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the next by singing, “It’s time to put the balls away, balls away, balls away. It’s time to put the balls away, at the Little Gym” (See Figure 1 for notation). This song not only signals the end of the ball time, but alerts the children as to what comes next. The children immediately gather the balls, often grabbing balls from children who are not willing to part with their ball for clean up time! The children then gather in the middle of the big red mat to play with bubbles. They experiment with the very difficult to pop bubbles, catching them on their fingertips, stretching them, and popping them with their hands and feet. As soon as the last bubble is popped, the children run to meet their parent or guardian sitting on the mat. They know it is time for “The Grand Old Duke of York!” (See Figure 3 for notation) Then, to transition from this point to the close of class, the “Bye Bye Song” (See Figure 4 for notation) is sung, signaling the end of class.
Then, the phrase “It’s time to get some stamps.” is sung in a sing-song type voice. Children immediately leave the mat, run to the classroom door, and eagerly meet another employee who is armed and ready to stamp little feet, little hands, and sometimes little bellies!
Sarah Smith and her son Bryan, age 2, appreciate the use of music in the transitions of the class. She stated, He definitely knows the order, balls, then bubbles, then drumming. Grand Ol’ Duke, he’ll come over and sit on my lap without me telling ‘em, and as soon as I flip ‘em back, he starting’ to drum. He’s ready, you know?
transition into the class, move towards the high energy middle section of class, and then calm down for the end of class. She stated, I think they probably do their music that way on purpose. The middle of the class is really high and excited, the very last song they do is laying on their tummies on the floor tapping their hands. So, they do stuff at the beginning to get them warmed up and then they get real big in the middle and then they bring it back down at the end.
Even parents with the youngest participants notice the benefit that music provides in helping children feel comfortable with transitioning through the class. Amy Sanchez, mother to Celia, (9 months), stated, that the “Ms. Heather sings whenever we’re going to change activities, and she realizes that change is coming and she’s ready for it. She follows, she goes, when it’s time to play, she’ll play, when it’s time to play with the balls, she’ll do it.” During the classes for children ages three to six, music is used to help with transitions as well. Rhymes such as “Line up, line up, line up! Everybody line up!” (See Figure 4 for notation) or “Down by the Station,” (See Figure 5 for notation) are used to encourage the children to move from one station to the next. Kristal described this as “just incorporating fun tunes to keep them engaged, really.” For instance, in gymnastics, when the children finished an activity on the uneven bars, the instructor sings, “Line up, line up, line up.” The children quickly get in line and put their hands on the shoulders of the child in front of them, often trying hard to be the caboose of the train! Then, the children begin singing along with “Down by the station, early in the morning, see the little funny bugs all in a row. See the station master pull the little handle. Puff, puff, choo, choo, off we go!” (See Figure 5 for notation)
Ms. Kristal cannot imagine teaching classes without using music to help transition.
It would be quite hectic, ‘cuz you would be sitting there yelling, “Everyone get in line.
Okay, everyone get in line.” You know, but the song, it snaps them into it, everyone lines up, they’re like, “alright hurry, we’re going.” When they hear you start to say “It’s time to change,” …and if they don’t come by that point, when you start “Down by the Station,” they know that you’re leaving them, they’re like, “okay, alright, I’m coming.” So I think that if we didn’t have music to do transitions like that, it would be very hard, ‘cause at that time you would be only just correcting. “Okay, guys, you need to line up.
You need to line up. Alright, we’re leaving,” that kind of thing. It’s quite funny, I guess, ‘cause I’ve been doing it for so long, I couldn’t even imagine transitions without music.
Polly Strickland, mother of Avery (age 4), noticed that during Avery’s classes, “there’s usually a little song and they know it’s coming and I think they anticipate what’s coming up next for the structure.” In fact, every Little Gym class is closed with the “Goodbye Song” (See Figure 6 for notation). The children lay down on the floor on their tummies and play the drums on the floor.
Immediately following the song, the teacher sings the sentence, “It’s time to go get stamps.”
The children run out the door of the classroom and into the waiting area, ready to get stamps on their feet and hands. Kristal enjoys the “Good Bye Song,” explaining that we use that to kind of pull them together, but that’s when we make our announcements, what we’re gonna do next week, what we want you to practice at home, so they get excited to kind of do these two songs (the Hello Song and the Goodbye Song) and they’re simple enough they remember them and they get to sing with us, so they’re actually really being a part of what we’re doing. And that’s what makes it awesome for them. Like, okay, “I know this song and I’m ready to sing, let’s do it.” The children not only recognize the song, but they participate and understand what it means when they hear the songs.
Johnson-Green (2008), realized that “As infants develop through preschool years, the ways in which families use music change, moving from intersubjective, emotional regulation and facilitation of transitions throughout daily routines to educational strategies.” Families have used music as a means to help transition through daily routines for years, so it only seems fitting that educators use this technique in the classroom environment. In the case of the Little Gym, music is used to transition students into the lesson, through the lesson, and then throughout the end of the lesson.
