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Starting Early: Nurturing the Musical Growth of Young Children

Info: 8806 words (35 pages) Dissertation
Published: 22nd Nov 2021

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Tagged: MusicYoung People

Teaching early childhood music is one of the most rewarding career choices a music teacher can make. Nurturing young children’s musical growth is both a privilege and a responsibility during this remarkable time of child development. The key is to provide developmentally appropriate playful and joyful musicking experiences that support young children’s innate musical potential.

In this chapter, the development and implementation of a course designed specifically to prepare preservice music teachers to facilitate the music acquisition of young children ages pre-birth through 6 is presented. Topics covered include:

  • cultivating a foundation of child and music development;
  • structuring an early childhood music curriculum that features a pedagogy of developmentally appropriate practice, informal guidance and play;
  • forming an early childhood music practice in at home and in child care settings;
  • starting and administering a business; the role of policy in early childhood music education;
  • professional development; and constructing a curriculum for early childhood music methods.

Through a course of this kind, preservice music teachers will be prepared to enter the musical world of young children and establish an early childhood music practice.


Child Development and Learning

A holistic, or comprehensive perspective of how young children grow and develop should be emphasized when preparing preservice music teachers to teach early childhood music.

With an awareness of how young children mature, college students will have knowledge of the complex nature of child development as they create music curriculum and structure music classes that take into consideration young children’s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional domains. Integrally related with children’s abilities, each domain builds on previously acquired skills and knowledge. Development within each domain is dependent on children’s maturation and supportive socio-cultural contexts with caring and responsive parents and caregivers. Importantly, children’s early experiences critically shape their foundation for the future (National Association for the Education of Young Children [NAEYC], 2009) having implications for early childhood music. Course content regarding child development should address at least the physical, cognitive, and social-emotional domains of development. The following are broad descriptions of these domains:

(a) Physical—Young children’s growth occurs proxomodistally (from the center of the body to extremities) and cephalocaudally (the direction from head to toes). They first master gross motor movement with the muscles of their legs, trunk, and arms: creeping and crawling as infants, jumping and riding a tricycle as toddlers, and hopping and skipping as preschoolers. Over time, they are able to coordinate hand-eye movements, developing competence of fine motor movement with the small muscles of fingers and hands. They learn to grasp with the thumb and forefinger, then scribble with crayons, and eventually use a fork and spoon (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015; Oguejiofio, 2017; Cherry, 2017).

(b) Cognitive— Cognitively, children actively construct thought processes, such as recalling, problem solving, decision-making, understanding, and concentrating (Piaget, 1926). They learn to use their imaginations and come to understand the difference between past, present, and future. Acquiring language and verbal skills—for example, the use of sounds and eventually words for communication—they also develop non-verbal skills like pitch and tone of the voice, gestures, facial expressions, and body posture (Carey, n. d.; Cherry, 2017). With language at the crux, social interactions are critical to young children’s cognitive functioning (Vygotsky, 1962).

(c) Social-emotional—Through social-emotional development, young children learn to make responsible decisions and use effective ways to cultivate and maintain positive relationships with others. As infants, they demonstrate basic emotions through actions such as smiling, crying, and frowning, which are reinforced over time through social interactions with others. Their capacity to self-regulate and show emotions that are socially acceptable increases over time. Young children learn how to be independent, share, take turns, work with others, think before they act, and resolve conflict (Cohen, Onunaku, Clothier, & Poppe, 2005; Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, 2017; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015).

Like child development, music development is an ongoing, fluid process as young children grow and mature. Parents, educators, and caregivers can help children meet their full musical potential as they nurture and support the young children under their care.

Music Development and Learning

One way for preservice music teachers to conceptualize music development is to compare it with language acquisition (Gehrkins, 1915; Gordon, 2011, 2012; Burton, 2011, 2015; Imberty, 2003; Reynolds, Long, & Valerio, 2007). In language acquisition, young children are first immersed in the language of their culture while in the womb (Apel & Masterson, 2012). After birth, they continue to absorb language, grasping its syntax as they engage in communicative interactions with significant others (Bruner, 1983; Golinkoff & Hirsch-Pasek, 1999). They make intonational sounds and patterns, babble with intention, and begin to imitate words. As their vocalizations become more precise, they communicate with others through words, sentences, and conversation. Eventually, they learn how to read and write. As the language skills of young children expand, their cognitive capacity increases (Apel & Masterson, 2012; Vygotsky, 1962).

