The Rhythm of a Folk Dance
A Look Inside Music Class in Primary School
An interview with Lisa Bicksel, Infant - 3rd Grade Music Teacher
Visit a primary school music class and you might feel a twinge of nostalgia as you watch the students dancing and singing to music that will transport you back to another time and place.
Folk music is on the agenda this year, and the children are having a great time dancing to these old-time songs, moving and bouncing to the music in a coordinated and rhythmic fashion.
At first look, the students may appear to be simply enjoying the music, dancing, and expending some bottled-up energy. Take a closer look, and you’ll see a much deeper learning experience.
Through dance, the students are learning about rhythm, beat, and pattern. They’re practicing collaboration, leadership, and team building skills, taking cues from the music, and anticipating what is coming next. Oh and yes, they are having fun!
A Research-Based Pedagogy in Early Music Education
During a summer fellowship at George Mason University this year, Mrs. Bicksel was inspired by the work of Dr. John Feierabend, a national leader in early childhood music education and Professor of Music Education at The Hartt School at the University of Hartford, CT.
Integrating some of his research-based techniques into her music lessons, she is incorporating folk music into her curriculum, the significance of which reaches beyond the basics of music instruction.
“Communities today are different to those of our grandparents who lived in close-knit communities, surrounded by family. Families are much more spread out than before, and the tradition of passing music and songs down through the generations is slowly going away. It is wonderful to be able to introduce students to songs that have been around for generations, and to keep those traditions alive,” she says.
Building Leadership and Confidence
Many folk songs originate from different parts of the world, providing a global perspective to the lesson. That global perspective is also introduced to students through studying composers and dancing expressively to classical pieces by composers such as Bach, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Mozart. Students sing in different languages including Russian, Spanish, French and Italian.
“I like to focus on independent singing at a very young age so that children gain a sense of pride in something as personal as their own voice,” says Mrs. Bicksel. “Students start by learning simple songs that are easy to remember, and when they sing them, their friends pick them up quickly and join in.”
At first, some students are a bit reluctant to sing independently, but with practice, they build confidence and eventually sing without inhibition. Her goal she says is to “encourage children to become independent musicians, and to take an active leadership role in singing, movement, and dance.”
With that goal in mind, Mrs. Bicksel is planning increased performance opportunities for the students throughout the year.
“I like to focus on independent singing to encourage children to become leaders in song. My goal is to encourage children to become independent musicians, and to take an active leadership role in singing, movement, and dance."
- Mrs. Bicksel
At Congressional School, we understand the important role music plays in the education and development of young learners and believe music instruction should begin as early as possible. Our students participate in music classes taught by a specialty teacher beginning in our infant classes, and our students continue to study music all the way through 8th grade.
Stay tuned for more stories about our innovative and creative music program at Congressional School!
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