Exploring Rhythm and Melody in Early Childhood

In this age of Zoom, it is perhaps the greatest sadness for music teachers to not be able to hear their classes sing as a group.  Technical sound lags and a platform geared towards projecting one voice at a time combine to make sing-alongs frustrating and cacophonous. So, what do we do?  Well, we explore rhythm and melody using new visual technology, for one!

In the early childhood music classes, after singing individual musical questions & answers, we head to the digital whiteboard to ‘sing a squiggle’.  Here it becomes easy to see melody direction and duration, a first step of musical literacy. Students see and sing sounds that are high, low, long, short, or like a roller coaster.  Experimenting with Chrome Music Lab furthers the visual-musical exploration, with games that ‘draw music’, manipulate sound, or show the ‘spectrograms’ of different instruments.

Sometimes the visual takes the form of drawing songs.  Finn, my artist son, often joins us to draw ‘Aiken Drum’, whose facial features are actually foods suggested by giggling students. Sometimes we draw ‘Hi, Ho, the Rattlin’ Bog’ as we sing.  And sometimes my musician son joins us to share his mandolin or violin and sing favorite songs. Often students will share their instruments at home, too. One day in the Preschool 3s class, we discovered that we all had brought ukuleles, so we made a merry ukulele band!

Early Childhood music means that we have to move to the music as well, and this is where classes can get fun.  Children play ‘Follow & Freeze’, moving to slow & heavy or quick & light music, freezing on the phrase endings. And songs like ‘Birdy Flies Away’ allow students to fly away from their computers and arrive back at just the right time in the music. Their sheer joy and scampering about is fun to watch from the teacher’s side of the screen!

Although I can’t hear their piping voices singing together, I can see the children singing, dancing, and playing the beat.  I can’t wait until we can sing together again!

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