“I am an ant,” says Aurora. “I am a trap door spider,” exclaims Levi. “I am a stink bug", boasts Liam. I am teaching a Reggio-inspired music class with preschoolers who are, at the moment, intensely fascinated with bugs. So we pretend to be bugs that dig tunnels underground with slow plodding music to accompany our movements. I listen to the children and comment on their movements. “Aurora, you are a fast ant. Are you moving fast because of something you heard in the music?” “Levi you are digging your trapdoor so carefully, what are you going to catch in your trap?” “Wow, everyone look at how Liam is digging his tunnel up and down. Why do you think he is making his tunnels curvy?” A classroom teacher takes photos and videos, and records their responses as “documentation” that will be reviewed later.
In a different group, the children are interested in playing the drums. Cora turns her drum upside down and uses the mallet to stir a pot. Other children follow suit and pretend to eat out of their drums. I ask, “Noah, what are you eating?” Noah responds, “I’m eating chocolate cake.” I ask him, “Yum, chocolate cake, how did you make it?” I suggest to the children that by singing a special song we can make up our own recipe for something delicious. I sing and model the motions, “Chop, chop, chop pity, chop. Let’s add something to the pot.” I then ask the children for ideas of new motions and for what we can chop to add in the pot. Sophia blurts out, “popcorn.” We sing and perform new motions. “Chop, chop, choppity, chop, add the popcorn to the pot.” We pretend tall taste it, make comments, and decide what else we should put in the pot for our song.
In Reggio-inspired settings, the role of the teacher is dramatically different from traditional music classroom teaching. In the past, I would have viewed these requests by the children as diversions and interruptions. Now, such scenarios are treated as opportunities for learning and exploration. By following the children’s ideas, and playing along with them, I have come to discover the beauty of teaching music by following the children’s interests. If you would like more information about my journey into Reggio-inspired music learning, go here to purchase my book.