Humming, Singing, Moving, Learning,

So, does music really make you smarter?
By Sasha Judelson on 7 February 2018

Every single week I am amazed by the power of music to bring joy, laughter, connections, happiness, silliness, comfort and much more into our lives. Music has the ability to deeply move people and touch souls in the way that few other things are able to. And yes, making music uses many different faculties. It is definitely a multi-modal activity. And, you have heard us explain in class how particular activities are supporting your child's musical development as well as supporting their spatial awareness, cognitive and emotional learning, small and large motor skills and helping them understand sociability. It's probably because music uses so many differing skills that we are drawn to be curious as to what broader effects music has. And making music accurately requires a lot of practise, in fact, 

it totally makes sense to me when Daniel Levitin, a neuro-science professor at McGill says that professional musicians have more training than either medical doctors or astronauts!!

So what is it about music? Is it the practise which requires tenacity and patience? Is it because it's best to start building the musical foundation right from infancy? Or the fact that you can also connect with people while you make music? Or perhaps it's having to develop auditory and visual skills which in turns helps kids to learn to perservere? Maybe! There's a study which took place in Bridgeport, Connecticut which you may be interested in, (more details here) where children who were enrolled in a Music Together® pre-school class showed significant gains in areas which are typically measured in young children. These gains were seen in: cognitive development, self-esteem, physical development, self-confidence, and language development.  Impressive!!! This is exactly what we're referring to when in class we take a moment to mention the reason we're doing something for music development and what impact that has on the other pieces of development your child is working on. (Don't panic though, everyone learns at their own pace and some of these developments are more easily seen than others.) But yes, it's exactly what we mean when we say that music learning is supporting all learning.

Supporting the whole child is precisly how I prefer to think about music development. They really are working on and gaining skills in so many areas, in fact their brains and neural-pathways are working incredibly hard even though it looks like pure fun and enjoyment.

 Looking at it from a different angle, the connections, joy and comfort that music brings to all of us are also part of what makes us peoplekind. It is because music is a universal language that it removes barriers and provides accessibility. It is rewarding for them and you in so many different ways. And, it's wonderful too that music supports so very many other pieces of early childhood development

 

 

Keeping the circle going
By Sasha Judelson on 19 January 2018

As some of you may know, I (Sasha) spend Thursday afternoons with a different wonderful group of people leading and facilitating an intergenerational choir for people living with dementia, their care partners and local high school students. Although its certainly different to a room full of kids 5 years old and less there are some notable similarities and parallels!

  • Most importantly, and you won't be surprised, there's no pressure! We are there to enjoy the singing, the music and each other's company.
  • The songs I choose for us to sing each week are very carefully chosen, just as in a Music Together lesson. I want for each person in every Music Together class to be reached wherever they are developmentally and that's no different in this intergenerational choir, called The Circle of Music. Just as kids take away from class what they are developmentally ready to take away and store the rest of the information, so do The Circle of Music participants who are living with dementia.
  • Which leads to a really important part of both Music Together classes and The Circle of Music, the atmosphere is informal but there's actually nothing casual about what we are doing, it's carefully crafted and thought through whether it's the spacing of when to use instruments in class so that the kids are stimulated but not over-stimulated or the singing of songs such as Singin' in the Rain or Let's Go Fly a Kite followed by a song with a round which is a new song for The Circle of Music singers. 
  • And, in both places, the participants come to know each other, enjoy each others company, and support one another; whether it be the latest technique for getting your baby or child to sleep through the night or wishing The Circle of Music students good luck in their exams or sharing an event of interest. Music is the common denominator lead in both settings of course, though we are supporting many other pieces of cognitive function in both Music Together classes and The Circle of Music. And, there's mobility through moving, drumming and stomping to name but a few!
  • Perhaps most significant (and fascinating for me), when you bring your child to a Great Lakes Music Together session your are helping them to develop their basic music competence and you continue that all week long by listening and playing with the music, The Circle of Music singers also talk of singing the songs from a session all week long. Eventually, around the age of 5, if you have continued to support that musical strand, your child will learn to sing in tune and move with rhythm. When the people living with dementia sing with us they are accessing their musical strand, something they can still do, even with all the other effects and complications of living with the dementia. And yet, if they haven't achieved basic music competence as a child, we wouldn't be able to reach them in The Circle of Music.

So, you should celebrate for sure that you are giving your child a gift which will keep on giving to them throughout their lives. The Circle of Music very recently received a $500 gift from The Grand River Hospital as part of their way of thanking Dr Gagan Sarkaria, their lead geriatician, for his multiple contributions to the board of The Grand River Hospital. Dr Sarkaria chose to ask for this gift to come to us because, in his words "I believe that activities such as music and integrating with people of all ages is very beneficial for people living with Alzheimer's and dementia. Thanks for all the great work with older adults in our community."

I absolutely love teaching Music Together and I know that Pam and Lorena love teaching all of you too and it's especially significant to realise that this work comes full circle to help and support people of all ages.

Building supports the Growing!
By Sasha Judelson on 12 January 2018

If you've ever taken a Music Together class you will be familiar with the phrase "what else shall we add to the song?". This short phrase is in fact, one of the single most important pieces that can help to support the development of your child's musical journey! 

