Teachers at the Arliit Child & Family Research & Education Center believe that music provides
children with opportunities to develop in multiple domains: physically, social-emotionally,
cognitively and culturally. It is because of this that music is considered an important part of
the Arlitt curriculum. Teachers devote time to planning engaging music activities that support
children's development in each of these areas.
There are many opportunities for fine motor development in the music curriculum. For
example, a teacher may place tone blocks and mallets in the music center of the classroom. As
children experiment with striking the mallets they develop hand-eye coordination. They also
test different grips to hold the mallets. This helps them to develop the strength and dexterity
needed to use art tools and writing instruments.
Music also provides opportunities for gross motor development. During group time, the teacher
may instruct the students to stand up and stretch their muscles. She may then turn on music
and encourage the children to dance. As the children engage in these movement activities
they learn how to move their bodies in time to the music. They also work on balancing and
coordinating their movements.
Teachers integrate music throughout the day to help children develop social competence and
to support emotional development. For instance, many teachers use songs to help children
prepare for transitions. Transitions are often difficult for children because they are fully
engaged in their activities and do not want to stop their work. Using songs to give a five minute
warning helps the children to prepare for the coming change. Music can also provide and
emotional release for children who have difficulty expressing their emotions. A child who is
feeling angry may beat the bongo drums in the music center. Another child who misses her
mother may sing lullabies to the baby dolls in dramatic play.
Outside of the school environment most music experiences require cooperation and
collaboration. Musicians must work together to create the music. By working with their peers
to create music, children learn the fine art of working together as a team. They learn how to
share, negotiate, take turns and problem solve. These are all skills that they will need in order
to be successful, both in school and beyond. The music curriculum can always be adapted so
that all children in the class may participate and feel successful.
Music provides many opportunities to integrate literacy, mathematics, and science. Many
songs can be accompanied by big books and literacy charts. The recognition of rhymes and
familiar words provides a foundation for early literacy skills. When teachers sing chants and
clap the syllables in each child's name, it provides a foundation for noticing syllables in other
Music also contains beats and rhythms that frequently create a pattern. This provides a
foundation for early mathematical skills. A teacher may place two small glass jars filled with
water in the music center. One is filled almost to the top and the other is filled only half way.
As the children tap the bottles with their mallets they notice that each bottle creates a different
sound. They begin to experiment with creating different patterns. First they tap one bottle and
then the other. Then they begin to tap one twice and the second one once. As their knowledge
of patterns expands, the teacher adds more bottles so the children can experiment with more
Music can also be connected to science, especially through experiences with instruments. By
having access to the instruments on a continual basis, children have repeated opportunities to
experiment with the instruments and gain physical knowledge. They begin to notice that the
tone blocks are round and are made of wood. They will also notice that the tone blocks are
hard rather than soft. As they experiment with the instruments they begin to notice cause and
effect relationships and make comparisons. For example, they notice that tapping the larger
tone blocks creates a different sound than tapping the smaller tone blocks.
Music is very beneficial to classes with multilingual and multicultural students. Music plays
an important role in almost every culture. Utilizing music in the classroom provides an
opportunity for teachers to show respect for the children's home cultures. Teachers may go
to the library to borrow C.D.s from children's home countries. These can be played in the
classroom during the day. However, it is also possible to adapt songs used in the classroom so
that they can be accessible to multilingual/multicultural students. For example, during group a
teacher sings the song It Was Snow. She uses an interactive chart in order to integrate literacy.
During the song she shows word cards with the word snow in Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic,
and Telugu. This not only supports English language learners as they learn English, but it also
models respect for their native language and culture.
It Was Snow is from More Than Singing (Redleaf Press)
© 1997 by Sally Moomaw