Tag Archives: Music

Can you imagine a world without The Arts?

Salvador Dalí [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

How much time do you think should be devoted to the creative arts in school? How much time do you think is spent on creative arts in school? Is it a match?

The arts include such things as:

  • Visual Arts
  • Drama
  • Music
  • Dance

Educational policies promote The Arts for their potential to develop creativity and critical thinking. For example, the rationale for The Arts in the Australian Curriculum states that

“The arts have the capacity to engage, inspire and enrich all students, exciting the imagination and encouraging them to reach their creative and expressive potential.”

Creativity and critical thinking are mentioned first in the aims.

How do The Arts contribute to our world?

If nothing else, they add beauty to uplift and inspire. In many ways, they are time capsules, carrying stories from the past through our present and into the future. While I am neither artist nor art connoisseur, I see the value in each form and the importance of sharing them with younger generations.  I also consider it important for young children to have freedom to explore each of the arts as a medium of self-expression.

I have shared some thoughts about each of the arts in previous posts, including

Let’s Dance!

image courtesy of openclipart.org

I’ve got the music in me!

Imagine that!

and introduced you to some amazing illustrators including Jeannie Baker, Kim Michelle Toft, Narelle Oliver, Helene Magisson. Today I have received two beautiful picture books illustrated by the very talented Muza Ulasowski who I’ll be interviewing later this year.

At the Carrot Ranch this week Charli Mills challenges us to consider what a nation may be like if art was gone. The picture she creates of a possible “post-truth era dystopian” future is not pretty. I’m not into dystopian futures where “everything is unpleasant or bad”. Tell me, we’re not there yet, are we?

Although The Arts get a good rap in the Australian Curriculum, and other curricula too I’m sure, many teachers grumble that time for creativity and the arts is pushed out as schools focus on the formal tests that pit school against school, state against state, and country against country.

Hopefully that situation is not as dire in early childhood situations. Fortunately, young children are constantly exposed to some aspects of the visual arts through beautifully illustrated picture books. Hopefully they also enjoy copious amounts of music, song, and movement each day, and lots of time for imaginative play. How much more than that, and how much time for self-expression, may vary from school to school and teacher to teacher.

Involvement in art programs can also be therapeutic, giving children opportunities for quiet, almost meditative times, in which they can turn off their brains for a little while, relax, and express themselves.

For Marnie, a character I have been developing through responses to Charli’s flash fiction prompts, art is more than just a release. Art classes with her favourite teacher Miss R., who sees and encourages the possibilities and potential that lie within, offer her welcome respites from the harshness of her reality.

I introduced this notion in a flash piece Safety, and extended the idea in a longer piece The story behind brown paint.

In this response to Charli’s prompt to In 99 words (no more, no less) go down the rabbit hole to a place where art is not allowed. It could be a small story or a dystopian vision. Is there a power struggle over art? Would the general public miss it? Is the end of art a natural evolution? I have considered what it might be like for Marnie should her should she be robbed of her treasured art class. I hope you enjoy it.

No Art

She’d survived! In just minutes, art class with Miss R. Without Art today, she’d be somewhere else; anywhere. Or nowhere. Breathing deeply, imagining sunshine and calm waters, as Miss R. taught, helped quell the warmth rising from her feet, threatening to explode her heart and head. Somehow she’d avoided Brucie and his bully mates, escaping their lunchtime taunts. Now Art: sanctuary. Suddenly, tears obliterated hope as she read: “No Art today. Classes cancelled.” Where was that white rabbit with a hole down which she could disappear?

Later, during class, Miss R. asked, “Has anyone seen Marnie?” Brucie just smirked.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

You’ve got a friend in me

 

One of the greatest contributors to a child’s happiness at school, indeed for happiness in life, is friendship. Talking with children about their day at school will more than likely contain some reference to their friends; who they played with, who they didn’t, who was absent, who was mean. If they felt sad during the day it was possibly because someone wouldn’t play, wouldn’t let them play, or was mean.

Getting along with others seems to come naturally to some children, especially to those who see positive social skills modelled by parents and family friends, who are given lots of opportunities to mix with others of all ages, and who are encouraged to express themselves and their feelings. Other children don’t find it so easy, sometimes due to lack of positive role models, but often for other reasons.

Most children require some explicit teaching from time to time, for example to share, take turns and to use friendly words. Many schools incorporate the development of friendship skills into their programs. Some schools, such as one that employed me to write and teach a friendship skills program in years one to three, develop their own programs. Other schools use published materials such as the excellent You Can Do It! program which teaches the social and emotional skills of getting along, organisation, persistence, confidence and resilience.

In the early childhood classrooms of my previous school, we used the songs, puppets and stories included in the You Can Do It! Program. We also involved children in role play and discussion, providing them with opportunities to learn the language and practice the skills in supportive and non-threatening situations. Having a common language with which to discuss feelings, concerns and acceptable responses meant issues were more easily dealt with. More importantly children learned strategies for developing positive relationships and friendships with others. They came to understand their own responses as well as those of others.

SMAG ccbyncnd

I have talked about friendship in many previous posts, including here, here and here. My online friend Anne Goodwin, who blogs at Annecdotal even wrote about it in a guest post here, and I described friendship trees that I used with my class here.

Friendship tree

In this post I want to acknowledge a new friend and a long-time friend. (I can’t say ‘old’. She’s younger than I!)

My new friend is Pauline, The Contented Crafter. At the beginning of last week Pauline announced a very generous giveaway for Christmas which I shared with you here.  Pauline invited readers to nominate someone as a deserving recipient of her beautiful Christmas light catcher. She posted the nominees and their stories here and invited readers to vote for the two they would most like to receive the light catcher.

pizap1

I nominated Robin, a friend of over thirty years. That must be deserving of an award in itself! In case you missed her story on Pauline’s blog, I include it here so that you can understand why I value her friendship so highly.

I have a wonderful friend for whom this beautiful light catcher would be a perfect gift. Each of its strands holds a special significance, as if Pauline had her in mind.

She gifted her friendship to me more than thirty years ago and, thanks to a miracle and the protection of angels, it is a gift that continues.

Over twenty years ago, on my birthday, she was involved in a serious car accident. My birthday became her life day, a constant reminder that life and each passing year is a precious gift. 

Her many injuries, requiring numerous surgeries over the years, did not injure her bright, cheerful nature and positive outlook on life. Although she lives with constant pain you wouldn’t know unless you asked, and then only if she chose to tell you.

She has an enormous generous and loving heart, and her home is warm and welcoming. Family, especially her two grown daughters and her dear Mum who passed this year, is important to her. She loves to bake and craft individual gifts for her family and friends. She is always busily thinking of others.

She is a gifted musician and amazing music teacher. She plays the flute and sings like a Robin. She incorporates music and fun into classes for children and lessons for adults learning English. All come to her classes eager to learn and leave singing with joy and acceptance.

At Christmas the family gather round to decorate the tree and “remember the moments” marked by ornaments made by smaller hands, collected on travels, or signifying achievements and occasions like graduations and engagements.

I know my friend would treasure this beautiful light catcher as another reminder of life’s precious gifts and moments that make it magic. Thank you Pauline for the opportunity to express openly how much I value her friendship.

You can find out more about Robin on her website and even purchase her wonderful CD “Notes from Squire Street”.

Robin - Notes from Squire Street

I am very excited to say that Robin is included in Pauline’s list of winners. In fact Pauline’s generosity is being extended to many of the nominees, and even to one for commenting on the post. Very soon Pauline’s light catchers will be dispersing rainbow light of friendship and joy around the world. I think that is a beautiful and generous gesture.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

I’ve got the music in me – let me count the ways!

For any hearing person, music is integral to our lives.

Every country has a national anthem which may be taught in schools and played or sung at many and varied ceremonies and occasions, inspiring unity and national pride. Many other organisations such as schools and colleges have their songs praising their strengths and fostering a sense of identity. Couples have their special or ‘theme’ songs.

When we enter a store we are serenaded with music chosen to make us feel comfortable and entice us to stay longer and buy more.

