Promoting Equity, Community, and Culture Among Our Youngest Musicians, Part 2
Six Strategies for Selecting or Adapting Approaches and Music Material
By NAfME Members Diana R. Dansereau, PhD and Alison M. Reynolds, PhD
In our first blog post, Promoting Equity, Community, and Culture Among Our Youngest Musicians (2017, July 17), we shared overarching, orienting perspectives to consider when engaging young children (those from at least birth through 3rd grade) musically. In this post, we offer a few ways to reflect on teaching approaches to music engagement and the music content relative to promoting equity, community, and culture in music classrooms. We do so by reflecting that children benefit when adults consider multiple ways for adults to learn to know children in their musical care, offer children a safe and welcoming musicking environment, and provide opportunities for children to learn more about themselves and each other through music.
Within this post, we draw on content from our joint presentation at the NAfME 2017 National Conference (Reynolds & Dansereau, 2017). To prepare that presentation, we considered content from documents that have encouraged us to actively promote equity, community, and culture in our music engagement with young children. Such documents include NAfME’s Music for All mission statement, NAfME’s Equity & Access Position Statement, and research articles by members of NAfME’s Early Childhood Music Special Research Interest Group.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) offers an Introduction to Developmentally Appropriate Practice (NAEYC, 2018), which includes core considerations for teachers to be mindful of when making decisions about practice (NAEYC). Its position statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2009) specifies considerations about general early childhood education practices, which offer music teachers further support when considering decisions affecting early childhood music practices. We find that reflecting on learning more about or knowing content described in the following two considerations helps us to identify the knowledge necessary to make decisions that promote equity, community, and culture in our own practices:
- “What is known about each child as an individual—referring to what practitioners learn about each child that has implications for how best to adapt and be responsive to that individual variation.” (NAEYC, 2009, p. 9)
- “What is known about the social and cultural contexts in which children live—referring to the values, expectations, and behavioral and linguistic conventions that shape children’s lives at home and in their communities that practitioners must strive to understand in order to ensure that learning experiences in the program or school are meaningful, relevant, and respectful for each child and family.” (NAEYC, 2009, p. 10)
Equipped with knowledge of that content, music teachers likely will be better prepared to implement inclusive approaches and introduce inclusive music material, likely resulting in classrooms and musicking that more children will find accessible.
In the list that follows, we offer six strategies to consider when selecting or adapting approaches and music material. First, we offer broad suggestions for each strategy. Then, we share one music selection from our NAfME presentation (i.e., a rhyme), and offer specific examples for applying each of the six strategies.
- Offer songs and chants without words. This approach to offering music to children focuses all children’s attention on melodic and/or rhythmic content of the music. For children whose speech is developmental and those whose home language differs from the lyrics of the song or chant, offering no lyrics increases ways for them to fully participate.
- Provide options for how the music material can be adapted and encourage children to contribute to that music engagement. For example, include children as leaders, provide opportunities during music activities for them to experience forms of music engagement recommended in NAfME’s Pre-Kindergarten-2nd grade 2014 Music Standards, such as request, select, order, modify, refine, and document aspects of their music engagement. Inviting children early and often as leaders honors their agency as musickers—especially for increasing independent use of music engagement we introduce or reinforce during music classes. Also, consider creating protocols that help avoid potential biases when selecting children to lead, decide, or choose others (e.g., invite a child to draw a name from a “hat”). For example, determine routines and systems for selecting children that include plans for which days, which children, and when someone is absent.
- Notice (or invite input from others about) children’s interests and music behaviors outside of music class and tap into those ideas. Discover children’s interests and incorporate them into the musicking. Children know when a teacher knows more about them than their names. By establishing a deeper rapport with children, we can increase the authenticity of music engagement when they are in our care.
- Recognize potential for music to function as a transition object. Learn from children’s caregivers’ songs or chants (rhymes) they have enjoyed outside of music class. Consider using those to welcome individual children or groups of children to the music setting.
- Be mindful of diverse conditions in which children live and adapt music content accordingly. Avoid, rewrite, or remove texts that are gender normative, heteronormative, or otherwise biased with regard to gender. Consider possible or known living conditions or situations from which children arrive to the music engagement setting, realizing not all children are coming from stable or comfortable homes, or stable providers of care.
