Young children learn through exploration, active participation and through imitation and as such, quality music programmes taught in the early childhood classrooms should incorporate five different characteristics according to McDonald and Simones, 1989 (cited in Isenberg & Jalongo, 1997). Both stated that musical activities conducted should be developmentally appropriate and age appropriate for children and have a balance of both teacher planned and child initiated activities. Music programs conducted be pleasurable and support the development of positive attitudes and emotional responses in children as well as to instil in them lifelong love for music.
They added that children should be exposed to a variety of musical activities that includes music appreciation -children be exposed to listening to different types music, singing and moving to music and to create music through the use of musical instruments.
They further mentioned that children should learn to participate in a group with their peers and experience the pleasure of group music making. Both agree that music programme should be integrated as part of curriculum and children are allowed to experience music throughout the day and not just during the music time. Music should also be used during transitions from one activity to another.
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As in the Singaporean classroom, it is a requirement by the Ministry of Education that music programme be included as part of the curriculum. However music and movement activities conducted are seldom planned to include a variety of activities and most of the instances teachers conduct activities with just a CD player. Children are observed to be singing and moving to the song played. The essence of music programme that enhances children’s total developmental skills is not delivered due to the fact of teacher quality.
Although the experts have stated that musical education does foster growth in children’s physical, cognitive, social and emotional development, this research will only focus on the social and emotional development through music.
Music is part of the curriculum and it is indeed a great way to expose children through musical activities that include songs, musical games and rhythmic activities as the teaching tool to enhance children’s social skills. Singing simple songs enable children to absorb social values better than when they are being taught. If songs touch on values and principles, children will begin to incorporate them into their social development.
Music activities also allows children to sing, dance and use certain gestures for certain parts of the song and these will also allow them to release social and emotional problems. Children are constantly experiencing new emotions and situations as they grow and each new experience contributes to their social development. As stated by Forsyth ,1977 ; Madsen & Alley, 1979 ; Sim,1986 ; Standley & Hughes,1996 ( cited in Forsyth ,1977 ) researchers have documented the effective use of music to enhance children’s social skills especially when interventions and instructions involve the use of participatory activities. The question the researcher intends to find an answer for is derived from the above explanation on ‘How does active participation in music and movement impact on children’s social and emotional skills’
According to the Collin’s dictionary, arts such as dance, music and drama that are performed live in front of an audience is referred to as performing arts. Performing as mentioned by Wright (2003 p.107) includes the “physical or bodily competence and interpretation providing a foundation for children’s learning using a range of movement techniques”. Performing will involve the participant being observed by caregivers, peers and teachers in the classroom context.
Role of Music and Movement in the development of social emotional skills
Bruner (1968) (cited in Isenberg & Jalongo, 1997) states that as children grow, they go through three learning stages
The enactive stage – This is an action based stage where children develop the ability to use objects in the environment to perform physical tasks using their motor skills for example , children playing a musical instrument and moving to the beat.
The iconic stage – the visual imagery stage where children are able to imagine events and actions through visual memory. This stage takes place when children role play at the dramatic corner or during a drama performance as they take on imaginative roles that they have seen
The symbolic stage- children are able to use ideas, symbols and language to understand and define concepts. For example, children working as a group in planning for a drama performance, children will need to use their creative ideas to plan, identify the characters, symbol image for each character and the language to dictate the drama.
Bruner (1962) (cited in Isenberg & Jalongo, 1997) adds that each of these stages suggests developmentally appropriate musical experience for children.
Isenberg & Jalongo, 1997 adds that Bruner’s enactive stage relates to Piaget’s (1952) sensorimotor stage and Erikson’s (1950) trust – building stage where physical activity and music are intertwined. Thus musical activities stimulate children’s senses, cognitive development and also build social relationships. Bruner and Piaget believed that children used their senses to learn and explore their environment while Erikson stressed that children needed maximum comfort to trust themselves and the others in order for them to explore and learn in the environment. All these stages are inter-related to enhance children’s total development.
Music, according to Gardner, 1973 ( cited in Isenberg & Jalongo, 1997) contributes to the child’s physical, intellectual, emotional, social , cultural and aesthetics development. As stated by McAllester, 1991 (cited in Isenberg & Jalongo, 1997 p. 131) music encourages participation, sharing and cooperation. Through musical activities such as singing and games, “children learn to subordinate their individual wishes to the goals of the group which is the essence of cooperation.”
Music is an effective program for children to adapt to social skills in a fun and enjoyable way. Leonhard, 1983 (cited in Lau, n.d.) regards music as a social art which has the capacity to unite social groups and enable each individual to feel as part of the group. While Spodek, Saracho and Lee, 1983 (cited in Lau, n.d. ) further emphasized that music has the ability to draw the shy and withdrawn child to come closer with their peers thus supporting social relationships. A shy child who does not interact with her peers verbally, will be able to engage in a music and movement activity where she physically gets closer to her peers during the activity especially when it involves pairing with partners or in a group.
Catron & Allen, (2003) stated that young children must learn to cooperate with peers and act in a socially responsible manner so that they would develop a cooperation spirit through participating in a variety of small group activities.
Social and Emotional Development in Children
Social and emotional development according to Cohen and other experts as (cited in Social Emotional Development domain Child Development, 2009) includes the ability of a child to express and manage his emotions as well as his ability to build positive relationships with others. They shared the same view as Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence on intrapersonal and interpersonal processes and presented a strong relationship between knowing of one’s feelings and the feelings of others. Gardner believed that if both these abilities are well developed in young children, it will strengthen their sense of self and the relationship with others (Cited in Dowling, 2005 p.61). On the other hand, Nowicki & Duke, 1989 (cited in Dowling, 2005) supported Gardner, as they found that children who are sensitive to others and aware of their own feelings appeared to achieve better in school than those with similar intellectual ability but less emotional ability.
