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.

The World of the Word: Music and Literacy 2

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What We Assume

When a child listens to language, it is hard to know exactly what that child is hearing.

We tend to assume and extrapolate. The child babbles “ba. . .” “Ball?” we say helpfully, holding up a toy. “He said his first word,” we proudly tell the family, friends, teachers.

But do we really know  that “ba” referred to the object at all?

And even when”ba” does have some connection with the ball (and it often does), a young child is probably not making a one-to-one correspondence between a sound and an object. The world, to a baby or toddler, is very big and undifferentiated. It’s actually a pretty amazing world.

So if “ba” does mean “ball,” what does “ball” mean?

It may mean the actual object. But it probably also means the hand holding the object, the emotion of being with this special person who is giving me this wonderful attention. It may mean the motion the object makes as it rolls across the floor, and the excitement of wanting to chase it, or the frustration of not having it. It may mean the time of day the game is usually played, or the people who usually play it. “Ba” may be an entire story, e.g., “I am safe and happy and excited with someone I love doing something fun.”

Thinking the way a baby or child thinks can really put our world into perspective! It’s a good exercise in appreciating what is truly important.

Eventually, children understand that the object is included in the gestalt of “ball,” and that we mean the object when we say ball, and if they say “ball” they may get the object, and the wonderful play associated with it. There is real payback about learning to say “ball,” because it helps you to control your world through people’s response to you. And so we begin to limit the meanings of the sounds we make and hear sounds as discrete clumps of meaning.

The Role of Listening and Expression

A good rule of thumb is: What the child says is what the child hears.

So if the child continues to say, “ba” without the “l” sound, chances are that he or she may not be hearing the “l” sound. It may be an issue of vocal production for the child, but it is likely that it is also a listening issue. We assume that children hear what we hear, and try to make the same sounds we do. But often, they don’t. They are correctly making the sounds that they hear.

This is particularly true of children who have had ear infections. There can be scarring which thickens the ear drum, and makes it less responsive to the high frequencies that are so essential in differentiating one sound from another. Another issue that arises is the hearing loss we experience when we are habitually around sounds that are too loud. Eventually, the little hairs that hear the high frequencies just curl up and die. It’s really best to keep the volume down, to not frequent malls with loud music, or go to IMAX movies where the sound is unbearable intense - and, of course, to keep the decibel level down at home. I’ve seen children have difficulty with drumming classes! If children start behaving in a regressive way, get them out. It’s just too loud for them. (I usually can’t participate in drumming circles for the same reason). Ear plugs can be a good compromise.

Prerequisites for Reading

The world of literacy is the world of the word. When we teach children to read words and phonemes, we tend to assume:  

1. That they are hearing words as a series of discrete sounds

2. That they can hear the components of these sounds

3. That they can assign these sounds to a visual sign

4. That they can translate these visual signs back into sounds

5. That they can see combinations of many of these signs and translate them into more complex sounds

6. That they can recognize these sounds as words

7. That they can recognize sequences of words

8. That they can translate these sequences of words into sounds and meanings

9. That they can actually look at black print on white paper and see the print, not the background

10. that their eyes can track a single line of print

and much, much more. If there are problems learning to read, check this list. Find out which assumptions don’t hold.

Reading begins with listening and expression. And listening and expression is something that we, as music lovers, are uniquely equipped to share. We’ll explore some of the ways we can target reading skills with music in the next post, as we begin to examine phonological awareness.

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