Monday, November 26, 2018

Music in Early Education

Music in Early Education 

Music is a universal language and a form of expression. It plays a very important role in our lives and is part of our culture, whether socially or through educational purposes. According to research, music provides a great support to children’s early development as it has proven cognitive benefits.

What are the main reasons for these cognitive benefits?

Music increases toddler’s auditory sensory development - exposure to different genres of music can stimulate the brain cells and listening awareness.

Music is a positive therapy - children cope or learn about social skills, and communicating skills through music. They become confident learners and performers when guided properly. Studies also show that children with special needs can seek professional advice with a certified Music Therapist. With the aid of a Music Therapist, the child can learn to express themselves without words. It is directed in a relaxed environment where children play instruments, sings, listens to music and write songs. Music therapy does not include drilling instrumental or vocal lessons to improve performance skills. It targets ways for children to cope through music.

Music can improve literacy and numeracy - children learn to identify sound patterns such as phonics, syllables, tones, and begin to recognise words when they listen to nursery rhymes. This leads to numeracy improvement where children are exposed to numbers as they learn to count the syllables used, count with the music, and learn about rhythm in general. These skills are then mastered through repetition, listening to songs, and playing of instruments. Children also learn to focus better overtime.

Music helps toddlers build coordination - children react to music naturally and move to the rhythm of music almost instantly. They dance, sway, jump, clap, mimic, and do other actions to the sound of music. The music encourages them to develop their gross motor in this aspect as it helps with their muscle development, strength and balancing skills. The playing of instruments also aid with fine motor skills as children use different parts of their body to play the instruments. For example, playing the piano requires mastering hand-eye coordination and requires the feet at a later stage to play the pedals.

Music is also a mood lifter - timbre is an important musical element as we connect our emotions with the music we hear. Music can be used to soothe and calm a child with slow music such as a lullaby, but it can also be used to lift their spirit with fast and upbeat music.

So how can parents play an important role in Music Education?

Bonding - music can be used as a tool for parents to bond with their child/children. Activities like that dancing, singing or moving along with their child when playing music ultimately leads to better bonding children. It is an entertaining process for parents and the children. They love to see their parents join in the fun! If you encourage your child to play, sing or dance with you, he or she will be encouraged to do so.

Try playing the following activity with your child.

Activity - Freeze game
Objectives - This game increases aerobic fitness and develops listening skills.
What you will need - Percussion instruments (if you do not have instruments, you can simple use your body) and any upbeat music.
Procedure - Shake the percussion instrument, dance, do different actions as the music plays. When the music stops, everyone must freeze.

As a Music teacher, I play the Freeze game with all the children every lesson. It reinforces the cognitive benefits mentioned above and is a lot of fun. Children love coming into the Music room every week. They become inquirers, they explore, they discover, and they learn the fundamentals of music while having a fantastic time. With guidance, children become little musicians when they enter the Music room.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Staff Spotlight - Laura Venezia PYP Coordinator

Laura has been teaching in early childhood classrooms for 13 years and has taught in schools in America, China and Hong Kong. This is her third year working at PIPS and her second as the PYP Coordinator. Laura has enjoyed working with the teachers across both campuses to continue building on and strengthening the teaching and learning that happens every day.  

What do you love the most about your job?

The thing I love most about my job is the time I get to spend with the children. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to get to know all the children in the school. I can often be found in the classrooms discussing the units of inquiry with the children and watching them engage in provocations. It is always so fulfilling to see learning in action. When children have those ‘aha’ moments, you know that something amazing has happened!

What is the most important element in Early Childhood  Education?

The most important element in Early Childhood Education is play. Young children are full of wonder, questions, and ideas and play is their vehicle for knowledge. When children have uninterrupted time to play, they make new discoveries, connect their existing knowledge to new ideas, learn to solve problems, develop their social skill, and so much more! Play really is so important for young children and we need to foster that.

What is your favourite children’s book?

My favourite children’s book is "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak. I’ve always loved this story for the main character’s creativity and imagination. 

Any advice for the parents?

I have two pieces of advice for parents. First, the power of conversation is vital in the early years! Take every opportunity to communicate with your children and have those back-and-forth conversations. These rich interactions will set the stage for the rest of their lives. My second piece of advice is to let your child fail. We all want to see our children succeed, but it’s so important for children to understand that we don’t always succeed and they need to be prepared to navigate the emotions that come with that and discover what they can learn from those experiences. The most powerful thing parents can do—be a role model. Don’t just tell children it’s okay to fail, show them. Parents are a child’s first teacher, and what you do has a massive impact on how they deal with situations.

 "It is fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” – Bill Gates.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Staff Spotlight: Joms Ortega - Under 2s Programme Teacher

Introducing our Under 2's Programme Teacher, Mr. Joms Ortega. Read more about this gentle giant:

Tell us about yourself:

My name is Joms Ortega, and I come from Manila Philippines, and have been living and working in Hong Kong for 8 years. I have been a teacher here for almost 7 years, teaching children ranging from 1 year to 5 years old. I taught Drama and English in my first year of teaching and have been a Kindergarten and Playgroup Teacher for the last 6 years. PIPS has been my home since 2016, teaching the Under 2s programme.

Besides being a teacher, I have also been a theatre performer and aficionado, and have performed musical shows and dramas for both children and adults the past 13 years. I came to Hong Kong when I was accepted as a vocalist in Hong Kong Disneyland for the show “The Golden Mickeys” back in October 2010, and have been doing a lot of different shows since.

What do you love the most about your job?

It has been very rewarding teaching the Under 2s Programme in PIPS as I’ve seen a lot of the toddlers grow and develop in front of my eyes. Some of the children start with me when they are 12-14 months, and some of them are now in their Nursery class, with their individual personalities shining through. I love seeing how much they’ve all grown, especially when I get to have a conversation with them. It’s so rewarding, and makes me feel proud to be part of their school journey.

What is your favourite children’s book?

I’ve always loved Julia Donaldson’s “The Gruffalo”. It is a classic children’s book that all children really love listening to. I love reading it to children while transforming my voice for each new character in the story. It’s such a beautifully made story that will always get children listening and giggling.

A quote/book that has inspired you

One of the quotes that I’ve lived by in both my teaching and children’s theatre career is “Play is the highest form of research” by Albert Einstein. It really applies to both the way I teach and me as a person. I have always been curious and whenever I act, I try to play; I explore my character, how my body should move and look, and play with different voices to create a believable character for children to watch. In teaching, it aligns well with play-based learning, because children really need to play to learn. They play with toys to develop different skills and talents. They discover themselves through playing! Ever since I read this quote by Albert Einstein, it has stuck with me, and I’ve always kept it in mind when I create plans for classes, or create characters for shows.

       Any advice for the parents?

One of the biggest things I ask parents is to really let their children explore. Let them play freely, and explore the world around them. Let them touch different things, and let them be dirty and messy sometimes. And also, let them fall, let them sometimes get bored; let them sometimes fail at a task, and through those, they’ll learn.

I do understand that many parents are afraid that their child will fail in something, but with your support, children will be motivated to learn from these mistakes. As Winston Churchill once said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm…” and it rings true for the children too.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Importance of the Learner Profile

As the PYP Coordinator, I have the privilege of visiting classrooms and seeing how teachers and children are diving into their PYP journeys.  After a discussion of the Learner Profile and other elements of the PYP it was thrilling to see teachers taking action!

The Learner Profile is an important element of the PYP. When individuals are able to internalise and demonstrate the ten characteristic traits of the Learner Profile it develops their international mindedness. And as we know, being internationally minded is a shared goal between PIPS and the PYP!

Developing the Learner Profile depends on more than just including it into the written curriculum. In order to express the importance of these traits, teachers need to demonstrate the same values and beliefs they hope children will embody. In addition, teachers must explicitly teach these traits to children. Doing this might seem like a daunting task, but it is possible to implement successfully, even with the youngest of children.

I'd like to take this opportunity to share how one class turned the Learner Profile display into an interactive and meaningful part of the classroom. Not only do the children hear and use the terminology of the Learner Profile, they have the opportunity to reflect on their own actions and behaviours and identify how they have demonstrated one of the traits.

In this LK/UK class the children drew portraits of themselves (also linked to their unit on diversity) to be used as an interactive element of the Learner Profile.

As children considered their own actions they naturally became reflective (one of the ten traits), and became responsible for managing their own behaviour. Children then had the opportunity to explain how they demonstrated a trait and moved their picture accordingly. Additionally, teachers recognised and commended children on actions that demonstrated one of the ten traits and encouraged children to place their portraits accordingly.

You will also notice three yellow stars within the display. This denotes the Learner Profile traits that are the focus for the unit of inquiry. What a great way to draw attention to the traits that are highlighted for this unit!

Developing these traits is not limited to the classroom. We want children to demonstrate being internationally minded in all areas of their lives. Adults can help also reinforce these traits by modelling them and using the language at home. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Staff spotlight: Gazel Razavi - Principal

Gazel has diverse experiences in leadership and management within the field of education, most recently as a founding principal and prior to that as the Head Teacher of well-known international schools in Hong Kong.

Over the past few years, she has been involved in implementing change management, designing an inquiry-based curriculum and emphasising the importance of the development of language and literacy in early childhood. Her experience in the Reggio Emilia approach, IB, EYFS, and local curricula has empowered her with a varied and innovative approach as an academic leader.

    What inspired you to become a principal?

Being a mother and a teacher, you always think about the best education system. I truly believe that the children of the 21st century need something beyond rote learning. They need to be critical thinkers, problem-solvers and good communicators. I have always had this passion for changing the mindset of educators, parents and eventually the society. When the opportunity of leading inquiry-based schools came, I was eager to take on the role and fulfil my passion.

  What do you love the most about your job?

I enjoy spending time in the classroom. When the office work becomes challenging, I love to walk to any classroom and spend time with the children. That somehow clears my head and gives me that extra boost.

  What is your favourite children’s book?

That changes a lot, but I certainly enjoy reading Julia Donaldson’s and Dr. Suess’ stories to the children.

  What is your most memorable moment?

I love when the students ask “Out of the box” questions and I don’t have an immediate answer to their questions. This will confirm that as educators we need to be lifelong learners and our responsibility is far more than merely transferring information.

  Any advice for the parents?

Spend time with your children and get to know them. There is no formula for choosing the right pre-school/school for them. Every child is unique and the worst thing you can do as a parent is to place them in a system that inhibits them from striving.
Secondly, let them be children. As Piaget said “Play is the work of children”, they learn to think, socialize, communicate and solve problems through play.

Music in Early Education