A LITTLE LIGHT MUSIC
By Irene Light
"BUT TEACHER…. I CAN'T REMEMBER THAT!"
How to teach facts through music.
No matter what or whom you teach, you can impart some facts more easily with music. Combining information with music provides a different approach to learning. This is basically because music comes naturally to people who don't resist it. (Shame on those other people!) It is fun, natural and non-stressful so students are more willing to listen and learn!
So, you learned the alphabet through "The Alphabet Song?" Who didn't? Well, we can't forget it and, besides, to most of us it's like music comfort food and brings back sweet memories. So definitely use it in your teaching especially since the melody is also "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "Baa, Baa Black Sheep." (Both "The Alphabet Song" and "Twinkle, Twinkle" are on my students' "Top Ten List.")
Here's a way to make reading out loud easier to follow and remember. Just try this for fun! If you are using a rhyming book, try "singing" it to "Twinkle" or "Mary Had a Little Lamb" or any familiar tune! It works.
Okay. Let's get back to teaching through music. Would you believe that this very week, I came across a great example in my school? I learned of a Spanish greeting song being taught in the United States. It is sung to "Frere Jacques." Okay, a Spanish song sung to a French tune sounds weird but during that same week, I encountered a student who had learned a similar Spanish song to "Frere Jacques" in her elementary school in South America. Go figure. By the way, I have been able to teach 4 Spanish sentences and their meanings to my class of two-year olds by using "Frere Jacques." Whatever works……!
Since "Frere Jacques" is an "echo" song (where students copy the leader) it is useful for teaching facts by rote. "Bill Grogan's Goat" is another echo song . You can write songs that don't even have to rhyme but fit in rhythm and then get repeated by the student to teach them facts. For example, you want to remember a telephone number, then set it to music. If you need to add an extra syllable, I won't tell anyone. For example, using Frere Jacques for a phone number, you can create:
444 and 4 Echo
There's no more! Echo
If you use a rhyme, it doesn't have to make too much sense. Sometimes the sillier, the better!
If Tom Lehrer could teach "The Elements" through song, you can teach other lists the same way. Even if they don't rhyme but only fit in rhythm, they will work. Lists can become "rap" as long as you keep the rhythm going. While sitting in the dentist's office and waiting for my pain killer to work, I started to memorize the order of the American presidents which was attached to the ceiling above me.
Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison,
Monroe, Adams, Jackson, Van Buren,
Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor,
Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, Lincoln
This had a snappy rhythm and kept me going throughout the dental procedure including the drilling!! Okay! I may be different since I am a music teacher, but it helped…….. and the dentist gave me a discount for not singing. (Kidding, but a thought!)
So, the moral of the story is:
Don't be afraid to teach a new way.
Use some music every day.
Sing a fact or maybe two
Suddenly it's fun to do.
Just be careful with your song.
Facts through music last quite long.
(I hope this you sang that with "The Alphabet Song!"
copyright Irene Light 2004
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Irene Light is a certified public school music teacher with over 30 years of teaching experience. She has taught classroom, choral and instrumental music from preschool through eighth grade. She was the recipient of multiple piano scholarships from the Henry Street Settlement Music School and graduated from Music & Arts High School in New York . She obtained a B. A. in Music from Hunter College followed by her teacher's license in graduate school.
Throughout her teaching career, Mrs. Light has also been running a very busy piano studio. Her approach to private piano instruction includes providing her students with a multitude of creative contests and performing opportunities. Her Music Marathon © is a piano/sports event that creatively teaches piano technique in a competitive and fun way.