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.