3 Ways to Enhance Phonemic Awareness with Music

Mom and toddler son sing songs together to boost phonemic awareness

You’ve probably heard the word phonics, but what exactly is phonemic awareness? Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds—phonemes—in spoken words, a crucial pre-reading and speech skill.

Research shows that programs focused on phonemic and phonological awareness significantly increase children’s reading abilities in early years, and can be further enhanced by music. What does this look like at home? Here are a few things you can do that sound like learning, but feel like fun!

Continue reading “3 Ways to Enhance Phonemic Awareness with Music”

It’s Rhyme Time!

Jack and Jill, Humpty Dumpty, and the Itsy Bitsy Spider may not have the most compelling storylines (it’s mostly lots of falling down, right?), but these beloved nursery rhyme characters have entertained generations of children with their antics. Why? Well, nursery rhymes are silly, catchy, and memorable. They also happen to be a fantastic pre-reading tool. In fact, exposing young children to rhymes even before they can understand the principle behind rhyming is as important as introducing children to music before they can create it, or to books before they can read them.

Being able to hear and identify words that rhyme is the earliest phonemic awareness task. Phonemic awareness is the understanding that a word is made up of a sequence of discrete sounds, or phonemes, and it is an essential skill for learning to read. Plus, rhyming is the precursor skill to identifying syllables within words.

3 Tips for Playing Rhyming Games with Young Children:

  1. Ask children to listen for the “words that sound alike.”
  2. Try to use rhyming words that have only one syllable, such as cat, sat, and mat.
  3. When first introducing the concept of rhyming, use words that can be associated with pictures, such as bat and hat. Later, progress to playing rhyming games without visual support.

Looking for more activities that support a young child’s development? Find a local Kindermusik educator at www.kindermusik.com and visit a class.

Support early language development with a healthy screen time “diet”

(Source: Grow & Sing Studios)
(Source: Grow & Sing Studios)

Although we just celebrated a holiday devoted to giving candy to children, we all understand that fruits and vegetables are essential to a healthy diet. A child filled with strawberries, carrots, and yogurt behaves radically different than a child filled with candy corn, chocolate, and a juice box. You don’t need to be a teacher of an early childhood curriculum to understand that!
In addition to a healthy nutritional diet, children also need a healthy “screen time diet.” Today’s children are considered digital natives, but too much of a good thing can be, well, too much. And, of course, not all television shows, movies, and mobile apps for kids are created equal—some are more candy than carrots for the brain. However, in a world filled with smart phones and tablets, and with televisions found everywhere from the home to the car to the local family-friendly restaurant, it can be challenging.

A healthy “media diet” matters

A group of pediatricians recently published the results of their study, Modifying Media Content for Preschool Children,” that showed that increasing a child’s exposure to screen time that teaches positive social behavior can strengthen a child’s social skills. In the study, the pediatricians recruited 565 parents of preschool-aged children ages 3 to 5 years. Without decreasing or increasing the amount of screen time, the participants simply changed what their children watched. After six months and again after 12 months, the parents reported increased social competence and behavior in their children. In addition, the preschoolers showed significantly less aggression and better social skills when compared to the control group.

Try “feeding” your children these mobile apps for kids

Finding the best mobile apps for kids can be tough. Unlike the grocery store where healthy foods come with labels like “organic,” “100% whole grains,” or “120% of vitamin C,” apps that support a healthy “media diet” such as early language development, phonemic awareness, or even musical learning aren’t as clearly identified. As creators of early childhood curriculum and with thousands of educators around the world, the Kindermusik community can help.
RreadingRainbowKindermusik_MusicIslandPromo_Exp111513An earlier blog post identified 6 websites and mobile apps for kids that support early literacy development, including the Reading Rainbow app. This trusted app for kids includes eBooks for families to read together and video field trips to expand a child’s world from the comfort of a parent’s lap! Plus, Kindermusik will be partnering with Reading Rainbow to bring a “Musical Island” to the app and we’d love your help naming the island! The new Kindermusik Island will contain a limited selection of eBooks from the Kindermusik library and some additional videos that Reading Rainbow and Kindermusik will produce together around musical topics.
Help us name the new Kindermusik/Reading Rainbow Music Island!
Enter your suggestion by clicking this link. If your name is chosen you will win a $100 Amazon Gift Card, a free 6-month subscription to the Reading Rainbow app AND a Kindermusik prize package! Enter to Win now – Friday, November 15, 2013.
Kindermusik@Home - Online Learning Games for KidsOf course, we want to mention Kindermusik@Home as part of a healthy media diet. Available through enrollment in Kindermusik, Kindermusik@Home provides parenting resources, musical learning games for kids, eBooks, and developmental insights behind the activities. Kindermusik@Home helps children learn both online and encourages families to take the learning offline through engaging activities. Try one of these Kindermusik@Home activities today!

