Dr. Mark Turner

Tips for Elementary Music Specialists
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Tips for Early Childhood
Early Childhood Music

by Dr. Mark Turner
Associate Professor of Music
Early Childhood and Elementary Specialist
SFA School of Music
[email protected]

Part 1: The Basics

Child-centered, child-selected music activities are an essential part of the early childhood music program. Many of the activities we present to our students are specialist-centered (i.e., the adult controls much, if not all, of what happens). Children need to have opportunities to develop their own musical knowledge independently from the specialist. This encourages seeking musical interactions outside our classroom. Isn't that what we want?

What follows are some ideas that will help you develop child-centered music practices. Much of the information is common knowledge among the ranks of early childhood teachers but may be unfamiliar to us. Essentially, this article presents ideas about how to construct music centers.

Things to Consider When Implementing Child-Centered Learning Centers:

  • Experience, good or bad, changes the brain.
  • The child is the central figure in early childhood education.
  • Play is the primary mode of learning in early childhood.
  • Early childhood education experiences should promote children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development.
  • There should be a balance between specialist-selected and child-selected activities.

Developmentally Appropriate Practices
Children mature and learn at different times. Additionally, learning is not always linear. Therefore, it is developmentally inappropriate for young children to consistently do the same thing at the same time for the entire music period (i.e., circle time, group activities).

It is important to remember that during center time children are given the freedom to choose. It is not uncommon for a child to go to the same center and engage in the same activity during every music period. By the same token, if children choose not to participate during center time, it’s okay. They are still watching, listening, and learning from the children who are engaged in musical activities.


The Texas School Music Project is a source for ideas and information concerning pedagogical practices in the music classroom or rehearsal hall.
The TSMP is a service provided to all music specialists by the faculty of the School of Music at Stephen F. Austin State University.

For questions about this site contact [email protected].

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