- Invite children’s connections with music from outside music class to music class. Children who struggle to adapt to school settings or inherently enjoy or value music class time might benefit from concrete experiences that connect music engagement in school with forms of music engagement outside of school. Invite children and family to contribute to music-class culture. Offer parent/guardian family music nights.
Inviting children early and often as leaders honors their agency as musickers—especially for increasing independent use of music engagement we introduce or reinforce during music classes.
With those six overarching strategies in mind, let’s suppose that the following rhyme, “Higglety Pigglety Pop” (Goodrich, 1864, pp. 52-54) is in the teaching repertoire:
Higglety Pigglety Pop!
The dog has eaten the mop.
The pig’s in a hurry,
The cat’s in a flurry,
Higglety Pigglety Pop!
In response to asking how those six strategies might be applied to that chant, we offer a few specific examples:
- Offer “Higglety Pigglety Pop” without words. This rhyme could easily be chanted using a neutral syllable, such as “bah.” Using conversation-like inflection, the teacher could leave a purposeful silence for the final rhythm pattern (i.e., line five of the rhyme). Examples for music engagement include inviting all children to join in chanting the rhythm on a neutral syllable, chant their own rhythms while you chant the rhythms of the rhyme—such as creating rhythms to represent the higglety pigglety of hurrying and flurrying, or alternate chanting lines of the chant with a friend or the teacher.
- Provide options for how the music content in “Higglety Pigglety Pop” can be adapted and encourage children to lead, request, select, order, modify, refine, and document music engagement. Consider asking the children who they would like to include in the musicking, and alter the text of the song based on their suggestions. For example, the children might offer pets or favorite animals that could replace the original text. Children might also offer options for how to represent the chant through movement. Once movements are added, the children can silently audiate the text while performing the movements or alternate moving to lines of the chant with a friend or the teacher. Brainstorm together how the movements might change if the children felt sleepy or excited, or how their chanting might change if they used whispering, shouting (e.g., angry), head, or chest voices.
- Notice (or invite input from others about) children’s interests and music behaviors outside of music class and tap into those ideas when chanting this rhyme. Suppose you notice that the children engage in hand clapping games on the playground. Encourage the children to create a hand clapping game or body percussion to accompany this rhyme. Playing with objects while chanting the rhyme could extend children’s engagement. For example, partners could roll or bounce balls back-and-forth while everyone chants the rhyme. Look for extra-musical interests as well and identify opportunities to incorporate them into the music engagement. For example, consider a child who is interested in butterflies, dinosaurs, insects, or construction vehicles. Invite children to suggest ways to change the animals in lines two, three, and four of the rhyme to replace dog, pig, and cat with nouns that fit within a category interesting to the children.
- Recognize potential for music to function as a transition object. If in conversation with a caregiver you learn something about a child’s or the class’s day emotionally, or about their interests or achievements prior to coming to music class, you might improvise new words to some or all of the chant to greet the child or class (e.g., improvised lyrics to chant during lines three and four: “If you feel a bit groggy, let’s warm up our bodies!”).
- Be mindful of diverse conditions in which children live and adapt the music content of “Higglety Pigglety Pop” accordingly. The rhyme’s text might not present challenges for children who speak English; but, ensuring that all children know what a mop is and uses for it, or understand through movement what being in a flurry might mean or feel like could unlock ideas for all children. Children who have home languages other than English might be invited to teach everyone to say “dog,” “pig,” and “cat” in their home language, and guide us to incorporate those words into the chant.
- Invite children’s connections with music from outside music class to music class. Share “Higglety, Pigglety, Pop” with parents and invite them to recall and share a rhyme or chant from their childhood with you. Ask if there are chants that they perform with their children that you might incorporate into music class and request that children share chants they have learned elsewhere.
By ensuring that all children have voice and are full participants in the music-making, we make positive steps toward promoting equity, community, and culture among our youngest musicians.
Applying those six strategies to songs and chants selected for music engagement in early childhood contexts would undoubtedly result in countless ideas for providing “another way in” to musicking for all children. By ensuring that all children have voice and are full participants in the music-making, we make positive steps toward promoting equity, community, and culture among our youngest musicians.
