Sound and Listening for Newborns

I was listening recently to a podcast from the Suzuki Association of the Americas about the power of listening. The Suzuki Philosophy is founded on learning through immersion in listening, so we as teachers are always thinking about how close listening will guide our students. In this episode, they excerpt a Radiolab podcast where they talk about how newborn babies experience sound in a similar fashion to how they experience touch, and it made me appreciate our Suzuki ECE class even more deeply.

We’re always pointing out how development and learning is happening under the surface, just like our “Carrot Seed” book.  Development isn’t always easily visible by adults, but we know and trust that it is happening because of the environment we provide.  When we point that out in class, we might notice a student who isn’t yet playing the instrument all by themselves, but is looking intently at an instrument or at the people around them. We often use their eyes to give us a sign that they are learning.  But when newborns and babies in their first months are working on their developing eyesight, we as teachers and parents can’t rely on their eyes to show us that they’re learning. We know, even if they can’t show us, that their brains and bodies are learning from their sense of hearing and touch.  It might not be obvious to us as adults who are looking for visual signs of their development, but we know and trust that it’s happening!

The Suzukie ECE curriculum is designed with the youngest of babies in mind, so most activities rely on movement and touch in conjunction with musical sounds, to provide newborns (and all children!) a rich learning environment.  We go up and down with the glockenspiel, we keep the beat on their bodies for many rhymes and songs, we go around in circles with the beat of the drum and in and out with verses of songs, we draw on backs, we bounce to the beat, just to name the first few activities that come to mind. Even if their eyes don’t show it, we often see newborns and young babies moving their bodies towards sound, kicking their legs or using their muscles as they take in and process all of the sensory experiences around them.

Next time you’re in class, think about all of the multi-sensory experiences babies and children are having, and see if you can find new ways to observe signs of their growth!


SAA podcast: https://suzukiassociation.org/building-noble-hearts/episodes/s1e3-it-transcended-us-to-another-world/

Radiolab podcast: http://www.radiolab.org/story/91514-sound-as-touch/

 

School Year 16-17 Wrap-Up

I recently sent an email to our SECE families this past year, and I wanted to share it here as well!


 

As our school year of SECE classes wraps up, I wanted to send along my sincerest thanks for a year filled with joy and learning! We’ve seen incredible development in the past months and I’m so proud of everyone.
Children’s musical skills are growing – they’re keeping steady beats, singing clearly, developing the motor skills to play instruments, and learning the skill of close listening.
Their language skills are growing too – children are answering questions, offering ideas, learning lyrics, and doing actions in songs. (A related article posted yesterday on NPR – a study linking rhythm skills to language and grammar skills, with a Suzuki violin program as the example! http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/06/01/530723046/using-music-and-rhythm-to-help-kids-with-grammar-and-language)
Their social skills have developed beautifully! Their confidence is growing, perhaps giving them courage to sing for their turns, and they’re becoming more sensitive, readily shaking hands and sharing with classmates.
Most importantly, they’re building the foundation for a lifelong understanding and enjoyment of music.  I often explain to people why starting music from birth is valuable, and while the above things are excellent reasons, the core reason is to teach children to understand and speak the language of music from the earliest of days. We know children will learn to speak the language of music the same way they will learn to speak their native tongue, through immersion from birth. Music is a language that we use to connect to each other and feel connected. It is a language of empathy, understanding, and compassion. The earlier children are immersed in musical language, the more fluently they are able to speak and understand it. The depth of musical understanding a person has can only increase the value music has in their life. My genuine hope is that because of our classes, and the ongoing musical education you choose once they graduate, your children will find deep meaning and connection in musical experiences for the rest of their lives.

The Seven Concepts of Suzuki Early Childhood Education

There are seven concepts that form the philosophical backbone of the Suzuki ECE class. These concepts are the the core beliefs of each Suzuki ECE teacher, and the manifestation of each of these concepts is visible in every class we teach.

I recently wrote a series of weekly emails to families in our program briefly highlighting how we see these ideas in action, so I thought I’d collect them all here to share with you.

