All human groups have music. It is a path of culture in any society. Music is also a means of communication and self-expression. It can be therefore seen as another form of language. The child needs to have music to absorb and instruments with which to make music. He needs the opportunity to express himself spontaneously. As a base for the child’s musical experiences, we want to provide him with the elements with which to make music. The elements are pulse (or rhythm), pitch (or tone), dynamic, timbre, and form.
For the primary child the two most important elements are pulse and pitch. An interesting way to bring a child’s attention to pulse is to have the child feel his own heartbeat. You can then ask the child to move his hand with the pulse. This can then be associated with the pulse of the song.
For pitch, the classroom provides the bells. This gives the child the chance to absorb and visualize the sounds we make. The bells represent the C Major scale and with no sharps. When we add the black bells, we are giving the child chromatic scale. The child internalizes and absorbs the tonality of music because he hears it in the classroom through the work of others and his own work with the bells. The full work with the bells begins with the Sensorial Exercises. He comes to recognize the tones, learns to order them, and is given the names. It is also helpful if the child combines his own voice with the tones of the bells. Through matching and grading, the child becomes familiar with the tonal system. The later work has to do with notation. The child can learn to write and read music. He can compose little melodies. These will be his own creative expression.
The child’s first musical instrument is himself. The young child responds particularly to experiences with tone and pitch. It is therefore wise to move to music every day. Some children come to the class with this experience but many children have never tried to move to music. Because it is very natural to have the body respond to music, as children see others moving their bodies, they too will start to move.
One idea is moving to the sound of their name. For example, Sarah Griber would break down to: Sar-ah Gri-ber. Hold the hands of a child and swing back and fourth to their name. You can also walk on the line by walking quickly or slowly based on their names. Different names will create different movements.
Singing is another way we can use our bodies to make music. Singing is important because the child is leaning to use his body as an instrument. Singing can be done individually or as a social activity. Singing everyday is important and is a collective activity, although no one is ever forced to join. You will want to build a repertoire of songs with the children with songs from every category. Songs such as nursery rhymes, folk songs, popular songs, foreign songs, and songs that include movements should be incorporated into the daily life of the classroom.
While singing, it is important to remember to sing at a higher pitch than an adult is used to. A child’s pitch is at a higher level than that of an adult. To help with tone, you can have the child raise or lower their hand as the pitch is high or low.
Dynamics are easily shown by singing the song “Twinkle, twinkle little star”. This is a quiet song and the children will pick this up. Other songs such as “She’ll be comin’ round the mountain” is a stronger and more vivacious song.
Timbre, or the quality of sound, is shown clearly through the instruments of the orchestra. This can be shown through the use of Classified Cards. This can also be done by listening to the instruments in isolation and then the instruments being played with others. Having a stereo with headphones would allow a child to go and listen to music when he wishes without disturbing other children. You may also wish to have a chart where children can add instruments to it freely.
Although form is not specifically taught, you can bring the child’s attention to it. For example in a song with an A, A, B repetition, you can discuss how it repeats the same sounds.
History should also be incorporated into the child’s music appreciation. Composers and songs known to the home culture should be taught to the child. Recordings can be used to do this. These are all taught in a Three-Period lesson. For the 1st period, one song is taught at a time, not for him to repeat but for him to recognize it. For the 2nd period, you can play the song and ask the child is this (for example) Chopin or Bach? For the 3rd period, you can play a song and have a child name it.
It is nice to make a setting for this lesson. You can take out the puzzle piece of the home country of the composer, or use the flag of his country. You can roll out a rug and then tell the story of the composer. It is nice to show images of the composer or of the places where he lived. This must all be given with enthusiasm. This will give the child a foundation for a lifetime of music appreciation.
Music as an extension of language includes the names of the composers and of their music. For language training you can have stories and discussions about the composers. You can have special musical events in the school. You can play the question game about the instruments, such as “How do you get a sound form a violin?”
One of the best ways to incorporate music is to simply listen to it. Afterward, feel free to discuss the music you listen to by asking open questions such as: