Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Making Music to Learn Language : How Songs, Chants, and Rhymes Develop Phonemic Awareness

With young children, nearly everything that they need to know about the world can be learned through various forms of play. One type of play that can teach is singing songs and learning rhymes! To understand how songs can aid a child in acquiring phonemic awareness, we must first understand what this awareness is...

Phonemic awareness is having a grasp on the structure of language. Although an extension of phonemic awareness, this does not mean understanding written language. Phonemeic awareness revolves completly around the sounds that are made and how they are connected to words and one another. The three main achievements that children will make when grasping phonemic awareness are syllable awareness (the ability to separate and identify syllables), onset-rime awareness (the ability to separate syllables into their beginning and ending sounds), and phoneme awareness (the ability to separate syllables into all the separate sounds that are pronounced). As a helpful reminder, just remember that phonemic awarenss can be taught, learned, and practiced in the dark.

Songs that play with sound are a great way to attain these skills without a child even realizing how much they are learning and accomplishing. For example, the song Apples and Bananas, practices using the same vowel sounds at the beginning of most of the words in stanza. Instead of saying "apples and bananas" one would sing "eeples and baneenees" to understand where the vowels come in a word. The song Down by the Bay practices rimes, and this could be a song that also incorporates creativity as children make up their own verses and practices their understanding of rimes. Both of these songs are examples from the musician and children's songwriter Raffi. Here is a collection of his compositions that would be very fun to explore with your child!

Incorporating music into learning lightens the atmosphere and creates a positive connection for the child by correlating learning with fun and enjoyment. The opportunites are endless for word play in music and even daily activities or conversation that just come up. You will often find that children are eager to develop their own rhymes or phrases with phonemic connections; they just need to follow your lead.

So go ahead and get singing, rhyming, and learning!


  1. I also mentioned a lot of Raffi's songs for learning phonological awareness. When you see the definition, it can seem a little cut and dry. Music that explores phonological awareness is one of the best ways to get kids excited and master skills at the same time.

  2. It is great that you have so many examples of how this would be done in the classroom. It is great that you want to approach learning in such a unique way! This class has definitely given us some great ideas for our future classrooms!

  3. In early childhood education, 'play' is probably the number one word our class can take away from our collegiate experience. (How fortunate it for us to have that be a key word!) I have now learned that play is how children learn. Learning=play; and play=learning. Thus, when we sing songs and participate in finger plays, then we are inherently developing literacy skills.
    If done correctly, children learn these skills passively because they will not even realize that they obtaining this knowledge.

  4. Music is a great way to work on phonemic awareness with children. Here children don't even realize that they are working on something, thing think they are just having fun in a new way. Incorporating music in a classroom adds to a child's perspective. They gain new knowledge through music and have a lot of fun doing it.

  5. Songs can do two things if used right in the classroom. It can help children remember important information and also catch their attention. One popular example of a song doing these is the ABC's song. A lot of people have learn their ABC's because of this song and a lot of people still can not help but sing it when asked to list their ABC's. Also when this song is sung people tend to notice and sing along either aloud or in their head. Teaching through songs is an important tool and perfect for any classroom.