The Seven Concepts of Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Every child can learn
Ability develops early
Environment nurtures growth
Children learn from one another
Success breeds success
Parental involvement is critical
Encouragement is essential

EVERY CHILD CAN LEARN

Every child develops musical ability in the same way they learn their native language.  The learning involves listening, repetition, and encouragement, with words and musical ability being added and layered upon week by week, without anything ever being discarded. Every child, regardless of age, musical background, etc., will be able to develop this musical literacy in the same way they learn their mother tongue. Learning depends on the environment, so we are always doing our very best to create a calm environment that will allow learning to take place.
I think it’s also important to remember that, since your participation as parents is so important, every parent has the ability to nurture this learning. We as teachers are here to facilitate this with the structure of the weekly classes and carefully chosen curriculum, but there are no special skills required of you as parents. If you model behavior for your child during class, and take the songs home and listen and sing them daily, your child will develop finely.

Today, since it was the first class for many, it was fun to see the children exploring and discovering the songs and the environment. It was great to hear voices and suggestions so soon from some of the kids! There is never any pressure for the kids to “perform,” however. They will demonstrate their ability at home much sooner than they will in class, so if they are hesitant, you can jump right in with your voice to help them feel safe. They’re learning by hearing you sing too!


ABILITY DEVELOPS EARLY
           Children are learning and absorbing everything in their environment from the earliest of days. We often think of ability as solely limited to demonstrable, performed skills, but the most important skill for a young child is the ability to listen carefully. Jack* was a great example of that yesterday as we played the drum with him – he had quiet focus in his eyes as he watched everyone follow his sound, and he was paying such close attention to the drum itself and the quality of the resonant tone it was making.
           This ability to listen carefully is one of the main reasons that we strive to create a calm learning environment. It’s difficult to focus your listening attention if there’s lots of extra noise and stimulation.  It’s also the reason we attempt to minimize the talking and explaining, and instead give as many musical and non-verbal cues as possible. That way, students are able to focus on the music itself and are not working extra to process additional language.

ENVIRONMENT NURTURES GROWTH
           Children take in and learn from everything in their environment. Knowing this, in the SECE class we as teachers and parents do our best to create a calm, positive, and encouraging environment without any pressure to perform.

CHILDREN LEARN FROM ONE ANOTHER

It always amazes me how much children pick up from their friends in class, and today was no different! Often the fun of experiencing class with friends is the biggest motivator to try out new ideas.  This is also why it is so beneficial to have a multi-age class – the littler ones look up to and imitate the big kids, and the big kids learn sensitivity and develop empathy from being around the younger ones. I especially loved the “Little White Duck” song today. We had lots of imitating of the animal actions – the kids were watching each other closely and picking up on the different verses of the songs.


SUCCESS BREEDS SUCCESS

Jill* was a great example of this today with her strawberries and cheese turn on the lollipop drum and her steady beat keeping all by herself on the woodblock! She has practiced these skills for a long time, and just like the carrot in our book, “The Carrot Seed”, we’re seeing more and more “above ground” every class. First, the child experiences success being led by the teacher. Once they’ve celebrated this step, they might spend a while doing the skill, but with the comfort of the teacher or parent alongside. After those successes, they may even do it all by themselves! Of course, all of this is led by the individual child’s development, but the important part is that the skills build on one another. This is why we have a steady, repeating curriculum that doesn’t change – the repetition is crucial to success!


PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT IS CRITICAL
         It can never be said too often – you as parents are your children’s first and most important teachers! Your active involvement in this class is absolutely critical to their growth. Not only do children love to hear you sing and see you dance, they are learning the most from that modelling.  You all have been doing so beautifully – thank you for your singing voices and willingness to dance and enjoy.  Children will mimic what you do, so one day, after hearing you sing, watching you do the actions, and even sometimes taking turns on the instruments, they will feel safe and confident enough to sing or play on their own!

ENCOURAGEMENT IS ESSENTIAL
       I love every moment when a child has an exciting or successful turn, and they immediately turn back to their grown up to see your smile and get a hug!  It’s so crucial to have that reinforcement of a job well done.  The joy of learning is invaluable and if that encouraging foundation is solid, it should serve you and your child for a long time.
*Names changed

Why do we roll a ball at the beginning of class?

It’s an unexpected thing for new families to walk into – having signed up for a music class, they walk in to see us just sitting in a circle, rolling a ball back and forth! Why do SECE classes always start this way?  There are both practical and educational reasons that we take time to start with this activity.  There’s a lot more going on than what it may seem like on the surface!

