Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

ECMMA: Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

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Movement Matters

After many years of making music with children, Eve Kodiak, M.M., became interested in the brain/body processes that underlie the learning process. As an Educational Kinesiologist, she now works with people of all ages, using music and developmental movement to create positive change. Eve can be found in her office at The Lydian Center for Innovative Medicine in Cambridge, MA, or at home in New Hampshire, writing and recording. Her CD/book sets include Rappin' on the Reflexes and Feelin' Free, which combine developmental movements with songs, raps, and narrations with music. Eve also performs and records as an improvising classical pianist. More information and articles on music and developmental movement may be found at www.evekodiak.com.


The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily promote official policy of ECMMA.

Reading and Writing and Singing!  Music and Literacy 3

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Note: If you haven’t yet read the previous post: The World of the Word, go back! This post will make a lot more sense if you read that one first.

Phonological Awareness and Literacy

“A child’s phonological awareness knowledge has been described as the best single predictor of reading performance.” G. T. Gillon, Phonological Awareness: From Research to Practice, 2004.

This is an interesting statement for those of us who work with children and music, because phonological awareness is an auditory experience. It doesn’t happen on the page, or on the flashcard. It happens in the ear and in the voice. It happens the way music happens.

What is phonological awareness?  Quoting Gail Gillon again, “it refers to the sound structure . . . of a spoken word.”

Reading requires decoding a complex system of letters that combine to form sounds that create a one-to-one correspondence with objects, actions, people, places, and so forth. How can a child make this complicated translation between a visual set of signs and an auditory set of sounds, if that child is not aware of words as sounds?

Components of Phonological Awareness

Let’s take the word music, and break it down into its phonological components.

Whole word: music

Syllables: mu – sic

Onset (initial consonant of the syllable) – rime (the rest of the syllable): m – u, s - ic

Single phonemes:  m (consonant)  u (vowel) – s (consonant)  (vowel) c (consonant)

Sound features: m (lips closed, hum, voiced)  u (lips open, pursed, voiced) – s (lips open, sibilance through teeth, voiced)  (lips open, glottal, voiced) – c (plosive gutteral, unvoiced)

Even when our hearing is perfect, we may not know that we are listening to all of that! And breaking it down is a real analytical exercise! When we are listening and singing and speaking, we hear words and phrases and sentences as packages of sounds.

Phonological awareness is the ability to hear these sound packages separate from their meanings, just as sounds. and what better way to play with sounds than music? As we sing,play,  rhyme, chant nonsense syllables, we develop the capacity to hear and express the sound components of words. We become phonologically aware.

And because music distributes the information all over the brain, it makes our phonological awareness available and easy to recover. That is one reason that music is currently being used to help stroke victims re-access their capacities of speech. According to researcher Dr. Aniruddh Patel, interviewed in the BBC article Music Rewires Damaged Brain (Feb. 2010),  "Music engages huge swathes of the brain - it's not just lighting up a spot in the auditory cortex."

Literacy programs specifically target various aspects of phonological awareness. Some of the main ones are rhyme, onset-and-rime, sound-matching,  segmenting, blending, and manipulation. In the next series of posts, we’ll take these literacy components one by one, and explore the repertoire that teaches them.

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