For those of you not familiar with my "drum sequencing" experiment, you can read my first blog here - http://djfrobot.blogspot.com/2010/07/teaching-kids-english-using-right-brain.html
We use the right hemisphere of our brains to determine rhythm (other parts too which were discovered more recently). We use mostly our left side for sequential memory. When individuals are preparing to tap out a rhythm of regular intervals (1:2 or 1:3) the left frontal cortex, left parietal cortex, and right cerebellum are all activated. That is why this idea utilizes a childs brain to the maximum! I found out after doing this exercise, after doing some research...that an experiment has already been done using 16 words by a guy named CHAN. Chan’s study controlled for age, grade point average and years of education and found that when given a 16 word memory test, the musicians averaged one to two more words above their non musical counterparts. This however did not test new words in a different language.
Also, realize that this is called RIGHT BRAIN SEQUENCING. The reason is because the grid is given to the children...where concrete answers are visually given. (you could argue left or right here) If this was all auditory, it would be a lot more left brain as we use that for sequence...but realize...that recently...all of this is changing anyway. We are finding out more information everyday about neural science, and realizing that our brains are a lot more complex than we thought. We use many different parts of our brain for each function...contrary to old theories. So using multiple functions of the brain to remember a foreign language may create bolder images in their brains.
Also...working within their short term memory while sequencing these can help to remember weird conjugations...because having to do a little bit of "work-around" on the word rhythmically kind of relates to the "work-around" that is "conjugation". I will later go on to put these to practical use for long term memory...so those of you saying, "They will only remember it when in sequence"....that is not the case. I want to create pathways in their brains to these words - a foundation so to say - then we will make practice use of them in conversation over the next few weeks with activities, drills, and frequent use.
Also...we will be triggering parts of our short-term memory by grouping these words into smaller groups of four...and with the younger children, since I am using opposites, those words break down even smaller into groups of two. This is what short-term memory is defined as by wiki -
Short-term memory allows recall for a period of several seconds to a minute without rehearsal. Its capacity is also very limited: George A. Miller (1956), when working at Bell Laboratories, conducted experiments showing that the store of short-term memory was 7±2 items (the title of his famous paper, "The magical number 7±2"). Modern estimates of the capacity of short-term memory are lower, typically on the order of 4–5 items, however, memory capacity can be increased through a process called chunking. For example, in recalling a ten-digit telephone number, a person could chunk the digits into three groups: first, the area code (such as 215), then a three-digit chunk (123) and lastly a four-digit chunk (4567). This method of remembering telephone numbers is far more effective than attempting to remember a string of 10 digits; this is because we are able to chunk the information into meaningful groups of letters. Herbert Simon showed that the ideal size for chunking letters and numbers, meaningful or not, was three. This may be reflected in some countries in the tendency to remember telephone numbers as several chunks of three numbers with the final four-number groups, generally broken down into two groups of two.
Short-term memory is believed to rely mostly on an acoustic code for storing information, and to a lesser extent a visual code. Conrad (1964) found that test subjects had more difficulty recalling collections of words that were acoustically similar (e.g. dog, hog, fog, bog, log).
However, some individuals have been reported to be able to remember large amounts of information, quickly, and be able to recall that information in seconds.
So the idea here is to make sequences in small groups of 4...like beats in a measure, and build up to 16.
After getting some requests for videos about this, I decided to try to really explore this idea, and film it all the while. I video taped 5 classes at one of my smaller schools. I thought of this project as a small experiment, where I specifically test different and independent parts of the childrens brains. I specifically change rhythms, tempos, dynamics, & game speed to see if sequential memory can play a role in learning difficult English words. Also, from a musical stand point, I just wanted to see how the children would react to different rhythms. I used youtube annotations to note when some interesting things happened. Here are some notes I noticed overall -
1. The children could hear a woodblock better than the hand drum, and determined the correct number of taps more often. I think this is due to 2 things. One is the fact that the woodblock has a fast attack sound without much sustain. This probably makes a sharper image in the brain and ear. The other is the fact that the woodblock had 2 UNIQUE sounds, that differ in pitch. These are very distinctly unique sounds to the brain. It also gives an "A" "B" sequence to the rhythm, and makes it easier to remember. The hand drum has this too, but depending on WHERE exactly I hit the drum, I can get a little bit of a different sound. Even though it is CLEAR to us musicians that it is different, its not as predictable as the solid sound of the woodblock. Also, the drum resonates and leaves a small rumbling sound over top of the next tap...which could probably lead to confusion when calculating hits quickly by children.