On a practical level, ball rolling is a time to transition from the morning you’ve had to class time.  We leave the door closed on purpose and welcome everyone in when class has officially begun.  We start Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” and open the door for everyone to file in, take off their shoes and join the circle.  When you’re in the room, it’s class time!

Ball rolling also helps us with the practical skill of rolling that we use during our opening “Cuckoo” activity.

But beyond that, ball rolling has so many deep educational purposes.

Ball rolling sets the expectations of class.

Ball rolling encourages a focus on listening to the music. We listen calmly and carefully to Eine Kleine Nachtmusik each week and keep talking to a minimum. If needed, we use non-verbal cues to allow our ears to tune into the music.

Ball rolling helps us create our calm learning environment.  Children only learn when they are calm.  Ball rolling establishes this calm that will be our goal to sustain through the rest of class.

Ball rolling allows us to practice taking turns and sharing.  We have to be able to take turns for the rest of class, of course, but this skill goes well beyond what we do in our SECE classes!

Ball rolling reminds children that they work together with their parents as a team.  Children are expected to sit with their grown-ups, either in their laps or right at their side for ball rolling and the rest of class.

Ball rolling develops sensitivity. Often children start to notice when others have not yet had a turn, and choose to roll the ball to them.  It’s so important to encourage this beautiful sensitivity in children.  It fosters a sense of community and togetherness for the class.

Hopefully this allows you to understand why we value this opening activity! Next time in class, see if you notice any of these abilities being developed in your child!

 

Back to School Time!

In the last week of August, something in the air seems to shift – all of the back-to-school  displays filled with pencils and folders become unavoidable, school buses start to show up around town, and we scramble to make the most of the remaining days of summer.  The children in our classes might not necessarily be going back to formal school, but they will be returning to our classes after a break period, which got me to thinking – what are some ways to get children excited and ready to come back to our SECE classes?

Of course, if you aren’t already listening daily to the CD of the class songs, play that recording! Any time is a good time – mealtime, in the car, playtime, the lullabies at the end of the CD at naptime or bedtime – it doesn’t matter when, just get in the habit of enjoying the music! Active engagement with the music is delightful – doing the actions from class, singing along, or making up your own dance moves are all wonderful.

Specific songs offer fun possibilities –

  • Compose new falling third xylophone songs about things you did this summer, places you visited, or new things your child is interested in. I can’t wait to add new compositions to our repertoire!
  • Next time you go grocery shopping, make up new lists for “To Market” based on what’s in your cart – then if we make new lists in class, we’ll have new suggestions!
  • Summer often is challenging for bedtimes – it may not always be helpful, but it could be fun to sing “Wee Willy Winkie” with many different bedtimes before going to bed.
  • Sing “Mulberry Bush” in the morning (or any time of day) with the activities that make up your morning routine.
  • Set up a circle of stuffed animals and other friends to practice singing  and taking turns during “Bow Wow Wow.”

Hopefully some of these suggestions might give you ideas to build excitement and anticipation about coming back to class! We’re so excited to see you all.

Classes begin the week of September 12th – there are Monday, Wednesday and Saturday morning options. Register now if you haven’t already by emailing or calling the office. More details here!

 

 

Why do we journal at the end of class?

At the end of each class, parents are asked to take a moment to journal. This small moment of reflection is a powerful opportunity for parents to become keen observers of their own children.

Often the major milestones – first steps, first words – are what parents look for. But the daily moments of growth and development are just as exciting and important. Journaling is a chance to celebrate these small steps.  It may be a social skill, like the first time a child extends a hand for a handshake during the good morning song, being sensitive to other children during ball rolling, or the first time they bravely take a glockespiel turn on their own. It might be a musical skill, like the first time they play a “mississippi stop-stop” rhythm on the drum or a growing ability to keep a steady beat on the woodblock. For babies, it may just be staying awake for their favorite song! Whatever it may be for each individual child along their journey, it is so valuable to record and preserve these moments.

When your child’s time in the class has come to a close, you will get to take home a weekly record of each precious moment. This journal will hopefully become a cherished part of your memories of your child’s first years!

journals

Welcome!

As we meet weekly with parents and children, we’re always delighted to see so many wonderful things growing and developing! This blog will be our place to share our thoughts with our current families and give interested parents a view into what’s going on in our classes.