Parallel to language acquisition, a similar developmental progression exists in music through the types and stages of preparatory audiation (Gordon, 2013; Reynolds & Valerio, 2015), the process through which young children assimilate the syntax of music and learn to audiate[1] (Gordon, 2012). Beginning in the womb, the fetus absorbs the sounds of music from the surrounding environment (Lecanuet, 1996). After birth, young children become immersed in the music of their culture by a parent, caregiver, or music provider who moves, sings, and rhythmically chants to and for them (Gordon, 2013; Valerio, Reynolds, Bolton, Taggart, & Gordon, 1998). These tonal and rhythmic interactions with parents and caregivers scaffold young children’s acquisition of the melodic, rhythmic, metric, harmonic, and timbral structure of music (Asano & Boerkx, 2015; see Reynolds & Burton, 2017). Over time, young children babble musically with their vocalizations increasingly sounding like the music around them. They sing and chant in imitation, producing musical sounds with precision (Gordon, 2013). Proceeding from imitation, young children develop the ability to coordinate their vocalizations with their breath and movement to the music they hear and make, and begin to audiate (Gordon, 2013; Valerio, et al., 1998). Throughout the stages of musical development, they improvise, drawing upon their interactive listening and musicking experiences with others. All of these experiences influence young children’s abilities to read and write music with comprehension as they grow older (Burton, 2011, 2015; Gordon, 2011; Reynolds, Long, and Valerio, 2007; Shouldice, 2015).

In addition to moving through the types and stages of preparatory audiation, young children possess certain characteristics of musical growth that have been identified by researchers and practitioners.[2] When taken together, they describe qualities of musical development according to the following age ranges of young children:

  • Pre-birth: The fetus absorbs musical sounds from environment and responds to music stimuli through movement.
  • 0-18 months: Newborns and infants absorb music from the environment and show sensitivity to pitch, tonal and rhythm patterns, melodic contour, and meter. They vocalize with glissando-like quality and move with flowing and free movements to songs, rhythmic chants, and recorded music.
  • 18 months-3 years: Toddlers approximate tonal and rhythmic patterns, improvise spontaneously and invite others to take part in musical exchanges. They enjoy imitation and repetition of musical ideas and engage in instrument exploration and play. Toddlers move with flowing and gross motor movements.
  •  3-5 years: Preschool-aged children imitate tonal and rhythmic patterns with more precision than toddlers and respond more in tune and in time than their younger counterparts. Vocally, they improvise melodic and rhythm patterns and spontaneously chant rhythmically or sing songs. Preschool children have the ability to coordinate their playing of small percussion instruments with music. They also enjoy repetition of musical ideas. And they move with flow, and with gross and fine motor movements. Preschoolers have interest in print music and enjoy engaging with screen technology through music-based apps and programs. They are capable of independently performing many musical activities.
  • 5-6 years: Kindergarten children have discrete music preferences. They imitate tonal and rhythm patterns with accuracy and improvise within tonal and/or rhythmic contexts, often spontaneously creating songs and rhythmic chants. Kindergarteners have the ability to discriminate between “same” and “different” tonal and rhythm patterns and can identify simple musical forms. They enjoy having music read to them and approximating their own musical compositions. Proficient movers, they demonstrate flow, gross and fine motor movements, and an ability to move to steady beat and uncomplicated choreographed dances. Further, they are capable of playing simple ostinati on small percussion instruments. With interest, they engage with screen technology and music-based programs and apps. Kindergarten children are able to participate in music activities unassisted, in pairs, or small groups.

Grounded in child and music development, preservice music teachers have a basis for helping young children realize their full musical potential.

Instructional Foundations for Early Childhood Music

Preservice music teachers should be equipped with pedagogical content knowledge and associated instructional techniques to construct high quality and comprehensive curriculum and learning experiences for young children. Two developmentally appropriate instructional strategies, informal guidance and play, form a powerful pedagogical framework from which students can guide young children’s music acquisition.

Developmentally Appropriate Practice

Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) is “using knowledge about child development to create a program that is suitable for the age and stage of development of children while considering the needs of the individual child” (Child Care Aware® of America, 2016). As preservice music teachers become mindful of DAP and learn to facilitate music learning in early childhood, they should strive to incorporate the following areas of practice, as outlined by NAEYC (2009). These five areas are presented with guidelines for supporting musically developmental practice.

1. Create a caring community of learners. Foster a musically supportive community that includes the teacher, the young child and peers, parents, and caregivers.  

2. Teach to enhance development and learning. Possess skills to be a knowledgeable observer of young children’s musical behavior and development by interacting and playing with, modeling for, and supporting them to meet their full musical potential.

3. Plan curriculum to achieve important goals. Create curriculum that is research-based, using findings to scaffold young children’s musical ability so they may enjoy a unique means of creative expression and communication with others.

4. Assess children’s development and learning. Observe and document young children’s musical growth, noting individual musical milestones reached.

5. Establish reciprocal relationships with families. Understand the important, collaborative role families play in the musical development of young children and invite them to be active participants in the music education of their child.

Principles of DAP should be taken into account as musical interactions featuring informal guidance and play are planned and implemented.

Informal Guidance

Often, music teaching and learning is associated with formal instruction, which has a tendency to be structured and prescriptive in nature. However, young children, pre-birth through age 6, should not be expected to learn music in the same way as older children or adults (Gordon, 2013). Informal guidance is unstructured and loosely planned (Gordon, 2013; Valerio et al., 1998). The teacher is a musical model and guide, following the lead of the child, often spontaneously, while supporting young children’s musical growth within their realm of musical and overall development (Wien, 2008). In informal guidance, there is no expectation for accuracy or correctness as music learning is viewed as a wholly developmental process with instruction adapted to children’s musical needs (Taggart, 2016).

As a mode of facilitating young children’s musical growth, informal guidance may be a concept that is difficult to learn, particularly when preservice music teachers have been through educational systems that emphasize formal instruction and high stakes assessment. Therefore, opportunities to observe and participate in exemplary early childhood music classes provide an instructional model for preservice music teachers to follow.


In tandem with informal guidance, adopting a pedagogy of play–an informal process that is child-initiated, child-driven, and voluntary—is important for developmentally supporting young children as they mature (Hirsch-Pasek, Golinkoff, Berk, & Singer, 2009; Project Zero, 2016). This type of setting supports stages of children’s play: onlooker–a child observing others playing; parallel play–children playing side by side, yet in their own worlds; associative play–children engaging in similar activities, but not playing together; and cooperative play–children playing together (Rock, 2018). Through play, young children develop their imaginations and construct meaning of the world around them (Vygotsky, 1962). Play takes into account multiple levels of competence, giving children agency to create challenges for themselves. It is an important vehicle for young children’s growing capacities of autonomy, self-regulation, language development, cognition, and social interaction (Hirsch-Pasek, Golinkoff, Berk, & Singer, 2009).

An environment of music play encourages young children to freely, spontaneously, expressively, and enthusiastically experiment with music through vocalizations (Reynolds, 2006; Valerio, Seaman, Yap, & Santucci, 2006; Valerio, et al., 1998), movement (Metz, 1989), manipulation of musical instruments (Moorhead & Pond, 1978), reading and notating music, (Burton, 2011), and technology (Burton & Pearsall, 2016). When young children are invited to participate in positive, developmentally appropriate, play-based learning experiences, in an atmosphere that allows for unhurried time (Wien, 2008), they extend their musical play (Moorhead & Pond, 1978; Young, 2003). An environment structured for music play is vibrant, active, flexible, and responsive to children’s developmental and musical needs, interests, and abilities (Reynolds, Renzoni, Waters, & Turowski, 2015).