To learn more about enrolling in a Kindermusik class and receiving access to Kindermusik@Home, contact a local educator via our Class Locator.


Early language development: It’s all in the rhythm and beat!

baby playing drum

baby playing drumMusical learning and early language development go together like a newborn and a swaddle or a toddler and the words, “I do.” Young children rely almost exclusively on what they hear in order to acquire language. Scientists now know that our brain processes music similarly to how we process language.
In early language and literacy development, young children need to understand that words—like music—are made up of discrete sounds. In early language development, this is called phonemic awareness. Later children use that knowledge of sounds to build words and read. Research shows that children with strong phonemic awareness are more successful learning to read than others.

Ability to move to a steady beat linked to language skills

Under the leadership of Dr. Nina Kraus, a new research study published in The Journal of Neuroscience found that teenagers with more musical training experienced enhanced neural responses to speech sounds when compared to others.
“We know that moving to a steady beat is a fundamental skill not only for music performance but one that has been linked to language skills,” said Nina Kraus, of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University in Illinois in an article for the BBC, “Moving to the rhythm can help language skills.”
In the study, participants were asked to tap their fingers along to a beat while their accuracy was measured. Their brainwaves were also measured to observe how the brain responded to the sound.
“It turns out that kids who are poor readers have a lot of difficulty doing this motor task and following the beat. In both speech and music, rhythm provides a temporal map with signposts to the most likely locations of meaningful input,” Dr. Kraus told BBC News.

Musical learning and language development in Kindermusik

Kindermusik provides many opportunities for children to discriminate similarities and differences in sound. So, while children gain musical skills participating in our early childhood curriculum, they also make gains in phonological awareness and early language and literacy development. For example, when parents lift their children high “up, up in the sky” or “twirl around like a leaf” while singing the songs in class, children learn the word and understand the concept. Or when we recite nursery rhymes together or tap out the beat to a song, children hear the music of language. Children’s brains make a connection based on what they experience (being lifted high or twirling around) and hear (“up” or “twirl”). Later, children will discover those words correspond to marks on a page which eventually leads to letter recognition and reading.

Kindermusik is the world’s leader in early childhood curriculum development and musical learning. Find a class near you and experience the many benefits of music on a young child’s development.


10 ways to instill a love of reading in preschool students

There are many ways preschool teachers can support the early literacy and language development of their students. Whether reading the 2013 Caldecott Medal Winner, This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen, making snowmen out of socks after reading about snow, or even celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday each March, the list of literacy activities and early childhood books seems endless. But what does the research say?

At ABC Music & Me, we keep tabs on the latest early literacy research and incorporate it into our preschool curriculum. We put together a list of 10 things a teacher can do to instill a love of reading in students while also supporting phonemic awareness and early literacy and language development.

10 ways teachers can support early literacy development (and a love of reading!)

  1. During storytime, include a mixture of books that you choose as well as books that your students choose. Along with the “Line Leader” for the day, why not also pick one child to be the “Story Student” to help you pick one of the books you will read.
  2. Throughout the week, provide opportunities for students to “act out” the stories read in the class.
  3. Add eBooks to your (virtual) bookshelf. Research shows eBooks can be especially motivating to boys and reluctant readers.
  4. Involve parents. Early literacy development begins at home so why not invite parents to be mystery readers in the classroom each week. Be sure all parents know about the importance of not only reading to their children 20 minutes each day but also the value of letting children see them reading for pleasure.
  5. If a new vocabulary word is introduced in a story, tell preschoolers what it means and then re-read the page substituting the new vocabulary word with the definition. This increases comprehension and vocabulary acquisition.
  6. Incorporate sight words into your reading. Ask children to listen for the sight word of the day (or week). Invite children to raise their hands when they hear the word and select a child to find the word on the page.
  7. Listen to audio stories. After preschool, children will spend up to 75 percent of classroom time listening. Listening to favorite audio stories supports emerging literacy and active listening—vital skills needed for early academic success. Kindermusik International offers audio stories available for download here.
  8. Clap or tap to the beat of favorite nursery rhymes. This helps preschoolers tune into the rhythm of spoken words.
  9. Ask open-ended questions during storytime, such as “what will happen next?” or “how do you think the character felt when that happened?”
  10. Participate in a music class. Phonological awareness, vocabulary acquisition, listening skills, and verbal memory can all benefit when children become actively engaged in a music class. Plus, research even shows that children who participate in music classes are more likely to score higher on reading comprehension tests.

