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Becky Morlan


"Our goal is for students to recognize 100 sight words by the end of kindergarten, so I felt as if I needed to come up with a way to reach all the different learning styles in my class," explains Becky Morlan. "I began creating silly songs with motions and saw the improvement in my students."

When her daughter was in kindergarten, Morlan watched her struggle to memorize sight words using flash cards. Enduring that frustration spurred her to add a beat to the words until they "clicked." Mindful of research that demonstrates the effects of music on the brain and its influence on learning, Morlan created songs and coordinating dances as a teaching tool in her own kindergarten classroom at J.A. Maxwell Elementary School in Thomson, Georgia.

A kindergartener enjoys Becky Morlan's "Busy Bee Tunes" that reinforce sight words.

"The only problem was that I had a hard time remembering all the different tunes and songs when we reviewed them," Morlan recalled. "My husband can sing and play instruments, so with his help, I was able to create homemade CDs with the songs on them. During the last school year, we recorded four songs each week. We had so much fun working together and just being silly as we made up new songs."

Morlan coined the name "Busy Bee Tunes" for her musical creations, and her students loved the songs and motions. They looked forward to their "Sight Word Boogie" time. Every nine weeks, Morlan prepared a CD with the sight word songs and other learning tunes for that period. One parent told her that she and her child listened to the CD every day as they got ready for school.

"The music was a great way to pour information into my students because it was not a boring activity, and they were able to move with it and just have tons of fun," said Morlan. "I saw a great improvement in the number of sight words my students were able to retain. The average number at the end of the year was 150! Busy Bee Tunes not only allowed my students to use kinesthetic learning, we also did writing activities and played visual games with the songs."

Another use for the tunes turned up in the social studies curriculum. The state of Georgia's standards require that each kindergartner know his city, state, county, country, and continent, so Morlan and her husband wrote "Thomson Is Our City," a song containing all of that information. By the end of the school year, every child in her class knew the information well. It seems that Morlan's music had a way of connecting with all her kindergartners.

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"I had a special needs student in my class this past year," shared Morlan. "He could not be still and needed a great deal of movement. He also could be a behavior problem when he had the opportunity. The child entered my room without any pre-K skills, and he was functioning on the level of a three-year-old. I wondered if he would be able to gain five sight words by the end of the year, but I discovered that his favorite time of the day was our Sight Word Boogie time. By year's end, he was able to read 46 words."

The CDs of tunes also fostered a solid home-school connection that is essential at the start of every child's school career. Parents sent e-mail and notes to thank Morlan for the music. One child was so brokenhearted when he lost one of his CDs that his mother phoned to request a replacement. The songs are so popular with children that Morlan and her husband are working to obtain a copyright and publish them.

"I have been amazed by how well my students have responded to the music," she added. "They never tire of the tunes. They always want to go back and listen to older sight word songs."

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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