Facilitating Early Childhood Music

Competencies of an Early Childhood Music Teacher

Preservice music teachers should cultivate particular attributes for facilitating music with young children. These characteristics can be fostered in the early childhood music course where preservice music teachers have in-class experiences and field experiences in early childhood music classes with young children. These learning opportunities support preservice music teachers’ abilities to connect theory to practice and facilitating early childhood music in informal and playful ways. Along with having a passion for young children and music, students should have the competency to

  • gather background information of the children in their care;
  • identify types and stages of preparatory audiation and characteristics of young children’s musical development;
  • scaffold young children’s music growth by noticing, observing, diagnosing, and documenting young children’s musical and developmental behavior and needs;
  • construct music learning experiences based upon research and reflection, leaving space for new possibilities;
  • communicate musically developmental milestones to parents and caregivers;
  • choose appropriate repertoire;
  • memorize a diverse repertoire of songs and chants;
  • model musically by singing in tune, moving with flow, and rhythmically chanting in meter and time;
  • comfortably improvise melodically and rhythmically, through movement, and on small percussion instruments;
  • effectively use communicative behaviors, modifying them as needed –vocally (tone and quality of voice, rates of speech, and timing) and physically (eye contact, facial expression, gestures, and posture, Raiber & Teachout, 2014).
  • establish an early childhood practice in different settings;
  • start and maintain a business;
  • promote early childhood music;
  • stay abreast of policy in practice; and
  • participate in professional development.

Background Information

Gathering information regarding young children’s backgrounds is valuable for planning appropriate learner-centered music experiences. Among the considerations for the preservice music teacher to make before children enter the classroom are learning names of the children, their ages, their interests, and whether they have needs that require modifications or accommodations. Another approach that will increase support for young children’s music development is to invite children’s families and caregivers to participate in classes and involve them in music activities. With a comprehensive understanding of children in their music classes, preservice music teachers will be better prepared to plan and teach age- and stage-appropriate classes in an environment that takes into account child and music development.


Children learn by making comparisons and finding relationships. To make musical comparisons, they should be exposed to a range of musics, beyond the major tonality and duple meter music that infiltrates their environment. This repertoire will have at its core songs, chants, and recorded music that represent a variety of tonalities and meters (Gordon, 2013; Taggart, 2016, Valerio et al., 1998). This music should have little to no words so young children can focus their audiation on musical qualities, rather than text. For that reason, finger plays, rhymes, and play parties may also be used as repertoire, but sparingly. Recorded music, representative of a variety of genres (e.g., classical, popular, and world music), acculturates young children to tonality, meter, genre, and style, particularly when coupled with movement activities.

Music Learning Experiences

Throughout the early childhood music course, observation of young children interacting in play groups or childcare settings will familiarize preservice music teachers with child development. Participating in high quality early childhood music classes with opportunities for music facilitation provide a backdrop for designing music experiences of active listening, singing, rhythmic chanting, creating/improvising, continuous fluid movement, and Laban movement efforts of flow, weight, space, and time (Valerio et al., 1998) that are relevant to young children’s musical growth. In addition, they should learn how to provide young children with opportunities to respond musically through tonal and rhythm pattern interaction, a means for internalizing and audiating the foundation of music (Gordon, 2013). The purposeful use of props such as puppets, scarves, shakers, and bean bags, and at the appropriate age, small percussion instruments animate children’s musical participation.

Observation, participation, and reflection ground the formation of preservice music teachers’ emerging early childhood music practice, preferably occurring within real time music classes; however, case studies also offer possibilities. For instance, ask students to observe the following early childhood music class for 3-year-olds in a childcare setting and reflect upon what they notice.

The music teacher prepares the classroom, moving all furniture and supplies to the perimeter of the room to open up the carpeted space. The teacher sets out a gathering drum on the floor, and on a table in the front of the room, a yellow bird puppet, multi-colored chiffon scarves, egg shakers, tone bars, a “Big Book of Songs and Chants” and a recording of “In the Mood.” Once the area is prepared, the teacher kneels by the drum and begins singing the Dorian song, “Haul Away Joe” while accompanying the song on the drum. The three-year-old children enter the room and run to the drum with excitement, joining in and playing the instrument with the teacher.