2. Each kid has a different way of playing this game. Its really interesting to see the different styles. One style (and most common for younger kids) is to point and count the squares on the board. This is effective, because the younger kids can retain what they just heard pretty easily...they just cant COUNT fast enough to keep up with the older kids. The board is a much more visual and reliable means to count through the beats.
Another way is counting internally or using fingers. Many of the kids (especially as they start getting to about 8 years old) start counting in their heads. Probably in their native (Japanese) language, but I dont really mind. I want them to be efficient at whatever way they choose.
Some kids will tap the beat out on their legs or hands to mimic it, and count it out. This is really neat, because you can start to see our brains ability to "slow down" or "speed up" rhythms even at a very young age. They will mimic the beat, sometimes slower or faster...with no problem at all. It is amazing how when a sound has an "A" "B" type rhythm, kids naturally go to their legs to mimic it. We have 2 legs, 2 hands, making it only natural to re-drum them out on your thighs.
Some children start to remember the sequence. Young kids will remember the first 4 or 8....but the older kids start to remember all of it. This shows brain growth in older kids ability to remember sequentially. They sometimes dont even need to look at the board to know the answer...and definitely would not need to if there wasnt a difficult English word as a response.
My favorite way that kids were doing this...which was SO AMAZING, was mathematically. A lot of Japanese kids use "soroban"...which is an old fashion calculator used in Asia. So, with my older kids, I started to explain some things out to them -
"If I do a beat of 1-2-3-4-5, 1-2-3-4-5, 1-2-3-4-5 (all exactly same in rhythm), then 1...then, by understanding multiplication its (3x5)+1."
When I was using the woodblock, I started tapping the "A" "B" rhythms into smaller groups so they could do the math. After explaining this to my older kids, they were MUCH faster. I dont know if it is only Japanese children...which I doubt, but its amazing!!!
3. It would be nice to let the kids do the drumming. But what I realized after this, is that it is a little bit brain intensive for me. And just because kids can recall or mimic a rhythm, does not mean that they can create it. They just simply do not have the hand-eye motor-skills to do this. So in order for this to work, I need to be able to recall certain beats after mistakes are made. It is actually kind of tough to make a beat, remember it, make sure the kids say the right English, correct it, recall it again exactly if mistakes are made, and keep the tempo of the game going...which is key for little kids.
4. I also realized that my children who take music lessons are MUCH better at this game, and my piano playing little girls could do this whole activity in broken rhythms...meaning just random off timed taps. I didnt make a video of my last student because it was a one-on-one (I wish I would have). She was amazing at this game, and loves playing the piano. So obviously, music education will help sequential memory (but this goes without saying).
5. There is a big difference right around age 6 or 7, where more complicated memory games become more interesting to children. There is a big shift between being a baby or child, into a learning student. So there was an obvious correlation between the "amount of taps that were able to be recalled" and their "age". Again, especially around 6 or 7, when a child has started elementary school and understand what "learning" is. Before that age, everything just seems to "come at" a child rather than be understood for what it is.
6. Swing makes a big difference in younger childrens ability to count them out...especially when using fingers. When a child normally counts, you will notice, they always do it in a rhythmic way where each interval between numbers is evenly spaced. Once you throw a swing into it, they have to do some kind of conversion which they have not developed so well yet. I thought this was really interesting!
7. If you notice, things that have an "A" "B" way to remember them, like opposites or "run - ran"...the pitch of my voice goes from "up" to "down". This is really good for them for many reasons. It makes another small grouping of the words for short term memory. Also, when we speak, and finish with a pitch going up...it is either a question, or an unfinished statement. By hearing the first, you naturally want the second. By giving an "upward" with a "downward", it also helps group the 2 together by pitch.
