Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Musical learning baby class

Last week I talked about how we use music with our babies in the nursery. This week, I’m going to focus on our lovely Musical Learning baby classes.
These are a real treat for us as practitioners to deliver, as we get to see beautiful little people growing and developing. Every week we notice a little change at this age and it’s lovely to see. Musical development, as with all areas of baby’s development, comes on so quickly during this formative stage.  That’s why we believe exposure to appropriate live music is so important for babies.
Although they aren’t singing along with all the words yet, the little ones at our baby class are taking everything in, and we see so many examples of this. We see smiles, excited giggles, and cute gurgles from even the youngest babies who are just a few weeks old. The slightly older babies are proactive in showing us which instruments they want to explore, and how they want to play them (not always the way we expect!) and we always follow baby’s lead at do re mi.
What the babies don’t know, while they are busy bonded with mum and exploring the world around them, is that they are developing an internalised pulse – which means they are gaining the ability to feel the beat of the music. This is so valuable for when they are a little bit older, not just giving them an advantage for their musical education, but also with really important implications for speech and language development too. If they can feel and anticipate a pattern, they are closer to being able to express themselves and communicate effectively.
At baby class, we try to provide an environment where parent or carer and baby can bond in a really relaxed and informal setting but with all the benefits of a structured activity. For this reason, most of the session is led by the music practitioner who leads rhymes, songs, and musical exploration activities. We introduce new rhymes and songs gradually, and deliberately repeat each one a couple of times to help build that all important familiarity and security for littles ones. There’s also free play time for babies to explore instruments and listen to carefully selected pieces of music.

Despite the well-planned structure of each session, we are keen to make sure grown ups and babies feel really comfortable so feeding, changing, burping, crawling and giggling are all encouraged as well as singing! We have a baby change unit available and want everyone who attends to feel welcome, relaxed and at home whilst enjoying our chilled but uplifting musical sessions. 
If you’d like any more info about our baby class, or any other sessions we run at do re mi, please contact Lizzie via our facebook page, or email us at info@doremimusicallearning.com

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Music with babies at Do Re Mi Day Nursery

Last week my blog focused on our musicianship classes for older children, so this week I’m going to talk about all the songs and musical activities we do here at ‘do re mi’ specifically aimed at our babies. This blog will focus on how we use music with our babies in nursery, and next week I will talk about our Musical Learning baby classes.

So, within the nursery, we use lots of music in the baby room just like in all the other rooms. Our practitioners sing with the babies throughout the day, in addition to me leading slightly more structured music times across the week.  

The main thing we remember with babies is that, although they aren’t actually joining in with the singing, they are taking it all in and we see lots of evidence of them feeling the beat: them making body movements or sounds in time to the beat. We also find the children who have been with us since babies can often play our instruments in time to the beat from a very early age. Babies exposed to lots of music also develop what we call a ‘musical ear’ which means that once they are old enough to join in the singing, they are able to hear the different pitches clearly and reproduce these in their own singing accurately.

Being exposed to quality music provision from an early age doesn’t just benefit musical development, though. There is a huge amount of research that shows music helps with more general speech and language development as well. Being exposed to ‘organised sound’ really helps with bringing on speech. We often find our really young children listen to most of a song and then join in with one or two words with confidence much earlier than you might expect, and this is because of the familiarity of these songs.

Songs that use an element of anticipation are really good for this, so for example our rhyme of the week this week ‘one hop, two hop, I’m a little frog’ finishes with ‘wheeeeeeee…. Plop!’. The ‘wheee’ builds anticipation for the plop, and we often extend the ‘whee’ a little longer each time. The babies definitely know what’s coming with lots of excited arm waving and those who are starting to develop speech often try saying ‘plop’ as they feel confident in the context of the familiarity of the rhyme.

Similarly, it isn’t just our structured music time that helps with speech and language development. We also as practitioners make sure we communicate with babies in a number of ways, and this can include mirroring the noises that they make. This means we can have a ‘conversation’ with babies long before they can actually properly speak. We mirror their ‘coos’, their babbling, and it's amazing to see the reaction this can bring. It gives the babies a sense of control that they are able to initiate communication and a real sense of worth that the adult is copying exactly the noises they are making.

If you’d like to read some of the latest research around music and speech and language development in the early years, have a look at the SALTMusic research project here https://www.priorycentre.co.uk/assets/children-and-families/SaltMusic-Research-Report.pdf

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Musicianship classes

This half term, in our musicianship classes, one of the activities we are doing is composing (making up) our own rhythms! Last half term we put lots of ground work in place to build our understanding and skills, so now we are able to get creative!

The starting point is understanding what a rhythm is, and how it is different from the pulse of the music. The children have spent last half term learning about the difference between pulse and rhythm – the pulse is the underlying heartbeat of the music that never changes and never stops. On top of this heartbeat we can play a pattern, or ‘rhythm’. These rhythms might come from the pattern of the words in a song, or we might make them up. They can be different and can keep changing through the song or rhyme.

We give names to some of the simpler rhythms we have been learning, and the children have become experts at these! We call a one beat note ‘ta’ and two half beat notes ‘tee-tee’. This enables us to understand the rhythm without relying on the words of the song. This then means we can begin to notate the rhythm of a song so that someone else could play it.

The first stage we use in moving towards notating music is to use our heartbeat cards to represent the pulse. Each heartbeat card represents one underlying beat in the music. We can then notate the pattern that falls on top of each heartbeat. For ‘ta’ we put one cross in the heartbeat, as this one note takes up the whole beat. We use two crosses for ‘tee-tee’ as this is two half beat notes in the space of one underlying heartbeat.

We began the notation process by working together to notate our favourite songs and rhymes as a group. I draw hearts on the whiteboard and then the children help me work out how many crosses should go in each heart to notate our songs and rhymes. Once confident with this, we move onto the children working independently to notate different rhythms themselves on a piece of paper.

The best part, of course, is that the children are now equipped to create and notate their own rhythms. When I ask at the start of the session if they are ready to be composers they all say ‘what? No! We can’t do that Miss!’. But what they don’t realise is they have been gradually building up all the skills they need to compose their own rhythms. The children just need to decide how many crosses to put in each heart and suddenly they realise they’ve created their own piece!

The most rewarding part for me as a music teacher is seeing them clap their rhythm through to themselves, and make changes until they’re completely happy with it. This shows me how invested they are – and I always think its easier to care about what you’re working on if it’s your own creation!

The final piece of the composing puzzle is sharing our creations with the rest of the group. The KS1 children at Neville’s Cross have already reached this stage this week and have been taking it in turns to stand up in front of the group and ‘conduct’ their piece – by pointing to each heartbeat in time to the beat while the rest of the group plays their creation on our rhythm sticks. This is a wonderful moment in seeing how confident the children have become musically. The pride on their faces as they share their creation is why we do it! 
If you’d like any more information about our musicianship class at Do Re Mi in Meadowfield please get in touch with Lizzie via our facebook page or email info@doremimusicallearning.com
If you are a parent at Neville's Cross and would like to find out more about what we do in the sessions then get in touch with Lizzie as above, but please contact the school office if you'd like to book a place.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Autumn Adventures Open Day

Our new outdoor area is coming on well! The heavy work is nearly finished and then we can make it our own by adding those magical do re mi touches. We’d love to invite you to come and see it all finished at our Autumn Adventures Open Day on Saturday 3rd November.

Our open days are special to us here at do re mi because, as well as offering new families the chance to have a look around, they also enable all our wonderful existing do re mi families to spend the morning together in nursery. There will be lots of lovely Autumn themed activities on offer, including arts and crafts, and I will be running mini music sessions throughout the morning.

I’m really looking forward to meeting lots of the parents of nursery children and singing you a couple of our favourite Autumn songs! Hopefully it will be a great chance for you to experience our sessions from your little one’s perspective and also maybe learn a few of the words so you can join them in singing along at home as well!

It would also be brilliant to see some of our musical learning classes families at the open day. Perhaps you’d like to bring dad, grandma, or big brother and sister along to give them a taste of what we do here at do re mi. There will be teas and coffees on offer, and the chance to have a lovely chilled morning bonding with your little one doing while doing music, arts and crafts and playing outside as well if the weather permits!

If you’d like to join us, you just need to book a free ticket which can be done through the event link on the facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/events/466464320509573/ Just a quick heads up for you as well that there is also a little incentive that the first 20 families who sign up for a ticket will get a free do re mi goody bag on the day! Now wasn’t it worthwhile reading the blog?!

We hope to see you there on Saturday 3rd November between 9 and 12. As ever if you have any questions drop us a line on the details below or on our facebook page. The open day will also give us a lovely chance to have chat in person so if anyone has any questions about musical learning or wants ideas for how to continue your child’s musical journey at home, come and find me on the day in our upstairs music room.

See you then!

Lizzie x

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Musical instruments

This week at Do Re Mi we have been focusing on using instruments. We are lucky to have a huge range of fantastic quality instruments to use in our music sessions and of course during explorative play in the nursery as well.

We have been using our squeezer shakers, which make a lovely gentle sound, and these are a particular favourite with the babies as they are able to easily manipulate them and successfully make a sound. The older children enjoy using the shakers to imitate sounds in nature, in particular the rain. This ties in really well with our song of the week this week: ‘Rain is falling down’. Check out the video of this song on our facebook page if you haven’t seen it yet.

‘Rain is falling down’ is a song we use right through the different rooms in nursery. As the song is repetitive, it is perfectly suited to the Diddies and Explorers room and encourages them to find their voices and join in, as it has a limited number of words for them to be able to perfect. In the baby room, this song is ideal because of the lovely strong “P” sound in “pitter patter” which the babies love to mimic. This strong "p" sound provides a useful emphasis of the beat as well.

The pre school children can master the song independently and, because it is relatively simple, we can challenge them to sing the song and play their shakers at the same time. We use the shakers to mimic the rain falling down, moving the shakers from head height and gradually down our bodies. We then give a sharp definite shake in time to the beat for the “pitter patter” section.

Some other instruments we’ve been using this week at Do Re Mi include our ocean drum, which the children in the Diddies room have been fascinated with. We love to follow the children’s lead at Do Re Mi, and so Lizzie dedicated a whole music time in the Diddies on Monday to exploring the ocean drum with the children. All the lovely songs about fishes swimming in the sea can wait until next week, as this week the children were mesmerized by all the different sounds the ocean drum makes. It can be hit like a normal drum, but also shaken to create a wave like effect (hence the name!). The drum is also visually stimulating for the children as it is decorated with lots of beautiful brightly coloured fish swimming round the edge.

If you’d like any more information about how we use instruments, or how you can use them at home to support your child’s musical development, please feel free as always to get in touch. We do have a wide selection of our beautiful fairtrade instruments that are available to purchase, so let us know if you are interested. Our instrument stall will also be available at our Open Day on Saturday 3rd November – more about that next week!

Lizzie x

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Trains and rocket ships!

Trains and rocket ships!

Here at Do Re Mi, we work with tiny babies right up to year 6 children who are age 11 and everyone in between. Our Musical Learning baby classes welcome babies who are only a few weeks old, our nursery caters for older babies up to age four, and our after-school musicianship classes continue the musical journey right through the primary school years. I love the challenge of working across such a huge age range, as it means every day is different!

We have a huge bank of songs and resources, and I will always choose material appropriate for the age group I’m working with. However, it is often possible to use the same song and adapt it in different ways, which is great as it retains that familiarity which is so important for young children. Using one song in a variety of different ways is something I find particularly interesting, and I thought I’d share a couple of examples as it gives a real insight into how we work musically with the children.

Up like a rocket
One of our favourite songs at Do Re Mi is “Up like a rocket” which we use in the baby room, lifting the babies gently up, down, forwards and backwards in time to the beat. This physical movement in time to the beat helps them to develop a sense of pulse. Once mobile, we use this rhyme in our Diddies and Explorers room, and our Musical Learning classes, where the children are encouraged to jump up and down independently, helping with both physical and musical development. By the preschool room, we play around with the rhyme, often challenging ourselves to perform the actions without saying the words and seeing if we can stay in time with the beat!

Engine engine number nine
Another example is the rhyme “Engine engine number nine” which is also our rhyme of the week this week. If you haven’t already seen the video of some of our preschool children performing this beautifully, check it out on our Facebook page. We introduce this rhyme with our little ones around about age two, as it has a strong beat and a lovely rhyming structure that they can tune in to. Our Diddies and Explorers love to pretend to be a train in a circle and listen to us chanting the rhyme clearly, joining in with more and more words as they develop.