Joyful advertising jingles with their subliminal messages encourage us to memorize the product name and make it our next purchase. These jingles can stay in our heads for years, like this famous one about Louie the Fly:

A few bars of a song can revive memories from long ago. I have written about this previously in a flash fiction piece, Vagaries of time.

Music can call us to dance, to relax, to sing, to cry. It can be chosen to match our mood, or can help to create a mood or atmosphere. The soundtrack of a film or television show tells the audience what to expect and how to feel.

Music is also an integral part of education and learning. Learning information in a song can help one remember. Many people like to have music playing when they are reading or studying. I did when studying towards my high school exams, but now I prefer quiet when I write. Programs such as Accelerated Learning recommend using Baroque music to help learners stay relaxed and focused, increasing retention.

I have previously written about using songs in the classroom, such as I love the mountains which I learned from Bill Martin Jr. and affirmation songs such as those of Anne Infante here and here.  I have also composed class songs and chants such as Busy Bees chant, and used songs to support class work, for example The Ugly Bug Ball when learning about mini-beasts.

I have used music to calm and settle after play breaks, and music for activity between seated activities. I used songs in the morning to signal to children that it was time to be ready for the day’s learning, including action songs or songs about our learning, for example a phonics song:

Image courtesy of Anne

Image courtesy of Anne

But of course, once we were settled, every day started with an affirmation song, or two. It got everyone into a happy expectant mood. It’s hard to be sad when singing (unless it’s a sad song).

 

image courtesy of www.openclipart.org

image courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org

. . . and  songs in the afternoons to send the children home happy and singing with joy.

As a year level we would sing songs to settle the children when lining up to return to class after lunchtime play. The children hurried to join in and sang their way joyfully into class. This is quite different from when I was at school and we would line up in silence and then march into school in step, subdued and quietly obedient.

I composed songs as a child but did not continue the practice as an adult, except for one: a lullaby that I sang to soothe my baby girl to sleep. A few years later I decided to learn to play the keyboard from a very talented musical friend who guided my writing of the accompanying music. This remains my one real musical accomplishment!

For someone who does not consider herself at all musical I certainly enjoy, and promote the use of, music in many different ways.

On that note, I leave you with my flash fiction response to the prompt set by Charli Mills of Carrot Ranch Communications: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story influenced by a musical score.

Final act

A collective gasp interrupted the music mid-beat.

All eyes turned synchronously, as if worked by unseen strings, towards the French doors, burst open and revealing a silhouetted figure framed by billowing gossamer-like curtains.

Out of the darkness the figure emerged: clothed in black with coat tails flapping, a top hat in one hand and a white-tipped cane held aloft in the other.

The conductor revived the orchestra as the figure glided across the floor, seized the heroine decisively and whirled her around and around.

The spell now broken, the cast joined in the dance to tumultuous applause.

I hope you can imagine the score that would be written to accompany this piece and its change of moods.

What score would you give it?

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of the article or my flash fiction piece.

Happy being me

Self-esteem

One of the most precious but fragile qualities of a person is their sense of self and self-esteem.

A positive word of encouragement can reinforce the strength of one’s self-image.

Machovka_Happy_fish

image courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org

But that image can be shattered all too easily through a sigh, a grimace, an ill-chosen word or careless remark.

image courtesy of www.openclipart.org

image courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org

Our self-esteem flourishes when we are happy and wilts when we are sad. It is much easier to boost someone when they are up, and to hit them when they are down. Maintaining a healthy self-image requires just the right amount of self-knowledge and confidence to be resilient when faced with negative feedback and to not adopt an inflated sense of importance when receiving false, or genuine, positive input.

Fostering self-esteem in the classroom

image courtesy of www.openclipart.org

image courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org

As a teacher I have always considered it to be equally or more important to strengthen a child’s self-image as it is to extend their thinking and learning abilities.

My primary aim has always been to cultivate a group of happy children, with strong senses of self, confident in what they could do and willing to have a go to extend their learning. I believe that these qualities are necessary in order for children to learn efficiently.

