Music Together and the Children’s Librarian: Part 1, by Barratt Miller
Last spring, I e-mailed Cen in response to a PUBYAC post in which she mentioned using Music Together techniques in her storytimes. I’d been researching Music Together after hearing about it from a fellow librarian, and I wanted an additional perspective on what a children’s librarian might gain by attending a Music Together Teacher Training. I’d received loads of information from Music Together representatives while researching, but none of it was library-specific. Luckily, Cen gave me some great feedback! I registered for a training in Portland and agreed to do a write-up for Little eLit to share a children’s librarian’s perspective on the Music Together Teacher Training.
For those of you who haven’t heard of Music Together, it’s a research-based early childhood music education program that teaches children basic music competence (being able to sing an entire song on pitch and march to a steady beat) through a combination of classes (offered through a registered center, preschool, or music therapy program) and at-home family music activities. The program offers three-day Teacher Training workshops around the world. Teachers who pass the training are eligible to become registered Music Together teachers, although many people attend the training in order to improve their skills as music teachers or early childhood educators. You don’t have to be a trained singer or have a formal music background to teach Music Together, although those skills can help. All you need to be able to do is sing an entire song on pitch and keep a steady beat with your whole body.
I’d like to note that my summary is a very, very brief overview of the program and that I’m definitely not an expert! I recommend visiting the Music Together website for more information and contacting them if you have questions. Their staff is enthusiastic about the program and loves to talk about it with interested individuals. They’ll be happy to answer your questions, send you materials, and generally help you in every way they can. (If you decide that Music Together would be perfect for your library but would require grant funding, they’ll even help you find and apply for grants!)
When I applied for professional development funding to attend a Music Together Teacher Training, I identified three things I expected to learn: classroom management and lesson planning skills, new songs and activities for my baby/toddler storytime, and how Music Together’s curriculum supported early literacy. I thought it would be helpful to evaluate these three goals by discussing what I hoped to learn from the training, what I actually learned, and what I took back to my library. I’ll discuss the first goal today.
1. I wanted to improve my classroom management and lesson planning skills.
What I Hoped to Learn:
Unlike many of my colleagues, I don’t have a background in education and didn’t receive formal storytime training in grad school. After six months of weekly storytimes for a variety of mixed age groups (babies and toddlers, preschoolers, all ages) and help from more experienced colleagues, I still didn’t feel completely confident planning storytimes or leading the group in activities. I wanted to learn how to plan and lead engaging storytimes and to learn some tricks for dealing with difficult behavior.
What I Actually Learned:
We got to observe two different teachers teach three full Music Together sessions, which meant we got to see them keep twelve 0-5 year olds and their parents engaged for a 45-minute session. We looked for different elements in each session, taking note of how the teacher structured the session and interacted with the parents and kids. Music Together also uses a standard lesson plan for each of its sessions. All of the attendees had a chance to create a lesson plan that was critiqued by the instructor. In order to pass the training, each attendee had to teach a song and movement activity that was critiqued by the instructor and the other attendees. It was terrifying but so helpful, especially because I’d never had an opportunity for that kind of feedback before.
What I Took Back to My Library:
I love the lesson plan structure! Before, I had been mixing books and activities but without any real meaning in the order. Now, I plan to start with small activities and build up to progressively bigger, more engaging activities with focus activities in between. I’ve only done a couple of storytimes since my training, but I already have a better sense of what works well with a mixed-age group. I’m able to define my expectations for kids and parents more clearly. Getting parents to participate is still a struggle most days, but I definitely have better tools for getting them involved now. Best of all, I feel more confident!
Stay tuned for my reflections on my other two goals for my Music Together Teacher Training in an upcoming post!Barratt Miller is the Youth & Adult Services Librarian at the Crook County Library in Prineville, Oregon. She received her MSLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2012. As a graduate reference assistant at the University of Illinois Library, she selected materials for the School Collection, the second largest collection of children’s literature in North America. She also reviews middle grade and young adult science fiction and fantasy novels for The Horn Book Guide.