Music with Me: Music for Infants and Toddlers

Musical Mini's is taught using the incredibly well researched curriculum "First Steps in Music for Infants and Toddlers" written by Dr. John Feierabend. The following, cited to

"The infant’s job is to make sense out of the world. While infants’ neurological networks are maturing, they encounter many sounds to decode-including language and, if fortunate, music. Even though infants cannot comprehend words, they are trying to make sense out of the sounds. Gradually infants begin to make sense out of words-even before they have developed the ability to speak any of those words. This effort causes the linguistic synapses to be stimulated which, in turn, signals the brain to maintain these pathways for future use.
By 6 months of age, Patricia Kuhl of the University of Washington reports, infants in English-speaking homes already have different auditory maps (as shown by electrical measurements that identify which neurons respond to different sounds) from those in Swedish-speaking homes. Children are functionally deaf to sounds absent from their native tongue. The map is completed by the first birthday. “By 12 months,” says Kuhl, “infants have lost their ability to discriminate sounds that are not significant in their language, and their babbling has acquired the sound of their language.”[4]
Similarly, infants need to hear and feel music early on if they are to begin to make sense of it. If, however, certain neurological pathways are not built early, they will become increasingly difficult to build later. The time to build and maintain those information highways is during the first months of life."

My "Musical Mini's" classes for infants and their caregivers are a fun and interactive introduction to music! Using the rich repertoire of our history's folk songs and rhymes, children experience a variety of activities including:

Bounces (Helps develop awareness of beat and meter), Wiggles (like "This Little Piggy")
Tickles (tracing, walking the beat, gentle tickles)
Simple Songs
Simple Circles (circle games set to music)
Movement with Recorded Music

The level of participation will, of course, vary with the age of the children. Infants largely observe, but as they attend class regularly, when they reach toddlerhood, they are ready and excited to participate and take an active role. As Dr. Feierabend stated: "The goal is to present appropriate experiences often enough during the infant months so that when infants become toddlers they will respond naturally."

Mini Musician: Pre-School and Up

"Mini Musician" classes for pre-school aged children and up is taught using Dr. Feierabend's curriculum titled "First Steps in Music in Pre-School and Beyond":

This curriculum builds on the previous, but it is not required or necessary to have attended previous classes. My first experience teaching with this curriculum was when I taught general music/choir to pre-school through 4th grade students. All age groups enjoyed the songs and activities presented. The main goals of this curriculum are to specifically prepare children to be musical in 3 ways:

  1. Tuneful – to have tunes in their heads and learn to coordinate their voices to sing those tunes.
  2. Beatful – to feel the pulse of music and how that pulse is grouped in either 2s or 3s.
  3. Artful – to be moved by music in the many ways music can elicit a feelingful response.

This curriculum is presented in an 8 part work out:

  1. Pitch Exploration (Vocal Warm-ups)
  2. Fragment Singing
    Echo Songs
    Call and Response Songs
  3. Simple Songs
  4. Arioso (Child created tunes)
  5. Songtales
  6. Movement Exploration (Movement Warm-ups)
  7. Movement for Form and Expression
  8. Movement with the Beat

The workout does not necessarily need to be presented in that order and every class as a whole will have a different personality and needs. I take that into account when I am planning for each class to create the optimal order of events for maximum enjoyment! This class may be held with a parent/guardian or as a drop off class.

I have seen first hand how incredibly musical children can become. While hosting a class in my home for pre-school and kindergarten aged children, some younger siblings, not quite 2 years old were able to fully participate in pitch exploration, all the movement activities, and even kept a steady beat with no assistance after just 5 or 6 classes! 



Music Literacy: Teaching the Whole Musician

Imagine sitting down to look at a piece of music for the first time. You look at the notated symbols and you can hear with your "inner hearing" what you see, just as you can hear the words in your head as you read this post. You no longer have to rely on a piano to play the part you are supposed to sing in order to know how it should sound. This is possible, even for young children and adults with no prior musical training!

The curriculum used is titled "Conversational Solfege" also by Dr. Feierabend. He takes all the best practices and research on teaching children to become literate in their native language and applies it to becoming truly musically literate. The following link contains an incredibly fascinating story to think about what it means to be truely literate:

The idea is that Music is a language. In fact, in college, I did not have any foreign language requirements because Music Theory and Aural Skills were considered a fulfillment of the foreign language credit. Thus, music ought to be taught and learned as such. Conversational Solfege (as outlined in the link above) is a 12 Step program. Presented sequentially based on our language's natural cadence, rhythms, and most common folk songs and classical music, students learn the following skills (paraphrasing from the material in the link above):

1. Conversational Solfege, Readiness - rote exercises, games, echoes and activities
2. Conversational Solfege, Rote - using the new vocabulary for both rhythms and melodies in rote activities and games as an additional readiness skill
3. Conversational Solfege, Decoding Familiar -  this is where you hear a rhythm or melody being played and you can chant back the correct rhythm using the vocabulary from above, but only being asked to do this for rhythms and songs that you have chanted or sung before, thus familiar material
4. Conversational Solfege, Decoding Unfamiliar - Just like Step 3, but being given an unfamiliar rhythm pattern or melody
5. Conversational Solfege, Create - this is where students use the rhythms or melodies previously presented and come up with their own combinations. In music, we also call this "improvising".
6. Reading, Rote - Just like when you were learning to read, your teacher would point to a word, such as "like" and would say," This word is 'like'" and you'd repeat it, then use it in a sentence. The student is presented with notation and it is read to them, and they read it back while looking at the notation.
7. Reading, Decode Familiar - Using familiar rhythms or music, the students are asked to think through a line of music and then chant or sing back what they see. Just as a teacher would ask a student to read a line of a book silently and then read it out loud.
8. Reading, Decode Unfamiliar - Same as Step 7, but using rhythms and songs that have not been previously used.
9. Writing, Rote - this step is practicing writing notation correctly, just as pre-schoolers will trace and write their alphabet several times in order to know how to write the letters correctly once they move on to writing.
10. Writing, Decode Familiar - This step mirrors Step 3, but instead of just verbalizing what they are hearing, the students will also write it down. This is what in college would be called "dictation". It's like being able to listen to a person read your favorite book and being able to write down what they are saying, but for music.
11. Writing, Decode Unfamiliar - Same as Step 10, but using unfamiliar songs and chants.
12. Writing, Create - This is like Step 5, but after they have verbalized their creation, they write it down. Another word for this is composition.

Unit 1 starts with the most basic rhythm and melodic content found naturally in our language's cadence and the songs we naturally sing as children. Each Unit thereafter grows upon the previous and gets more complex in terms of rhythms and melodies used. There are many games and activities used to achieve each step of the way. A person going through this curriculum will learn how to "sight sing" accurately and confidently as well as how to express their musical thoughts through composition using elements from the Unit you are studying. While this may seem daunting, it's really not! It really IS just like learning your ABC's for music.