General Music Today

Brain-Compatible Music Teaching
Susan Kenney
General Music Today 2009; 23; 24
DOI: 10.1177/1048371309342700

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and the The brain processes “parts and wholes simultaneously. and again as they work at the play. them that they must listen without wiggles so they could The brain is designed to deal with the confusion of the concentrate. Renate that when they sing. No one is breaking went back and repeated two lines for the children. Her lesson might look like this: The teacher continually reminded them to use their light. Utah. chaining through the phrases until she finally ing is enormous. and recordings of songs are available for teach. they could play a game with it. But according to problem solving. heavy and loud because of the exuberance felt by the group. She then sang confusion. and meet the social challenges provided by Geoffrey Caine. and the children ers of young children. it may be time to rethink how we teach these with each repetition. The children don’t mind hearing the song again Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain. She told them that when they learned the world around us. As we complete the first decade of the continue to correct themselves.sagepub. work together.sagepub. their learning is all about in like manner and continued through the song. Song litera. and yet their learn- then echoed. Leslie Hart (1983). Sometimes the sound is Numela Caine. adds that the brain is looking for meaning. with his wife. which the children’s brains can extract meaningful patterns. Mistakes are opportunities for further nated in the last half of the 20th century. The hindering brain development in her attempts to ensure the emotional energy in the room is joyful as children interact. As she repeats the Teachers of young children probably spend more time song. patterns in the by Dorina Iusca on March 31. children dutifully responded. gesturing to the teaching songs than any other aspect of music. She then sang the second line Before children enter school. 1991. Miss Wad. Miss Waddoups trusts the children’s songs. coauthor. Miss Waddoups has con- to the children and drew pictures on the board to help them sidered the singing game as a mini world of confusion from understand the actions they would take. 2010 . becoming more successful 21st century. game. It learns by extracting patterns from that song. Learning.” conscious of their own voice with those of others. songbooks. the chil.1177/1048371309342700 http://gmt. Miss Waddoups presented an excellent example of brains to extract the patterns in the game and to hear the teaching a song one phrase at a time. the children believes that fragmenting content is the biggest mistake do not begin singing until they have heard the song enough schools make (think one phrase at a time). 3). Hart suggests. more children “get writers on brain research and education. E-mail: susan_kenney@byu. dren took their places in the space and played the game. She suggests that when we teach “bits and But with more repetitions. Finally. Often. Generally. She then extracting patterns from their world. motioning to the high-singing voices as they played and stopped several children to join her in making a circle. ful connections. children as necessary to indicate their part in the singing ture is the foundation of music learning. Downloaded from http://gmt. believes that educators’ attempts to simplify Provo. Hundreds of songs. The children know times to help correct game mistakes. the physical energy which is at the heart of intellectual capacity (Willis. 76).” accuracy and quality improve. she may actually be it. His wife.” Some join in singing parts of the song as they play.Early Childhood General Music Today Brain-Compatible Music Teaching 23(1) 24­–26 © 2009 MENC: The National Association for Music Education DOI: 10. of the book the actions. children learn the song. She explained the entire game brain-compatible way. This time. She reminded antagonistic rather than brain compatible. The extraction from confusion of meaningful patterns” (p. author of Human Brain and Human Susan Kenney is a professor of music education at Brigham Young University. and focus free up the voices of those who are self-conscious p. Let us visit Miss Waddoups’s first grade class once doups thanked the children for working so hard and then more. she also models the game actions. Hart defines the process of learning as “the the first line of the song and invited the class to echo. what to do by interpreting her Step-by-step sequences may be brain on the floor and prepare to learn a new Susan Kenney Miss Waddoups invited her first grade class to sit quietly things are misguided. a method that predomi. Imagine the lesson process is presented in a more began to explain the game. making attempts to understand. The teacher continues to sing and model. the children seem to become pieces” we actually “cut [meaningful connections] off. sang the whole song for the children to echo. it is accurate. With each repetition. who knowledge down into bite-size pieces. The children watch. Miss Waddoups begins singing a song.