Social Skills and Social Competence
Social skills can be defined as the “ability to implement developmentally appropriate social behaviours that enhanced ones interpersonal relationship without causing harm to anyone”
(Schneider, 1993 p.19). It is necessary for children to respect one another and to build healthy social skills to develop positive relationship with people around them.
As stated in Jean Piaget’s theory, social development takes place through interaction between the child and the environment and that the developing child constructs his own knowledge. An example of this is when a child is engaged in the learning centre, he is learning through exploration using his senses as well as interacting with the materials in the environment. On the other hand, Vygotsky viewed socialisation as two fold – firstly, cognition as related to social engagement and secondly language as a tool for communication within the social context (cited in Berk, 2000). When children are engaged in dramatic play both language and social relationship is enhanced. As such, social skills play a vital role in helping children cope with the many complexities and demands of the world.
According to Jalongo (2006), social competence is defined as a set of abilities, behaviours and responses directed towards other individuals that serve to foster positive human relationships.
Katz and McClellen (1997) suggested that components of social skills include social understanding and interaction skills. It is important for the child to portray good behaviour and effective communication with others to engage in healthy relationship.
Role of Performing Arts in the Development of Social Emotional Skills
Pinciotti (1993) mentioned that children learn from their experiences when they are engaged in social activities. Cornett (1999) further supports the need for teachers to integrate creative drama in the classroom as she states that drama being a part of everyday life, prepares an individual to connect to real life situations.
Cornett (1999) adds that when children are participating in the drama, they are able to look at problems from different points of view, respect diverse thinking and realise that there are many ways to settle one problem. She further states that through drama, children learn to exchange feelings and emotions with each other. This enhances their personality development.
Cornett (1999) also states that personal development takes place when children control their body and words as they express ideas and feelings during the drama activities. She also indicated that positive self – image and confidence are developed through the problem solving situations.
Cornett (1999) reiterates that children engaging in situational confrontations during their role play, also become aware of the different emotions people feel for example happiness, sadness .anger, fear. She adds that the children learn that these feelings can be dealt in a positive way and they also learn to accept different temperaments portrayed by their peers thus developing a tolerance towards them.
Isbell & Raines (2007), agree that social skills can be developed in drama as children working in group overcome difficulties through problem solving skills. They experience working with peers as they negotiate plans to stage the drama. During interactions, children learn to negotiate with each other, work cooperatively and develop respect for each other.
As mentioned earlier, Bruner (1968) stated that children use ideas, symbols and language
Children are able to use ideas, symbols and language to understand and define concepts when they are in the symbolic stage, thus musical re-enactment of story songs would be an appropriate musical activity for young children.
Teacher’s role in enhancing social skills development
According to Raikes, 1996 (cited in Preusse, 2008) secure attachment bonds between the child and caregiver creates a sense of trust that supports the child for exploration of the world and builds a strong base for future development. As such, it is rather important for teachers to build strong relationship with children under their care. On the other hand , Berk, 2002 ( cited in Preusse , 2008 ) mentioned that preschool children are independent, cooperative as they gain their language skills , self awareness and to think in another person’s point of view. All these will enable children to have better social interaction with their peers. It is the teachers’ role to facilitate and provide the opportunities and activities to enhance children’s social skills.
Teacher – parent partnership is another important factor in enhancing children’s social skills as stated by Webster- Stratton (2006 p. 6) “family involvement has positive effects on children’s academic achievement, social competence and school quality.”
On the other hand, Brand & Fernie, 1983 (cited in Isenberg & Jalongo 1997, p.145) stated that “teachers fulfil their musical roles and responsibilities when they function as motivators, planners, co – participants and observers”.
As a motivator, the teacher uses an object or a story to introduce the music activity to interests and motivate children’s participation. For example, to sing ‘old Macdonald had a farm ‘a teacher would prepare headgears of farm animals and have children pretend to be animals and involve them to make the animal sounds when they are called.
A teacher planner looks into preparation of the music activity identifying the purpose, providing a variety of activities like playing instruments, moving to music and has materials that are required prepared before the lesson and ensures that children are spaced and seated comfortably for the musical activity.
An observer looks out for children’s behaviour during their participation in order for her to plan activities according to children’s needs and development as well as evaluate the positive or negative responses of the activity.
Teacher’s attitude and belief plays an important role in providing these opportunities for children to enhance their social emotional skills. Further, teachers also need to be trained in order to carry out the various arts activities. They must have the knowledge to observe children and to identify and plan according to children’s needs in order to enhance their social emotional development.
Prosocial behaviour is part and parcel of happening in an individual’s life context. Building a strong foundation in social emotional skills during the early childhood years is crucial to a child’s social emotional behaviour to achieve better in school and succeed in later life.
Music and drama are one of the strategies that can help develop good social and emotional skills .As researchers strongly believe that musical activities and drama have enabled children better exposure and experience in developing cooperation, acceptance, tolerance, confidence, positive relationship and social interaction all of which are foundation skills of social emotional development in children. Finally, as Gardner believed when intrapersonal and interpersonal processes are well developed in children it will enable them to build strong and positive relationship with people around them as well as enhances their self – confidence.
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As my findings have shown the role of the teacher as a facilitator of children’s social and emotional development ……… of …… is important as it enhances the growth of prosocial skills through music education, this research will seek to employ teacher planned activities to collect the data needed to form a conclusion that music education does foster children’s social and emotional growth.
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