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- Keeping a Musical Beat Is Linked
to Academic Skills
- In a 1994 feature in the Los Angeles Times, writer Maia
- describes a motor-skills class at an elementary school in
- With all eyes trained on their teacher, the group of
- at Ventura's Mound School tried to follow her every move as
- clapped their hands, slapped their thighs, and kicked their
- the tune of bluegrass music.
- But some children were struggling: Their hands hit their left
- when they should have gone to the right. Their legs flew up
- kicks at the moment that they should have hit the floor.
- "It's kind of hard to get the message down to your legs as
- the music," 7-year-old Kerianne Hewitt said.
- The elementary school launched the (motor-skills) class four
- ago based on research showing that the ability to respond
- physically to a musical beat is closely linked to children's
- reading, writing and concentration.
- "We have noticed (the class) helps kids concentrate and hold
- attention span longer. We have seen kids who have
- reading and writing improve because they are able to organize
- thoughts better," said Principal Beverly McCaslin.
- Teacher Joanne Bowie leads the motor-skills instruction
- Friday for each of the school's first through fifth-grade
- During some classes, the students clap, march, or jump rope.
- others, they recite poems to music. "I try to present it in a
- of ways just to keep the interest up," Bowie said.
- But the goal in all the class activities is to help children
- keep a steady one-two beat with the music.
- Bowie bases her instruction mainly on workshops she has
- from Phyllis S. Weikart, a retired physical education
- from the University of Michigan.
- A nationally recognized expert in motor-skills development
- children, Weikart maintains that children should begin to
- an innate sense of timing when they are infants.
- When care-givers pat or stroke babies to the tune of a
- example, they are helping the children make a connection
- what they hear and what they do, Weikart said in an
- from her Michigan home.
- That "hearing-feeling connection," as Weikart calls it, is
- allows children to listen to something that is being said or
- something that is being done and follow the directions.
- you're linking is action, thought and language,' she
- And having a sense of inner timing allows children to speak
- read in whole sentences instead of just one word at a
- But studies show the number of children with the ability to
- steady beat has declined in recent years, from a range of 80%
- 90% to about 10%, Weikart said.
- "I feel it's probably the most fundamental of all the problems
- face in education today," she said.
- (Weikart) believes that the fault lies partly with adults
- mistakenly believe hat children respond better to the rhythm
- words or syllables than to a steady beat. Many adults today,
- example, clap the hand game "Patty Cake" with children to
- rhythm of the words' syllables rather than to a steady one-two
- "What's happening today is that the children are
- movement stimulation in rhythm rather than in beat," she
- At Mound, Bowie said she finds at the beginning of each year
- only about one-third of the students can independently keep
- steady beat. By the end of the year, the number climbs to
- And the children said they have become more confident about
- abilities to move to music.
- "I was just really shy (at first)," 8-year-old Jordan Frye
- just really neat to see that you can dance."
- Source: http://www.tcams.org/davis.htm
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