A child who lacks confidence and is fearful of having a go lest a mistake be made, will make slow progress, finding it difficult to move out of the “comfort zone” into the unknown.

Because children have no choice in whether to be in school or not, despite whether they like it or not, then, I believe, it must be a happy place, a place where they want to be and look forward to coming. How powerless must they feel if they are compelled to attend every day in a situation which gives them no pleasure.

www.openclipart.org

image courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org

Sometimes the response to this remark is, “It’s life. They just have to get used to it.”

But really, when you think of it, adults, no matter how trapped they may feel in certain situations, do have a choice. The choices may be no more palatable than the one they are in, but they are able to make that choice. My point is: children don’t make this choice. The choice is made for them. We are lucky that most children accept, and most rather willingly, indeed with enjoyment, this institution of childhood.

Start each day with a song

image courtesy of openclipart.org

image courtesy of openclipart.org

Because these beliefs and values guided the choices I made as a teacher, I started every day with at least a song or two, and always one of affirmation. It is almost impossible to frown when singing, and almost as impossible to not join in when everyone around is singing too.

There were mornings when it was just as important for me to sing the songs as it was for the children. As for them, it gave me time to forget the problem that had occurred outside the classroom, the difficulty getting something to work the required way, or the disagreement that had taken place some time earlier. As for them, it gave me a quiet time to reflect and reassure myself, “I’m okay. I can do this. Let’s get on with our day.”

I noticed, too, that when parent volunteers or other visitors were with us for our song, they also joined in with our singing and invariably followed up with a spontaneous comment about how much they appreciated, and needed, the song as well. Many times I received comments from passers-by about how the class’s happy singing had helped them start their day.

image courtesy of www.openclipart.org

image courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org

I took every possible opportunity to remind parents of how wonderful their children were and we always shared at least one of these songs with parents during end-of-term celebrations of work. I believe the songs help to model, for parents as well as teachers, a way of sharing positive feedback and affirmations with their children.

Affirmation songs

Some of the songs we sang regularly in the mornings were from Anne Infante’s “Special as I can be” CD, the title song of which is my favourite and always the first I introduce to the children.

Anne Infante (image courtesy of Anne)

Anne Infante (image courtesy of Anne)

Image courtesy of Anne

Click here to find out more about Anne and her songs.

I always wrote the songs out on charts so that, from the first day of school, we could follow along with the words as Anne sang them, even before most of the children could recognise any of them. The melody and repetitive structure of each verse invited the children to join in:

Nobody else is just like me. 

I’m as unique as I can be.

I am beautiful, wonderful and

beautiful, special as I can be.”

The following verses substituted things such as “Nobody’s face, nobody’s smile, nobody’s eyes.” I simply told them, before the verse started, the words that changed each time.

It wasn’t long before the children were joining in with the singing and recognising some of the words repeated in the songs e.g. “I” and “beautiful”.

If ever I was called away during the song, they took great delight in being the one to point to the words for the rest of the class to follow.

As the children became confident with one song, I would introduce another; and as our repertoire built, we would sing a different one each day. Sometimes the children would change the chart I had selected for another of their choosing for that particular day.

The children loved these songs, and often during the day, while they were working on another task, someone would start quietly singing a song, and before long everyone would be joining in with joyful affirmation. I loved it when they left the classroom in the afternoon singing another of Anne’s songs, “Today I’m feeling happy. I am, I am, I am.”

image courtesy of www.openclipart.org

image courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org

Singing an affirmation song is a little “happiness pill” you can take every day without any side effects.

Happy being me

Affirmation songs provide benefits in many ways:

  • Share the joy of being alive and happiness with self
  • Put a smile on everyone’s face
  • Invite everyone to participate
  • Encourage acceptance of and respect for self and others
  • Reinforce self-esteem
  • Insulate the classroom from outside troubles
  • Quiet the mind and settle the body in preparation for the day’s work
  • Provide words to express feelings
  • Give musical pleasure
  • Are an avenue for literacy learning.

Please feel welcome to share your thoughts.

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