Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Music, Rhythm, and Movement

Maryann Arman, M.A. who specializes in music education, has written an excellent article on music, rhythm and movement.  You can read the entire article along with her references here.  Below are some of the highlights.
  • Lessons (like the alphabet song) put to music help memory because the various components of the music effect different areas of the brain and activating more areas of the brain promotes better retention. 
  • Short term memory typically holds 7 bits of information.  In a song smaller bits of information are bound together into larger bits which increases the amount of information in short term memory.
  • The ability to keep a steady beat is linked to adequate linguistic development and should be developed by the age of 2 or 3.  From 1981 to 1991 the percentage of high school students who could keep a steady beat dropped by almost half.  Only 10 percent of kindergarten students could keep a steady beat and less than half of adults. 
  • Pushing children to read too early puts stress on the eyes and causes other potential damage.  Children who are pushed to read before they are neurologically ready may develop awkward and inappropriate methods, may employ meaningless memorization, and may use the wrong areas of the brain to try to process reading.   In Denmark, reading is not taught until the age of eight and their literacy rate is 100 percent.
  • The kazoo is a great musical instrument for children because the vibrations of the instrument transmitted through bones stimulate the vestibular system.  (My note: Humming also stimulates the vestibular system the same way.  This is one reason why I ask your children to exhale and hum or say "ah" during an isometric reflex integration activity).
  • Singing songs like "B-I-N-G-O" in which another letter is left out each time the verse is repeated helps children develop "inner-speech" which is important for reading and high level thinking.
  • Movement is important for learning.  The vestibular system is the part of the ear related to balance and movement.  It must be activated for learning to take place.  There are nerves that run through the vestibular system which connect to all the muscles of the body.  During the first 15 months of life all learning is centered on the development of the vestibular system.  Problems with the vestibular system can cause learning disabilities.
  • The brain works by electrical current.  It needs oxygen and water to function well.  Movement helps provide oxygen.  (My note: This is why I try to always provide water for children.)
  • Movement causes the brain to produce endorphins - neuro-chemicals that increase brain energy.
  • Movement and rhythm stimulate the frontal lobes which are important for language development.
  • Cross lateral movement is necessary for the brain to be ready to learn to read.  Cross lateral movement enables the brain to cross the mid-section of the body.  In order to read and write one must go from one side of the paper to the other. (Marching alternately touching each hand to opposite knee and crawling are two examples of cross lateral movement.)
  • A child who can't balance on one foot has a weak vestibular system and probably can't read and write.  The vestibular system is strongly related to language abilities.  Balancing in various ways strengthens the vestibular system.
  • The more senses involved in an activity the greater the success rate of learning.
  • Researchers found that spatial-temporal reasoning improves when children learn to make music. 
  • Bottom line:  Music, rhythm, and movement are important educational components.

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