I was given the unique opportunity to interview Richard Caudle, M.S., M.B.A from Rock ‘N Learn. and ask him questions about using music to learn and why it is so helpful!
· Why is music so effective in getting kids to learn?
More than ever, educators recognize that students learn in a variety of ways. Some schools are implementing programs based on “differentiated instruction” along with responses to intervention that address individual learning styles. Music involves different areas of the brain. As we’ve known a long time, some people with brain injury and speech difficulties may be able to sing just fine. Kids often have no trouble learning lyrics to favorite songs. In the case of building fluency for reading, our phonics programs work on decoding skills without music or with only simple background music. Later, by reading along and singing to song lyrics, kids practice their fluency and build their reading speed. With programs like our Multiplication Rap, the music helps kids learn as though they were learning a favorite song. Music is rhythmic, fun, and provides an effective way to learn. Songs, rhymes, and raps improve memory of content facts and details. Plus, music creates a positive learning atmosphere that helps children feel welcome to participate in the learning experience.
· Are there particular signs that parents can look for that would suggest their child needs extra help?
All children benefit from lots of practice with actual reading. Experts advise parents to read frequently to their children starting at an early age. A basis in phonics instruction when reading begins can help with both reading and spelling skills. It’s true that schools are often where problems first get diagnosed, and this part becomes a little tricky because you don’t want to overreact to individual differences in maturity and readiness. Schools tend to wait until around third or fourth grade when students begin to really fall behind. Unfortunately, this approach of waiting for failure is too late. Based on my years of work as a school psychologist, I believe that all kids benefit from learning phonics rules and also having parents help them find highly interesting books. Getting a fictional series at the child’s level or a little beyond can do a lot to help your child become a competent reader. It may take a while to find the right series that engages your child, but once you find something the child loves (adventure, science fiction), you won’t have to cajole your child to read. The more your child reads, the better he or she becomes at reading. I think that the time spent to find high interest material is an excellent investment toward your child’s success. In other words, my advice to parents is don’t wait until you see reading problems. Read to your child early on and become involved in their learning. Help them find lots of highly interesting material to read. Also, phonics instruction using supplemental materials will benefit all kids starting to read. Over 180 research studies have demonstrated the value of phonics.
Incidentally, for those parents not home schooling, teachers love when parents want to be involved before a student’s grades become unacceptable. If you want to know how your child’s doing in school, try scheduling a meeting or phone call with the teacher. You’ll often get great feedback and recommendations.
Of course, I could talk about specific signs that school psychologists look for when assessing learning difficulties. These include reversals in writing and reading, poor visual-motor coordination, hyperactivity, poor organizational skills, and many more signs. The problem with focusing on such a list is that most kids show some of these signs to some degree as they mature. Again, my recommendation to all parents would be get involved with your child’s learning and help your child find ways to enjoy learning. Be positive, model joy over learning, and don’t become stressed in front of your child over any perceived concerns. Privately seek the advice of a trusted teacher or expert if you have concerns. Unfortunately, I’ve seen parents unwittingly make a problem worse by making the child feel defective. Children learn in different ways.
· What are different ways children learn?
Some children respond okay to lectures or hearing a teacher’s presentations, others prefer group work and peer support, some learn on their own, and others respond well to multimedia materials that involve a variety of their senses. We are starting to see more emphasis on technology to provide interactive learning and classroom instruction that addresses individual pace and style. I’m excited about this revolution in education. We just got our first Rock ‘N Learn iPad app approved on the iTunes store. It’s for learning to read. Our team loves the concept of combining our musical, video, and educational content with applications for portable touch devices and interactive white boards used in classrooms.
· Kids have so many interruptions these days, with TV, computers, video games, cell phones, texting, etc. Can kids be too distracted to learn?
With technology and globalization leading to such rapid change, kids learn to multitask quite early. It’s like they are all being prepared to become air traffic controllers! What we find is that when you provide children a rich multimedia experience, they hyper-focus on that task and are able to tune out distractions. Perhaps we’re seeing a generational change in the way kids learn and work. Students are easily bored with traditional instruction, and some kids especially seem to benefit from education that combines entertainment. That was the basis of my forming Rock ‘N Learn 23 years ago with my younger brother, a musician, and it seems even more appropriate today. We produce highly engaging videos for a variety of subjects: preschool, math, phonics, reading comprehension, science, languages, and test preparation. Plus, interactive multimedia approaches are starting to change the way we educate our children. We’re putting lots of research and development in that direction. These are exciting times. I strongly encourage parents, however, to help kids minimize distractions when they are learning or attending to any critical task, such as driving. We need to model that behavior ourselves by not using portable devices when we are doing something that requires our full attention.
Tell me what you learned from Richard Caudle, M.S., M.B.A.
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