Teaching pre-math, reading, and music to children

by Mary Ann on February 13, 2012

The Bunkels family pic

My friends, the Bunkels

The organ begins to play and four sets of small hands grab hymn books and begin turning pages. Gabby was 6 when this ritual began. Roxy was 5, Danny was 2 and Kyle was 4. The three oldest knew how to count and could recognize letters up to the 30’s or so. So how does a child find hymn 341? This lead me on an adventure in teaching pre-math, reading and music on Sunday.

Teaching pre-math to children at church!

This was the beginning of our Sunday Pre-math. I showed the children where the hymn numbers for the day were posted. Then each Sunday one of them would ask just as we sat down in the pew, “So the first hymn is 1-2-6?” “Yes, and that is said page one hundred and twenty six.”

children playing on rock  pic

Gabby, Roxy and their cousin Kyle

Next I showed them how to find a page higher than 30 when that was as high as they knew how to count. “First find a page with a 1 as the first number. Good. Now you need to find a page with a one and a two at the beginning. See this page has a one and a three. Opps you have gone too far. Go back some pages. Look this page has a 1 and a 2 and an 8. You are almost there. Good job!” Here we go teaching pre-math – naming numbers, sequencing numbers, patterns, etc

For the next 100+ Sundays we would go through this ritual three times, opening song, rest song and closing song. That gave us a lot of time to practice learning the names of larger numbers, remembering what they look like and how to find a hymn in the hymnal.

little girl in red jacket pic

Daniella, Danny for short

Gabby is now 8, Roxy is 7, and Kyle is 6. Gabby can find any hymn in the book and she can say the number correctly. Roxy can find any hymn in the book given enough time and she can say most of the numbers correctly. Kyle is just starting to find the numbers, that is, when he is motivated to do so. : ) Danny, well she is three and just beginning to notice that everyone else seems to know something she doesn’t. She has begun to pick up a hymnal and ask for help. Gabby or Roxy help her find the right page and I have even seen them pointing out where on the page we are signing. Now Gabby and Roxy are teaching pre-math to Danny.

Teaching music to children at church

After we began learning how to find the hymns we began learning a bit about music, how the words in a song flow for example. I would point out each word as we sang it, first in one child’s book and then in another. I would show them where their eyes should go at the end of each line and where to go when a verse ended. Pointing out the words helped them read and stay with the hymn. It amazed me how studious they were about this. They really did want to sing the songs with everyone else.

little girl in pink blue top

Gabriella, Gabby for short

Teaching reading to children at church

Gabby has to work extra hard with reading. However, I see her moving her finger along with each word, staying right where she should be for the most part. I see her lips moving as she tries to read the words. She misses many because music moves right along but she gets more and more all the time. There are a lot of strategies to teach reading but just making it part of life seems to be a great way to do it.

For Roxy reading comes more easily and she misses only the really big words. However, this last Sunday I noticed that she was singing all the words but just couldn’t stay with the music. She was singing each line as you would read a sentence so she was always ahead. Time for another music lesson!

“Roxy, do you see that little black circle? It means the word is sung for a short time. Do you see that little white circle? Well, that means you sing the word for a longer time. Then I demonstrated what I meant. Love vs. loooove. Then as we sang I pointed to each word or syllable, as the case may be, and said long, short, short, short, short, long, and so forth. (I am no musician but I am willing to give it a shot!)

little girl in pink top pic

Roxanna, Roxy for short

When we started all those many weeks ago none of the children knew how to find a hymn in the book. Now they can all find them, some with no help and some with a little help. The girls can say the names of a fairly big number. When we began no one sang. Now they sing many words and I believe they are going to catch right on to musical timing.

I love to sing. I don’t do much singing right now. I do a lot of pointing and explaining but I have to say that I find it as satisfying as singing!! There are so many opportunities to teach pre-math, music and reading if we are just watching for them.

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