Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Amateur - Lasse Gjertsen

"Imagination is more important than knowledge." That's my favorite quote from Albert Einstein who by the way did play the violin. The amateur in this video does not actually play either drums or piano but he sure does have an imagination!

Behavior Modification vs. Informational Feedback

I'm getting ready to do a couple of presentations to groups of parents about music and child development. Wow, it's a chance to actually say more than a sentence worth to adults! In class I know I have precious few seconds before the children say (by their action) "Back to work!". But I have so much to say! How will I whittle this down to a reasonable presentation?

Here's one topic I'd like to share in deeper detail with all my Kindermusik families: Informational feedback. That's a fancy label for describing to children what it is that they are doing. Tonight in my Kindermusik Our Time class (18 months to 3 1/2+ year olds) we experimented playing a drum both quiet and loudly. Wow, what intensity! It was beautiful.

The temptation to say: "Good Job!!" was high. What is more valuable to a child is to say "You played that loudly!" "You played loudly with both hands!" "That was loud!" "Oh, quiet!" "That was so quiet." "Your fingers played quietly."

So what's wrong with saying "Good Job!"? It is how we were programed to respond. It conveys our being pleased and maybe even conveys the reward of our love to our children for their having done the "right" thing. This praise is called behavior modification. That's what was hot when I was in college learning how to be a teacher. I was good at it.

Then, as a teacher, I noticed some children shying away from my praises. Or to my amazement their reaction was to sabotage their next attempt: to fail on purpose. It really puzzled me.

Still, I know the wise educators of the educators surely must know what they are talking about so I figured some children just didn't get it. Maybe they need MORE praise! Then one day I realized I was having similar feelings when a teacher friend of mine had been praising me and my children lavishly. Oh, my. I was afraid then that my toddler would pull her lamp over and my pedestal would be wrecked. (I was afraid my children would be normal!) How can we keep this up? Sometimes I denied her praise, maybe questioning her sincerity. I was very nervous around my good friend.

Then I happened upon an interesting book about praise and rewards, Punished by Rewards, by Alfie Kohn. This was very difficult for me to accept and would have been impossible had I not been showered with praises by my good friend! As I read it I thought of my students who would hide under the chairs when I said, "Good job!". And countless other students would crazily whack their glockenspiel wildly and loudly directly after receiving a well deserved dose of praise.

Kohn's remedy is to give informational feedback. It's really pretty easy since it is simply to describe what they're doing. Take for example your child shows you a beautiful picture. "Good Job!" just jumps out of your mouth....well then follow it up with "I see lots of yellow!" "Look at all the circles", "What are those?".

All this exchange does really convey your affirmation and love. You are taking time to converse with them. You are using lots of descriptive words increasing their vocabulary. You give them a chance to respond to what you've said, to elaborate or correct what you've said. All the doors are open.

Go ahead and do an experiment. Ask a friend to find moments to praise you with "Good Job!" and see for yourself how it feels. It's kinda vague. Is it sincere? (I sure have said "Good Job!" while my attention was really a hundred miles away.) Did you feel welcomed to converse about your accomplishment or did that seem to be the final statement?

Tonight's class worked so hard on quiet and loud. And as I said their intensity was amazing. You surely would have had to see and hear it for yourself to experience the intensity of their quiet drumming. The whole class was so involved, so intent on the task. Eyes wide, mouths open....Wasn't it amazing how they waited for their turns? And the parents were modeling the wonder of it all. I love watching parents caught in the moment of joyful parenting.

Now that's way more interesting than if I said "Good Job Parents!" AND I'm sincere.
Hugs to yours,

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Where the sun is and it's at least 80degrees

I announced to my Young Child 4 class during the family sharing "I'm going to Hawaii". They were suddenly quiet and all of them looked shocked till I added "in my dreams". Actually we did warm up the room doing the rhythmic activity to the music Kapulu Kane. So if you can't go then at least pretend. Do some creative movement to #11, Boat Song. That one is especially sunny and I feel like I'm soaking it in on the "south seas". After you are warmed up listen to this amazing Ukulele player:
Have a great mini vacation.
(tips to Molly!)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Animal Serenade for your little Valentines.....

Here's a cuuuuuuute video to watch with your little valentine on your knee. It's short so afterwards if you are part of the Our Time class and are reading the Animal Serenade book then you should cuddle up and read.....I wonder if the Yellow Mr. Horse will meow or quack or growl.

