«A Thesis Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College in partial fulfillment of the ...»
Based on my observations and conversations with teachers and parents, it does appear that music is being used effectively to focus the children on the activities of the class and draw their attention towards specific tasks. This finding is unique to the present investigation, as music as a means to focus attention did not emerge in any of the previous studies reviewed.
Music as a Positive Distraction Further, several parents mentioned how shy their children are and how much the music
affected her oldest daughter, Stacey.
Stacey, she was such a momma’s baby, I guess, and clung to me so much, whenever they would sing, let’s go and play today, it seemed like she would get excited and sing the song and maybe venture off from me a little bit more. If they had just said, “Okay, go play,” I don’t think she would have ever let go of me. I mean she was still clingy, but she would interact with the kids a little bit more. Like when they all laid down on their bellies to play the drums, she would get down there and do it.
Sarah Smith has recognized this with her two year old, Bryan, as well. Bryan often walks into the classroom and begins climbing on the balance beam or swinging on the uneven bars, keeping himself separated from the other children. Yet, when the instructor takes out the shakers and begins the songs, Bryan runs to the big red mat, grabs a shaker, and begins to participate with the other children. Bryan will participate in the warm up activities, and although he stays close to his mother, he does participate. The music excites him and encourages him to participate.
During free play, you can often find Bryan dancing to the music on the big red mat, rather than exploring the equipment with the other children. Yet, Sarah Smith sees this as an improvement as he is actually in the class, participating to some extent.
Shelby Brown also appreciates this benefit of music in the classroom. Although her son Cameron has no trouble joining his classmates in participating in class, her daughter, Alyssa, is, as Shelby Brown says, more anti-social. Alyssa is very shy and often runs or cries when she is around people she does not know well. However, Shelby Brown credited the music to helping Alyssa transition in to the class.
I think the music added a little calming factor to her. In a way, I think that has kind of helped her come out a little bit in class and try, and now she’s actually loving it. In the opening when they play the opening music and get to run or when you’re doing your warm-ups, she’s starting to get into it. Because, I’ll sing the song with the guy, or Kristal is singing the song, so she sees it and she’s starting to have more fun with it. With, in the beginning with her, I thought, “oh goodness, is she ever going to get into this class.”
at home. Alyssa is becoming accustomed to hearing the music and having familiarity with the music allows her to feel more comfortable in class.
Not only does the music distract the children from the nerves of simply participating in class, the music also proves to be a distraction to the children as they are nervous about trying a new skill. Theresa Williams discussed about her daughter, Anna, as she was walking the balance beam by herself.
On the beam today, she wanted me to sing her ABCs. She walked the beam by herself….
In class this morning, we were singing and she walked the whole beam by herself. She wanted to do it again and she said “ABC, momma.” She wanted me to sing it. She doesn’t know all the words, yet.
So, although Anna was typically nervous to walk the beam without help, the use of music distracted her enough to help her conquer her fear. And, it was a pretty impressive task for a two year old to walk the length of the beam without help!
Amy Sanchez, mother to Celia, sees that the use of music plays an important part in her life and the life of her child. However, she notices the benefit of music played in class at home, rather than in the classroom. Celia, normally outgoing and bubbly at home does not always participate in class. In fact, Amy Sanchez said, “In class, she’s very quiet, and very observant.
She has a lot to say, believe me, she definitely talks here at the house, just not in class.” Amy Sanchez observes everything that goes on in class, but does not always participate. However, when she gets home, she brings out shakers and other music that are a part of the class. And, although Celia does not always participate in class, Amy Sanchez noticed that the music “[B]rings out of her a few things, like wanting to dance and wanting to sing and clap. I think it’s a good influence.” She added, “I do think that Little Gym does a great, great job, in providing a background for dance, musically, physically and other things.” The music provides an excellent
forget the fears the feel about both the skills and the social situation. Again, this finding was unique to this study, as none of the literature reviewed discussed music as a distraction.
Music as Subject Matter Other mothers noted the musical benefits their children received while participating in the Little Gym classes. Elaine Stroud mentioned, “It inspires them to clap on rhythm, and move their bodies to a certain way to the music. Keith likes to jump in time with the rhythm a little bit different than Alexis, Alexis would sit and clap and Keith would jump up and down.” She added, “It teaches them rhythm, movement in time with the music, in that case listening and listening to instructions.” Shelby Brown, mother to Cameron and Alyssa, ages 3 and 19 months, also appreciated the use of music in the class.
He’s old enough now that he gets it, and gets excited about a song, or whatever, or the music, and he just wants to dance to it, or sing to Alyssa, or teach Alyssa how to do it. So to me, that’s the biggest benefit, that he’s enjoying it so much, by being there and hearing it, that he comes home and teaches his sister… But, I definitely think it has made Cameron more aware of music, and of the beats, and of, you know what I’m saying, to where he is more interested at home...
These finding are consistent with the research completed by Romanek (1974), who discovered that preschool children are interested in music and want music to be a part of their play.
Interestingly, one mother, Elaine Stroud, actually realized for the first time the musical benefits Little Gym provided for her children. She appreciates what Little Gym has provided for her children in terms of physical activity and self esteem and now appreciates even more the idea that Little Gym provides musical benefits as well. And, research has shown, 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 preschool period so that they can form a positive relationship toward music (Denac, 2008, p. 439).
be developed if they had no previous exposure to music. Both the instructors and parents realize this and appreciate this aspect of the Little Gym.
