Think back to those childhood songs you still remember. Songs you are teaching to your own children. The ABC song, Happy Birthday etc. How about when an old childhood song comes over the radio that you haven’t heard in ages? Most of you pick right up in the lyrics; singing along to every word, hum and beat. Those songs transport you to another time and can stir emotions connected to memories long forgotten. You as an adult use music to enhance the mood of a get together, boost your own emotional state, energize yourself or motivate you to get a job done. Discovering how useful music is for memorization for your children could help them with a strong learning foundation to be more successful in the future.
Dorothy Sayers, a Christian Humanist and Classical Education Revivalist, argued in her Oxford speech, “The Lost Tools of Learning” , that children learn best by repetition using chants, songs, hymns or copy work such as tracing and writings. Where conventional teaching styles can be mentally burdensome on memory strategies, the classical approach emphasizes the use of songs, chants, sound-offs and other various methods of recitation. This embeds the information into the students subconscious while also handing them the tools of self-learning.
Music as a Learning Tool
Music can be a focused learning tool to optimize natural skills that help aide in being more successful and as a result, increases IQ. “Singing connects your students... with the joy of learning.” – Music as a Teaching Tool. This is because children have a playful/subconscious way of interiorizing grammar patterns that enable them to use the information spontaneously (think 2nd nature/pattern grooves) in other contexts, tests and conversations. One of the easiest ways to learn anything is repetition; so long as it’s taught in a fun or stimulating way.
Music activates large areas of the brain such as auditory, motor and limbic regions Alluri el al (2013). The motor areas process the rhythm and sound while the limbic processes the emotion which embeds it to memory. The Krumhansl & Zupnick (2013) study shows how music shapes autobiographical memories, preferences and emotions.
Music combined with learning facilitates an easier recall skill in school related projects, and helps the student to quickly pull together a wider spectrum of facts and information for discussions, debates, test and papers. Music as a learning tool has produced students who exhibit better verbal, 2nd language and reading accuracy. It creates a better temporal processing and orientation, preparing a firmer foundation for a range of skills and cognitive function that grammar students take with them into secondary learning and beyond.
Chanting Helps with Memorization?
If you’re anything like me, the first time I heard the word “chant”, even though combined with learning, it just felt a bit ‘off’. I don’t know if it was some societal misnomer thing, but it immediately brought to mind images of something I wasn’t comfortable with. So, to set my own mind at ease, I looked it up. Chant: To recite in a monotonous repetitive tone; to celebrate or praise in song. I felt so relieved by the true definition instead of society’s definition.
Chants focus on a cultural immersion making it easier and faster for children to learn and most importantly retain that information of focus, especially when learning languages (even their own). The Ludke et ali (2013) study found that people learning a language with singing/chanting combined with reading, writing and speech learned faster and had better retention than those who merely spoke and wrote the language. Ludke
How Classical Education Schools Incorporate Music and Chant
At Classical Education Schools, there are 3 stages in the learning process: the grammar, logic, and rhetoric stage. In the early years of the elementary grades, the grammar stage, the focus is laying the building blocks of learning by memorization when the mind is ready to absorb information. The teachers create songs and chants to make memory work fun and more importantly help the children recall the information easily and give them confidence when reciting it. For example, the kindergarten class at Heritage Oak School uses a “rap” song to help the children learn their double math addition (“1+1, so fun”). This helps the students in the later stages of the Classical Education method by recalling facts easily to see how logically the facts fit together (logic stage) and being able to articulate their conclusion of the facts in a clear and concise language (rhetoric stage).
My own daughter adores the chants she learns at Heritage Oak. I find her singing Latin chants all the time and even turning other memory work, like poems and scriptures, into songs. Singing brings a refreshing joy to learning that I only wish I had found and embraced earlier. Encourage your children to sing their memory work, make it into a cheer or fun song and watch them exude a new joy of learning!