Music and Language (page 2)
For most young children, language unfolds naturally as part of the growth process. Maximum development comes only through careful nurturing of language opportunity by adults.
Music and Communication
Music and language are avenues of communication. Through each, children express delight, anger, and resentment. They quickly sense love, rejection, and concern as they listen to a voice. The arts are unsurpassed as an emotional release for young children. Fears, discomfort, and anxiety can find outlets in song and rhythm. How much healthier than aggressive acts are the expressive arts of music and language for the young! Children delight in language play and language games and respond intuitively to the fascination of music. Even a 15-month-old claps and burbles on hearing the tune released from a tiny musical lamb! Infants, too, are consistent and spontaneous music makers and sound explorers. Lullabies will produce cooing and gurgling, the precursors of language.
Language development is very important in the child’s total development. Singing is an excellent aid in promoting good language patterns. Many songs contain repetitive sounds that can help children with speech problems. Pronunciation of the words helps distinguish initial, medial, and final consonant sounds. The child can more easily understand sentence structure by singing musical phrases. McGirr (1994–1995) reports that young children can complement all areas of their language learning with music and can enhance their musical activities with language. Music provides a wonderful way for young children to extend their language. When “emergent readers hear, sing, discuss, play with, and write songs, they are building important background knowledge that they will draw upon during later reading and writing experiences. With each new song, students learn concepts and word meanings that they will encounter in print” (Smith, 2000, p. 647).
Folk songs, country music, and commercials all appeal to the young child and develop and extend vocabulary. Music activities also develop listening skills, increase the attention span, improve comprehension and memory, and encourage the use of compound words, rhymes, and images. Feierabend (1990) recommends the use of traditional children’s folk songs and rhymes because they “ensure a natural flow of musical language and textual content relevant to the young child’s interests” (p. 15). Folk songs from cultures around the world should also be included to help children as they begin to develop multicultural awareness and insights.
We know that music offers unique possibilities to expand and extend vocabulary. A rich vocabulary is a necessary skill for young children as they grow toward adulthood. A rich language may well be our most important achievement. This gift of language must be shared. The child delights in sharing language with receptive adults. To fully extend sensory experiences and expand the use of language, the adult cannot be a token listener. The young child quickly senses inattention and disinterest. The adult, too, must be imaginative and sensitive to mood and opportunity. Music is a natural and personal language. Those who work with children know that the languages of words, of music, of the body, and of gestures come naturally to most children.
Awareness is the key to language and music stimulation. Singing is often better than talking. The adult can make simple tunes:
- “Mary, put the box away.”
- “Tommy, you can stand up tall.”
- “Billy, let’s cooperate.”
- “Mary, Mary, brush your hair.”
Children are true and avid imitators. After hearing an instruction, a simple melody, or a line from a book, their language exhibits fluency, ease, and color. For many children, words hold a special attraction. When blended with music and movement, the enchantment expands.
Examples of Simple Tunes
- "Polly Put the Kettle On" and "Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush" are songs that include repetition and a chorus.
- "Miss Mary Mack, All Dressed in Black" and "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain" have repeated words and phrases that can be used to create an echo effect.
- "If You're Happy and You Know It" and "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" encourage children to make sound effects or animal noises.
- "Hush Little Baby" and "Humpty Dumpty" tell a story.
- "Do You Know the Muffin Man" engages children in a question-and-answer song or name game (Jackson, 1997).
© ______ 2005, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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