Teaching music in early years settings presents many challenges but one of the most interesting is keeping things fresh!
Sometimes, I’ll deliver a wide-ranging theme that lasts two or even three months, particularly in my outdoor settings where I’m responding to all the things that make up the learning environment – changing weather and seasons; visiting animals and birds; things that grow. I need to strike a balance between repeating songs and activities so that children gain a sense of recognition and ownership and introducing new material to pique their interest and keep them coming back for more.
I do this by adding a little something each week. It might be a new action or a section where the children play percussion or dance. This week as part of our Minibeasts theme, I’ll be adding a simple repeated rhythm – an ostinato – to a great song, The Ants Went Marching One By One (you might know it – it has the same tune as Johnny Come Marching Home).
The ostinato (two claps) comes at the end of the first and second lines like this:
‘The ants went marching one by one, hurrah (clap clap), hurrah (clap clap)’.
The claps fill a natural gap and help with the marching ‘feel’ of the song.
With practice, the children will be able to add them in perfectly in time. Then, if we want to get really fancy, we’ll try marching on the spot as we’re singing and clapping.
Try it – it’s tricky but you get a great sense of achievement when you master it!
This kind of teaching – adding a little something each time – keeps things interesting and allows the children to develop at their own pace – not so slowly that they get bored but not so fast that they get left behind.
I’m loving it.
Postscript: Since I wrote this blog post, the children have spontaneously begun to march round in a circle during The Ants Went Marching, bending when they get to a certain point and crawling on their hands and knees under an imaginary door. Why? They’re responding to some extra lyrics I added in to replace the last line:
And they all went marching…
Across the floor, under the door
Down the drain, out in the rain
Pum, pum, pum!
I didn’t ask them to do this – they just did it. Now that’s what I call fresh!