‘Songs from the Singing Ringing Tree’ was a year long project working with 186 children aged 3 to 4 years old at risk of language delay in East Lancashire. A team of experienced Early Years Music Leaders - Beth Allen, Zoe Greenhalgh and Ben McCabe from More Music – delivered an incredible 630 sessions in 3 Early Years settings. The children also participated in a series of inspiration trips to the Panopticans public art works, Halo, Atom and the Singing Ringing Tree itself, experimenting with music making in the outdoor environment, and created their own sound installations which will be permanently installed in the nurseries.
Other outputs from the project include an accredited training package for EYFS staff comprising a of a series of mini video tutorials and associated activities and resources, and a downloadable resource pack with ideas for music making making activities at the Panopticans aimed at EYFS settings, community groups and families.
You can watch a short film about the project here:
The Music Leaders have shared their thoughts about the project, its successes, challenges and learning on the Mid Pennine Arts blog which can be accessed here:
In the words of the Head of one of the EYFS settings, "the biggest difference this project has made is in the childrens self confidence and self awareness, they now realise they have a voice!". In evaluative conversations the staff agreed without hesitation that the project had improved the children’s language, communication and literacy skills - "listening and attention has improved", "even the quiet children are joining in now" "the project gave the children the confidence to have a voice and to feel comfortable enough to join in, knowing that their input will be valued and accepted".
They also agreed that the children's musicality had improved and there was an increased interest in music making from both the children and the staff - one staff member commented that there was always someone singing in nursery following the project, another that music had become part of the routine. One of the EYFS staff commented: "I underestimated the children. I told the Music Leader to sit down in the corner and the children would come to him if they were interested... well they all came, and they all loved it and they all remembered it. He was doing something that hadn't been done before".
The key learning from this project was:
- That sustained, high quality music making does have an impact on the language and communication skills of children at risk of language delay.
- That there are both advantages and disadvantages to an intervention of this duration, it allowed the Music Leaders, Staff and children to build up a relationship and a level of trust which was key to achieving the outcomes, and also allowed for experimentation and risk. However the 'specialness' of the engagement was lessened through regularity, and some of the Music Leaders felt they ran out of steam by the end of the year.
- That using outdoor sites as inspiration visits can be a challenge e.g. bad weather, difficulty of access and lack of facilities!
- That any training with EYFS settings has to work around staff ratios so informal, ‘at your own pace’ training resources are more useful than formal training sessions.
Finally, we would like to share with you a selection of the Music Leaders ‘magical moments’ from the project:
"There was a child who hadn't spoken yet in the sessions. During free play he was playing with a wooden train track, I went over and gently banged two of the pieces together. He looked up, thought for a minute, and then copied me. We played copy and recall for some time, a whole conversation without words"
"The children were struggling with the 'th' sound. We wrote a thank you song for a member of staff to help them practise the sound"
"That moment a child with SEN remembered that a song had a sneeze in it and felt confident enough to sneeze before we were two or three words into the song".