8. Something else really interesting was when I changed from a "rhythmic" beat to a "stale" beat. By stale, I mean a 1,2,3,4,5,6, etc...flat, same tone, and exactly at the same intervals (like a metronome). When I change from a fast paced game with quick "1s" "2s" or even beats...then change to stale...they must quickly start counting "1, 2 ,3 ,4 etc". The change between these kinds of beats is really weird, and a child must be able to pick up from like "3, or 4"...by the time they realized the next stale rhythm. If the child has to start from 1, they will answer too slowly or be all messed up because there is no way to distinguish the taps from each other (because they all sound the same...just "how many" were there). Its hard to explain exactly what I mean by this...but if you watch the videos, it will make more sense.
5. Oh, and one last thing. When I teach little kids, I realized I am just copying Mario Party (which I play with my wife when relaxing in the evenings). My voice sounds like Luigi! "LETS GO" "HERE WE GO". Actually, my brain kind of goes on autopilot with that stuff...because its really more work than it looks...trying to keep the game going fluidly.
A few of the mistakes I may have made in the experiment are as follows :
1. No control group. But, I want all my kids to stay at the same level so I can use the same lessons...so, sorry, no control group.
2. I didnt use 100% sequential memory. After all, I explained each word clearly to the kids, and usually used a hand gesture or way to remember it (mnemonic device). So, I obviously burned a visual memory image into their brains before doing this. If I wanted to see the results of purely sequential memory, I would have only said the words...or even harder, make them remember them without the grid. This is poor application because in the end, I want my kids to LEARN...and learn quickly. So, I used this method.
3. I started each activity a little late, and ran out of video...so, some of the lessons only go up to 12 words.
4. These kids almost never get candy in class, and I did for this experiment...I know...its not really right...but I LOVE these kids, and it was just extra incentive. It is really good to give REALLY LITTLE kids incentive.
5. I could have tried more variations by removing certain elements independently...but again, the goal was to TEACH the words...and not just experiment on the kids.
6. I also never really scolded wrong answers...which may have made kids answer too quickly. So, maybe if I paced the game slower, and took points from them for wrong answers, they would be more accurate. But, I like the pace and the kids do too.
So here are the videos from the classes. I know they can be long and boring, and it is more of a documentation of what happened...so please dont try to sit through all of them...unless its really your thing. I cant stand my teaching voice for that long! There best parts are the beginnings and endings.
Class 1 - Age 5 & 6
I love this class. These little girls are so cute and ALWAYS laughing. They are very smart. The one little girl just re-joined the class, so she is a little bit behind, but she will catch up.
Class 2 - Age 10-12
This is a class with 3 of my older kids. They are smart, and one of them is always tapping on things and loves drumming. This experiment had amazing results at the end of the video where I show how speeding up or slowing down a rhythm has no effect on the kids ability to realize it was the SAME rhythm that they had just heard. Also that when adding ONE extra tap to a similar rhythm, kids easily use math to figure out the right square. Watch the ending of this video to see it!
Class 3 - Age 4,6, & 7.
These are all newer students of mine...less than a year at least. The age gap is a little bit big on the younger child...but hes a smart a cool little guy...and hes becoming a little man! Its great. He tries very hard, and I push him pretty hard. This class, I was working on reading simple words that end with "at". They just started it the week before, and are picking up phonics pretty fast.
Class 4 - Age 5 & 6
This is one of my funnest classes. I have been teaching these kids for 2 1/2 years...since they were very little. They each have such a unique personality. I really started to notice their inability to count out taps when there was a SWING to the rhythm. Chika "kancho'd" me!
Class 5 - Age 8 & 9
This is another class I have taught for 2 1/2 years. These boys are so funny, and anything related to nasty, "Red & Stimpy" style humor...is right up their alley. They are quick & smart though.
I will try to update this with result videos and see if they recall them after the next few weeks activities.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it!