Rhythmics lessons / Early music education
Early music education means music and movement. It is a subject matter in its own right while at the same time serving as an educational means.
Experiences with children in rhythmics lessons have revealed that music and movement can be used to create a productive learning environment and that learning and the acquisition of knowledge can then also be extended to areas not related to music and movement.
Many people think of hopping, jingling and singing songs when they hear the words ‘music education’. However, music education is a very complex structure consisting of many different elements.
Children participating in music education do not notice these complicated processes, because everything is done on an informal, playful basis, which the children greatly enjoy.
The earlier music education begins the better the children can be introduced to the beautiful world of music. And all the while they learn subconsciously and experience their environment.
Children should be two to three years old when they start music education.
Music appeals to all our senses. A number of studies have shown that music education is an excellent way of enhancing intelligence. All the children were found to be receptive to music, dance and multi-faceted playful creativity at a young age.
Science tells us that a child’s acoustic-musical senses are most receptive at pre-school age.
Early music education encourages musical skills, intelligence, confidence, independence and self-assurance in an informal and playful manner. Furthermore music stimulates concentration, the ability to accurately perceive and render information, as well as fine motor skills. All these skills are very important once the children start school.
At the beginning of music education, rhythmical education plays a key role since the children experience their body as an instrument and learn to express themselves through body language. A “rhythmical“ child is more relaxed, more alert, more self-confident and more perceptive.
Rhythmical education can positively influence the development of toddlers.
Rhythmical education covers four major areas, which often overlap, supplement each other and build upon each other:
1. Motor skills –Movement games with rhythm and music.
2. Affective skills – Creative thinking, fantasy games and pantomime.
3. Cognitive skills – Conscious learning (pre-schoolers).
4. Social skills – Integration games, playing together.
Music education for young children teaches the children to handle musical element without inhibitions:
1. Painting along to music
2. Getting to know and play Orff instruments (barred instruments)
3. Experiencing and arranging music: classical music appropriate for children
4. (e.g. ”Carnival of Animals“, ”Peter and the Wolf“)
For children from abroad music plays a very important role since the language of music is international. Music education helps to integrate those children into the group much more easily.
Each lesson lasts 45 minutes.
Lessons are taught in a ”music room“.
If possible the children are divided into groups of similar ages.
Lessons start with contact games, helping the children to get to know each other; in this context “friends” instruments like drums, guitar, keyboard, Orff instruments, percussion instruments etc. are introduced. The children are allowed to touch the instruments and try them out.
The instruments ”talk“ to the children, e.g. Hel-lo, What’s-your-name or Go-for-a-walk etc. Name games are played and simple children’s songs are sung. The cuddly toys, which the children are allowed to bring with them, dance and sing along.
How do the children gather their first rhythmic and musical experiences?
After the children got to know each other, we move on to other topics.
The next topic on the agenda is Orientation and movement in space. The children learn to move in a given space, first in a group, then alone, both in a group rhythm as well as their own rhythm.
Accompanied by rhythm and music the children move back and forth in the room, form various circles and learn a variety of concepts like high - low, long - short etc.
During the next teaching block, “My body and I“ the children learn about their body and how to use their body intentionally. Here both gross and fine motor skills as well as the children’s senses are stimulated through exercises.
Next is the topic “My friend and I“, which addresses the social skills. Games like arguing and making up are accompanied by "nasty and nice“ music. Sad or happy music is helpful for expressing emotions.
The subject ”Seasons“ accompanies the lessons throughout the entire year. In the autumn we play fantasy games with rain, clouds, wind and leaves. In the winter we play games with snow flakes, snow men and sledges. In the spring we play fantasy games with birds, flowers and lots of colours. In the summer the children go on "musical journeys“ to explore different countries and people. We “travel” by bike, car, plane or train.
Painting along to music, getting to know and play the Orff instruments as well as listening to and creating music are other aspects that accompany our lessons throughout the year.
Singing plays a key role in music education.
At the beginning the songs consist of just to or three notes and a few words, but attention is paid to every letter and the correct intonation. Once the children are able to correctly sing simple melodies, the texts gradually become longer and the melodies more difficult.
Joint experiences such as making music, moving and creating something together require adjustment and the ability to overcome conflicts. This fosters a feeling of togetherness. So-called ”difficult“ children are often assigned important roles such as conducting, explaining something etc. in order to overcome inhibitions and learn to assume responsibility.
In the second year all these topics are expanded. The children will also listen to simple classical music - but not just as a passive audience but also the main actors in different musical stories.
The children learn to identify the sounds of instruments like oboe, clarinet, violin, piano etc. By listening to music the children learn to distinguish the sounds of all these instruments and to classify them correctly as stringed instruments, wind instruments, percussion instruments etc. The children learn words like orchestra, conductor, choir etc.
In addition the pre-schoolers learn to distinguish between the notes and sounds. They develop graphic symbols for high - low, long - short notes, for different sounds, for instruments that fade away slowly (like the triangle) versus those that are short and accentuated (like wooden instruments).
They learn about the tonal arrangement of texts and how to make such arrangements themselves, how to make systematic movements, accompany songs and texts with Orff instruments, purposely use their voice, experiment and improvise, reflect upon music they have heard and how to draw up a musical score using graphics.
Rhythm, the length of notes, pauses and different metres, musical terms like loud(er) – soft(er) (crescendo – decrescendo) are explained and applied. The children learn the names of notes and where they are positioned on the lines in a stave.
Usually the children take part in early music education for three or four years. After that most children feel drawn to music and later select musical instruments that they will enjoy playing for a very long time. But even if the child does not want to play an instrument immediately, early music education will have contributed a lot to the child’s mental and physical development.