Where Do You Start Your Letters? Using music to enhance memory and learning

Learning is often enhanced when it is connected to music and in preschool, we have songs for just about everything…  The days of the week, the months of the year, foreign language vocabulary, colors, shapes, letters, math – you name it – we sing it.

Many of us remember the catchy tunes that were part of the Schoolhouse Rock collection that debuted in the 1970s. The learning focused music cartoons were interspersed between Saturday morning shows for a couple of decades. I’m sure that the lyrics to title such as Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function?, or I’m Just a Bill can roll off your tongue without much prompting. Those tunes were a valuable tool to me when I was young, and as a parent, I find myself circling back to the genius of the Multiplication Rock when helping Gus with math.

As early childhood educators, we spend a lot of time our time utilizing the power of music as a tool for neuro-activation. Research indicates that 80% of a person’s brain is formed by age 4. PAUSE. For a minute. Let that sink in. 80% — by age 4! With this in mind, we do everything we can to ensure that songs are an integral part of our teaching. We love the collection of songs from Learning Without Tears. They have a whole line-up of catchy tunes that help children to remember things such as: Where Do You Start Your Letters?, Mat Man, and Magic C.

So, what is the link between music and memory? According to Melissa Yoon, music helps us remember things better because of a process called chunking – the combining of individual pieces of information into larger units – or chunks. Our short-term memory generally holds about seven units of information at a time and if we combine that information into chunks, then we can take in and recall larger amounts of information. Yoon goes on to explain that music works in partnership with chunking by linking words and phrases in a tune. The melody and rhythm act as a framework that we can attach the text to, making it easier to recall later. In this way, the musical structures enhance our ability to learn and retrieve the text of the song. The alphabet song is a great example of chunking in music. Without the song, young children might learn the 26 letters of the alphabet as 26 separate units of information, which is a lot to remember. The song makes it easier for the alphabet to stick.

With all this in mind, we have songs for just about everything:

· The preschool students study both French and Spanish. Two of our favorite world language songs are Bonjour and Adios, Mis Amigos.

· A foundation of our preschool program is language arts and literacy. We believe in the importance of exposing children to letter recognition, letter/sound relationships, and the beginnings of phonemic awareness. The children also begin learning writing strokes. Of course, we love alphabet songs and, the Learning Without Tears song, Where do you start your letters?

· Our study of geometry and shape recognition is supported as we sing about shapes and beginning addition and subtraction concepts as we sing songs such as favorite is Five Green Speckled Frogs.

· One of the most important parts of being in preschool is learning to navigate the social world. With that in mind, we talk a lot about what it means to be a friend and love to sing songs about friendship and caring actions.

To this day, every time I see people ice skating, the tune and lyrics to the Multiplication Rock song for number 8 come immediately to mind. The last time I saw that on TV was probably 1979 and it’s still ingrained in my memory. I hope that you have similar musical connections and that your child is singing to you about what they are learning. Afterall, preschool is a joyful place! 

Where do you start your letters?