12 reasons to start planning now for students’ reading next summer

For many teachers in public schools, summer vacations will draw to a close soon. All those Boards created on Pinterest, webinars attended, or books read will be put into practice when new students enter the classroom. And teachers will pour their hearts into them all—helping to set their students on a path of future academic—and life—success.

As with every year, after about nine months, those students move on to the next grade or level. Early childhood teachers can begin planning now—at the beginning of the school year—to help ensure that the reading gains made during the upcoming school year carry into the next, regardless of the summer break. Providing them with 12 books may be the key.

Giving at-risk students 12 books helps stop summer slide

One recent study published in the Reading Psychology Journal showed that by giving at-risk students 12 books to take home over the summer resulted in gains equal to summer school for lower-income children, and had twice the impact of summer school for the poorest of those children.

The researchers randomly selected 852 first-grade students from 17 high-poverty schools to receive 12 books on the last day of school over a three-year span. Another 478 students served in the control group and did not receive any books to take home over the summer. The results showed a significant difference in state reading assessments between the two groups.

Early Literacy and Language Curriculum includes take-home stories for students

ABC Music & Me is an early literacy and language curriculum for preschoolers, Kindergarteners, and emerging readers. This early childhood curriculum uses music’s proven cognitive benefits to boost students’ school-readiness skills, especially for at-risk students. In addition to the classroom lessons, each month students receive materials to increase parent involvement. Materials include a Family Magazine with the story from class as well as literacy activities. Plus, students receive the music from class. After a school year’s worth of lessons, students can continue to read those stories throughout the summer.

Start planning now to keep students reading next summer. Let us show you how ABC Music & Me can be a part of the solution. Contact us at info@abcmusicandme.com. Try these other ideas for keeping students reading next summer, too.

4 musical activities that support phonological awareness

Edited excerpt from Music and…Reading

Phonological awareness helps children recognize that words are comprised of a variety of sounds. Some researchers believe that a child’s level of phonological awareness when they begin school is the key to learning how to read. Try these activities in your early childhood classroom or share them with parents as a way to support a young child’s growing phonological awareness.

4 activities that support phonological awareness

  • Clap to the Beat. Help children tune in to the rhythms of spoken words by clapping 
along with favorite nursery rhymes.
  • Big Bad Bug. String together words that begin with the same sound (yellow, ukulele, yahoo), end with the same sound (kitten, mitten, written), or have other things in common. This 
expands children’s collection of familiar phonemes.
  • Rhyme Time. As a class, build strings of rhyming words (they don’t have to be “real” 
words—the goal is to explore the sounds, not the meanings of words). Start with simple, single-syllable words, but challenge yourselves to build as long a list as you can (i.e., bat, cat, dat, fat, gat, hat, jat . . . ).
  • Get Silly With Sounds. Easy and fun—start tossing silly rhymes into your everyday routines. Try See you later, alligator!, Ready, Freddy?, or even Time for lunchy-munchy!

Additional information on the research cited above can be found here.

Early Literacy and Language Curriculum

ABC Music & Me uses music and movement to teach young learners early literacy and language, such as phonological awareness. Music is the vehicle to also strengthen fine- and gross-motor skills, sharing, self-regulation, and more. To experience for yourself how ABC Music & Me uses music to teach young children early literacy skills, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.


3 ways to boost children’s confidence

Edited excerpt from Music and…Social-Emotional Skills

Supporting social-emotional growth in young children prepares them for success in school and in life. In an early childhood classroom, music and movement can be used to foster social-emotional development in many ways, including helping children explore and understand emotions, build confidence in their abilities, and even help form trusting relationships between teachers and classmates.

Try these music and movement activities specifically designed to boost young children’s confidence. These activities can be used in an early childhood classroom or shared with parents to try at home with small modifications.

3 musical activities that boost children’s confidence

  1. Can you feel me now? Enrich children’s “emotional vocabulary” by using art, music, and stories to identify emotions. No doubt you’ve got happy, sad, surprised, and angry pretty much covered. In stories, that is—but how about in music? Stretch your emotional legs and see if you can find a story, illustration, or piece of music that represents some other feeling, perhaps fear, embarrassment, silliness, determination, or relaxation. Not only does this activity develop children’s vocabulary; it also helps them to identify—and even to manage—their own emotions. Consider downloading some “emotional” songs from Kindermusik. Try browsing by the theme: “Emotions and Attitudes.”
  2. Cue up the confidence. Music play-alongs have no wrong answers! Grab some instruments, cue up some music, and play, play, play. There’s nothing better for self-esteem than a good old-fashioned come-as-you-are jam session.
  3. Who’s runnin’ this show? Though allowing children to dictate certain whats and whens of their day is great for developing confidence, a good dose of routine is a nice way to set children up for success. A child who knows what is coming and their part in it will be better able to prepare for and succeed at the demands of the day. Add musical cues to indicate that it is time for recess, lunch, or centers.

