A 4ft homemade postbox, a Scalextric Le Mans 24, an inflatable giraffe, 300 kazoos, a cello and a cup of tea…

As I sit surrounded by a 4ft homemade postbox, a Scalextric Le Mans 24, an inflatable giraffe, 300 kazoos, a cello and a cup of tea, I am getting excited about restarting the Soundplay project with children aged 3 – 5 from nurseries around Sheffield.

The project, led by Music in the Round in partnership with ESCAL (Every Sheffield Child Articulate and Literate) and Sheffield Music Hub and funded by Youth Music, aims to develop the personal, social and emotional development of young children at higher risk of delay through participation in creative musical activity.

I, joined by the creative team (Vanessa Johnson, Martha Hayward, Kate Thompson and Fraser Wilson), have just filmed the fourth video of songs included in this year-long project. The videos that we post to YouTube are a key tool in spreading lots of creative ideas and methods for engagement to early years staff engaged in the project, wider network early years and Key Stage 1 practitioners, and parents and carers to encourage a generally more musical community. Songs are chosen to improve children’s communication, language and literacy development including question and answer songs, solo, pair and group singing, exploring phonic sounds and using our voices differently, and musical story-telling songs. Our choices include Calele, Who’s got the Drum?, We Can Be Marching Mice as well as It’s a Good Day for Building and I’m a Train by our dear friend, Early Years expert Sue Nicholls (who led a wonderful training day for us all at the start of the project).

Children participating in the project might speak English as an additional language or have special educational needs, and they are from some of the most economically disadvantaged areas in the city. We have developed wonderful techniques for communicating with the children, primarily through musical instructions but also through hand and face signals, traffic-light signs, and phonics and character picture cards.

The project also aims to develop nursery teachers’ confidence and skills in incorporating more music in their everyday learning. At the start of the project the Early Years practitioners said they all think music is important for children but many would run out of songs and methods for developing activities further – they would often stick to the trusty 5 or 6 nursery rhymes! For non-specialist teachers, having videos has helped them absorb the tunes and remember how to lead them with their children and keep referring back to them.

Parents and carers receive a songsheet after each workshop with the video links to encourage more of them to explore the songs at home. We know that if adults can share their children’s enthusiasm for learning, the all-round benefits are great. So we look forward to the video being ready and the sessions in settings starting up again this week, and to a busy and exciting last term of Soundplay!

Polly Ives
Workshop Leader

You can now watch the video at: http://youtu.be/KpUzwVKqD8U

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