When children are in the music class, or doing a music activity in the classroom, the class often includes movement, the purpose of which is either to teach a musical outcome like beat or tempo or for the affective aspect of music as in acting out a drama according to the musical sentiment. While movement in this context is perfectly valid and to be encouraged, it is usually seen as incidental to the specific music outcomes being taught. Movement is not incidental but fundamental to brain training.
While music certainly strengthens connections in the brain which improves co-ordination, it can be assumed that all you need is music. That is not quite the full picture. You need strength in the upper body to hold yourself upright, to hold an instrument for a period of time, and the stamina to endure the entire exercise. Above all, you need the fine-motor co-ordination to play the notes. The strength of those fingers comes initially from upper body strength, especially in the shoulders and arms.
Strength, stamina and co-ordination notwithstanding, how a child (any person really) moves is not only an indicator of how much exposure to movement they have had, but how well the brain is ‘wired’. Music can’t do it on its own. Movement can but those neural connections are enhanced through using music simultaneously. That is why it is called Music and Movement. There is a synergy there. It is not one or the other.
If you look at a child in your class who appears to be developing normally and keeps up with all class work including music, don’t assume there are no problems. Observe how they move. Timing is vital in music. Can the child stop when the music stops, move precisely as instructed with all the pauses and tempo changes and stay focussed throughout? What’s their balance like? Can they walk around the room on their heels, sides of feet, balls of the feet? Can they walk along a piece of ribbon heel to toe one foot after the other without looking down? Can they use both sides of the body correctly (for example galloping with one leg out front and only changing lead leg when you tell them to change) or do they rely too much on their dominant side?
There are lots of ways of testing movement skills. If you are in Perth or nearby, I recommend you attend the Move to Learn training being conducted this weekend. (Click here) I am sure you will be inspired to do the movement sequences regularly with your class. I promise the exercises are such fun for the children and, of course, immensely beneficial. Then all their lessons, including the music class, will improve immeasurably. You will have set them up for life, more so than you are already doing.