Experiencing Musical Concepts
Multi-sensory teaching is a type of instruction and classroom interaction which actively utilizes all the senses in learning. We understand that young children learn by doing. They also feel most comfortable moving from familiar to unfamiliar ideas and experiences. Musical activities by their very nature are very inclusive of the senses. The more sensory pathways are used and the more intensely they are explored, the more effectively and efficiently children will absorb and retain concepts, feelings, and information.
Brain research supports the power of the senses in relaying and remembering information. We must not limit learning to auditory and visual. Providing our children with an experiential rather than an instructional setting will insure the maximum opportunity for the development of inner pitch hearing, awareness of dynamics and phrasing, confidence with pulse, meters and tempos, understanding of key centers, modes, and harmonic progressions, and even a feeling for musical form.
Multi-sensory techniques also help teachers accommodate a variety of learning styles. Through a varied presentation and exploration of a specific musical concept – children gain the opportunity for repetition which sets patterning and develops self confidence musically.
The teacher/care giver should have an overall idea of how a concept will be developed. A flow chart may be helpful in designing the most effective means of involving children with specific multi-sensory musical activities. As the project evolves, be ready to encourage ideas from the class and individual children. Many times children are the best teachers and we must be open to their great creative ideas!
When selecting musical material for your classes, be conscious of how accessible and motivating the song material will be. Are the song lyrics meaningful, silly, fun? Do the lyrics themselves teach a concept? (eg. high, low, loud or quiet, etc). Does the material have a strong memorable melody? Is it conducive to movement and rhythmic response? Does the song offer the opportunity to sing and move at the same time? Does it encourage the use of manipulatives? Can the song be enhanced with instruments (percussion or keyboard)? Will the music encourage construction of a visual idea or stimulate related art projects? A “super” or “sure fire” song will do most of the above and sometimes more.
In conclusion, by providing your children with multisensory, layered learning experiences in music, you will give them the opportunity to develop their inner musicianship and confidence to explore, improvise, and create their own music as their musical skills develop. It is even better if parents can be included in this style of musical training. Many will begin to hear and feel musical concepts for the first time – even after years of formal instructional style lessons. If we experience we understand, if we don’t experience we may not understand!
Jan Keyser, Founder/Director of Harmony Road Music Courses