Posts Tagged 'learning by observing'

The Sound of Silence

MomChildSilenceWe are rounding the bend and entering our final month of the wonderful Flute Collection. Families are bonding and the children are singing their hearts out. We had a blast dancing to the “Time Warp”, “Ghost Busters”, “Monster Mash”, and much more for Halloween. (I got to dance the “Time Warp” ten times in one week. I’m good until next year I think.)

During one of my classes (the week of Halloween) the energy was high and we were ready to party. We had a lot of extra family members in class and it was such a joy. But because the numbers were many and we were in holiday mode there was a lot of chatting during and between songs

If you’ve been taking Music Together with your child for a while (or even for a semester) you have probably heard that we like our classes to be as much of a “musical sanctuary” as possible. That means that from the moment you enter class until the moment you leave – whatever needs to be said should be sung!

Children in Music Together are learning music in the same way they are learning language: total immersion. We joyfully saturate them in the music for 45 minutes once a week (not counting the joyful noise making occurring at home.)

During this Halloween class after one of our upbeat songs I went into the Tonal Patterns for class. Tonal Patterns are the little bits of notes we sing after we finish our song. These Tonal Patterns provide “building blocks” to help the children organize the song in their brains – after the song is over. It’s like a Follow the Leader singing game. You also hear them on your CD.

But it didn’t work in this class. Why? 

Deanna DeCampos, Director of Eastside Westside Music Together in New York City puts it this way. “…language development takes such a prominent role in a child’s early years… a child ‘tunes in’ to her mother’s voice, [so] we can infer that, if a child’s mom is talking to her neighbor in class rather than singing, that child is going to  tune in to the talking and not the music.  Now, if the mom is SINGING, she’s both modeling music making behavior and providing her child with the most beautiful aural stimulus possible – her singing voice. Music making utilizes many areas of the brain, including the language center.  When mom talks in class, the child gets the double whammy of tuning in to mom’s voice AND trying to discern the language sounds that he’s hearing. Music?  Not a priority in the little guy’s brain.”

Essentially, last week when we went into the Tonal Patterns while the chattering continued, we were asking the children to use the area of the brain that focuses on language development. (This is why Songs without Words are so easy for the young child to learn – no concentration on language needed. Just music!)

So I asked everyone to be very silent. Then we tried again. We sang a little more of the song and then seamlessly (silently) moved into the Tonal Patterns. What happened then? We heard in the silences between each Tonal Pattern a smattering of tots attempting to replicate the notes: “buh, BA, Baaa;” something that didn’t happen while there had been a lot of talking after the song. I could see the smiles of recognition and even surprise on some grown-up faces. Such a gift.

We chat, gab, and yak all day. There’s time enough for that. Now let’s sing… and then listen…who knows what might happen next.

Fleur Phillips
Music Together Teacher

“Come on, [insert your child’s name]! You can do it! You can … DO IT!!!!!”

MTPic74-webYou’ll often hear teachers throughout the semester talk about how Music Together is a developmentally based program. That is to say it is not performance based.

One of the first things we learn as educators in early childhood music development is that before your child can learn to play music they must be given the opportunity to play with music. Children learn primarily through play. So it follows for them that learning is not hard work. It’s play! It’s fun and creative and imaginative! So learning about music is achieved the same way: through musical and rhythmic play.

As your child grows and enters stages of development where she can respond to suggestions; for example, giving ideas of what we can do with a song, like hopping or toe tapping, this is the area where it can be very easy to forget what we are about.

Your first instinct might be to look at your child and encourage him to answer his teacher. This is a natural instinct and it comes from a desire to assist your child in participating in the fun. However, it can be received as pressure to perform.

It’s a fine line but one that is important to address.

Here’s an example:

During the “Hello Song”, when I feel that the children are ready, I begin to implement the idea, with the parent’s help, of pausing before we sing each child’s name.This provides the rhythmic impulse to (maybe) sing their own name. In fact, I begin this process at a fairly young age as even babies will respond in their own way (rhythmically or vocally) at a remarkably early age.

The key is no pressure! But as written above, pressure can still be experienced by a child even when a parent thinks they are giving support.

There’s a difference between “Johnny sing your name! Go on… can you sing? Sing your name!” – with a big smile of support and a sweet poke in the arm –  and simply pausing for a rhythmic build of anticipation not expecting your child to get anything right. Oh, maybe something will happen. Maybe your baby will bounce, maybe your toddler will babble, maybe your three year old will sing his name, and maybe your four year old will stare. Just keep modeling. Eventually you’ll be surprised. But development is the name of the game.

And within that little moment of silence we are accepting of everything – even if your child doesn’t do anything. Then we pick up that ball and sing for them as always.

The minute we point out that our children should be doing anything turns Music Together into a program of judgment, performance, and comparisons.

Do we have different expectations for different age groups? Sure. You will have different behavioral expectations for your four year old than your baby, of course. But when it comes to playing with music the best thing to do is allow them to be who they are while they do what comes naturally.

It’s an exciting notion to create an environment of acceptance. And if we continue to model that acceptance for our children in class, who knows what wonderful environments of acceptance they’ll take into the world.

Fleur Phillips
Music Together Teacher

The Joy of Family Music

Heartsong Music teaches Music Together®, the internationally recognized early childhood music and movement program for children from birth through grade two and the adults who love them.

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