Soon, the teacher signals the start of the class by singing a hello song while motioning for the children to move to a circle on the carpet. After all of the children’s names have been sung, the teacher and children stand and move about the room as the teacher performs a 7/8 chant without words. Moving toward the table the teacher picks up the egg shakers, placing one in each child’s hand. The teacher and children shake the eggs to the microbeat of the chant—giving them a “bumpy ride.” They then give the eggs a “smooth ride” moving them in low, middle, and high space as the teacher continues the chant. After several repetitions, the activity is over, and the teacher collects the eggs, inviting the children to sit down on the carpet. From the table, the teacher picks up the yellow bird puppet and begins singing “Little Tom Tinker,” a song in major tonality and triple meter.

When the song is over, the children are invited to imitate tonic and dominant tonal patterns sung by the bird. After several children have sung patterns, the teacher repeats “Little Tom Tinker” alternating children’s singing of tonal patterns between repetitions of the song. The teacher ends the activity and returns the yellow bird puppet to the table and then picks up the bag of chiffon scarves, which will be used to facilitate continuous fluid movement. The recording of “In the Mood” has begun and the class erupts with dancing, laughing, and pure enjoyment of the music.

After the selection is over, the children pretend to take a nap as the teacher sings a Lydian lullaby. The scarves are collected and the children are invited to sit on the carpeted floor as the teacher reads music stories from the “Big Book of Music.” Upon closing the book, the teacher introduces the “Rumble in the Jungle” game. First, the teacher models light and heavy movement for the children. Then, the children practice these movements as the teacher signals light movement by tapping a tambourine and heavy movement by shaking the instrument. A child is given the tambourine and, with the teacher’s assistance, determines whether the class should move in a heavy or light way. Children take turns playing the tambourine and leading the group. When the activity is over, the children are beckoned to sit down in a circle. With two tone bars, D and A, the teacher models a bordun accompaniment to the song, “Donkeys Like to Munch on Carrots.” Two sets of tone bars make their way around the circle while the children sing the song with words. When the song is finished, the children wait in anticipation as the teacher brings out two bins of small percussion instruments for musical exploration. Children delight in this free time of instrument play. To close the class, the group sings a goodbye song, singing “goodbye” to each child. After hugs and waves from the teacher, the children leave the music room.


To reflect on the early childhood music class, encourage students to apply their knowledge about young children’s music acquisition. Ask them to think about the music play that occured within a developmentally appropriate environment that featured principles of informal guidance and play. Invite them to consider how the class aligned with young children’s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional domains. What music teacher attributes did they notice? In what ways did the music teacher support children’s music development through listening, singing, chanting, moving, playing instruments and creating/improvising? Such reflection should continue as preservice music teachers participate in practicum experiences in the field.

Establishing an Early Childhood Music Practice

Often early childhood music classes are offered in such contexts as a home studio or community music school where parents or caregivers enroll their children and attend classes with them, paying for those classes outright. In these settings, both the music teacher and parents or caregivers typically share the responsibility for facilitating children’s musical development. Early childhood music classes might also take place in a child care or preschool center where funding may come from tuition, tax dollars, or a grant. These classes oftentimes occur in such spaces as a nursery, children’s classrooms, an activity room, gymnasium, or wherever there is room for children to move. Typically, parents are not involved directly in these classes; however, care providers might be. Depending on the nature of these settings, the music teacher may be the only facilitator of young children’s musical development. When taking steps to cultivate support for early childhood music, the level of awareness of parents and caregivers on the importance of early childhood music to engender young children’s musical growth is raised.

