|Above: Courtesy 'Cottage by the Sea'|
The authors of the article in 'The Reading Teacher' cite research that found that struggling students improved their reading ability as a result of regular repeated singing and reading of songs over a period of just 9 weeks. The reasons for this would appear to be:
- When we sing using written music we are also reading.
- Specific features of music make the reading more memorable, including the rhythm and melody of the songs.
- Memorising songs for younger children helps to teach sight word recognition.
- Songs like poetry are often characterised by rhyme, sound repetition and alliteration and can enhance phonemic awareness.
- Songs become a form of repeated reading without the boredom of regular class repeated reading.
Becky Iwasaki decided to try to use music with grade 1 to improve reading ability by teaching them at least two songs each week. She used a consistent format that included the following structure that requires 10-15 minutes each day:
Day 1 - She chooses a relatively common song and has it playing in the background when the children arrive at school. She then introduces the words to the song on a chart and encourages them to follow the words as they try to sing it. She repeats this several times during the day. Later in the day she leads a discussion concerning the meaning of the song. She might also use the song to do word searches, sight words etc.
Above: Image courtesy Wiki Commons
Day 3 - She again starts the day by singing the song and then follows it with focussed word study using word families, writes them on the board, gets the students to read them, find others like them etc.
|Above: Courtesy Wiki Commons|
Day 5 - The song is again sung then it is performed for another audience (e.g. another class, parents, school principal etc).
While I don't find the elements of the structure used in the above approach all that novel and exciting, the approach clearly worked. My suggestion is that the above approach could be supplemented in other ways to make it even more engaging if repeated a number of times. To give more variety to the approach I would suggest:
- Careful choices of songs that have appropriate words and topic interest for the age group.
- Supplementation of the Iwasaki approach with some related literature or poetry (this would be ideal on day two or three).
- The use of craft, drama, dance and art in association with the learning of the songs (this would be a great thing to do on day 5).
Of course, none of my suggested supplements should reduce the time spent actually reading the words and singing the song, for time on task reading is critical to improvement. I would love to hear from readers who have also found that music can help literacy.