Goodrich, S. G. (1846). Robert Merry’s museum.
National Association for Music Education. (2018). Equity and access in music education: A position statement of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME).
National Association for Music Education. (2018). Mission statement.
National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8.
National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2018). Developmentally appropriate practice introduction.
Reynolds, A. M., & Dansereau, D. R. (2017, July 17). “Promoting equity, community, and culture among our youngest musicians, Part 1.”
About the authors:
NAfME member Dr. Diana R. Dansereau is Assistant Professor of Music Education at Boston University. She is dedicated to enriching the musical lives of young children, and demonstrates this by researching music learning in early childhood; implementing innovative musical experiences in early childhood and elementary settings; working with pre- and in-service music teachers to critically analyze research and practice; serving professional organizations whose missions pertain to advancing children’s music learning; and evaluating arts organizations’ and schools’ music programs for children.
Dr. Dansereau is Editor of the International Journal of Music in Early Childhood, Vice President and Director of Publications for the Early Childhood Music & Movement Association, and Immediate Past Chair of NAfME’s Early Childhood Music Special Research Interest Group. She is co-editor of the forthcoming Pluralism in American Music Education Research: Essays and Narratives (Springer, 2018), a contributing author to the book Learning from Young Children: Research in Early Childhood Music, and has been published in conference proceedings and journals, which include Psychology of Music, Journal of Research in Music Education, International Journal of Community Music, Music Educators Journal, and Perspectives: Journal of the Early Childhood Music & Movement Association, and Massachusetts Music News.
At Boston University, Dr. Dansereau teaches elementary methods to undergraduate students, and graduate courses in early childhood music education, the psychology and sociology of music teaching and learning, and quantitative research in music education. Prior to her appointment, she was an instructor at Georgia State University, held teaching assistantships at Georgia State and Penn State, and served as Assistant Director of Education & Outreach for the Pittsburgh Symphony. She taught elementary general and instrumental music in Rochester, NY, and early childhood music in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. She currently teaches music to infants and toddlers as part of Soundplay—a program she co-founded at the Rhode Island Philharmonic Music School.
Diana R. Dansereau, PhD
College of Fine Arts
NAfME member Dr. Alison M. Reynolds is Professor of Music Education in the Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University. She focuses her research and teaching interests on expressive and creative music development, early childhood and general music teacher preparation, and developing curriculum materials for children 12 years old and younger.
Dr. Reynolds has been published in Journal of Research in Music Education, Bulletin for the Council of Research in Music Education, Arts Education Policy Review, Research Studies in Music Education, Journal of Music Teacher Education, Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, Perspectives, and several state music educators’ journals. She is in her second term of service on the review board for Bulletin of the Council of Research in Music Education, serves as reviewer for He Kupu (the word) and International Journal of Early Childhood Music review boards. She is co-author of Jump Right In: The Music Curriculum (Revised Edition) and Music Play, which has been translated to Korean, Lithuanian, and Chinese, and co-editor of Engaging Musical Practices: A Sourcebook for Elementary General Music. She is a frequent presenter of research and practice in international, national, regional, state, and local venues.
At Temple, Dr. Reynolds guides undergraduates in the Music Learning and Development course, and has served as mentor for Diamond Peer Teachers, Diamond Research Scholars, and Creative Arts and Research and Scholarship award recipients. At the graduate level, she has taught Introduction to Research in Music Education, Learning Theory in Music, From Research to Practice in 21st Century Music Education, Creative Spaces in Music, and Qualitative Research. She guides graduate students’ extended practice in Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade music settings and higher education; collaborates with them on research and practical projects; and offers guidance on independent study and research projects, theses, dissertations, and preparation for music teacher education.
Dr. Reynolds serves as academic advisor to undergraduate and graduate students. She served as Chair of the National Association for Music Education’s Early Childhood Music Special Research Interest Group (2014-2016), and currently serves as Research Chair and a member of the Strategic Planning Committee for Pennsylvania Music Educators Association. Since 2011, she has been in partnership with Project P.L.A.Y. School in Elkins Park, PA, collaborating with its directors, Temple music education students, and children as they co-construct music and research.
Alison M. Reynolds, PhD
Presser Center for Research and Creativity in Music
Boyer College of Music and Dance
The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.