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.

Sounds as Syllables: Music and Literacy 6

1 Comment

Come see me in the Bay Area, Sunday, May 19, at the Children's Music Network Northern California Regional Gathering! 1:30 PM at The Our Lady of Angels Church, 1335 Cortez Ave., Burlingame, CA.

To be able to break words on the page into their syllabic components is one of the most basic reading skills. But do children naturally hear words as a series of syllables?

Not really. When we are listening for words, we are usually listening for meaning. For instance, say the word elephant. What is your first response?

Mine is visual, I see an elephant! I must be seeing the illustration from a Babar book from my childhood, because my elephants are line drawings wearing blue and red clothes . . . and now I am thinking about something I learned last month, that elephants are cetaceans with a third frontal lobe . . . But my free-associations have nothing with the sound of the word elephant, or how to read or write it. The auditory experience of the word has dissolved into personal meaning.

Syllables are often easier to “get” when they are devoid of the distraction of sense. “Fee, fi, fo, fum,” chants the giant in Jack in the Beanstalk.  Now, those are syllables! Be giants, stamp out each Fee, Fi, Fo and Fum with your feet.

Now, be Jack running away. Running, running, running, running . . .  two running feet, two syllables!

Go back and forth between the giant and Jack a few times, chanting and stamping, chanting and running, and you are teaching the sound and feeling of one- and two-syllable words.

Another way to teach segmenting is to use the most familiar words possible.  Nothing is more familiar than the names of the children! Using drums or body percussion, go around the circle (or back and forth in a dialogue) combining each syllable of a name with a hand slap or drum beat, and let the group echo.

Yas-min!                                    Yas-min!

Jo-sé!                                         Jo-sé!           

A-me-li-a!                                   A-me-li-a!

An-tho-ny!                                  An-tho-ny!

As much as possible, keep this in a context of steady beat. The children who are not speaking can keep the rhythm going quietly, slapping hands on thighs or tapping them on their chests.

A gathering drum is a wonderful segmentation tool. Children can come up to the drum, one at a time for a personal dialogue – beating each syllable they say.

Teacher                                                    Student

Hel-lo!                                                       Hel-lo!

How are you?                                           I am fine!

What’s your fa-vo-rite co-lor?                   O-range!

And so on.

The hand slap games we used to play on the playgrounds are another perfect segmentation activity. Remember, A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea? 

Two children stand or sit opposite one another, clapping and slapping hands.

Clap                   Right Slap            Clap            Left Slap            Clap            Slap Both            Both            Both

A                        Sai-                       lor               went                 to                 Sea,                   Sea,             Sea

To                       see                       what             he                   could            see,                     see,             see

But                      all                         that               he                   could            see,                   see,             see

Was the              bottom                  of the             deep              blue             Sea,                 Sea,             Sea!

For an alphabet twist on this song, you can turn C into the letter “C” – and then go through the rest of the letter. A Sailor went to A, A, A to see what he could A, A, A . . . and so on, into utter nonsense.

Which is really what syllables are, anyway!


Loisanne Foster Jun 23, 2013

I did a stint as a high school remedial reading teacher and I’ve taught many a nonreader to read including some in the current School to Work Program where I teach language arts part time.

This is wonderful! I will add this to my tool kit!  Just this year I used clapping to have students count syllables, but not in the game-like format. Why not? Once I gain their trust, I can do about anything with them (well, most of them). 

Thank you!

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