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Some Practical Movement Resources for the Music Classroom Author

The Book of Movement Exploration From Wibbleton to Wobbleton

Rhythm and Movement Feel It!

The Rhythm Inside Music Across the Senses

relate to certain sung pitches, has been found to lead to more accurate and quicker interval identification in students (Steeves, 1985). Students are also better able to identify songs more accurately with coordinated movements than with other cues such as rhythmic chanting (Dunne-Sousa, 1988). These findings may partially be explained by a “neurophysiological link between gross and fine motor control in body movement and in muscles engaged in the vocal apparatus” (pp. 65-66). There is evidence from the research to support the use of movements of many sorts (from hand signs to full body movements) as a means to improving awareness and understanding of pitch related concepts and skills.

Moving the body while singing can impact the quality of that singing. In one study, Liao and Davidson (2007) found that children’s bodily movements reflected the quality of their voice when singing, with size of movements reflecting dynamics and continuity reflecting articulation. Other studies have reported that children’s (Campbell, 2010; Moorhead & Pond, 1978) and adolescent’s (Ebie, 2004) movements support their voices and reflect their expressive intentions.

Ideas for the Classroom

Here are some ideas for incorporating movement to improve melodic understand and performance. If you want to focus on melodic phrase for instance, have students listen for the phrases in a performance of a piece that they are learning. As they listen they should draw the phrase in the air with one finger. Once they figure out how long the phrase is, they should be challenged to manage their space, time, and energy so that they do not end before the phrase ends. For a locomotor variation on that theme, have students can walk the phrase in space from point a to point b. Each student can predetermine the distance by placing a red plastic cup on point a and a blue plastic cup on point b. As they listen, sing, or even play the melodic phrase they should walk from point to point.



John Feierabend and Jane Kahan GIA James Harding

Movement Plus Rhymes, Songs, and Singing Games Phyllis Weikart Elsa Findlay

Robert Abramson

Pentatonic Press Wadsworth

Alfred Music Alfred Music

Julia Schnebly-Black and Stephen Moore Alfred Music Jody Kerchner

Given the abstraction and mystery of producing sounds in the voice (Abril, 2007) and the support from the research described above, you might consider incorporating movements to represent pitches in singing instruction. Curwen hand signs, as often used in the Kodály method, where a particular positioning of the hand represents a particular pitch, might prove beneficial in developing interval identification and sight singing abilities (see Choksy, et al., 2001). Using a Dalcroze approach, you might focus on the pitch contour of a melody by having students move the contour with their bodies or draw the contour in the air with their arms (see Mead, 1994). Finally, allow students to freely move their bodies as they sing as a way to help them develop more expressive and/or supported singing.


While there is less research that has tested the effect of movement instruction on music listening, there is some evidence that it does positively impact listening skills. Sims (1986) reported that preschool children who participated in some movement experience with music were more attentive when listening to that music in comparison to those who only listened passively. Another study found that children who moved while listening to music scored significantly better on a measure of form perception than did other students who followed a listening map without moving (Gromko & Poorman, 1998). Giving children experiences moving spontaneously (i.e., freely) to music might improve their ability to represent that music using graphic notation (Fung & Gromko, 2001).

Ideas for the Classroom

Designing listening experiences that incorporate movement for students can be divided into two types: (a) directive movement experiences, those that are led by and designed by the teacher, and (b) creative movement experience, those that are generated by students (Abril, 2011). An example of a directive movement experience would be

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having students copy your choreographed movements, while listening to Queen’s song, “Bicycle Race.” Another example would be to teach students a folk dance from one of the songs Alfred Reed used in his band piece, Armenian Dances. These experiences can focus students’ attention on certain aspects of the music, from its expressivity to its historical roots to its form. Creative movements give students the freedom to generate their own movements as they listen. For example, instead of or in addition to having students follow or create visual maps to represent a section from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, you might challenge students to create a movement piece to represent the music they hear. The goal is not to create choreography as much as it is to help students develop a deeper understanding of the music they are listening to. Another example of creative movement is to give students one or two specific Laban effort actions (dab, flick, punch, slash, glide, float, wring, press) and ask them to improvise movements inspired by those actions as they listen to music. For more information on movement and listening, see Kerchner (2014).

Concluding Thoughts

Jonathan, a twelve-year-old boy, said it best in an interview talking about his experiences in a school music program: “…I can’t sit still long. Nobody should have to sit still when there’s music. It moves, and makes you move” (Campbell, p. 198). Jonathan’s insightful comment speaks volumes, and it is supported by research, which has consistently shown that humans (especially children) have a natural tendency, need, and desire to move to music. Patterns from the research also show that movement offers a window into children’s musical perceptions, improves their music competencies, and helps to develop deeper understanding. It does not seem to matter what specific approach or method you use as long as you do incorporate some movement in music instruction. Consider how movement can be added to your teaching such that it helps to meet curricular objectives and goals, with the ultimate purpose of deepening students’

musical February/March 2015

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