sound Beginnings

The Sound Beginnings music program prepares children for success in kindergarten and Let's Play Music. That's fantastic! How is it done?
Today's post will walk you through the seven research-based elements that stimulate growth in the areas particularly crucial to the development of your young child. These elements make up the foundation of the Sound Beginnings curriculum and help us get to the heart of an effective class.

Literacy and Kindergarten Skills

Sound Beginnings not only teaches music, it also introduces children to kindergarten concepts like colors, rhyming, manners, telling time, shapes, calendars, name recognition, counting, adding, literacy, and sequencing. 

Research has proven that music has a powerful effect on language learning. As children sing songs and recite nursery rhymes during class, they learn new vocabulary, develop auditory discrimination, enhance phonemic awareness, and improve their memory skills. Sound Beginnings classes also prepare children to read by teaching tracking left to right, verbal sequencing, and concepts about print during musical story time.

I imagine (I have an active imagination) that the creators of Sound Beginnings had a conversation like this:

  "Let's select songs to use in class. We'll definitely need plenty of simple melodies that are easy to learn and in the correct pitch range so the students can internalize musical patterns."
  "Okay, we have tons of options here. What do you want the words to be about?"
  "Oh yeah, words. Kids just love words."
  "Well, as we all know, music is a powerful tool for teaching just about anything. I passed my college chemistry class by singing the solubility rules song, so I'm sure we could teach kids about kindergarten skills like telling time, calendars, colors, days of the know... and they'd be learning music at the same time."
  "That's super efficient! I'm so excited I feel like singing about it right now!"

Hey parents: you can use this music-class superpower to your life: anytime you want your toddler to learn a skill or behavior, add a song! Here's the song I sing (over and over and over) until my kids get their seat belts on. As you can guess, my teenagers get buckled before I finish the first word:

Whenever I get into the car
I put on my seat belt before we go far
'Cuz Mom will not drive until she hears 'click'
so put on your seat belt, and please be quick!
Rhythm and Beat

Keeping a steady beat is the precursor to all accurate rhythm-making. In class we clap, pat, stomp, jump, flap our arms, and play simple instruments to the beat. We imitate rhythmic patters with our voices, on instruments and with our bodies. We incorporate eurythmics (movement-based rhythm training) that is perfect for toddlers.

Curious to see if you can keep the beat? Take a simple test like this one. You'll listen to the drum to find the beat, then you'll tap along to match the beat, and then... all by yourself... you'll play a steady beat. (Post in the comments and tell me what your score was) Wahoo! 

Once your child internalizes these beat-basic skills, she'll really be ready to make music.  The American Council of Piano Performers, in a post on how to perform, says "the audience will rarely notice an error in pitch, but they will ALWAYS notice a disruption in rhythm."

Getting the beat right is fundamentally important, so we spend plenty of time on practicing with our toddlers.

Voice and Pitch Development

The singing voice is the foundation of music education. Sound Beginnings channels the young voice into beautiful singing by providing proper vocal modeling in the correct range. Solfege hand signs are used to teach pitch relationships. Ear training is emphasized and a minor third (SOL-MI) pattern is used to teach in-tune singing.

I just love solfege. It gives us words to talk about what we're singing and gives us a tactile way to feel in space what we're hearing in our ear. It takes challenge of singing and makes it a whole-body learning experience. In these articles (Part I, Part II, Part III) I explain what solfege is, why we love it, and how you can use it.

My active imagination thinks the creators of Sound Beginnings and Let's Play Music had a conversation like this:

"Alright folks. What tools are we gonna use for teaching these toddlers to sing?"
"Um, well, I have an's something we did in all of our college voice classes and sight-singing classes. You know... solfege."
"Are you crazy? Toddlers don't go to college. Young children learn through full-body involvement and integrating as many senses as possible. Young children need to be active and physical to learn. Give me something I can use, people."
"Well, that's just it- solfege is a way to use your hands and body to better focus on what you are hearing, and involve more of your body into what you are making your voice do."
"In that case, we'd be fools not to use solfege with toddlers and children! I'm so excited I think I'll start singing about this!"

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills involve hand and finger use and play a valuable part in higher-level learning skills like writing. As students participate in finger plays to favorite nursery rhymes and American Sign Language (ASL) they gain finger dexterity. As they manipulate instruments and tactile props in class they develop stronger muscles in their hands and wrists.

Looking for more fun ways to strengthen little hands? Check out this post with (piano and non-piano) ways to encourage growth and strength. Not to worry: Let's Play Music class is designed to let your child's ear and mind develop as fast and awesomely as they can, even though we know finger strength will take a few years to catch up. That's one reason we use bells and autoharp in year one.

Gross Motor Skills

If you peek into a Sound Beginnings class, you will see skipping, crawling, dancing, and playing. Children learn best by doing! Full body movement builds muscle strength and hand-eye coordination while developing balance in young children. Gross motor development also aids in brain hemisphere development.

The basis for the importance of movement and sensory experiences was derived from studies which compared brain structures of animals raised in various environmentally normal, deprived, and enriched settings. The enriched settings provided the opportunity to interact with toys, obstacles, and treadmills. Research led to the conclusion that stimulation is a significant factor in overall brain development; animals from enriched environments had larger brains with more synaptic connections. It is suggested that physical activity is a significant determinant in early development of the overall brain, not just development of motor skills.

Whatever you are doing with your child, take her to activities where she can move around and be active while learning.

Classical Music Experience

Sound Beginings classes teach intelligent listening and understanding of classical form in a fun and interactive way. Each semester we study the timbre of specific instruments and how they are divided into family groupings. Our 'smart moves' dances involve the whole body in an enjoyable classical music experience.

Really great dancers (and aerobic instructors, right?) use their body to follow the beat of the music, listen to the patterns and form of the music, and create movement that "feels like" the music itself. This awareness of how music is put together means your child will learn to anticipate what comes next in classical songs and enjoy them even more. When the Orange semester of Let's Play Music comes around, he'll be composing his own songs using the same concepts of form and pattern!

And why should you be interested in the fact that little Johnny is developing a love of listening to the classical genre? Loads of recent research shows that listening to classical improves memory, boosts creativity, lowers blood pressure, boosts brain power, fights depression, improves productivity, and makes you taller. (My active imagination came up with the part about being taller.)

Parent Bonding

A child learns when a child feels loved. In Sound Beginnings we teach parents how to play with their child in an educational and nurturing way. Purposeful touching, eye contact and partner activities develop the highly significant parent/child relationship.

In our blog post on creating relationships, we give some tips for having a strong relationship with your family, and for how to grow closer together through music.  In class, your actions teach your child, "This is a fun thing I like to do. I like to play with you. I like to be with you. You're important to be. This is something we can learn and have fun with together." 

When music is a venue in which you build a positive relationship and make memories of happy moments, students love music and are more willing to work at becoming musicians!

Now that you know the seven foundational elements of Sound Beginnings, find a teacher for your youngster, or forward this blog post to someone who has a child ages 2-4 so they can reap the benefits of this great program.  See you in class!

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music and Sound Beginnings Teacher


No comments:

Post a Comment