Encouraging your child to explore the music in any way in which they are comfortable is very much part of the plan! When a child changes the words, even the actions they are not only developing their imaginative play, their literacy and motor skills they are also making the music their own and that builds a comfort level for them which supports the development of their basic musical competence. Basic musical competence is the ability to sing in tune and move with rhythm.

The first thing for your child to see is that we will add almost anything to the song, including ideas which seem way out there. We aren't looking for logic here but instead for each child to see that playing with the music is fun. Each child needs to feel they can play with music before they start to make music. As adults, we are so used to seeing performers on stage making music that it's easy to forget that they too played with music before making it.

And, although not everything that your child adds or does with the music will feel accurate, part of what they are learning is that not everything will work! It's important for them to know that we can add dinosaurs, trucks, things from outer space and visits to grandma's and equally important for them to see that sometimes we have to change or adapt their suggestions just a little to fit the music. (The "we" here is your teacher!!) Eventually your child will come to recognise that the teacher has made a small change and they'll begin to try making changes themselves so that their suggestions fit more easily into the space and time available in the song - for most kids that's a long way down the line! By giving children the opportunity to play, add and explore the songs in the way that springs to their mind we are building their musical experiences and that's something which is absolutely crucial on the road to basic music competence. Just as you pull skates on to your toddler in order for them to learn to skate, rather than sit them down to watch skating, playing with the music allows the opportunity to begin that energetic and thriving bond with music which can last a lifetime!

Next time your baby is bouncing to music or your toddler is adding all the dinosaur names they know to a song or your 5 year old is singing their made up story, smile, sit back, add to the ideas yourself so that your are stimulating the spiral of learning and enjoy all the growing which is happening through play!!

Dancing, Moving, Co-ordinating
By Sasha Judelson on 3 November 2017

You may find your self surprised at how much we move in our Music Together classes! I remember as a Music Together mom carrying one (and sometimes two) children; and although being glad to be dancing as well as glad of the exercise, finding myself curious as to why we moved so much. You already know from the Learning and Exploring blog and from your teacher that kids and adults naturally want to move to music and particularly for kinesthetic learners.

     Movement supports gross and small motor skills through:

     dancing

     fingerplay

     chants

     playing instruments,  to name but a few. 

While we move we are also supporting spatial awareness and bi-lateral co-ordination. Bilateral co-ordination is the ability to move both sides of the body in either a co-ordinated fashion or differently. It's a learned and fairly complex skill so we want to give growing kids plenty of opportunities to explore the possibilities by varying our moves, alternating legs, only moving one arm and then adding in the other, shaking eggs, and varying speeds. (You can try all of these at home too!!)

Spatial awareness is a developed skill, it's learned both while we aren't moving, when we become aware of what and who are around us and when we are moving, when we need to develop that awareness so that we don't bump into each other. (Breathe easy now if your child is one of those who bumps into others, it's all part of naturally developing skills!!) By dancing and moving with others in class and at home kids and babies become aware of their own movements and the movements of others and how the space around them is changing. That in turn helps them work out how to run in the playground, sit in a circle, give you a hug or stand in line etc.

These are complex skills, developed over time and gradually. While we are supporting the skills in class you can too, simply by putting on a piece of music with a fast beat. Let us know what songs you choose for your at home dance party!!

Learning & Exploring!
By Sasha Judelson on 4 October 2017

Welcome to our blog!

One of the best things about starting each session is watching and realising how each of the babies and kids absorb the information which is offered to them in class. It can be somewhat disconcerting as an adult or parent if you aren't sure what to look for or even if you are seeing anything signficant being taken in by your child! Firstly, don't worry :) babies and kids take in far more than we can ever imagine and certainly more than it appears, even when they have their back to the action!!

There's a more formal term for how your child learns which is "Approaches to Learning", it's more of an umbrella term. In class we most often see the following learning styles:

- visual learners

- kinesthetic learners

- auditory learner

To dig a little deeper: 

Visual Learners

Are those who absorb information by seeing it. You won't necessarily see them repeating the action at the same time but you might notice a visual learner taking in  information by watching and looking. Sometimes watching the teachers though also at the other adults in the room. (It keeps us all honest to keep modelling for all the kids when we notice a child learning by seeing.)

Kinesthetic Learners

Kinesthetic learners are people who learn by moving, they are experiencing and experimenting by moving their own body. They won't always be moving in the same way as the teacher, parent or adult caregiver but are trying out the ideas to see how it feels and fits their body. You'll notice a kinesthetic learner by their desire to move and "do".

Auditory Learners

The last of the predominant learning styles, auditory learners are those who learn by listening and by then, at some point, using their listening and repeating skills to sort the information they have absorbed. Auditory learners really need to hear what they are learning and remember a lot of the information they are presented with just by hearing it.

It's important to remember that no one learning style is "better", it's a case of which fits your child and what you might perceive as their learning style when they are very young can also evolve. As we meet our children where they are developmentally, rather than expect them to meet us, understanding their learning style is hugely helpful. As parents and caregivers we all want to give our kids the very best we can, realising your child's learning style is one of the steps towards supporting your baby or child's healthy development.

What learning style do you think your child has?