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«A Thesis Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College in partial fulfillment of the ...»

-- [ Page 1 ] --

A STUDY OF CHILDREN’S MUSICAL PLAY AT THE LITTLE GYM

A Thesis

Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of

Louisiana State University and

Agricultural and Mechanical College

in partial fulfillment of the

requirements for the degree of

Master of Music Education

In

The School of Music

by

Alison Elaine Alexander

B.A, Mercer University, 2003

B.M.E., Armstrong Atlantic State University, 2005

August 2012

To Connor and Brady, my inspirations!

ii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to thank my committee for their guidance and support through this process:

my major professor, Dr. Sarah Bartolome, for many hours spent revising and encouraging, and Dr. James Byo and Dr. Evelyn Orman for their insight and teaching. My sincere appreciation is extended to the Little Gym, the owner, and the teachers for their participation in this study.

Without you, this study would not have been possible. A special thank you goes out to the parents and children who made themselves available to me and opened a window to their child’s world.

A special thank you to Cheryl, for your love and care of my boys, and without whom this dream would never have been realized.

I would also like to thank my family for their support through this process. Thanks to John, for standing by me and encouraging me, and for helping me to understand that Louisiana was the best place for our family. Thank to Connor and Brady for participating in Little Gym classes and for your hugs and kisses early in the morning after a late night writing! And a special thank you to my parents, whose love and support followed me to Louisiana. Thank you for all the sacrifices you have made to help me accomplish my dreams. I am glad you were able to see me wearing purple and gold again!

iii

TABLE OF CONTENTS

DEDICATION………………………………………………………………………………...…ii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

LIST OF FIGURES………………………………………………………………………………vi ABSTRACT

CHAPTER

1 INTRODUCTION

2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE

3 SITE AND CONTEXT……………

4 METHOD……………………………………………………………………………...15 5 FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION

USES OF MUSIC AT THE LITTLE GYM

–  –  –

6 CONCLUSIONS

APPLICATIONS FOR MUSIC EDUCATORS…………………………………40 DIRECTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH……………………………………41

–  –  –

REFERENCES

APPENDIX A CLASS SCHEDULE..………………………………………………………………...46 B SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEW PROTOCOL ….……………………………...49 C IRB……………………………………………………………………………………50 D SAMPLE CONSENT FORMS………………………………………………………..52 VITA…………………………………….……………………………………………………….55

–  –  –

1. It’s Time to Go and Play Today…………………………………………………………….19

2. Shake your Shakers…………………………………………………………………………..20

3. Grand Old Duke of York……………………………………………………………………..22

4. Line Up……………………………………………………………………………………….22

5. Down By the Station………………………………………………………………………….24

6. Bye Bye Song………………………………………………………………………………...25

–  –  –

The purpose of this study was to examine the ways music is used in classes at the Little Gym. It also attempted to uncover the benefits of the use of music in the classes as identified by the participants. This investigation of music at the Little Gym required the use of standard qualitative data collection strategies performed over the course of four months of fieldwork.

Approximately sixty hours of observations were completed, both as an observer and a participant observer, and twelve semi-structured interviews were conducted with parents and teachers. Data analysis entailed transcribing and coding interviews, examining observations field notes, and reviewing the Little Gym website and class brochures. Emergent themes included the use of music to facilitate transitions, give instructions, and enhance creativity and imagination among students. Further, the benefits of music in the classroom included helping children focus, creating a positive distraction for the students, and providing music education benefits. Music educators and classroom teachers working with early childhood teachers working with early childhood learners might apply these findings in their classrooms, introducing elements of musical play into lessons, using music to facilitate transitions and give directions, and providing opportunities for children to enjoy positive experiences with music.





–  –  –

It is 10 o’clock, on the dot. The door opens and fifteen pair of little feet run across the gym floor to the big red mat where the teacher has just dumped a bucket of green shakers for her class. This class of “Big Beasts,” a Parent/Child class for children ages 19 months to 2 ½ years, is ready to begin. Fifteen pair of eager hands grab a shaker or two and run excitedly to their parent or guardian, sometimes sharing one with their parent. The teacher sings, “Oh, everyone please shake your shakers and sing along with me. How do you do you big beasts, how do you do? (Shakers are hit on the ground twice.) How do you do you big beasts, how do you do?

(Shakers are hit on the ground twice.) Oh, you come to gym for fun and we get you on the run how do you do you big beasts, how do you do?” (Shakers are hit twice, once more). Then, the children are given instructions to shake their shakers up high, shake them low, and the next song begins. The children happily shake their shakers and follow her lead. “It’s time to put your shakers away, shakers away, shakers away. It’s time put your shakers away, at the Little Gym.” The children quickly run towards their teacher, toss their shakers in the bucket and run back to their seats. Some of the children are so excited to be in class, they run straight past their parents and out into the classroom, playing on the classroom equipment before getting corralled back into the circle for opening instruction time.

