Let’s Sing to Learn

By Cathy Walters, Target® 2009 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™

Let’s Sing to Learn!

It happened twice this weekend.  The first time was on Saturday night when I went to see the movie Mamma Mia.  I came out of the theater humming ABBA tunes with a smile on my face and a skip in my step.  The second time it happened was on Sunday when I heard the National Anthem.  Team USA’s men’s 4X100-meter freestyle relay was receiving gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics for their amazing victory during the swimming competition.  I cried like a baby.  In both instances music moved me in a profound way.  We all have had this experience, but why does it happen?

Brain research tells us that physiological things happen to us when we listen to and make music.  Music causes changes in EEG activity and pulse rate.  We as educators can use this research in our teaching strategies because music engages multiple memory pathways and increases receptivity that is known to enhance and accelerate learning (Music with the Brain in Mind by Eric Jensen).  Who wouldn’t want to use another mode of instruction to enhance and accelerate learning?!   Using this information to incorporate singing and movement in our classrooms is easy, fun, and can happen outside of music class.

I was very fortunate to have the legacy of song writing passed down to me by my friend and mentor, Genevieve Fortuna.  Years before the brain research studies were available to the general public she was writing songs as essential pieces of curriculum.  She knew that music lifts our spirits and brings joy to our souls; she also knew it was a fun way to deliver information.  I learned much from this wise woman, just like husky pups learn from the wise, more experienced sled dogs.  Genevieve moved from the classroom several years ago and is currently in the business of parent education, but we continue her music legacy.  Now no unit feels quite complete until we have at least one song to go with it!

The lessons I am posting today, August 12, all have accompanying songs. There is a geography song, an art song, an exercise/letter song, an information song, and a fun echo movement song; moreover, they all are about the Iditarod and Alaska.  I have posted the words to each song and the tune to which it should be sung.  We plan on making the audio recording of each song available to you very soon.  I doubt these songs will make you cry like the National Anthem, but they are catchy tunes that really do get stuck in your head.  Many parents have shared with me that they hear their children singing these songs around the house.  That is strong testimony to the power of a simple song!  So when they are available, download the tunes and put a little Iditarod music in your classroom to enhance and accelerate learning!

First posted August 12, 2008

Listen to the music.  Use the lesson plans. Lessons are geared for PreK, Kindergarten, lower elementary, but the music and lessons are adaptable to a variety of learners.

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