    Supplemental preschool curriculum uses music to support early literacy

    Created by Kindermusik International, ABC Music & Me is a standards-based supplemental daycare curriculum. All three levels of our toddler curriculum and preschool curriculum boost early literacy and language development while also cultivating turn-taking and sharing, improving coordination, enhancing creativity, and more. Plus, ABC Music & Me involves parents by providing materials for families to use together at home where a child learns best.

    For more information about ABC Music & Me as a supplemental daycare or preschool curriculum, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

    12 musical books for early literacy teachers and parents

    We agree with Lloyd Moss: “It’s music that we all adore.” At Kindermusik International, we love music for music’s sake and for its ability to touch the hearts, souls, and minds of young children and families. Music can support early language development, increase phonemic awareness, and even profoundly impact children with special needs.

    So make a resolution to gather your children together—whether at home or in the classroom—for musical story times that will support early literacy development and their love of music! Below you will find some of our favorite musical stories, including a Caldecott Winner, Reading Rainbow selections, audio story, and even a book written by a Kindermusik educator.

    12 musical books to support early literacy and language development

    The Sweet 16 for Early Literacy Development Fans

    College basketball fans no longer can lay claim to the only Sweet 16. Thanks to Harvard University’s Lead for Literacy Initiative, early literacy development teachers and administrators can access 16 one-page memos written specifically for leaders committed to children’s literacy development. This “Sweet 16” for early literacy and language development includes:

    The Prevention Plan

    • Program Design for Impact
    • Early Identification and Intervention Practices

    Literacy and Leadership

    • What Leaders Need to Know and Do
    • Literacy Unpacked: What Do We Mean by Literacy Rates?

    Literacy Assessment

    • The Importance of Early Literacy Assessment
    • Comprehensive Assessment: Towards a More Complete Picture of Literacy
    • Comprehensive Assessment: Making Sense of Test Type and Purpose

    Professional Development

    • Designing Professional Development for Instructional Change
    • Implementing Professional Development for Instructional Change

    Family Partnerships

    • Designing Family Partnerships That Make a Difference
    • Implementing Family Partnerships That Make a Difference

    Volunteer Programs

    • Designing a Volunteer Program Focused on Literacy
    • Implementing a Volunteer Program Focused on Literacy

    Literacy Curricula

    • The Importance of Using a Literacy Curriculum
    • Selecting a Comprehensive Literacy Curriculum
    • Implementing a Comprehensive Literacy Curriculum

    Each memo includes common pitfalls that early literacy educators and administrators encounter along with key research-based strategies to address these challenges. You can read the Lead for Literacy memos here. The last three memos are scheduled for release this Friday.

    Early literacy development and music

    At ABC Music & Me, we continue to implement the latest research on how to best engage young children and families in early literacy development.  Our research-based early literacy curriculum uses music to help children build early literacy and language skills. Music can help children hear speech sounds and naturally divide words into sounds. Plus, early language development research indicates that music skills correlate significantly with both phonemic awareness and reading development.

    For more information about using ABC Music & Me to boost early literacy and language development, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

    Word learning and early literacy development

    Source: Teachmama.com

    In. It. Me. He. Unless you work in the early literacy and language development arena, those four little words are, well, just four little words. However, early childhood teachers recognize them—and 90 plus more—as “Kindergarten High Frequency Words” in conjunction with the common core state standards. According to the Common Core Language Arts, children in Kindergarten will learn to read these words by sight.

    Early word recognition and lifelong reading skills

    Even people outside the early literacy field recognize that children and adults read differently. Early readers depend on phonemic awareness to carefully sound out each word. Eventually, children learn words by sight and can read without delay. Now early literacy development research indicates that early word acquisition can lead to better reading skills as an adult. By measuring the age at which children learn words, Dr. Tessa Webb wanted to uncover why the reading patterns of children differs from that of adults.

    “Children read differently from adults, but as they grow older, they develop the same reading patterns,” Dr. Webb explained in a press release. “When adults read words they learned when they were younger, they recognize them faster and more accurately than those learned later in life.”