Music is a used as a tool in the classroom with children across America. Some classes focus exclusively on teaching music to young children, introducing notes and other musical concepts. Other classes play music in the background, using it solely for its entertainment value.

However, the Little Gym of Baton Rouge uses music for many reasons. A careful examination of the reasons why music is used at the Little Gym, as well as what children gain from the use of music in the classroom might serve as a valuable resource to both educators and parents.

–  –  –

limited research available about preschool children and their involvement with musical activities performed outside of a music classroom. In an attempt to fill this void, I sought to understand how music is used in the Little Gym classes as well as the benefits that children gain from the usages of music in those classes. Music educators might benefit from understanding how children react to the use of music in classrooms that are not typical music learning classes and how it might be advantageous to incorporate these types of activities into their classrooms. Also, parents and non-music educators can benefit from a greater understanding of how music incorporated into these activities will help their children and students.

The Little Gym is an example of an environment that uses music as a secondary means of teaching. The Little Gym website, http://http://www.thelittlegym.com, describes the company as one that offers classes “filled with movement, music, learning and laughter. From week to week and from year to year, our age-appropriate curriculum is designed to facilitate ongoing skill development and maximum fun. Children progress at their own pace, developing their confidence as they develop their skills.” Music is not the focus of the class; however, music is used throughout the class to engage students in activities and learning. The Little Gym uses music to draw children into the activities that are provided for them and allow them to interact with and learn from the music used in the classroom. One of the aims of this project was to discover the uses and benefits of music at the Little Gym.

–  –  –

Play is a natural process for children, a process that comes as second nature to the growing and maturing child. Carra Lou McCaskill stated that “for the child, play is the business of life and his toys are his tools” (1943; p. 1086). In fact, walk into a room full of children and you may hear questions and comments such as, “Will you play with me?” or “I want to play with that toy.” In describing play, Richard Addison stated that “play is a difficult word to define, yet we all know what it means” (1991, p. 207). Children are not known to be idle beings and, as such, children become entertainers of themselves. In fact, play seems to be a necessary part of

life for children. As McCaskill sought to understand play, she made the following comment:

The young child does not need a reason for his play, and he is not interested in a particular accomplishment. He plays because it is his business, and he does it spontaneously, gaily, wholeheartedly. While he is about it he develops in all phases, his rate of development being determined by his play materials and his experiences, but he is not playing in order to develop. He has no motive other than happiness. The responsibility as to what advantages he enjoys as a result of his play rests solely upon the adults responsible for him (1943; p. 1087).

Indeed, a child’s work is his play and children value play as an adult values his work.

The goal for a child’s play is on-going, with no specific goal but the process itself (Addison, 1991; Berger & Cooper, 2003; Stevens, 2003; Tarnowski 1999). Although children themselves do not seek to learn through playful interactions, it has been well documented that children do indeed learn from play (Lew & Campbell, 2005; McCaskill, 1943; Smithrim, 1997). Children develop socially, emotionally, physically and cognitively through the action of play (Addison, 1991; Tarnowski, 1999; McCaskill, 1943). Additionally, children benefit both from free play as well as the opportunity to play with specific learning tools. In their research, Berger & Cooper stated that children needed extended, uninterrupted time for play episodes as well as appropriate

–  –  –

more learning (Berger & Cooper, 2003; McCaskill, 1943).

Not only is play an integral part of a child’s life, music is also a natural part of the life of a child (Addison, 1991; Kemple, Batey, & Hartle, 2004; Lamont, 2008; Campbell, 2010). Turn on a radio and watch an eighteen month old toddler spin in circles as he listens to the music.

Visit a parade and watch a three year old clap to the beat of the bass drum. Kemple, Batey, & Hartle stated that “when young children hear music, they move to it” (2004, p. 31). Lum and Campbell discussed that “musically intended or not, children sing, chant, and move rhythmically at play in social interactions and collaborative learning projects with other children as well as in individual tasks set for them at school by their teachers” (2007, p. 52). Even without the formality of a music classroom, children are aware of the music in the world around them. And, in children’s mucial play, the lines is blurred “between the roles of performer, listener and critic” (Harwood, 1998 p. 56). For instance, Patricia Shehan Campbell (2000) made several observations of children about the way they experience music. In her research, she noted, “Music is woven into the fabric of Ramona’s life; she plays games, dances, and dreams of making a video – all to the accompaniment of music” (p. 25). In addition, “Music ‘happens’ to children, and many are immersed in it all the day long. They socialize, vent emotions, and entertain themselves through music” (Campbell, p. 32).

Because music is such a large part of the life of a child, researchers have suggested that it is vitally important that a child’s first experience with music be a favorable one (Denac, 2008;

Stellacio & McCarthy, 1999). Olga Denac stated the following:

The level of expressing interest in music activities and the level of development of music abilities are closely linked with the child’s first experiences in music. For this reason it is important that the children are offered a variety of musical experiences already in the

–  –  –



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