The connection between music and memory is really strong and develops in many different ways!
we can use music to learn a new language memorising the lyrics of a song in a different language;
we can play music to recall memories from the past;
we can sing an old song to stimulate an injured brain… the possibilities are many!
When children are involved in music activities, they need to memorise the rules of the game, the melody, the lyrics and the movement, developing in that moment working memory.
What about when a child is learning how to play an instrument? Their memory is always involved!
Let’s make an example:
– a child to be able to read the note DO on the music stave must recall the information stored in their memory regarding the other notes and correlate them with a first mental representation, both visual and auditory (semantic memory);
– coordinate the fingers using a whole set of visuospatial, auditory and motor programming strategies that involve short and long-term memory (and not only);
– implement a set of cognitive functions including working memory, to control and balance gesture-sound coordination.
After her group lesson based on the Gordon’s Music Learning Theory, when everyone was getting ready to go home, Hatty (3yo) was strumming the ukulele and composing this song by herself. She then came over to me and asked me to accompany her on the uke. Her mum and me had so much fun listening to her little concert that we decided to take a video and share it because we loved all the improvisations that Hatty was doing throughout the song! She’s changing the rhythms and the words, always checking the uke part, keep listening to the music. I also love her way of moving.
Thanks to her mum Morgan for allowing me to use the video! Well done Hatty!
Today we’d love to talk about one of the ways in which we get more in touch with our students’ musical learning progress: the observation of their motor responses to music.
Some of the easiest reactions to notice are the little legs (or little hands) moving to the beat. Finding ourselves moving when we listen to music happens to all of us, most of the time unconsciously. Rhythm, although, is something that gets stable later in the age (if properly supported).
So, how should we consider these little movements showed by the children during the sessions? We should remember that children’s body movement is in resonance with what they’re listening to, namely the music that surrounds them.
We can say that music moves the child even before the child knows it.
Children move unconsciously, in a space that is specially created for their freedom to experiment.
Furthermore, during the sessions, we can often observe children swaying with their whole bodies to the beat, shifting the weight from one leg to another, most of the time accordingly to the tempo and the speed of the music. Their centre of gravity is perfectly linked to the ground.
What else can we observe? Children move, run, jump. They fall. We can pay attention and notice exactly when that happens. We will then see that children fall on the musical cadences; at the end of the musical phrases; or at the end of the songs, meaning that they are constantly listening and following the music (even if they’re not looking at us).
Now is the moment to ask you… have you ever observed your students’ movement? Have you ever paid attention to these details? By doing it, you will be able to evaluate children’s rhythm development in a very natural way.
Why don’t you try to catch their motor responses in your next sessions and share with us your discoveries? You can describe them here in the comments or use the hashtag #firststepsinmusicon Instagram (remember to tag @Gordon UK so it will be easier for us to find you).
In a non-verbal context such as a music lesson that follows the Gordon’s MLT principles, body language becomes very important. Every glance, small movement or smile becomes a way of communicating with the children.
As we sing the songs, we observe the children and their parents, trying to capture their mood and their needs. Children aged between 0 to 3 cannot yet verbalise how they feel but through the body language, they express their entire world. They can tell us if they’re happy; if they feel good in the group; if they need more time to feel free to explore the space; if they are not yet ready to imitate our musical productions.
Everything is written in their expressions, in their way of moving and interacting.
Eventually, when they feel welcomed, they are ready to share and play with the sounds, without fear of experimenting, in a totally non-judgmental environment.E
Right there, at that moment, when the necessary trust between the educator and the child has been created, the most important learning window of the human being’s life opens up. That is the space for us as educators to enter and step by step share our experience, sometimes on tiptoes, sometimes jumping!