Friday, November 12, 2010

Chants, songs, rhymes & finger plays

The inclusion of chants and songs in an education program promotes the learning of content. As it is more enjoyable, children and adults alike would feel that it takes less effort to understand a concept or remember facts through music. Imagine yourself trying to remember the dates of significant events of the Second World War. Now, imagine yourself trying to memorise the lyrics of the latest Justin Bieber song. Totally different feeling, is it not?

So why do we include chants, songs and finger plays in our program throughout the day? “They are having a maths lesson learning the concept of ‘one’ but why are they singing?” some parents ask. I explain that the most basic reason is to make the lesson more interesting. In more ‘professional terms’, I explain that frequent use of group recitation, singing and dancing reinforces the value of togetherness and group support, values which are crucial driving forces of the collectivistic Malaysian society. Sort of in a case of united we stand, divided we fall.

The musical element also helps stimulate different parts of growing children’s brains. Different synapses are formed, creating more neural pathways thus enhancing optimum brain growth. This cultivates the culture of empathy and viewing things from multiple perspectives. They become more considerate children. Also, it helps children become more fluid and critical thinkers.

Besides, from my many years of teaching music and movement, I have found that children relate more to the lyrics of a song when accompanied by an action. I have tried many ways of teaching a song and trust me, practice makes perfect and different groups of children would require modifications to your original teaching method. Some children learn better if you give them both song and action simultaneously while some children would require song and action to be separated. The song and action helps them remember new words, thus increasing their vocabulary in all three languages (Malay, English & Mandarin).

Chants, songs, rhymes, jingles and finger plays are simple and fun ways of brightening up a lesson. There are many resources available out in the shops, online and the local library. When interwoven and into a normal lesson, it naturally becomes a part of children’s lives. It takes away the need to specially slot in ‘Song Time’ or ‘Music Time’.

So, when other teachers ask me how is it that I am able to teach the children a new topic or concept in a breeze, I am unsure of how to reply. However, I do share with them that their lessons would need to be interesting to grab the attention of the children. I do not mean for you to behave like a monkey in front of them each time. Instead, be creative. Think of how you would enjoy your classes. Would you remember a class that you were sitting down throughout more or would you remember a class that had you up and about and singing along to a tune more?

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