Apples and Oranges

All children are different; so will your lesson plans

Every child is different. 
As human beings, they have the same basic needs. 

In our Music-in-Nursery-schools terms we will exclude the important and vital basic needs such as food and sleep, and look into developmental needs. Children will want to make relationships, develop their self-confidence and self-awareness, managing feelings and behaviour, moving and handling, health and self-care, listening and attention, speaking, understanding, reading, writing, number, space and shapes, understanding the world, technology, exploring and using media and materials, being imaginative* (EYFS).

You will notice how differently 2 children under 24 months develop. Not only do babies and children learn at different speeds but their attention span differs as well. So by this, it is natural that your plannings for each group of children will be different. Here’s an example of why this may happen.
Group 1: 8 babies (6 – 13 months) 6 are mobile and 2 can sit unsupported
Group 2: 8 babies (6 – 13 months) 2 are mobile and 6 can sit unsupported

Your expectations and activities won’t be the same.  
I mean… They can be the same exactly, but then you might not be challenging all babies to the level they can handle a musical challenge. There is nothing wrong in doing so. It’s a possibility for you to consider and what your music teaching / music enlightenment philosophy is.

My million pound advice is to incorporate movement as much as possible in as many activities as possible when with children and babies. They don’t get bored but also, they are mantally active in the learning process, they are engaging with the learning.

Luckily, it doesn’t mean that you have to create 2 entirely different lesson plans. It would be exhausting and confusing for you to do that.

What worked for me and I know will work for almost anyone, is to have a sort of template lesson plan. I actually ended up using a template lesson plan between most age groups, across all 6 nurseries I was working in. 

You have the template lesson plan and you use progressions. (check out this lesson plan as a reference)

Areas you can progress on musical and non musical 

  1. Movement 
  2. Time span of an activity 
  3. Your wording of an activity 
  4. Instrumentation 
  5. Responsibilities of each child
  6. Groups (working in pair, as a whole group, with assistance from adults) 
  7. Singing qualities 
  8. Tempo qualities 
  9. Following the leader – listen and response 
  10. You think about another aspect you can progress on and how it will change

For instance:
Itsy-bitsy-Spider (a basic expectancy plan)
So if you are singing the itsy-bitsy-spider you would roughly expect 
Stage 1: some babies will not be using their hands at all and (at the best of times) listen intensely, giggle, and look at their primary carer with wide eyes. 
Stage 2: trying but not quite nailing the whole sequence. Moving their fingers at the very start of the song, repeating one gesture until it comes up in the song, clapping at the end of the song…
Stage 3: singing a word or a phrase here and there while trying to coordinate their fingers as well. 
Stage 4: singing more words and phrases, more confident with their gestures and know exactly when to change for the next phrase
Stage 5: Enact the whole song with their body and fingers and sing it 
Stage 6 (advanced pre-schoolers or older): The whole lesson plan can be around the spider song and there are other activities involved which isolate properties of music like rhythm, melody, the theme, add dynamics, play it on a xylophone, change the gestures, change lyrics, words, the sky’s the limit!

Don’t forget that children’s and babies’ attention span is quite small and it varies from child to child and from day to day for each child. This may sound confusing if you’ve never ever worked with 0 – 60 month olds but with experience you learn to recognise small mannerisms that indicate “now I’m fed up with this thing, let’s do something else”. Sometimes you may think that if they try it one more time they will master the skill but sadly their agenda is different and I think at these stages it is important to respect that and not push them for “one last time” unless you are beyond sure they can handle it. I would suggest to keep all activities under 2 minutes, between 30 seconds to 2 minutes and build up resistance and stamina gradually. 

Indeed, children’s attention spans are low. Depending on the age and how they are feeling that day, it might be between 30 seconds to 2 minutes before they get bored and want a new activity. They may start wondering off. That Is NoRMaL! But please, Don’t ignore the signs. If you have done the best you could then it’s just on the day. Remember, concentration can be trained. It may take a bit of time.

This is from personal experience, talking with colleagues and reading some scientific articles over the years. All are suggestions and it is what works for you as a music practitioner for the early years.

© Rania Chrysostomou, 2020, lesson plan for nursery schools music

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