Promoting Early Childhood Music

In all types of early childhood music settings, relationships are important to a successful program. Learning how to advance the goals of early childhood music among stakeholders will assist the preservice music teacher with the eventual formation of partnerships that work in tandem for young children’s musical development. Sharing the philosophy and pedagogy of the curriculum to be enacted will establish understanding among the music teacher, parents, and caregivers. These relationships may be fostered through (a) professional development of music teacher colleagues and care providers in child care centers; (b) the provision of workshops or information meetings in community spaces such as a library or community center; (c) volunteering to give presentations at children’s fairs or special events hosted by child care centers; and (d) presentations at professional conferences. These endeavors communicate the importance of early childhood music in one’s community and increases visibility of the early childhood music program.

Business Acumen Skills

Creating a business plan is one way that preservice music teachers will learn how to put their early childhood music practice into play. The first step is to know the product of the business and to whom it is to be marketed. The next step is to define how the business will be organized. Determine the schedule of classes, the fee to be charged, and how frequently parents, caregivers, or childcare providers will be invoiced. Consider the start-up expenses the business will incur–who furnishes materials such as props, instruments, recorded music, speakers? Finally, learn how to apply for a business license and register the business with the government and IRS. The business plan should be in place before advertising early childhood music classes. Forms of marketing may include social media; a brochure disseminated at childcare centers, conferences, or community spaces such as a library or church. Making phone calls, sending emails to childcare directors, parents, and potential stakeholders, along with giving presentations at professional conferences or in a community center, library, or church will increase interest in the business and expand the customer base. With marketing strategies in place, the preservice music teacher will be poised to offer early childhood music classes.

Initiative and Involvement in Policy

Educational policy is made at the local, state, and federal levels and influences funding for early childhood programs and practices, teacher education and certification, and early childhood curricula. The constraints and opportunities that face early childhood music teachers are often traceable to the decisions made by policy-makers. Inviting preservice music teachers to take initiative and become active in policy making provides them with a broad understanding of the effect policy has on the field of music education at large and early childhood music in particular (Heineke, Ryan, & Tocci, 2015). Preservice music teachers should learn proactive strategies for political action as they develop an awareness of the impact of policy on early childhood music. Some ways that preservice music teachers can learn more about policy and become involved are to (Kessler, 2012):

  • Be informed. Read newspapers, watch news programs, read child-development websites and publications, subscribe to podcasts, follow policy makers and lobbyists through social media.
  • Start local. Write letters to the editors of local new outlets, contact state and national representatives, learn about education associations and their local policy agendas.
  • Support the community. Become involved in community events.
  • Join professional organizations. Seek out professional organizations that have a policy agenda on early childhood and/or early childhood music education.
  • Fuel stakeholders’ passion. Have the capability to articulate those policies that are important to early childhood music and define the issues.
  • Disseminate policy briefs and position statements. Inform government officials and early childhood education stakeholders of why early childhood music should be curricular in childcare and school settings (see Burton, Kistler, & Scully, 2013 and Reynolds & Burton, 2017).
  • Vote.

Professional Development

The professional development of preservice music teachers is indispensable to stay abreast of research and practice in the field of early childhood music. Receiving specialized education and continuous learning of research-based best practices will expand their professional knowledge and improve their competence, skill, and effectiveness (NAEYC, n. d.). Many avenues for professional development exist from “one-shot” events such as attending conference presentations, inservices, clinics, and workshops to intensive professional development such as engaging in teacher research, collaborative teacher study groups, learning communities, degree advancement, and certification programs (Stanley, 2018). Another means for the preservice music teacher to experience professional development is by becoming involved in affiliations and organizations dedicated to the education and music education of young children.[3] Preservice music teachers may also connect with other early childhood music teachers to study their teaching practice and children’s music development. Becoming certified in early childhood music through programs offered by music organizations and reading professional journals will keep the preservice music teacher abreast of current best practices. Participating in professional development at the preservice level may lead to future involvement when becoming early childhood music teachers.