Early Literacy and Language Curriculum supports social-emotional development

ABC Music & Me uses music and movement to teach young learners early literacy and language. Music is the vehicle to also strengthen fine- and gross-motor skills, sharing, self-regulation, and social-emotional skills, including confidence.

To experience for yourself how ABC Music & Me uses music to teach young children, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.


At-risk students see long-lasting benefits of attending Pre-K

Back in 1985 when the radio played endless loops of “We Are the World,” the State of Michigan set aside $1 million to fund small pilot programs for public Pre-K. In 1995, they began a longitudinal study to investigate the effectiveness of the program. The preschoolers in the first year of the study recently graduated from high school and the results of the study were shared with Michigan’s State Board of Education. Now called the Great Start Readiness Program, Michigan serves as many as 30,000 children each year on a budget of $104 million.

Children enrolled in Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) experienced long-lasting results throughout the school years, including:

  • Kindergarten teachers consistently rated GSRP graduates as more advanced in imagination and creativity, demonstrating initiative, retaining learning, completing assignments and as having good attendance.
  • Second grade teachers rated GSRP graduates higher on being ready to learn, able to retain learning, maintaining good attendance and having an interest in school.
  • A higher percentage of 4th grade GSRP graduates passed the MEAP compared to non-GSRP students.
  • Significantly fewer GSRP participants were retained in grade than non-GSRP students between 2nd and 12th grades.
  • More GSRP students graduated on time from high school than non- GSRP participants.

“It’s a huge investment,” said Keith Myers, executive director of the Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children in an interview with MLive. “But all the research says it’s money well-spent. If you expect a payoff in the next quarter, you’re not going to see it. You have to be patient. You have to understand what these types of programs do for children.”

Although the lyrics to “We Are the World” did not influence the creation of the State of Michigan’s preschool program, the chorus puts a soundtrack to their findings as well as other long-term studies showing the lasting benefits of Pre-K, such as the Abecedarian Project, and the Child-Parent Center Education Program.

“We are the world, we are the children

We are the ones who make a brighter day

So let’s start giving

There’s a choice we’re making

We’re saving our own lives

Its true we’ll make a better day

Just you and me.”

Early literacy and language curriculum prepares children for success

At ABC Music & Me, we believe all children should experience the lasting benefits of quality early education. Our research-based curriculum uses music as the vehicle to teach children early literacy, language, sharing, listening skills, self-control, and more. These key school-readiness skills prepare children for on-going academic (and life) success, especially English Language Learners and At-risk students.

For information about using ABC Music & Me in your classroom, school, or district, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

3 activities that support oral language development

Edited excerpt from Music and…Reading.

Oral language development grows increasingly more important when children enter the formal school years. Teachers expect children to listen to and follow directions with more than two steps, ask and answer questions with plenty of details, and resolve conflicts with peers using spoken words. Oral language development also impacts reading abilities. Research indicates that the number of words a child knows at age three is a reliable predictor of reading abilities in third grade.

Try these three activities in the classroom or share them with parents as a way to support oral language growth in young children

3 activities that support oral language growth

  1. “Fill in the ______.” Try a fill-in-the-missing-word game with a familiar song or rhyme either by turning down the music or by simply pausing as you recite, sing, or read.
  2. “Pretzels for Sale!” Pretend you are a carnival announcer or street vendor selling pretzels. Speak or sing the words “Pretzels for sale! Pretzels for sale! Come and buy my pretzels!” in various styles: whispering, booming, slowly, quickly, quavering, in a monotone, etc.
  3. “Out and About.” When outside the classroom, play a game of telling who or what is out and about. For example, you might say, “I see a squirrel out and about. It is brown and digging through leaves. What do you see?”

Early Literacy and Language Curriculum

ABC Music & Me uses music and movement to teach young learners early literacy and language. Music is the vehicle to also strengthen fine- and gross-motor skills, sharing, self-regulation, and more. We provide many opportunities to practice and strengthen listening skills both in class and at home. To experience for yourself how ABC Music & Me uses music to teach young children early literacy skills, including oral language development, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

Music reaches people of all abilities

Special Education teachers often intrinsically know how to reach a child with special needs, long before researchers supply the “why it works” behind the practice. For example, although music has been a communication tool used by special education teachers for years, research is just now beginning to show that music can help non-verbal children with Autism say their first words.

