MUSICAL LANGUAGE

It is exciting and rewarding to know that what I have been doing professionally and musically for the past thirty years is now a key ingredient of language instruction! 2015/16 research (http://www.brainvolts.northwestern.edu)* has proved the beneficial transfer effects of musical elements as they explain how a child acquires a language and learns how to read, spell, write, speak and sing! For the purpose of adding to the body of research using common-sense terms and specific examples, I have explained how a set of short, one- minute musical poems support the five subskills of reading acquisition. Pre-school teachers are fond of laying strong foundations for language learning with beloved and famous nursery rhymes such as Ring-a-Round the Rosie and The Three Little Kittens! Primary teachers may want to continue the process by using the musical poems that are diverse in content, rich in vocabulary, rhythmical and expressive. The poems help provide meaningful interaction with sound if a classroom teacher plans twenty minutes two times per week interactions.

“Not Your Grandma’s Phonics” musical poems are uniquely designed with the use of a percussion instrument to help a child focus his/her attention on a sound used in the context of musical language. When the child is ready for more formal and systematic instruction, the musical poems provide a solid foundation and extend to other components of acquiring a language; specifically writing, coding, spelling and integrating all forty-four sounds fluent in written words, sentences and speech. Most of the research emphasizes the importance of providing music training classes, but most of the research seldom mentions the importance of the primary and elementary teacher’s role in providing the musical experiences in everyday classroom activities. What follows is a chart that outlines the five reading sub-skills explained briefly; aligned with Grandmalou’s musical poems as a good example of how all children can benefit from using the poems in learning the English language.

Sub-skills of reading acquisition Grandmalou’s Musical Poems
1. Phonological awareness. Listen to correct English sounds used in rhythmical, meaningful, melodic speech with lots of musical expressions! (pitch, timbre, and phrasing). Teacher models clapping to the rhythms of each short musical poem in the whole group. Child practices clapping techniques in the whole group. Child uses classroom headsets to listen closely to each short, one-minute poem.
2. Speech-in-noise Perception* With the exception of the long vowel and special sound songs, percussion instrument syncs with speech sound and directs child’s attention to sound used in words and sentences. With classroom instruction/demonstration and practice, child learns names of percussion instruments and has the opportunity to practice playing the instruments in the whole group and small group settings!
3. Rhythm Perception. Strong, pulsating beats of each musical poem associate with letter name, percussion instrument name, look and moods of each letter/sound and instrument/sound. Teacher encourages children to clap rhythmical patterns, move to the rhythmical patterns, and listen to the poems in the whole group and individual settings.
4. Auditory working memory is ability to process speech sounds orally. In the same way, a child learns simple nursery rhymes such as Ring-a-round-the-Rosie, acts out the rhymes and sings, children are encouraged to memorize short one-minute, expressive poems, act them out and help improve their auditory working memory
5. Learn sound patterns. Classroom musical experiences lay the foundation for more formal instruction in the listen, see, spell, write, read elements common to most language arts curriculums on the market

*Based upon 2015/16 research (http://www.brainvolts.northwestern.edu)* Grandmalou, aka Connie Anderson, graduated from Purdue University in 1967 with a BA in Humanities. She earned her secondary teaching certificate at State University of New York/Plattsburgh; her elementary certificate, reading certification and M.Ed at the University of Toledo in 1987. Her thirty years of experience include teaching in four states in five districts. Recently, it occurred to her an original idea she created in 1993 to help children focus their attention may have immediate application for primary and classroom teachers teaching language arts curriculums.