I’ve been teaching music groups in preschools for about 25 years. Many times when I go into a new school to teach a music class the teachers will be surprised at how engaged the children are during the music time. My music classes are 30 minutes long and from the beginning to the end the children are completely focused on the activities that I am presenting.
Over the years, through trial and error, I’ve discovered the two essential elements that are necessary for a really high quality, engaging music time for young children. The two main elements to consider are:
- The way that the music is presented
- The curriculum itself
You must have a combination of the right kind of songs and activities that you are presenting and you also need to present them in a way that captures and maintains the children’s attention over the course of the group. In this articulate I am going to focus on the curriculum.
Interactive Songs and Activities
Preschool music curriculum first and foremost must be interactive in every aspect. This is not a performance by the teacher. The teacher is a facilitator who is creating an opportunity and environment for the children to express themselves in creative ways and engage with the music. There is never a time during the music group when the children are being asked to sit and listen passively.
Call & Response
From the very beginning we start with vocal echoes or “call and response”. I start by saying “I say it first and you say it after me”. I use a series of short phrases that the children can repeat back in a rhythmic pulse. Sometimes I incorporate themes such as weather or holidays that might be coming up soon. If it’s raining outside, or wendy or sunny I may incorporate those themes in the vocal echoes.
From there we present songs where the children are directed to move their bodies in specific ways. They shake their hands, jump, hop on one foot etc. That’s what we call a directed movement song.
Then we move on to imaginative movement songs. Some of the best imaginative movement songs are ones where the children are invited to move their bodies like different kinds of animals. If it’s a crab crawling on the beach they can do a backward crab crawl or they can squat down and use their fingers for claws.
In the second half of the group all the children sit at the edge of the rug and we pass out shakers, drums, triangles, bells and scrapers. We us the instruments to play songs along with the guitar and tell musical stories where the children’s instruments are making the sound affects. In one of our stories the drums are the sound of elephants running through the jungle, the shakers bells and triangles are the splashing water and the scrapers make the sound of the frog in the story.
Wrapping Up With Colors
Then we bring out rhythm sound cards that have various music notes on them. The children learn to read and play the music notes on the instruments. Finally we wrap up with a song about colors where the children notice what colors they are wearing and stand up when that color is mentioned in the song.
Be Spontaneous, Stay Aware & Have Fun!
Preschool music groups are a very creative environment. Teachers should feel free to be spontaneous and try out new ideas on the fly. As you present your material, stay aware of the group and let their energy and mood dictate what preschool music curriculum songs and activities you choose to present.