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CA Dept. of Ed. (2017). Prekindergarten visual and performing arts: Music content standards. Retrieved from http://education.ca.gov/

Dege, F. & Schwartz, G. (2011). The effect of a music program on phonological awareness in preschoolers. Front psychol. 2011; 2, 124

Hallam, S. (2010). Power of music: Its impact on intelligence, social and personal development. International Journal of Music Education. Vol. 28, Issue 3, 2010

Harris, M. (2007). Differences in mathematics scores between students who receive traditional Montessori instruction and students who receive music enriched Montessori instruction. Retrieved from http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/07h5f666

Kirschner, S. & Tomacello, M. (2010). Joint music making promotes prosocial behavior. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31 (2010) 354 - 364

Kiviani, H., Mirbaha, H., Pournaseh, M., Sagan, O. (2014). Can music lessons increase the performance of preschool children in IQ test. Cognitive Processing. February 2014, Vol 15 (1), pp. 77 - 84

Kraus, N. & White, T. (2017). Neurobiology everyday communication. What have we learned from music. The Neuroscientist. 2017 Vol 23 (3) 287 - 298

Little Fox. (2017). Clap your hands. Retrieved from http://bing.com/search?q=Little+fox+clapping

Miendlarzewska, E. A. & Trost, F. W. (2013). How music training affects cognitive development. Front Neuroscience, 2014 Jan 20, 7: 279.

Rauscher, F. H. & LeMieux, M. T. (2003). Piano, rhythm, and singing instructions improve different aspects of spatial-temporal reasoning in head-start children. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the cognitive neuroscience society, New York. Retrieved from http://www.lifelongmusicmaking .org/researchstudies.html

Rauscher, F. H. & Zupan, M. (2000). Classroom keyboards improve kindergarten children’s spatial - temporal processing. Early Childhood Research Quarterly. 15 (2), 2157 – 2281 education.ca.gov/

Schellenberg, E. G. (2004). Music lessons enhance IQ. Psychological Science 2004; Vol. 1,
No. 8: 511-514. Retrieved from http://intl.pss.sagepub.com/content/15/8/511.full

Steele, C.J., Bailey, J. A., Zotorre, R. J., Perkins, V. P. (2013). Early musical training and white matter plasticity in the corpus callosum: Evidence of a sensitive period. Journal of Neural Science 16 January 2013, 33 (3):1282 - 1290 doi: https://10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3578_12.2013

Sulkin, I. (2010). Impact of hand clapping songs on cognitive and motor tasks. Dissertation. In Kay, A. (2010) Center for Life Long Music Making. Retrieved from http://www.lifelonfmusicmaking .org/researchstudies.html

Wan, C. Y. & Schlaug, G. (2010). Music making as a tool for promoting brain plasticity across the life span. Abstract retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20889966

Weinberger, N. (1998). The music in our mind. Education Leadership 56. 36-40. Retrieved from http://www.uci.edu/

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For Prekindergarten Reading Success:

Auditory Training Using Musical Instruments

Open your prekindergarten classroom closet doors on a Monday morning and start taking out your blue and yellow (primary colors) keyboards, recorders, xylophone, and the black/gray electronic drums. Your preschoolers will stop and attend to the instruments, and many will smile and gravitate toward the closet. They will attempt to make each instrument produce musical sounds. Then, invite them to sing along while you play a short phrase of a favorite song, such as “Jesus Loves Me,” on one of the keyboards. Then say, “You can play it too.”

You have just observed children naturally enjoying music. Music participation intrinsically rewards children for their participation, and it rewards them with cognitive enhancements too, Music participation intrinsically rewards children for their participation, and it rewards them with cognitive enhancements too.which translate into higher academic achievement scores (Weinberger, 1998). With music experiences, students will strengthen their auditory processing network in the intraparietal sulcus area (Wan & Schlaug, 2010). That enhancement will result in strengthened literacy skills because the auditory training of playing musical instruments while reading music notation builds networks of neurons and axons in the brain. The additional networks increase the grey matter (neurons) and white matter (axons) volume. Literacy skills, such as decoding of words, utilize those neurological tracks that the music lessons built. The music lessons strengthen the student’s frequency-following responses, allowing for enhanced development of speech sounds that then become sounds stronger than noise. That development makes it easier for the preschooler to hear consonants, vowels, and syllables. The word “cat” will no longer sound like one sound, and the preschoolers will hear the syllables in words such as “elephant” too (Steele et al., 2013; Miendlarzewska & Trost, 2013).

These enhancements occur only when the child experiences enjoyment while playing the musical instruments and reading the music notations. The child must enjoy the music experience to reap the enhancing cognitive benefits of the auditory training. Maintenance of those auditory tracks requires enjoyment too. So, keep the note-reading experience comfortable. Overwhelmed feelings result in limited development of the neurological tracks in the brain. Enjoyment is the key that unlocks the door for the neurological development that the child attains from music lessons (Kraus & White, 2017).

The child must enjoy the music experience to reap the enhancing cognitive benefits of the auditory training.Researchers have also found that successful auditory training involves utilizing a private, ensemble/group, or class music lesson method. Two or three music groups of 4 to 10 children, and music lessons lasting 20–30 minutes two or three times a week produce auditory structural changes in the brain. For a preschool class of 15 students, the preschool keyboard and xylophone group (Group 1) will have eight students as will the electronic drum and flute group (Group 2). The students will play each instrument (keyboard, xylophone, flute, and drums) for about five minutes using songs on sheet music prepared by the teacher. The first lesson the teacher prepares will utilize the notes C, D, and E. The lesson begins with a series of whole notes, then progresses to half notes, and lastly quarter notes. During the lesson, the teacher provides the preschoolers in Group 1 with individual support and sings the songs with the students as they play them on the keyboard for five minutes and then the xylophone for five minutes. The aide will assist the flute and drum players in Group 2. Then Group 1 and Group 2 exchange instruments, and they play each instrument for five minutes for a total of 10 minutes. That makes a 20-minute lesson (Rauscher & Zupan, 2000; Rauscher & LeMieux, 2003; Harris, 2007; Dege & Schwartz, 2011).

