Hello, my name is Julie Rapoport and I am the Music & Movement enrichment teacher at the Infant & Toddler Center and Preschool, and for our Prekindergarten students. My goal each year is to encourage every child’s natural interest in and love of music. Since young children already love music, my job is pretty great!
Today I’d like to share a little more about music instruction with our youngest learners. Although I have a basic structure for the class, I focus each session by following the group’s mood. They always let me know what works for them, in no uncertain terms. Some days they’re all about the rhythm instruments, other days they’re more about movement, dancing or being danced in our arms. They can also get into a very intense observation mode: watching and listening intently as I use my voice to demonstrate musical dynamics such as fast/slow, loud/quiet, high/low. Even our youngest children can be incredibly focused observers. They are mesmerized by repetitive sounds and motions, and they love to watch the bigger children do their thing.
Repetition is key with this age group. They crave it, and with good reason. Every time they ‘practice’ a sound or motion they introduce subtle changes that deepen their experience. The infant classes love being able to predict what comes next in a familiar, consistent series of sounds and movements. Our toddlers are given room to experiment with words and syllables and repeat them in rhythmic patterns within the context of familiar songs. Because repetition is the key with this age group, there are certain songs and activities that we will do almost every session:
- A Greeting Song, in which I sing their names to various melodies.
- Shaker Eggs, in which the children play their eggs along with songs that I play on the ukulele. We explore tempo and volume in this activity. One song that I do almost every session is, “The Rain Is Falling Down-Splash” The infants are already picking up on the structure of this simple song by following my motions and raising their arms along with me. Some even copy my facial expression! The toddlers are working on making a single strong drumbeat on the word SPLASH.
- Drumming, in which each child experiments freely and is also given the opportunity to echo rhythms.
- Stuffed Animal Theatre, in which we use small stuffed animals to dramatize nursery rhymes and songs. I find the dolls work well to facilitate movement and to clarify the meaning of lyrics.
- Moving to Music, in which we engage in guided and unguided movement to a variety of rhythmic recorded music. The toddlers are all about moving their bodies in every imaginable way. The infants at this point are mesmerized by repetitive scarf motions, and being bounced on laps.
As often as possible I try to choose songs and activities that will relate directly to the child’s immediate experience; such as songs about rain if it has been a rainy morning. I also usually create a slow progression of musical activities that follow the changing seasons. That said, I feel that the classes are more of a spiral than a straight line; we always return to our favorites so that the children can feel their own progress. It is pretty amazing to see and hear what they can do in the spring, that was beyond them in the fall!
Julie Rapoport, Music & Movement Teacher