Then I'd like to tell you about making a contingent response. That's one of the big differences between a child watching a video and you reading together with your child. Making a contingent response creates moments of high learning possibilities.

If you child is watching the TV and reacts (let's say she makes a remark like naming an animal or making the animal sound) and no one pauses to say "Yes, that's a donkey!" or to imitate her vocalizations, when no one is there to make a contingent response, then a window of opportunity, a chance for learning, has been neglected.

When you're reading together and your baby starts to chew on the book and you gently pull the book down and turn the page you are reacting...that's another contingent response. Your reaction to their action creates a moment of learning not to be missed.....

Now that you know what a contingent response is be observant at how you naturally make are programmed to do's all in the plan for optimal learning for your child. A DVD or computer game just can't do this.

I learned this last year at the Challenge of the Children conference at Hope College last May. Jane Healey spoke on the topic of screen time (TV, video, Computer games etc) in education. It was eye opening. Ask me if you like to borrow her book!

Make room now on your calendar for this year's Challenge of the Children Conference, Thursday, May 17th all day. They've got a great line up of speakers....including me! I'll be talking about my passions: Music and babies and the brain! :-)

Now, go read to them and watch your contingent responses! See how they grow?
I would be reading too but big sister is reading to little sister right now so I'm doing this instead.
Happy Valentine's day to you and your loved ones.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Kindermusik of Holland

Are you browsing around and now you're here wondering about this Kindermusik excitement? What's it like to take time to sing and dance together with your baby? Well take the next step and visit a class.

We welcome you with open arms and warm hearts and fun music. The visit is free.
Beat the weather and get out!

Sledding for your brain!

Well, too bad that the Early Music concert at the library was cancelled. And classes cancelled again today. It's way too cold to go out! I did go out on Saturday and make a snow angel but without snow pants my legs were bitterly cold in 15 minutes. Yikes!

So here is an inside snowy activity.

Careful that you don't spend all day on this and really be mindful of the amount of screen time for your little ones. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children under age 2 should have no "screen time" (TV, DVDs or videotapes, computers, or video games) at all. During the first 2 years, a critical time for brain development, TV can get in the way of exploring, learning, and spending time interacting and playing with parents and others, which helps young children develop the skills they need to grow cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally.

So then what should you do all stuck inside with your 2 year old? Jing Jang, Jing Jang! I have an idea! Put on your Kindermusik CDs and DANCE, DANCE, DANCE! And draw to music and sing along, and build with blocks to music and "Walk Along" your Rover dog.....And READ together. Good idea.



Thursday, February 1, 2007

Live Music at Herrick District Library

Hello Families,
Live music offers vibrations that are important to our overall well being. At a Kindermusik International Conference a number of years ago the author of one of my favorite books: Smart Moves, spoke to us about the vibrations of live music that escape being digitally recorded. They are very high vibrations that one might argue we don't really "hear". But we do feel them and a certain amount of high vibrations are important to us. Go hear some live music!

And bring the little ones???? Sure! There are so many free concerts in Holland. If you have to leave after the first piece what's lost? Little by little their attention span and interest in concerts grows.

Try sending an email here: and ask to be on their mailing list. This is a great resource for the areas music and arts events. It's how I found out about the free concert this Sunday at the Herrick District Library....I'm sure you will see and hear interesting instruments and I'm hoping to hear some recorders and maybe a harpsichord.

Early Music Ensemble Part of Herrick District Library Series Sunday, Feb. 4, 3 p.m.
Grand Valley State University's Early Music Ensemble, with director Pablo Mahave-Veglia, will take the Herrick District Library stage at 3 p.m. Sunday for a free concert. The GVSU Early Music Ensemble uses period instruments or high-quality, modern replicas to perform pre-classical repertoire as originally written . Mahave-Veglia is a familiar artist; he appears with the Holland Symphony Orchestra, in the Chamber Music Festival of Saugatuck and on the library series with pianist Joan Conway.
Sunday's program draws from music composed between 1638 and 1750, including the Sonata No. 1 in B-flat Major for cello and continuo by Antonio Vivaldi, Sonata prima for trumpet and continuo by Giovanni Bonaventura Viviani, Johann Sebastian Bach's Suite No. 3 in C Major BWV 1009 and Vivaldi's Sonata No. 6 in B-flat Major for cello and continuo.

(A hint about these library concerts: they tend to fill up so if you get there early you would be sure to have a seat.)
See you there!