Moving to the Rhythm

Suddenly the door bursts open, your child runs inside and excitement fills the house. They move full speed towards the table as they throw down their backpack. Their hands cannot open the zipper fast enough. With confidence your child pulls out their recorder and songs stream into every room that can only be described as music to their ears. Although it may take many years for them to develop the skills to play in a world famous symphony, your child just discovered the love of music.

St. Vrain Valley Schools prides itself on designing an academic experience for our students that encompasses a wide-range of subjects. This begins in full-day kindergarten where students rotate through a series of specials including music, art and physical education in addition to their traditional coursework in math, reading, science, social studies and writing. This month, St. Vrain celebrates Music in Our Schools Month by highlighting music programs throughout the district.

Our first story focuses on when our students are introduced to music in elementary school. Kindergarteners not only spend time learning their A, B, C’s, they are also introduced to singing the first notes of Do, Re, Mi. Throughout their years in elementary school, students continue to learn how to sing different notes, play instruments, study the history of music and learn the science behind how sound is made. By the time St. Vrain students are in fourth and fifth grade they can continue to grow by joining their school’s choir.

Strong academic foundations are the underlying rhythms throughout all of our classes. Skills they learn during music class not only transfer to middle and high school, but also across subject areas including fractions in Math, and words in Reading and Writing.

“Music is a series of equations written in music language, said Cathy Keller, a Music Teacher at Prairie Ridge Elementary. “When reading rhythms or melodies, it breaks it down even more into syllables. And the way certain rhythms fall on a beat help students identify the number of syllables within that beat which supports students developing reading skills when they are learning new words and breaking them down into syllables.”

Reading music is similar to reading a novel, you read both left to right. “Reading the notes on the staff makes me think of words, which helps me read in class. Reading rhythms help me break down words that I don’t know,” said Nate, a student at Prairie Ridge Elementary. “Playing and learning guitar has also helped me in music class and I really know the notes on the staff.”

Researchers continue to study the impacts that music has on learners academically, but also the social impact that music has on students. While learning music leads to increased memory, it also gives students the opportunity to enhance their sense of community, improve their confidence and develop public speaking skills.

“I used to be really shy in front of my class, and then I joined choir and I felt like talking was pretty much the same thing as singing, except singing has a beat and music,” said Ellie, a fourth grader at Eagle Crest Elementary School. “Talking is just a different way of singing and I feel confident in singing, so why can’t I be confident is talking.”

Learning music builds confidence and it also gives students another opportunity to be successful and add to their creativity. “Music gives kids the chance to explore another side of their personality, said Jennifer Ordway, a Music Teacher at Eagle Crest Elementary School. “When I have a student that I know is struggling in the classroom, I get to see a completely different side of them. For them, music is an outlet where they can shine and students need to feel that sense of success where they can find it.”

An important part of music class is giving our students the time to try something new, and then finding ways to share it with their parents and other students. Technology not only allows students to reflect on what and how others are singing, students can record themselves and reflect on areas where they can get better. All of our elementary schools have classroom sets of iPads that gives our students the opportunity to record and share their progress with their parents through an app.

“Through a classroom set of iPads my kids can upload a picture of music they composed, a video of them playing the xylophones, singing or playing the piano,” said Amanda Brignola, a Music Teacher at Sanborn Elementary. “Once they add it to their digital portfolio, we can then watch it together and reflect on their progress, or parents can watch and see what their child is learning. We can track where we are, and where we were at the beginning of the year.”

“We play the xylophone, sing, have concerts and you can sign up for choir, said Cornia, a second grade student from Sanborn Elementary School. “I really like singing winter songs from all around the world and learning to sing and hold my notes longer will help me because I want to be in choir in middle or high school.

Performances are a large part of our elementary music programs and the skills students learn transfer to middle and high school. All of our elementary schools have grade level concerts that parents and the community members can attend. There are also individual school choir concerts, feederwide concerts that include elementary, middle and high school students, and some elementary schools select to put on musical. Through these performances students build confidence and they learn how to work as a team.

From concerts to classroom instruction to singing to reading, the parallels between music and strong academics shine in St. Vrain.