Music therapists also depend on music’s undeniable capacity to reach people of all abilities, including people with neurological damage, such as Parkinson’s disease or strokes. The rhythm and beats of music are helping people with brain damage learn to walk by anticipating timing and regulating steps.

“It used to be thought that music was a superfluous thing, and no one understood why it developed from an evolutionary standpoint,” explained Michael De Georgia, director of the Center for Music and Medicine at Case Western Reserve University, in a Discover News article. “In the last 10 years, we’ve just started to understand how broad and diffuse the effect of music is on all parts of the brain.

We are just starting to understand how powerful music can be. We don’t know what the limits are.”

Using music to reach children with special needs

For more than 30 years, Kindermusik International has been using music to reach children of all abilities. Created by Kindermusik, ABC Music & Me uses music to teach children of all abilities early literacy and language, social and emotional skills, and to strengthen fine and gross motor skills, and more. Plus, children with special needs who use ABC Music & Me show gains in literacy and language skills.

A supplemental guide, organized unit by unit and lesson by lesson, suggests activity adaptations for children with particular needs or impairments. In addition, families receive materials to use together at home to further strengthen the learning and support a parent’s pivotal role as a child’s first teacher.

For more information about using ABC Music & Me in a classroom with children with special needs, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.


2 literacy activities that use music to teach comprehension

Edited excerpt from Music and…Reading.

Early childhood literacy research shows that children who participate in music classes are more likely to score higher on tests of reading comprehension than other children. Try these two literacy activities in the classroom or share them with parents as a way to grow comprehension skills in young children.

2 literacy activities that use music to teach comprehension

  1. What Comes Next? Sing the first line of a familiar song. Have children take turns singing the next 
lines. Continue taking turns, until the end of the song. This musical literacy activity not only builds verbal memory, but also develops listening skills and concentration.
  2. Just for Us. Make your own language! Take a familiar song and insert new words you’ve made up to replace the original ones (i.e., I’m a little ablatt, short and miggle, here is my handle and here is my riggle. . . ). Give it a try and then, as a class, invent a gesture for each word and try it again. You’ll be amazed at how well the gestures help you remember the meanings of your new words.

Early Literacy and Language Curriculum

ABC Music & Me uses music and movement to teach young learners early literacy and language. Music is the vehicle to also strengthen fine- and gross-motor skills, sharing, self-regulation, and more. To experience for yourself how ABC Music & Me uses music to teach young children early literacy skills, including comprehension, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.


Early spatial learning increases later number knowledge

In a preschool classroom, “Building Centers” with blocks, Legos, and puzzles invite children to better understand relationships between objects, including position, direction, form, distance, and size. Now new research currently awaiting publication in the Developmental Psychology journal shows that this early spatial learning increases later number knowledge.

The research team from the University of Chicago conducted two studies. In the first study, the team tested the number line knowledge, spatial skill, and math and reading achievement of 152 first- and second-grade students during the initial three months of school. The students’ number line knowledge was assessed during the last two months of school.

In the second study, the team followed 42 children from the time they were 5 years old until they turned 8 years old. During the study’s duration, the team assessed the spatial skills, vocabulary, number line knowledge, and approximate symbolic calculation.

Researchers find that early spatial learning increases later number knowledge.

  • Children’s spatial skills at the start of both first and second grade predicted improvement in linear number line knowledge over the course of the school year.
  • The spatial skills of 5-year-old children predicted their performance on an approximate symbolic calculation task at age 8. This relation was mediated by children’s linear number knowledge at age 6.

“These results suggest that improving children’s spatial thinking at a young age may not only help foster skills specific to spatial reasoning but also improve symbolic numerical representations,” said co-author Susan Levine in a press release.

Music and Spatial Learning Development

Research indicates that music can positively impact children’s mathematics abilities, including spatial reasoning. In fact, children who participate in Kindermusik classes experience significant increases in spatial-temporal reasoning scores.Created by Kindermusik International, ABC Music & Me is an early literacy and language curriculum that uses music and movement to also strengthen cognitive connections, and even social skills such as turn taking and self-regulation.

For more information about using ABC Music & Me in your early childhood classroom, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.


