“A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.” ~ Brad Henry
Recently I delivered a workshop to an amazing group of Early Childhood Education students at George Brown College. Specifically, I was asked to speak to them about music experiences for infants and toddlers. It was great fun to be able to share with them ideas that I explored when I had the opportunity to teach music to infants and toddlers in both child care and family support settings. Of course it is also of great importance to reach future teachers with the idea that while music experiences are joyful and fun they give infants and toddlers their earliest introduction to musical concepts such as beat, rhythm, melody, pitch, tempo and timbre and foster growth and development in each domain. Musical experiences can encourage social interest, turn taking, self regulation, receptive and expressive language skills, and various gross and fine motor skills. We discovered that music education for the youngest children has many layers, and therefore it is important to be thoughtful about the musical materials that you select when teaching, and to be prepared to explain both the musical and developmental outcomes of these learning experiences.
After discussing the theoretical aspects of music education, we moved into the practical part of the workshop. Throughout the evening we explored a wide variety of songs, rhymes and games that can be enjoyed very easily with infants and toddlers. There are many books, recordings and websites available to educators that can aid in the selection of teaching materials. We looked at unusual ways to incorporate props such as mirrors, finger puppets, dolls, scarves, pop-up books, musical instruments (e.g., drums, rain sticks and recorders) and items like umbrellas to encourage role play. We used our bodies to do action rhymes and our voices to sing in canon, which I must say was a very magical experience! In simple and hands-on ways students could explore the experience of being like children engaged in musical play, repeating the songs and rhymes several times to facilitate learning them, and using materials that engage interest and add a different dimension to the song or rhyme. These experiences encouraged students to see the theory imbedded in the play-based experiences and how all these pieces fit together.
What really impressed me about the evening that I spent with the students at George Brown College was their eagerness to learn, their willingness to participate and their motivation to create their own space for sharing arts resources, ECE Creative Arts in Teaching (http://ececreativeartist.blogspot.ca/). I can say in all honesty that there was a time when I would never have imagined myself delivering workshops and teaching courses to ECE students, never mind singing with much confidence in front of young children. I realize how much courage it can require to take artistic risks when teaching, and how anxiety inducing it can be to make mistakes, to “look silly”, to feel like you’re not “good enough”. We have all had different experiences with our education in the arts, and it is my hope that negative learning experiences will not undermine any teacher’s belief in their ability to bring music into the lives of students, and to make a positive difference for the children in their care. Confidence has as much to do with teaching music effectively as knowledge of musical concepts and child development. I hope that I succeeded in sharing ideas with future teachers that enable them to feel confidence, to take artistic risks, to see the value of arts education and to be open to the joy that teaching music can bring.
Thank you, Professor Kimberly Bezaire, and to the amazing students at George Brown College for your invitation to share an evening of music making with you. I wish you success with the rest of your studies, and hope the ideas we shared at the workshop will help you in your future work with children.