How can you tell that children are engaging in music classes? Some might say that children who are sitting quietly, listening attentively, singing when it is their turn and copying the teacher’s actions are fully engaged, and children who are not doing these things are disengaged. However, children learn in a myriad of ways, and engagement in music making and can actually look quite different depending on the child and the day (or the hour!)
Some of the less conventional ways we see children engage in music classes are:
Constantly moving around the edge of the group.
Some children simply need to MOVE to learn. Whilst we incorporate lots of dancing and free movement into our classes, for some children at certain stages of development constant movement is necessary. We often notice children singing along as they move around, and we know that movement can aid learning and retention.
Singing from the sidelines.
At times, children need a little space away from the group in order to feel brave enough to sing along and join in with the actions. Sometimes they might be finishing off building a block tower or completing a drawing (see the next section for more on this) while they sing along. Feedback from parents and educators has taught us that even children who are not singing along in class and may seem completely disengaged will often go home and sing every song from the class perfectly!
Finishing a task and joining the group when ready.
As grown ups, we know that sometimes we get into a state of flow, where we are deeply entrenched in a task and need to complete it without interruption in order to avoid frustration. We recognise that children can achieve that same flow state in their play, and sometimes need the time and space to finish what they are doing before they can join us for music. Often children’s engagement in music after they’ve had a chance to finish what they are doing is far more enthusiastic, productive and positive than if they are interrupted mid-task.
We believe in respecting children’s autonomy, and so we support the idea of children being allowed to engage with music in ways that suit their learning and development. Every time we hear a story of a child who is not directly involved in the music class showing that they have heard AND enjoyed every moment of the class we are delighted. Children are incredibly skilled at taking control of their own learning, and we are proud supporters of this.