Curriculum Construction

As course curriculum is constructed and strategies for preservice music teachers’ deep learning experiences in early childhood music developed, follow the principles of backward design, or planning with the end in mind. Determine those key understandings and skills students should possess by the end of the term and take into account these guidelines proposed by Wiggins & McTighe (2005). Consider the big ideas of the course and the main principles that drive the purpose of the early childhood music course. Determine the enduring understandings you hope for your students to take away, thinking about what preservice music teachers should know and be able to do at the end of the term and how they can transfer knowledge and skills beyond the course. Establish essential questions and those topics surrounding early childhood music and preservice music teacher development that should be debriefed throughout the course. Create strategies for assessment or what you will accept as evidence of students’ achievement in the course, then develop a learning plan, taking stock of the best sequence of instruction for preservice music teachers and those curricular standards that align with the sequence. Finally, select instructional strategies that align with the course plan and progressive ways for content delivery that will engage all preservice music teachers in learning experiences. Planning with the end in mind promotes intentionality of course design, with emphasis on an outcomes- over activity-based approach. In this way, curriculum is purposeful and deliberately planned.

Course Format

When determining content for the early childhood music methods course, consider those best practices that promote multifaceted and multi-layered learning and high levels of  involvement. These qualities call for designing engaging experiences through real-world applications; creating criteria and methods for student assessment; giving preservice music teachers regular, timely, and specific feedback; and providing opportunities for student-faculty and student-student interactions (Frye, n. d.). A student-centered approach to content delivery with a broad range of learning experiences will provide a pedagogical basis for the acquisition of knowledge and skills over time.

To promote reflection, active learning, and enhance content delivery, invite preservice music teachers to take part in problem-based learning in which they work together in small groups to solve potential problems–through written or video case studies (such as the one provided in this chapter), that may be encountered as early childhood music teachers. Facilitate their planning of curriculum and lessons by asking them to apply what they have learned about child development and early childhood music curriculum. Have students peer teach activities to other preservice music teachers. Also, create opportunities for participation in field experiences where they observe master teachers facilitating early childhood music classes, eventually gaining practice of implementing lesson plans with young children by teaching classes that are supervised.

Engage students in critical reflection on field experiences and course content, focusing on assessment and improvement of teaching music to young children through blogging, storying, journaling, video recording and recall, scribing, peer feedback, and writing field notes. Assign creative group presentations in which they present action research or give a presentation in a creative mode of choice. Portfolios, through which online representations of what was learned from the course, or digital storytelling to integrate course content into a multi-media presentation might be assigned. Responding to lectures through classroom assessment techniques such as writing a minute paper, summarizing the lecture in a small group, sharing class notes with another student, writing a short response to a lecture, creating a concept map, or writing quiz/test questions help students to synthesize information. Keeping end learning goals in mind with instructional approaches to facilitate the music learning of young children will guide the formation of an early childhood music course, the implementation of course content, and preservice music teachers’ in-depth understanding of child and music development.


Preparing preservice music teachers to facilitate the innate musical abilities of young children begins an exciting pedagogical journey at a time when musical development is rapidly progressing. A well-designed early childhood music methods course will provide a foundation from which preservice music teachers can draw as they build a practice for nurturing the musical growth of the youngest musicians in our midst.


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[1] “Audiation is the foundation of musicianship. It takes place when we hear and comprehend music for which the sound is no longer or may never have been present. One may audiate when listening to music, performing from notation, playing “by ear,” improvising, composing, or notating music.” Retrieved from https://giml.org/mlt/audiation/

[2] See: Brink-Fox, 1991; Burton, 2002, 2015, 2017; Burton & Pearsall, 2016; Campbell, 1998; Campbell & Scott-Kassner, 2014; Deliège & Sloboda, 2003; deVries, 2009; Flohr, 2005; Gooding & Standley, 2011; Gordon, 2012, 2013; Kenney, 2008; Marsh & Young, 2006; McDonald & Simons, 1989; Mills & McPherson, 2006; Miyamoto, 2007; Moog, 1976; Pinzino, 2007; Rutkowski & Trollinger, 2005; Sims, Cecconi-Roberts, & Keast, 2011; Trehub & Degé, 2016; Valerio et al., 1998; and Webster & Hickey, 2006.

[3] For example, Early Childhood Music and Movement Association, International Society for Music Education: Early Childhood Music Education Special Interest Group, and National Association for Music Education Early Childhood Special Research Group.

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