Music Room Ramblings

Monday, April 27, 2015

How do you teach music vocabulary?

For me, there is no simple answer. Music understanding and vocabulary begins in preschool/kindergarten or before. It is learned as a language.

Children experience, listen to, and feel before articulating, reading, and writing. There is an important sequence to developing these concepts. For example, children experience and demonstrate with their bodies an understanding of loud/soft, high/low, fast/slow through many activities, specifically movement, using large motor skills. Begin with words that students already know and guide them in discovering their association to what they hear in music. Students are then encouraged to discuss and verbalize using age-appropriate terminology. 

As students progress in their understanding and age, music terms are introduced such as piano/forte, etc. Older students learn to distinguish and discuss the finer differences and changes in what they hear. Every aspect of what is taught in any classroom has specific age-appropriate vocabulary to accompany the understandings. Keeping vocabulary words visible on Word Walls is a wonderful way to help children develop these skills.

If teachers present concepts in a natural progression, students will easily learn how to use the terms to describe listening selections and the finer nuances. Give students many sequential and fun activities to introduce and reinforce their experiential learning. Teachers use the age-appropriate vocabulary when talking with the children and describing music. Eventually, it becomes second-nature. 

Basically, a teacher must have a plan that begins on the first day of music class in kindergarten.

I used color-coded Word Walls in my room and it was so fun for the older students to look at the K-1st grade words such as soft/loud and be proud that they were using piano/forte and easily knew the meanings, spellings, etc. 
Because I came to realize the importance of this element in the elementary music classroom, I developed a system of vocabulary cards, picture cards and games. By 3rd grade, my students were easily able to discuss and write descriptions of musical selections using terms such as tempo, accelerando, crescendo, piano, forte, tone color, etc. 

I have made these items available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store include Elementary Music Vocabulary Cards, Loud/Soft, High/Low, and Fast/Slow. These items have games and activities that will help you with these learning experiences.

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