By the time we reach the preschool room, the rhyme is so familiar that we can start playing around with it to encourage more musical development. We perform it quietly or loudly, fast or slow, and we can change our destination to keep us on our toes. We also introduce the train whistle at this age, to enable the children to explore different timbres and have a go at playing a simple instrument in time to the beat (and most importantly, trains whistles are great fun!).

In our school age musicianship classes, we use this rhyme to discuss the difference between the pulse of the music that never changes, and the rhythmic patterns that lay over the top which can change. We tap or stamp the beat, but we clap the final line “yes, no, maybe so” and identify the rhythmic pattern on a rhythm card. This forms the beginnings of reading musical notation.

Hopefully this blog has given a little insight into how we can take a simple song or rhyme, introduce it at a young age to bring familiarity and confidence, gradually developing different activities and techniques that mean our primary age children can begin to read and write music for themselves. That’s the Do Re Mi difference!

As always, if you’d like any more information about anything here at Do Re Mi, please do get in touch.

Lizzie x

Thursday, 13 September 2018

The Do Re Mi Difference

Lizzie’s blog – The Do Re Mi Difference

This week has been a wonderful chance to see how the nursery and the musical learning classes here at Do Re Mi support each other and interact to create the Do Re Mi difference. I’m lucky that my role involves working across both aspects of the business, so I’m in a unique position of getting to meet all our parents, grandparents and little ones who come to our weekly music classes, as well as leading singing in all the rooms within our musical nursery.

This week was the first week of term for the musical learning classes, so I’ve loved meeting all the families who come to our fantastic sessions. Some of the children I have already met in nursery who also come along to music classes on their days off nursery, but there were lots of brand new faces too. From beautiful little babies, to our school age musicianship class children, it has been a pleasure to meet so many confident musical little people!

This week, we had a bit of an animal theme going on during music classes, singing about mice and frogs to name but a few! The Do Re Mi difference came into its own when we chanted Hickory Dickory Dock, the mouse ran up the clock in its traditional spoken rhyme format. We say the rhyme slowly, and repeat it a few times, so that the children have chance to take in the words, process them, and have a go at reproducing them accurately. By the third time through, even the youngest of children were joining in, and were also performing the actions in time to the pulse. This is where the rigorous musical training that myself and Jane have is really beneficial, as we understand how to deliver well known songs and rhymes in a way that really has a positive impact on speech and language development.

As well as these well known songs and rhymes, we also have a huge repertoire of less commonly known songs at Do Re Mi. These are chosen specifically because they are suitable for young children to be able to sing. These songs have a narrow range (meaning that the difference between the highest and lowest note in the song is small) because young children’s voices are not physically developed enough to master a wide variety of pitches. Again, this is a great example of the extensive knowledge of our specialist staff, which is also passed on to the wonderful nursery staff who sing with our children all day every day.

All our nursery staff our passionate about the Do Re Mi difference and it has been so inspiring visiting all the different rooms in the nursery and seeing them in action. The songs they use are always appropriate and are differentiated to the particular stage of development of the children. Songs are chosen with a goal in mind of increasing confidence, speech and language as well as being fun and enjoyable for the children. All the staff use singing throughout the day to calm the children, or to make tidying up time more fun, or just to encourage bonding and friendship.

Perhaps my favourite moment this week was seeing three of the children from nursery take part in the Musical Learning class on Thursday morning. They knew many of the songs already, and joined in with all the words and actions which encouraged the new children who had come with their mums or dads to join in as well. But it was also really special to see a couple of the children who are sometimes quieter in the nursery setting to really come out of their shell in a different environment and interact with Jane and the new children. This is the perfect example of how both elements of the business here at Do Re Mi feed into each other and support the development of all our children – from nursery, Musical Learning, or both! It has been a privilege to see this in action this week, and I can’t wait to help make the Do Re Mi difference even more special in weeks and months to come.

As always, if you have any questions about anything here at Do Re Mi, please get in touch and we will be happy to help!

Lizzie x