Four Important Reasons for Including Music in the Classroom
Van der Linde (1999) outlines six reasons why the importance of music and movement activities should not be underestimated. Among these are four that are particularly relevant here:
- Mental capacity and intellect. There is a connection between music and the development of mathematical thinking. Mathematical concepts are developed as children sing counting songs.
- Mastery of the physical self. Children develop coordination, which aids muscular development. They begin to understand what they can do with their bodies as they run, balance, stretch, crawl, and skip.
- Development of the affective aspect. Through music and movement, children learn acceptable outlets to express feelings and relieve tension. Music may also convey a specific mood through which children reveal their feelings and emotions.
- Development of creativity. Music can create an imaginary world that stimulates a child’s creativity. A box can become a drum, a stick can be transformed into a horn, or a broom can become a dance partner. Children make up songs or give new words to old songs for pure enjoyment.
It is sometimes all too easy to miss the opportunity to expand on the music and movement experiences of a child’s budding musical awareness. The imaginary world, the dream world, is a private place where children can sort out ideas before actually implementing those ideas. They can imagine how a butterfly moves from flower to flower before re-creating their own interpretation of pretending to fly like a butterfly. Teachers must encourage imagery and fantasy throughout music and movement activities. It is a natural resource that children bring with them to the classroom and one that encourages the development of musical processes that are foundational to future thinking and perceptual organization. Tender children who are just beginning to discover their ability to soar like an eagle, dance with the flowers, sing for the pure joy of hearing their own voices, or pretend to gallop swiftly like a pony look to their teacher to provide a safe place where they can explore all the possibilities their bodies, minds, and voices hold for musical and bodily-kinesthetic development.
Young children love to repeat things. They want to “sing it again!” and “move like a zigzag!” They are hungry for ideas that tap into their curiosity of how the Eensy-Weensy Spider goes up the water-spout; they want to move and dance when the spirit strikes them. They need teachers who will design a variety of rich musical experiences to help them test out things for themselves. We can play a recording by Hap Palmer or Raffi, but we must give children permission to test out their own ways of interpreting what they hear in ways that are right and personal to them.
A good classroom is geared to music. A sensitive teacher celebrates the clumsy and often awkward beginnings children make in their attempts to move rhythmically. Caring about the whole child means honoring all aspects of their musical expression. An awareness of the values of musical encounters provides the wise teacher with many choices and worthwhile possibilities for immersing children in a rich variety of songs, fingerplays, and other musical experiences.
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