Based on my observations and interactions with parents and teachers, I found that music is used 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.
Many of the musical activities the Little Gym uses are activities similar to those children in a typical preschool or lower elementary school music class would experience. Little Gym accomplishes this without the intent of actually teaching music. Children are given the opportunity to enjoy music without the pressure of practice. Children listen to music, sing along, and learn to process beats and rhythms. Due to the nature of case study research, the findings are not generalizable. We can however explore suggestions as to how music can be used with young children. While some of these things may be happening in classrooms already, the findings of this study may serve as a reminder of the ways music educators and classroom teachers might use music in early childhood settings. Music educators and classroom teachers might use these techniques in classes to engage children and draw them into music. In doing so, children are introduced to music in a positive, non-pressure situation which could help them develop an interest later in life. Further, the Little Gym does an excellent job of allowing children to experiment with music without fear of correction. Obviously, behavior must be corrected in order to insure the safety and comfort of the other children. Yet, children can allow their creativity to take hold as they participate in class. Berger & Cooper (2003) observed that “When adults corrected children’s actions, musical play sometimes ceased.” And, Smithrim’s (1997) observation of the musical free play of eight 3-and4-year olds indicated that children experienced and demonstrated musical growth during free-play music sessions. Therefore, music educators and classroom teachers might consider allowing early childhood learners to experience free play with music with little to no correction, so that they might experience positive musical experiences which, in turn, might lead to a lifelong interest in and love of music.
Although this study focused on the use of music at Little Gym, there is still much information to be learned about the use of music in learning situations with preschoolers and elementary school aged children. Further studies conducted at the Little Gym could include studying children over a period of several years, from the earliest classes (4 months) through preschool to see how they react to the use of music, as well as how their musical interests develop across time. These students could be compared to children who entered the program at various times to see if music played a different role for them. Following a cohort of children through the youngest program through their entry into grade school and beyond could show the longitudinal effects of their early exposure to music.
Not only could additional studies be completed at this particular Little Gym, studies could be completed in centers such as Gymboree Play and Learn classrooms to compare the use of music among preschool learning centers. During these studies, getting the child’s perspective of music rather than just observing their behaviors could allow the educator to see through their eyes. In addition, studies comparing the use of music in a preschool elementary music classroom to a classroom such as the Little Gym could help both music educators and educators outside of the music classroom enhance learning among their students. Studies focusing on how well children learn through music could help educators of all levels know how to use music in their classroom. Lastly, applying the techniques used at Little Gym to a music classroom and investigating the effect of these techniques could be beneficial to music educators of all levels.
The Little Gym of Baton Rouge uses music in many ways to enhance the learning experiences of the children involved in all of their classes. Music is used in the classroom to facilitate transitions allowing the class to move seamlessly from one activity to the next. Further, music is used as a means of giving instructions to the children. Rather than listening to the spoken words of the instructors, children benefitted from hearing the instructions through the music and seeing the instructions demonstrated by both parents and teachers. Music is also used to enhance the imagination and creativity of the children. As the children hear musical instructions, they also hear sounds that can encourage them to think beyond the instructions.
Parents also appreciated all of the benefits the music used in the classroom provided to their children. Music helped the children focus, transfer skills, and provided a positive distraction.
Through this study, I learned that music provides more than just background noise during classes at the Little Gym. Music provides enjoyment, excitement, and cognitive benefits to the children involved. I hope this study will serve music educators by reinforcing the idea that there is more to music than simply teaching musical skills to students. Music can be used as a learning device in teaching skills for classes outside of music. Music can be used to transition from one activity to another, allowing for ease of movement and providing not only a time saving technique but a way to alleviate classroom management issues. Overall, music has proven to be a benefit for instructors, student, and parent participants at the Little Gym and can be a benefit to educators as well.
Addison, R. (1991). Music and Play. British Journal of Music Education, 8, 207-217.
Barnes, J. S. & Astor, S. (1981). Gymboree. Garden City, NY: Dolphin Books.
Berger, A. & Cooper, S. (2003). Musical play: A case study of preschool children and parents.
Journal of Research in Music Education, 51 (2), 151-165.
Blacking, J. (1995). Venda Children's Songs: A Study in Ethnomusicological Analysis.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Bloom, B. (1985). Developing Talent in Young People. New York: Ballantine Books.
Bogdan, R. C. & Biklen, S. K. (2006). Qualitative Research in Education: An Introduction to Theory and Methods. Allyn & Bacon.
Bowles, C. L. (1998). Music activity preferences of elemenatary students. Journal of Research in Music Education, 46 (2), 193-207.
Brand, M. (1986). Relationship between home musical environment and selected musical attributes of second-grade children. Journal of Research in Music Education, 34, 111Campbell, P. S. (2010). Songs in their Heads. New York City: Oxford University Press.
Campbell, P. S. (2000). What Music Really Means to Children. Music Educators Journal, 86 (5), 32-36.
De Gratzer, D. P. (1999). Can music help to improve parent-child communication? International Journal of Music Education, 34, 47-56.