Article Summary for Orff Graduate Extra Credit – Summer 2011

David Fonda


“Language + Movement: Fostering steady beat competence in Young children”

By: Ann McFarland

Source – The Orff Echo – Spring 2007


          The idea of the connection between language and movement is not a new concept. Many cultures have associated these two concepts for hundreds of years. During ceremonial times when movement is involved there is either language or music involved, sometimes both. This article included lots of great research information which helps to clue us into the changing trends in regards to the correlation of these concepts. These changing trends are typically not noticed until they have already occurred.


          The author points out a very interesting point. She talks about how we, as Americans, live in a society of music-consumers not music-makers. When I thought of that it made me very sad but the truth of the matter is that it is our responsibility to change that trend and invite everyone to make music. According to Edwin Gordon, every child is born with some level of music aptitude. “Gordan says this level is highest at birth and is subject to change, dependent upon the quality of a child’s musical environment between birth and approximately age nine.” (pg.40)


          There are still two common steady beat movement experiences still in use for infants and toddlers, those are rocking and bouncing. Both of these experiences give the child a chance to experience steady beat through the adults’ body. Additionally language and/or music is usually added to these experiences. When bouncing a child then adult usually adds a type of chant which is rhythmic language. When rocking a baby an adult typically sings or hums a lullaby. This gives the child an experience with steady in tandem with music and/or language.


          Each child has their own internal tempo, this can be found by discussing the heartbeat with the child. Once the child understands the relationship they can externalize their own tempo. This should be done by student lead not teacher lead. Once they have externalized it they can add speech such as nursery rhymes. Now that they are moving they are on their way to beat competency. Movement is crucial in the development of beat competence. Beat competence is essential for rhythmic learning. Nothing can replace rhythmic experiences in early life, they are of the utmost importance.