February Parent Coffee
This month’s Parents Coffee was all about song, rap, music and movement, and how they impact brain development and language development.
Think of song, music and associated movement, as the equivalent in importance to a child’s brain development and academic success, as soil, water and sunshine are, to a seed sprouting into a plant.
Think of the brain as a powerful muscle. A child’s brain is flexible. In the early years the neurological connections and pathways are built with blistering speed and efficiency. The ability to build these connections reduces with age. The prime window for neurological brain development opens at birth and starts to closes by age 6-7. As parents and educators we have the children in our hands at the most important time of their lives for brain development.
The Brain: Neurological Development and Language Acquisition
The brain is divided into sections. The left-hemisphere, put simply, is cognitive. There rhythm, rhyme, beat and pattern is perceived and recognized. This left-hemisphere is mathematical, pragmatic, sequential, and logical. The left side recognizes and learns the shape and patterns of language.
The right-hemisphere, put simply, is creative and expansive. The more subtle elements of language are perceived there and integrated into memory. Subtle elements in language are dynamics like tone and quality, (high/low ‘pitch’, Soft/loud ‘volume’, fast/slow ‘movement’). The right hemisphere is intuitive, subjective and emotional.
The analysis of language as a system, is primarily centered in the left brain because language is a repeating set of patterns that follow a rule system. Child language acquisition is enriched and strengthened when we encourage the connections between the creative, intuitive right-hemisphere, and the analytical, mathematical left-hemisphere. When we sing or rap, we are doing exactly what was just described; we are blending the perception of dynamic elements such as tone and quality, with the analytical elements of pattern recognition. It is generally accepted that singing and associating movement with music and song, is fun, it encourages superior brain development, and this leads to superior learning.
A song conveys meaning; it is a ‘repeated patterns of sound’ combined with the dynamic elements ‘pitch, tone, and volume’. Song engages both hemispheres and builds neurological connections and pathways that connect both sides of the brain. When we add movement, (tapping, stomping, clapping, finger-plays etc.) both sides of the brain light up with activity. The most effective movements incorporate both sides of the body and cross the midline of the body. This accentuates the communication between both sides of the brain and neural development reaches peak velocity.
The more exposure there is to music, song, rhythm and associated movement, the more pathways open up. The more pathways there are, the more traffic the brain can handle; the children acquire language faster, and ultimately benefit from a better memory.
Children are built to move and they love to do it. They learn finger-plays quickly and are soothed by repetition. When using songs, raps, finger-plays and associated whole-body movement, teachers have more easily managed classes, less stressful transitions, fewer behavioral issues, and more creative and colorful circles and lessons. Everyone has fun with these activities. Teachers see more sophisticated play going on in the classroom because strong language acquisition leads to higher levels of confidence and more associative-cooperative play, which in turn leads to stronger language and memory development. It’s a wonderfully vicious circle!
Opening as many neural pathways as we can ultimately makes children better at perceiving the world, processing, memorizing, analyzing, creating and making connections. Connections in the brain facilitate understanding. Connecting knowledge makes more knowledge. The denser the brain the better it works.
We should take every opportunity to deliver the sound shape and rhythm of ‘language and life’ in the experiences we share with children. In short, sing, chant, dance, rap and tap. It works!
We agreed that a list of the songs, chants and raps that are being used daily at The Ivy would be very helpful for parents so that they could continue those patterns of fun at home. As we build the repertoire we will create a booklet. We talked about The Ivy’s bilingual (Spanish and English) environment and how it is further enriched by American Sign Language. We are indeed building those neural pathways with the sound, shape, and rhythm of language.
Thanks to everyone that came. We look forward to our next parent coffee which will be on Friday March 2nd. Details to follow.