Music Builds 7 School-Readiness Skills
Researchers have identified certain skills that caregivers can help develop in their children to improve their school readiness. Generally these skills are based around the broad areas of social and emotional development, physical development and well-being, approaches to learning, communication, and cognition (thinking) and general knowledge. Each of these areas contain multiple skills that children need to develop to be effective learners. Let’s look at how you can foster 7 of those skills (of course there are many, many more) using music.
1. Build Memory Skills
Children build the ability to anticipate when they sing songs. Anticipating beginnings and endings of activities, songs and stories represents an important building block for memory development. Songs have introductions and interludes where one has to wait and anticipate the start of the lyrics. Rhythmically, songs require one to anticipate timing with pauses. Some words move quickly and some slowly. Singing builds memory skills.
2. Build Math Skills
Music contains many patterns, and math skills development depends on the ability to create patterns. Songs have rhythms, pitches, and words that repeat. The overall structure of most songs demonstrates a pattern. When children imitate the repeated movements of action songs, their brains experience “patterns” in multiple ways. This deepens learning. The skill of finding and creating patterns in music transfers to math.
3. Build Cause and Effect Thinking Skills
Singing affords many opportunities to understand cause and effect. If I try to sing with my mouth closed (cause) then no one can hear or understand me (effect). If I try to sing without taking another breath (cause) eventually I cannot produce anymore sound (effect). Singing also demonstrates purposely combining actions to make things happen. Mouth movements, breath, posture, etc. all have to coordinate to sing. Teach the critical thinking skill of cause and effect with music.
4. Build Listening Skills
Strong listening skills grow out of the ability to attend to and respond to language and sounds. Songs give the opportunity to respond to what one hears. Kids love singing songs that require them to listen and respond. Author Mustafa Sevik (2012) recommends using “listen and do” songs. “These are the songs to which students physically respond by performing an action” (p. 10). For example, if the song uses the word “hand,” one responds by clapping. If the song uses the word “feet,” the response is a stomp.
5. Build Movement Skills
Children develop physically by improving their large muscle control (gross motor skills) and by improving their “small” muscle control (fine motor skills). To help them do this, they should participate in play that is active physically. Structured activities requiring spontaneous and directed body movements are especially good. Music can be a great help here. For example singing a song like “Head and Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” with the movements helps children develop their movement skills.
6. Build Self-Awareness Skills
Self-awareness skills help children get along with others, interact better with adults, and learn more effectively in school. One specific skill is to recognize and identify one’s own emotions and the emotions of others. Emotions permeate music. Songs can be bouncy and joyful, slow and reflective, and everything in between. Music triggers emotions in a unique way and they afford great opportunities for kids to explore emotions in themselves and others. Talk with your young one about how a particular song makes her or him feel. Help them understand and talk about their emotions.
7. Build Emotional Expression Skills
One of the biggest challenges youngsters face (and even some of us who are more experienced) involves the ability to communicate emotions purposefully and intentionally in appropriate, effective ways. Music gives a different way of expressing emotions and communicating with others.
Help your young learner get off to a great start on a lifetime of learning. Use music to help build these 7 foundational skills.
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Sevik, M. (2012). Teaching listening skills to young learners through “listen and do” songs, English Teaching Forum, 50(3), 10-17.