Music was also observed as a means for giving instructions to the students. Children quickly reacted to the music directing them to jump like a kangaroo or run around the mat.
Further, children responded well to their teacher singing a clean up song. They heard the song, immediately recognized it, and moved into action. From the first song to the last minute of class, songs are used to tell students what to do, where to go, and how to do certain skills. Heather West, the owner of the Baton Rouge Little Gym, discussed why music is used for those instructions. In the opinion of the owner, Kids actually respond to music, far sooner than they respond to any other verbal stimulation. Their sense of hearing is the most acute sense from birth. It’s developed a lot more quickly than any of the other senses, and it’s sort of a universal language, you don’t have to translate it to understand and feel the music, and it’s meant to stimulate those neurons in the brain that give a sense of calm or comfort and excitement all at the same time.
The first instructions sung during class are, “It’s time to put the shakers away” (See Figure 1 for notation). Children immediately react to the instructions and there is often a race to see which child can put his shakers in the bucket first! This tune is used several times throughout class, although the words are changed to fit the specific situation.
Children quickly put their shakers away and return to their seats with their guardian. The instructor goes around the semi circle, asking each child to introduce themselves, tell their age and showcase a “trick” for the others. This trick may be a forward roll, another trick learned during class, or could be as simple as running across the mat from one side to the other.
Children then participate in several warm up activities, which vary from week to week. One activity involves the children running around the mat, then galloping, then jumping while the music gives the directions. Another activity helps to prepare the children to practice forward rolls. The music will instruct the children to put their hands on the ground and touch the ground,
the teacher and the class or sung through the speakers. Other songs are used to direct children in learning a new skill. For instance, teacher Ms. Heather stated, if I were to say, “Reach up high and touch the sky, hands down, touch the ground” (Sing-song), I’m taking them through a set of skills that I want them to do that is a subset of skills put together that create a skill. You know, in a forward roll, I want them to reach up high and touch the sky, then go down to the ground and they tuck their head and roll over, then I’ve used the music, or even “The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round,” would the parachute go up and down or would the parachute go in a circle?
The children respond quickly to the musical use of instructions. Not only are they learning a new skill, but the flowing nature of the music helps them learn the steps and remember them as they practice the new skill at home. Ms. Kristal discussed this in even further detail.
Just like with kids, if you put it in music, you’re more likely to have them remember that and give it back to you, than just a regular conversation. And that’s why we say in Parent/Child [class], that the young age, to sing things to them, like clean up time, make it a song. It doesn’t only make it fun for them, but it helps them to remember. They get excited when it comes back around, because they know what you’re asking them to do.
Instead of saying, “Go pick up your toys,” put it into a cute little song, put on your jammies, let’s go brush your teeth, let’s eat dinner. It may seem silly to some people, but you actually see a whole different type of learning and interaction happening when you put things into music for them, instead of just dialogue.
When music is used as instructions for the children, the children react. During a Parent/Child Big Beast class, the music instructs the children to jump like a kangaroo. The children begin to jump, even before the instructor jumps to reinforce the instructions. Ms.
Heather discussed the way the children react to the music used in class.
A lot of times the kids will actually listen to the music before they will listen to the instructors. And, since it is directive music, they are actually responding to the music a lot more often than they are to the specific instruction of the adult or another person in the room. It also allows, it’s the structure portion, portion of the structure that can almost seem unstructured. They recognize the songs, they remember quick instructional songs, and it makes instructions seem a lot more easy. Kind of like the spoonful of sugar, right?
Heather described the following:
In the warm-ups and in the group activities and such, it can be used to describe an action that you want them to do. You can incorporate, if you’re doing fast music, you want them to move fast. If it’s slow, you want them to move slowly. We even use music as our cues as to when an action is supposed to happen. Since we use directive music, the words are the directions. The tune is the cue for what activity you want them to do.
Sometimes we even put rhyming words together to get them to do certain body positions in order to do a skill, to follow a set of skills.
At the end of all of the birth to three-year-old classes, the teacher empties a bucket of bouncy balls for the children. The children are often given instructions on what to do with the balls, such as kick the balls, throw them with one hand, or try to throw them over handed using both hands. As one can imagine, at the end of the activity there are balls all over the classroom.
So, instead of instructing the children to gather the balls, the teacher sings, “It’s time to put the balls away, balls away, balls away. It’s time to put the balls away, at the Little Gym” (See Figure 1). Instantly, the children run around the room picking up the balls, putting them away in the bucket and running back for more.
Karla Luther realized that the musical instruction is better than the spoken word for her two year old daughter.
I think that’s super good for them, and so it makes it more fun for ‘em. I mean, I don’t know how, at their age, I don’t know how just taking, just listening to teachers talk and just telling them, I don’t know if that would catch their attention at all. I think that keeps them focused on what’s actually going on, what their talking about. I think that 100%.
Ms. Heather sees on a daily basis that the spoken word is not nearly as effective as musical instructions.
I mean, a song is so much easier to digest than a spoken word. You’ve got the different tones of your voice, you’ve got the different inflections, you’ve got the quicker beats, you can slow it down, you kind of affect a group much more effectively with