The following are specific examples of how I have chosen to apply the information acquired from the seminar into my general music program . The first examples have been taught with success and are used with grades K-2. The 2nd grade reading program will be implemented in the year 2001-2002.
We have all learned the chant, "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue". But we eventually all learned to recognize the information given and expound upon it as we learned the ship's names and the entire story of Christopher Columbus' exploration. 1492 became part of a whole, although the rhythm of the chant is always there, as a cute ditty, it is not how we remember it. The exploratory year of 1492 now is part of the long term memory which includes many more facts about Columbus' voyage.
It is the overlapping of modalities helps the memorization process for all students. By keeping a steady beat in their bodies it reinforces when the words are expected disabling the fear of singing alone and reinforcing group participation. It also enables a slower internal rhythm for some and allows for greater verbal concentration.
To further this is an example of a song I call, "We Can Count By Ten". Although learned by rote, the initial understanding is just that, a song. But coupled with movement very specific to each part of the song, the section of 10 to 100 has its own movement to coincide with the counting process, as well as its own melodic line. A student can find themselves counting by tens to one hundred as early as Kindergarten.(Lesson 1) At that grade level it should be left as that, a cute song which reinforces numbers and a steady beat objective with patchen, or body percussion. However, if you ask 1st or 2nd graders to do it without the music it is almost impossible for some. Usually, they automatically start singing and keeping a steady beat with the motions that have been given to different parts of the song.. At these grade levels taking the simple lesson of counting by tens and augmenting it with mathematical manipulatives, such as groups of tens, the song takes on a concrete and easily applied concept for mathematical groupings, addition and eventually multiplication. With new associations for the 10's groupings, the song is usually replaced by concrete visualize of manipulatives and numerical signs.
The same is true for groupings of fives. A simple song that helps with reading time. (This is the song we have all used for Hide-N-Go Seek) I have added various student driven movements to this one. Although the simple cross-body meeting of a partner's hands seems to work with any level. Some students can't do it without the "Five" chant. They have not made it part of their long term knowledge without recalling all parts of the song. Again, introduction of 5 manipulatives cements the mathematical application and a new visual association. An analog clock face can now be used to further the understanding and application of the 5 groupings.
Are we changing the natural ability of the students with these songs? No. However, we are maximizing the educational experience and minimizing the failure factor.
By adding simple melodies and rhythms to the information the student is spurred to remember what the proper sequence is to recall the information. It is similar to nuemonic devices we have used for the Great Lake names; HOMES. It is also how most have learned the names of spaces in the treble clef in music; FACE.
At this point I would like to focus on the 2nd grade level. This population of students offers a wide spectrum of reading capability. Due to different social maturity levels many slower readers are the very students that have more physical energy than they can put on hold. As a musical specialist, these are the same children that have not met the criteria of changing their internal rhythm to match and external rhythm given by the teacher. Part of a musical curriculum for K-2 is teaching a steady beat. The student needs to ignore their internal rhythm and focus on the external group rhythm.
In a musical setting, these are the very students that cannot hold a steady beat. They can start with the group, but invariably they lose count. Ironically, not because they are non-musical but because of the layers of sub-rhythms they hear in their heads. They come bursting out when the rest of the class is keeping a steady beat. A steady beat seems boring to those students and too elementary. Suddenly, subdivision and syncopations are heard. Harnessing and directing that natural ability is sometimes quite a challenge. It is only when they can internally feel a steady beat that the student can keep track of musical notation and begin reading a notated rhythmic phrase. As that student grows in the basics, their musical abilities blossom.
In a classroom setting, this is the same child that loves telling stories or is fascinated when being read to, but can't read on grade level. Either the tracking mechanics aren't there or phonemic awareness is not strong enough. However, sometimes memorized words are so strong that they replace actual words in the story. The energy level is usually so high, that stumbling over words causes frustration. This in turn cause a high failure factor and the energy turns into behavior problems.
So the next step would be to apply the same internal monitoring enforced in learning the songs mentioned above, to a reading group. Choosing the students for this program will be a collaborative effort of the second grade teachers and myself. This program is designed to work with students that are reading below grade level and are not progressing steadily. It is not designed to combine the student on medication with the student that is not. A maximum of 16 students would be selected, approximately 10%. 8 will receive and extra hour of musical/reading instruction, 2 - ½ hour sessions weekly, the other 8 will not. The student would apply basic musical reading and performance to enhance reading ability to well known and comfortable stories,(Lesson 2), as well as explore phonograms and word families that may be known in their language but not recognized easily in writings, (Lesson 3). Strict record keeping of what has been taught in each session is imperative. Phonograms that have been augmented into word families and consonant weaknesses and strengths will create and overall picture of the success or failure rate. Bi-monthly meetings would review the classroom reading progress of both groups. The classroom teacher(s) would document when and if growth has occurred and if it coincides with their musical experiences. It is important to review any behavioral changes that have occurred as well. After all, the primary objective is to assist the student in self regulating impulsive, therefore distracted, behavior in the classroom. We are looking to make the educational experience something that is within the student's control.
As a starting point, each session will begin with a basic rhythmic exercise. This will provide the group with an external pace. It is at this time the book of the week or the phonogram of the week should be introduced. Simple phrases from the book or words from the phonogram should be worked into the exercise. By building and extending the amount of time at a definitive pace, the students would be forced to regulate their internal rhythm. Every time the class begins, this self-regulation should ready the student for the task at hand. I believe this would transfer into their regular classroom and become habitual. Working in smaller groups with the at-risk readers, reading small phonetically related words to musical notation in a definite meter, enhances the students tracking ability.
As the student builds the sight words and story words/phrases, tracking and recalling details should follow. So the overall effect would be a more confident reader and self regulated student.
The following lessons are offered as a glimpse at the possibilities that are available to help further the above quest. As always the educator is encouraged to create and/or augment to specifically respond to your student's abilities.