    In Dr. Webb’s early literacy research, 300 children read aloud both familiar and unfamiliar words. Fifty percent of the words followed spelling to sound rules, whereas the other half did not. Dr. Webb’s research showed that children in the early school years read words differently from adults, but by age 10, children’s reading patterns mirrored that of an adult. Dr. Webb sees this research as an important first step in connecting word learning age to both early literacy success and later reading abilities as adults.

    Music, early literacy development, and the Common Core

    ABC Music & Me uses music to help children build early literacy and language skills, including vocabulary acquisition. The stories, songs, and music and movement activities introduce students to hundreds of words and their meanings. In this common core curriculum, the picture vocabulary cards support unit-by-unit vocabulary, comprehension, and memory.

    For more information about using our standards based curriculum, ABC Music & Me, to boost early literacy and language development, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

    E-books can put the “E” in early literacy development

    Supporting early literacy development in a classroom of preschoolers takes many different tools and tactics. Some children immediately walk into the classroom and head over to the book corner each morning. Those children seem to eat phonemes for breakfast. Children on the other end of the early literacy development spectrum may not engage in reading and literacy activities as eagerly. Recent literacy research from Kansas State University

    implies that e-readers can be used to motivate less enthusiastic students.

    E-readers can interest children in reading

    In her research, Assistant Professor Lotta Larson used Kindle readers with second-graders. At the time, the version of the e-reader used allowed children to make the text audible, increase or decrease font size, and let them make notes while reading.

    “It’s interesting to see the kinds of things these kids have been able to do,” Larson explained in a press release. “As a teacher, I know a student understands the book if she’s talking to the characters. If you take a look at those notes, it’s like having a glimpse into their brains as they’re reading.”

    While research continues to emerge about the impact of e-readers and e-books on early literacy and language development, we compiled current best practices for early childhood teachers to use in the classroom.

    Early literacy development through music and technology

    At Kindermusik International, we share a commitment to follow, participate in, and integrate the latest research on how children learn best, including educationally appropriate ways to include digital formats of music and books. Our standards-based early language and literacy curriculum, ABC Music & Me, uses music as the vehicle for learning in preschools, daycares, and public schools while also appropriately implementing technology into the process. We’d love to schedule a demonstration to show you firsthand how to use music, technology, and the latest research to teach children early language and literacy, including at risk students who may also be reluctant readers.

    For more information about using ABC Music & Me to boost early literacy and language development, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

    5 early literacy Christmas activities

    Mother Goose could well be called the Mother of Early Literacy. “Hey Diddle, Diddle,” “Little Miss Muffet,” and other nursery rhymes support early literacy by building phonemic awareness through experiences that recognize, repeat, and predict rhymes. Rhyming word play contributes to phonemic awareness as children begin to hear the differences and similarities between words like “moon” and “spoon” and “muffet” and “tuffet.”

    Along with favorites from Mother Goose, this holiday season add a penguin to your early literacy activities with Penguin’s Christmas Gift. This story download, created by Kindermusik International, combines rhymes with active listening as children hear the story of a tiny penguin who turns an ordinary tree into an extraordinary one for an extra special Christmas at the zoo.

    Download Penguin’s Christmas Gift here and use it in your class next month to support early literacy growth.

    4 additional early literacy activities to use with Penguin’s Christmas Gift

    If you are like many early literacy educators, your Pinterest boards contain dozens (if not hundreds!) of early literacy activities to use in the classroom. We culled through some of our favorites to use along with Penguin’s Christmas Gift.

    1. Letter P Penguin Craft
    2. Beginning Middle & End Instead of using a candy corn image, use a Christmas tree.
    3. Rhyming Tree Literacy Activity Use branches of a Christmas tree instead. Also for pre-readers, use images and words.
    4. Body Rhyme Early Literacy Activity This early literacy activity isn’t really about penguins or Christmas. We just love the movement and use of rhyming words to support phonemic awareness.

    Follow our early literacy and language board on Pinterest for even more ideas.

    Early literacy curriculum that uses music as the vehicle for learning

    ABC Music & Me, our early literacy curriculum, uses music and movement to teach young children early literacy and language. In addition to the research-based curriculum, ABC Music & Me increases parent involvement in early childhood education by providing families with materials to use together at home.

    For more information about using ABC Music & Me as an early literacy curriculum, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.