Steps to phonological awareness

Edited excerpt from Music and…Reading

Long before children can tell someone that the magnetic letter “m” on the refrigerator stands for the /m/ sound, they are building sensitivity to the sounds of spoken language. Researchers call this phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is a very important step in the journey to learning to read. In fact, some researchers suggest that a child’s level of sound awareness upon entering school may be the single most powerful determinant of the success he or she will experience in learning to read.

Phonological awareness crops up most prominently in a few ways. It begins with an awareness of the spoken contours of speech (for example, using rising pitch to signal a question). Researchers have found that music often follows intonation patterns that coincide well with language learning. Brain studies of eight-year-old children, amazingly, show that children who started musical training at the ages of four or five are better at processing the pitch changes within spoken language than similar children without musical training.

Phonological awareness continues as children begin to notice syllables and sounds within words (for example, “number” can be divided into two chunks: num- and -ber. To help children hear these “beats” within words, educational experts suggest using music, which naturally divides words into sounds.

The next step in phonological awareness is rhyming. Early experiences recognizing, repeating, and predicting rhymes are a perfect and age-appropriate way to build phonological sensitivity. Researchers believe that word play of all kinds contributes to phonological awareness, so the more, the better. In fact, research now supports a strong link between children’s knowledge of nursery rhymes at age three and success in reading and spelling when those same children enter school.

How It Works in an ABC Music & Me Class

  • Word Play. The often silly, often rhyming, and always engaging rhymes, poems, and song lyrics featured in ABC Music & Me classes give children a chance to speak and sing, practicing rhyming, word play, and predicting skills.
  • Sound Play. They don’t just learn from words! Sounds and syllables, even nonsense ones, are enough to get children’s language brain cells buzzing.
  • Vocal Play. Using voices to make high and low sounds, “smooth” and “bumpy” sounds, sounds of animals, water running, popcorn popping, you name it—it all adds up to more awareness of sounds, how to make them, and how they can come together to build words.

For information about using music to teach children early literacy and language skills through ABC Music & Me, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.

Additional information on the research cited above can be found here.


Music helps children develop a positive sense of self

Edited excerpt from Music and…Social-Emotional Skills

A sense of self is one area of social-emotional development. Three-to-five-year-old children who have an age-appropriate sense of self are confident, perceiving themselves as competent, effective, and able to complete a large set of relevant tasks independently. They are able to recognize, identify, and manage feelings, have mechanisms for self-soothing in mild or moderate distress, have a sense of what is “fair,” and will stand up for their “rights” if it appears they have been violated. They are able to adjust to new situations, and to demonstrate trust in adults by asking for help when needed and expressing themselves freely and confidently.

Sometimes, research doesn’t reveal something brand new and surprising; instead, it puts data behind something we’ve always suspected but have never before proven. Scientific studies, for example, now tell us that children’s self-esteem is directly connected with their perception of themselves as competent. Groundbreaking? No. Good to know for certain? Absolutely.

In ABC Music & Me, we use movement and music to teach young children early literacy and language. Plus, one of the beautiful things about an ABC Music & Me class is that it includes activities that are sure to build a sense of competence (and, it now follows, confidence).

3 ways learning through music and movement helps young children develop a positive sense of self

1. In any given ABC Music & Me class, children might play drums, “fly” like birds, pretend to be seeds growing from the ground, use their voices to imitate the
 sound of water running, or listen to the sound of a horse trotting and galloping. They would be specifically encouraged to play the drums in creative ways, to “fly” and “grow” and “pop” in whatever ways feel good to them, and to listen and move and vocalize freely and expressively. In other words, “competence” (doing things “right,” succeeding) is tied directly to exploring, doing things creatively, and expressing individuality, activities that lead to satisfaction, pride, and good feeling for the children. There are no wrong answers.

2. Children in ABC Music & Me classes are also guided to explore emotions—recognizing, identifying, and empathizing with the emotions of characters in songs and stories, recognizing and identifying moods in pieces of music, and learning to manage their own impulses taking turns, respecting space, sharing, moving cooperatively) as they engage in the class as part of a group.

3. A trusting relationship with classmates and adults, revealed as a key to learning, comes most easily when emotional connections, coordinated movement, and free expression are valued and encouraged the way they are in ABC Music & Me. With trust, “quiet” children come out of their shells. Otherwise “inattentive” children become suddenly attuned. Children try things they’ve never tried before. Children ask for help when they need it. All of this breeds more trust. And all of this fosters children who are confident, competent, expressive, independent, and cooperative. Amazing.

For information about bringing ABC Music & Me to your classroom or school, email us at info@abcmusicandme.com.