Kids' Jam Family Music Workshop

The Kids' Jam Curriculum and its Elements

The Kids' Jam Curriculum and its Elements Lui leadng a song

The Kids' Jam curriculum is designed to build a repertoire of songs that can be shared in the family and school community, and to provide ear training as preparation for later formal instrument or vocal study.  Each collection in the curriculum contains an assortment of original and traditional songs, including many nature-based songs celebrating the four seasons of the year. 

The Voice as the First Instrument

The art of singing involves a very sophisticated learning mechanism.  We must develop our skill in two areas simultaneously.  We must learn to sing the notes, coordinating our vocal instrument to express them accurately, in itself a marvelous accomplishment.  But to do this, we must be able to hear the notes in our heads, or audiate them, in the first place, to know what we are trying to sing!

Ear training through Solfège and Curwen Hand Signs

Lui leading solfège

Notes in any given tonality have a relationship to one another.  In order to sing a melody in tune, we must be able to hear and express those relationships accurately.  By naming each relative pitch, using a differentiated syllable, solfège helps us build a memory for the musical interval.  Songs with verses sung in solfège syllables are included in the repertoire, to familiarize the student with solfège, and to build a foundation in hearing and singing intervals accurately.  

When we add a physical dimension to that memory tool, through the use of the Curwen Hand Signs, we make the tonal relationships that much easier to learn, remember, and execute.  The signs use both hand shape and vertical position in space to represent the relative pitches. Together with solfège, they give an intellectual and a physical representation of a musical concept, integrating sound into mind and body.

The Kids' Jam repertoire approaches solfège at a developmentally appropriate level, with many of the solfège songs being pentatonic (using DRMSL, or do re mi so la); other songs add "fa," generally as a passing tone.  The Songbook includes a chart of the Curwen Hand Signs that are used in conjunction with solfège syllables in the lab classes.  While "ti" is included in the Curwen Hand Sign chart, it is not used in any of the songs, as it is more difficult for children of this age range to internalize.


Movement, dance, singing games and Kodály-based rhythm patterns

Movement with streamers

Movement and dance do the same thing for rhythm as solfège and hand signs do for tonality.  When we represent rhythm in our body, this kinesthetic experience of it deepens and integrates our learning.  Each seasonal collection of Kids' Jam includes traditional singing games, which engage the children in singing while keeping their bodies active.  But their purpose goes far beyond that.  Singing games nurture skills necessary to sing, dance, or play an instrument, as well as to understand the basics of music.  The games teach musical form, and introduce dynamics, tempo, and other musical elements, all while they promote small and large motor skills and rhythmic coordination - and they're fun too!

The Kids' Jam Songbook pages give directions for all the singing games, so you can play them at home, in a homeschool group, or in a classroom situation.  You can supplement the singing games by putting on music to dance to at home.  The Putumayo world music collections are a wonderful source of music to help broaden the child's - and the whole family's - experience of the world of music, but you can dance to any music you enjoy!  Be sure to check your local library or interlibrary loan system for new ideas.

Ear training as preparation for later instrument study

Participating in a bell orchestra

Music is like any skill, in that it requires consistent practice in order to develop or even maintain at a previous level.  The Kids' Jam curriculum provides continuity between the early childhood music class and the start of instrumental study at age 8 or 9.  The curriculum can be used at home or in an elementary classroom to supplement school music classes or early instrument lessons.  Or it can be used as a complete music curriculum for homeschoolers or an elementary school music specialist.  The goal is to continue building song repertoire and ear training through this critical window of time, with an eye toward developing specific skills that will be needed in later or concurrent instrument study.

When the work of ear training is well along before we attempt to play an instrument, it makes the learning of the instrument more straightforward. For example, once we have developed the ability to hear a note internally and reproduce it in the singing voice, it is only one step further to reproduce that note on a musical instrument.  The skills we develop as we integrate rhythm in our bodies through small and large movement, dance, and singing games will later be applied as we learn to manipulate the parts of a musical instrument with accurate rhythm.