Last year I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the Richards Institute, and their Education Through Music program. First, let me say that I am simply a fan who uses this in my classroom. I have no advertising deals, commission, or anything else. This is just plain, honest, success.
The program is based on using song experience games in the classroom. The songs are very much traditional songs – The Farmer in the Dell, Skip to My Lou, Darby Town, etc. A lot of the songs I had some familiarity with, and a lot were new to me. But each song is played as a game. The games are non-competitive, and they build impulse control, community, turn taking skills, stamina, oral language, literacy skills, and SO much more!
This stuff is all about the brain, and I have trouble arguing with neuroscience. Children are coming to school with fewer experiences and an oral language deficit. They have over-developed visual centers in the brain, due to television, video games, flash cards, whatever. The visual system is great, but reading is a 50/50 game between the visual and auditory centers. And we are leaving the auditory system behind. However, by providing rich multisensory experiences with children, where they sing, see, and transform themselves through play, they build dendrites in the brain. The more sense systems that are involved, the stronger the neural columns are. And when, several years down the road when we ask kids to READ about the things they have played, they have a huge system of neural experiences to refer back to. They can find MEANING.
Readers these days are often great word callers, but struggle with making meaning because they lack experience. These games fix that. And they are FUN. And kids are engaged, motivated, delighted, and blissfully lost in play state.
This stuff is amazing, and it has transformed my classroom. I encourage you to check them out here.