In the last half of the 20th century. And if neu. • Physical challenges: self in space. sorting through the rhythm responsibility for their own learning. Those involved in brain research education acknowledge that it does take a more sophisticated way of (continued) Downloaded from http://gmt. the most difficult to find all of the patterns in this mini world that began as part for music teachers may be learning to switch teaching confusion (the new singing game) and now has become a paradigms. The brain requires a great deal of input to detect pat. body ing are more difficult. but they have made sense of it. and it needs time.” They say that the key ent order. movement” (p. two ways have been suggested as appropriate for teaching songs by rote: the phrase-by-phrase approach and the whole-song approach. as a mini world of confusion. the its wholeness. The brain teacher trusts the children’s brains. p. Once the teacher learns to trust that the children will The brain has had a feast. 41). the phrase-by-phrase approach predominated. The first example suggests the song as it might appear to the children the first time they experience it. And the singing game may be an easy place to world of success and knowledge. for growing the brain. However. melody. In addition. see the diagrams in the appendix. form. extracting patterns from the learn in the context of the whole singing game experience. intonation At first it may seem that brain-compatible ways of teach. If the diagram represents a problem for the brain to solve. 83). sug- rologist and writer Frank Wilson (1998) is correct that “the gestions. • Social challenges: turn taking.Kenney 25 about their singing. 2010 . Clear singing from the students is not parts immediate. 1996). rhythm. or ideas on this topic? Send them to mind does not come into being or grow without bodily susan_kenney@byu. Each child grasps the game. mastered at the end of the experience. What is your experience? Do you have thoughts. If the words. willing to live “on the edge of chaos. The second diagram represents how the world of the song appears after the children’s brains have sorted it all by Dorina Iusca on March 31. The Caines (1991) suggest that educators need to be and the social challenges at different times and in a differ. extracts patterns from the confusion—a veritable feast for the often resulting in fewer management lenges required in choosing a partner. is more consistent with the oral/aural tradition of transfer- ring music culture among the folk. begin. choosing. and teachers must be willing to wait and to trust • Cognitive challenges: memory. meter. they will solve the prob. To illustrate the point. then the brain received further nourish- ment from all of the movement that was taking place in this Appendix lesson. or actions have not been brain. it provides a way of learning that is more consistent with the natural way children learn songs at play (Harwood. questions. learning about self in space. coordination. the song.sagepub. and issues and more thorough mastery of the song. the emotional excite- ment prepares the brain for further learning the next time the song is sung. but the repetition of the wholeness of the song to teaching all students for excellence lies in our being able to and game together provides an opportunity for every child function at more complex levels. melody. the experience: searching for meaning from the words. ence is more joyful. Each time the game is played. and they did it in brain-compatible ways by what Caine and Caine refer to as “processing parts and wholes simultaneously” (1991. to name just a few. solving teaching is actually easier because the children take more the problems of game actions. patterning the children to self-correct if initial inaccuracies occur. as a world of con- fusion. Children must be allowed more freedom to explore to solve leading. Of course. decision making problems. Now we Problems to solve might include the following: have brain evidence to suggest it may be more appropriate • Musical challenges: song words. or what Rita Klinger (1996) has called the “immersion” approach. Each squiggle in the brain is given more time to solve all of the problems. Figure 1: The singing game is first experienced by the learner in terns. teaching. being chosen. The whole-song method. the experi- and melody to find patterns. Throughout my teaching career. In addition. taking turns. they have not compartmentalized each little piece. beat. solving socioemotional chal.

(1996). 29(1). (1985).. Teaching to the brain. Alexandria. Orff Echo. Harwood. Hart.26 General Music Today 23(1) Appendix (continued) References Caine. F. Children’s song acquisition: Learning through immersion. (1991). 18. Klinger. VA: Association for Supervision has made meaning from the confusion and solved the problems and Curriculum Development. including learning the song. (1983). Orff Echo. Downloaded from http://gmt. Human brain and human learning. Wilson. S. Listening to learn. & Caine. The brain the human brain. A. New York: Longman. 71(9).com by Dorina Iusca on March 31. E. Music Educators Journal. R. Music as basic schooling for the brain.sagepub. L. 39-42. N. 2010 . Willis. 29(1). R. (1996). the experience presented. G. 1-3. 33(8). ASCD Update. 35-36. (1991). Making connections: Teaching and Figure 2: The singing game after multiple experiences.