Sounds Before Letters
You may have heard the term ‘school readiness’ in the press, there has been a lot of publicity recently for research that finds about half of the children starting school (Reception year) in 2022 were not developmentally ready (School Readiness 2022 survey by Kindred2 published January 2023).
School ready skills include:
- Communication and language
- Phonological awareness (not phonics!)
- Listening and attention
- Group skills, sharing and co-operation
- Gross and fine motor skills
- Spatial awareness
- Sequencing and pattern awareness
All of these skills can be boosted with interactive music and movement activities based on neuroscience evidence and research studies. The best news is that you do not need to be a musician or teacher, you can enjoy these music activities at home with your children.
In this article we will focus on phonics, as there is often misconception around what is involved in helping your child develop foundations for phonics before starting school.
Phonics is used to teach children to read and write, by matching sounds of spoken English with letters. Parents are often keen to help their children with phonics, but they mistakenly think it is about learning the letters. It is important to understand that strong sound (phonological) awareness must come before letters.
Research shows that phonological awareness at age 3-4 is the best predictor for reading and writing skills, therefore, it is the most important foundation for school ready literacy. Indeed, trying to learn the alphabet, letter names and symbols, before the phonological foundations are in place can be detrimental to reading, like building a house on sand.
Phonological awareness is all about hearing sounds in the order in which they occur within a word. Music practice helps children develop a higher awareness of sounds.
Developing Phonological Awareness Through Music Practice
Regular or daily participation in active music-making (e.g., singing and percussion activities), with and without backing music, will develop melodic and rhythmic awareness skills, which will strengthen the auditory processing system and phonological awareness. As a bonus, these music skills also develop the other school ready skills listed above and lay strong foundations for cognitive function generally.
Try It Yourself!
You don’t need to be a musician to lead brain-boosting music-making activities in the early years!
Here are 3 key areas with tips for activities that you can practice at home to support the development of strong foundations for phonics, and boost cognitive function generally:
- Regular moving to and keeping the beat using body percussion, movement and instruments. Music with a strong steady drumbeat will maximize the potential to develop rhythmic awareness.
- Use instruments to keep the beat such as shakers, sticks and drums.
- Keep the beat with actions – marching, bobbing up and down, body percussion such as clapping, stamping and thigh-tapping.
- Play along with different styles of recorded music with a strong drumbeat.
- Create rhythmic patterns of sounds, actions, body percussion sequences and words.
- Listening to musical arrangements from birth helps to develop pitch and melodic awareness. Encouraging children to listen to and sing daily, with a wide range of melodies, will help them to develop an awareness of pitch, tempo, dynamics and to refine their ability to hear and sing in tune.
- Use the call-and-response method for leading sequencing of vocal sounds and instrumental sounds.
- Play listening games with different musical sounds representing different actions/sounds.
- Play and sing along with different styles of recorded music with a catchy melody and introduce harmonies.
- Use songs/rhymes to tell stories, developing expression in storytelling skills supported by the dynamics, tempo and lyrics of the song.
- Playing with words through musical activities that focus on the sequencing of sounds, actions and syllables will maximize the development of phonological awareness.
- Finish the rhyme line with rhyming words; play with rhyming pairs within a song.
- Use tapping sticks to tap out the rhythm (syllables) of words within a song.
- Use sound talk in songs or rhymes to sound out the phoneme sounds of words.
Boogie Mites Music
Boogie Mites music programmes use songs and activities that play with tempo, dynamics, timbre and pitch. We use homemade percussion instruments with some songs and the themes are always fun for young children, featuring jungles, transport and under the sea. Many different genres of upbeat music are used to offer a diverse experience, and to keep the adults as involved and as motivated as the children. Children can be progressed from simple sequences of actions and sounds to more complicated sequences and rhythms.
BOOGIE MITES DIGITAL RESOURCES FOR HOME USE
Harnessing the brain boosting power of music.
Practising music activities at home with your children will boost your child’s school ready skills, and it’s a great fun activity to share together.
The digital resources pack includes MP3’s of all songs on the programme, instructor videos, workshop videos, notes for home use and lyrics, or there is a physical CD/notes pack option.
Why not enjoy the magic of music at home with your children, to ensure they get the repetition, to maximise the potential benefits (and because it’s fun!).
School Ready Maths Parent Pack (3-5 years)
Minis Music Parent Pack (2-3 years)
Teenies Music Parent Pack (under 2’s)
The bonus is: Boogie Mites songs are enjoyed as much by adults as by children and they provide a fun way to learn together, bond and create magical music memories.
We also have a parent fb page for you to share, Boogie Mites Music Club.
And watch out for information about Boogie Mites App launch, coming soon.