Why music matters
This morning we talked about what physically happens when we take part in a musical activity and why this is important to our learning, mental health, and wellbeing. Firstly, we watched a TED presentation “Why Music is Important for Young People” by Anita Collins (2014). Collins is an Australian music educator who is very passionate about the effect that music can have on a child’s learning journey. Throughout the presentation she outlines many interesting points and facts which support her views. She talks about the 2 decades of scientific research of the effects of music on the brain and how it was found studying music increases brain development and raises cognitive ability. She explains “music uses all three areas of the brain at the same time and forms a greater bridge between the two sides of the brain.” And how those “high levels of executive function” can lead to many advantages in learning and wellbeing. I noted some of those are:
- Improves listening skill.
- Greater concentration.
- Increased memory function.
- Faster cognitive responses.
- Improves later life brain health.
- Moderates emotional state.
- Makes learning more enjoyable.
She also goes on to say how this blows up the myth that “to play music you have to be smart.” It is in fact the exact opposite. She believes children should begin to experiment with music from a very young age and continue throughout life. If music were a core part of education, we would be giving our children and young people the best possible life chances, and this would have a knock-on effect for our future world economy and sustainability.
On further discussion with Julie, we learned about her findings in her experience of teaching music. She has been involved in projects which allow children from all schools and varying back grounds to experience music and benefit from its learning enhancement and enjoyment. She explained that in some schools there could be 80% of children from less affluent backgrounds and that projects such as a strings project she was involved in gave those children as well as those not necessarily academic the chance to shine and take part in something they may otherwise would not have had the chance to. The improvements that have been found through these projects were better behaviour, more resilience and increased confidence. I feel we cannot fail to see that this can have a massive impact on the wider curriculum and classroom management. Our lecturer encouraged us to make music happen in class and in the wider community and to tap into people nearby who could provide music experiences for our young people.
Julie suggested we read the Powers of Music by Sue Hallam (2010). On reading this I was able to see the breakdown of where music can support other areas of learning. It also provided in depth scientific evidence to why music improves learning for children. I have deepened my knowledge by learning that speech and music have similar processing systems and there is compelling evidence to suggest that long term involvement with music gives the greatest impact. In early childhood it enhances perceptual skills which affect language and reading. Playing a musical instrument further enhances the benefits to literacy skills by increasing the ability to recognise the difference to the auditory patterns of speech sounds. This is because the process of playing an instrument increases not only fine motor skills but the capacity of the brain to distinguish between rapidly changing sounds. Music has also been found to improve spatial reasoning which is helpful for mathematics. It is clear to see that overall attainment can be improved by being engaged in music education. If it has a positive affect on literacy and numeracy learning self-esteem will grow, so too will motivation which will in turn boost the resilience of the child. However, Hallam points out that “Engagement with music can enhance self-perceptions, but only if it provides positive learning experiences which are rewarding.”
Music Input two
The second music input was a workshop demonstrating a resource for teaching rhythm and pulse. The resource was designed by Kate Picken. Throughout the resource she notes the E’s and O’s from early to second level and we could see how a learner would progress in their music education. The resource uses colour and symbols or shapes to introduce notes to which clapping or tapping drum sticks or something similar each time a certain colour and shape appear in a sequence. This begins the learners experience of pulse and notation. This then builds to playing along with music and gradually introducing rhythm and more notes. Julie gave a great visual idea of a musical cake, whereby the children would start with learning about the pulse moving on to rhythm, melody and finally the dynamics of music such as timbre. I really enjoyed the practical experience from this workshop. I felt it was very easy to follow Kates lessons and I could imagine children would find this fun and engaging. This is a resource I will definitely have in my lesson files for my future teaching practice.
Developing drama as a stimulus
Today we were reflecting on process drama and teacher in role.
After looking at the different drama techniques we were then asked to think about how this could contribute to the different curricular areas. We discussed how freeze framing would not need to be used with thought tracking as just by looking at the body language, facial expressions, and even by using costumes or props can present enough information for the children taking part and watching to see what is happening. Children will develop their thinking skills by reading what they see to understand the narrative of the story. By seeing emotional expression and body language it helps emphasise what the character maybe thinking, feeling, and doing. The children can then share their thoughts and ideas with their peers and deepen their understanding of the story, expand their vocabulary, increase their confidence, and strengthen their thought patterns. These skills will influence all areas of learning and can be used over a variety of subjects. We watched some video which demonstrated the use of process drama in maths, literacy, science, and health and wellbeing. I was impressed by the diversity and scope for using drama in class to assist teaching different subjects. I could see how it would develop learning and encourage and engage all children regardless of their learning ability or confidence. I especially liked the teacher in roll example where the teacher takes the children to story land making use of the fact that children thrive in the world of make believe. Her lesson was teaching about odd and even numbers. The idea was genius but simple. The children loved being part of the story and were engaged in everything that was happening. She played the main character throughout and had control of proceedings in a subtle way, but the children also played parts and offered solutions to the problems which helped steer the story. And through all of this they were learning maths.
Props or costumes are also often used in process drama which can help make connections within the arts. For example, making masks linking art and drama or making music or using musical instruments to make sounds that are part of the story, linking music and drama.
I really enjoyed this weeks’ inputs not just the practical side but reading and seeing the theory and evidence behind the reasons why integrating the arts in school can have a profound affect on children and young people’s learning across the curriculum. I have experimented with resources I can use and see how easily I can use them in class lessons and how they would encourage and stimulate learning. I understand there is scientific research that proves the benefits on children’s learning processes, health and wellbeing, confidence, and resilience. It is important for me now as a student teacher that I implement this knowledge into my teaching practice.
Hallam s. (2010) The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people International, Journal of Music Education, 28, pp.269 DOI: 10.1177/0255761410370658
Ted (2014) The benefits of music education. October 2014. Available at: Anita Collins: The benefits of music education | TED Talk (Accessed: 20 October 2020).