How Music Can Unlock the Key to Learning

July 27, 2011

In the second of a two-part series from the Trenton Community Music School, Gerilyn Stolberg, who is a classroom teacher at Learning Depot preschool – a Music for the Very Young partner school in Trenton – describes the impact participation in the Music for the Very young program has had on her teaching and students.

Trenton Community Music School

By Gerilyn Stolberg
Learning Depot Preschool

As the school year was ending, I found myself reflecting on my teaching and how dramatically the Trenton Community Music School’s “Music for the Very Young”(MVY) program has changed how I teach.

Five years ago, music took on a new role in my preschool classroom. MVY introduced me to a whole new way to teach, not just music, but my entire curriculum. The MVY music specialist visits once a week, and after she leads a rousing 30-minute music class, she and I plan how to integrate the program’s songs and activities into my lesson plans and daily routines over the week ahead.

Joyce from TCMS with sticks

Music has become a way of life in my classroom. I use music to teach, for enjoyment, for transitions and for just getting the group’s attention. Children use their bodies to move, to learn rhythm and beat, (an important prelude to reading). They hear music from all around the world and learn new vocabulary through the diverse songs that we sing. They also have the opportunity to see musical notes in a book that belongs to them. The children explore the beautiful pictures for the songs and quickly begin to associate the picture with the song, another reading-readiness activity.

During the past year, one of my students, a four-year old boy, started the year with very little language and delayed social skills. A few weeks after we began our MVY music classes, I noticed this child was beginning to hum along and sing the songs and chants. One day, when I rang the clean up bell, he took the song cards and sat in my chair. As the children joined us on the carpet he showed the cards and began singing the song- using most of the words. After that each child had to have a turn sitting in my chair to lead a song. He was so proud of himself, and I was speechless! By the end of the year, this child was able to sit with the music book and sing or chant almost every song as he looked at the pictures in the book.

Playing with Scarves in the Music for the Very Young program

I have seen similar results with children who are English Language Learners who learn to sing the songs even though they might not be speaking in the classroom. The English Language Learners light up when they hear a song in their native language on the CD.

The final piece to this amazing puzzle is the family piece. Parent involvement is crucial to success in school, and this program helps bridge the gap between home and school. Each family receives the CDs to play at home. The children also bring the books home to share with their families. The children’s families come to class to participate in their favorite songs during our Family Music Parties. After our last party, I knew we were on the right track when one parent asked me “When are we going to do this again? It was fun!”

Music for the Very Young at TCMS

As I compare my early experiences as a teacher and my more recent experiences, and recognize how many areas of my daily teaching and curriculum are touched by music, I wonder how I ever taught before MVY•

In case you missed it:
Part 1- Bringing Joy to the Classroom Through Music

Images courtesy Trenton Community Music School