For the drumming lesson, the bass drum, snare drum, cymbal, and crash cymbal utilize quarter notes and 4/4 time because that is the easiest rhythm to understand and master. Demonstrate the correct method for holding the drum sticks (thumbs down) and use the percussion staff (two bars) and notations. Once both groups have practiced their songs, synchronize Group 2 drummers with Group 1’s song that is being sung and played on the keyboard. Synchronized playing intrinsically rewards children. The synchronized sounds the children hear promote prosocial behaviors in your classroom. (Kirschner & Tomacello, 2010; Hallan, 2010).

Rhythm instruction strengthens executive functions that influence such skills as cognitive control (attention and inhibition), working memory, and cognitive flexibility skills. Rhythm instruction strengthens executive functions that influence such skills as cognitive control (attention and inhibition), working memory, and cognitive flexibility skills. Those music skills become utilized in math and reading activities due to near transfer (Miendlarzewska & Trost, 2013). Rhythm training not only teaches sequential processing (left brain activity), it develops auditory temporal awareness that involves timing cues in speech. If a child has poor timing, then look for a speech impairment of some kind. Rhythm training and phonological training translate into enhanced cognitive ability and therefore higher achievement scores (Kraus & White, 2017).

The instrumental lessons occur on Monday and Friday, and the singing, dancing (moving to cultural music), and creative writing lessons occur on Wednesday. The music lesson on Wednesday involves the whole class singing a song that incorporates a social studies unit that could have a music subtitle such as, “Favorite Children’s Songs from Around the World.”

Teach that song and move with the music (dance) for ten minutes. For the remaining ten minutes, while some children create their personal song with the teacher or aide, provide the other students with a section of the sheet music from the song they just sang, and ask them to circle (with teacher and aide support) the notes C, D, and E. With this method, the 4-year-old preschoolers can learn to read music notations and write music notes. The students will create their personal songs using blank manuscript music paper. The teacher and aide assist in creating and writing the words to their song that uses the notes C, D, and E. Children choose to write their song while playing the keyboard, xylophone, flute, or drums. Once finished, have them put their name on their music composition, or the teacher or aide can assist them in writing their name. Next, have them choose a music sticker and put it on a white section of the manuscript paper, such as the top or bottom to decorate their composition. Then with more compositions on the music paper, and with framing, the composition paper becomes an exquisite and treasured gift for their family or others.

To transition the students back to classroom activities, utilize a rhythmic hand clapping song sequence. “Clap, clap, clap your elbows as slowly as you can. Clap, clap, clap your elbows as quickly as you can. Clap, clap, clap your knees as slowly as you can. Clap, clap, clap your knees as quickly as you can.” Then, the next time you transition, add “clap your fists” after you sing clap elbows and your knees (Sulkin, 2010; Little Fox, 2013). Rhythm sequences teach the left brain sequential processing, and it also teaches body parts. Therefore, these songs make excellent transition songs for preschoolers. Then, as the day proceeds into your flash-card drill activity, make sure that you slip into the number flash cards, the quarter note in the C, D, or E position, and the quarter rest written on a music staff. In your alphabet flash cards, include the C, D, and E quarter notes and ask the name of the note.

The above meets a number of the curriculum standards that direct students to read and write music notations and to use music terminology. That occurs weekly, as does incorporating music into reading (reading words of songs), math (quarter, half, and whole notes, and corresponding rests), and social studies (cultural songs and dances). The teaching of the colors—blue, black, and yellow—and the body parts—elbows, knees, and fists, as well as, the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and the alphabet letters: C, D, E—incorporates music into the classroom learning goals. Improvising and creating songs plus using music terminology such as the quarter, half, and whole notes and corresponding rests accompanied with lyrics that the student reads, indicate that the student has mastered the standard objective of understanding music notations presented in an integrative subject and comprehensive music program (CA Dept. of Ed., 2017).

The preschool years are the “window of opportunity” and the critical period for developing the auditory cortex.The preschool years are the “window of opportunity” and the critical period for developing the auditory cortex. That “window of opportunity” begins to close when the child is about seven years old (Steele et al., 2013), after which time the neurological structural enhancements from music instruction will become harder to attain due to the pruning process that eliminates unused neurons. Although that process makes the neural system more efficient, without those neurons, mastering skills such as sound discrimination used when decoding words becomes harder to attain (Miendlarzewska & Trost, 2013). Schellenberg (2004) demonstrated that music instruction for 6–11 years old enhanced the students IQ by 2.7 points. Kiviani et al. (2014) found significant enhancement of preschoolers’ IQ with music instruction specifically in the areas of verbal reasoning and short-term memory. Music instruction enhances cognition.

Let’s sing, dance, drum, and play musical instruments with our preschoolers and kindergarteners and marvel at their ability to hear the sounds in words. A quality preschool experience can enhance cognitive ability by 4 IQ points, and with a language program in the curriculum, it can become 7 IQ points (Protzko et al., 2013). 9.7 IQ points could potentially move a child that has an average IQ into the above average IQ range. So, teachers, let’s sing, dance, drum, and play musical instruments with our preschoolers and kindergarteners and marvel at their ability to hear the sounds in words, and then clap with them as they enter first grade reading at first grade level or higher.

Margaret Beyer is a credentialed school psychologist, currently writing a dissertation for her doctorate at Walden University.

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