County Music recently ran a very exciting programme to develop language skills through singing. We worked with children in nursery and reception (ages 3-4) and alongside their teachers. The children were put into small groups and taught songs and exercises. These songs and exercises were very carefully chosen to develop their listening and visual skills as well as teaching them specific vowel and consonant sounds suggested by their teachers.
There is plenty of evidence to support the use of singing to develop language skills within children. 'Parents should sing to their children every day to avoid language problems developing in later life', according Sally Goddard Blythe, a consultant in neuro-developmental education and director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology.
Singing traditional lullabies and nursery rhymes to babies and infants before they learn to speak, is 'an essential precursor to later educational success and emotional wellbeing', argues Blythe. 'Song is a special type of speech. Lullabies, songs and rhymes of every culture carry the 'signature' melodies and inflections of a mother tongue, preparing a child's ear, voice and brain for language.' The Guardian Newspaper 2010
'Singing songs teaches children about how language is constructed. When you sing, words and phrases are slowed down and can be better understood by your baby. Singing regularly will help your baby to build up a vocabulary of sounds and words long before they can understand the meaning'.
BBC CBeebies site 2014
The case for singing as the right approach to children with special needs is made by Dr. Michael Heggerty, an expert on literacy. 'How do teachers reach students with special needs that are included in their classroom? Music is a tool that is developmentally appropriate, facilitates language fluency, helps brain development and, above all else, is joyful’.
The Listening and Spoken Language Knowledge Centre 2010
The first results from our Early Years Language Development programme are encouraging. One of the many interesting observations was that the behaviour of the children in the singing sessions was different to that in the class situation. Teaching staff were able to watch and really observe how the children formed their sounds. The school has requested a continuation of the project and other schools are also interested in exploring the use of singing to develop language skills. We intend to work closely with Teaching Schools in the area to offer training programmes for colleagues working with Early Years and we anticipate considerable demand.