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An Interview with an In-school Teacher

Alexandra Farkas is a classically trained vocalist who has performed in Carnegie Hall and a Master's-level NJ certified K-12 general music teacher. But her favorite job is being silly with the preschoolers she now teaches as a Music Together In School specialist at two schools in central New Jersey. We recently chatted with Alexandra about a few of her favorite moments teaching Music Together.

What do you like most about the Music Together in-school curriculum?

I really like that the program has such sound educational footing and is built on research in child development. That's really important to me. And as a teacher, the complexity of many of the songs gives me a lot to work with. I've even found that I can adapt some of the most complex songs to use with older children. For instance, I used "Canoe Song" to teach third-graders about ostinato (a short musical phrase or pattern which can be repeated over and over again to accompany the rest of the song). It really helped them to understand the application of the concept in a way they could remember later.

Do you have any favorite stories from your time teaching Music Together in schools?

I love seeing the children develop throughout the year. At one school, the classroom teachers were using hopping to help the children with their physical and gross motor development, so I made sure to use lots of hopping during music class. It's wonderful to be able to incorporate the classroom teacher's curricular goals into my lesson plan. And last year, the first time I did the lullaby it was chaos! By the middle of the semester, though, the children had learned the ritual of "blowing the lights out" and were able to take the lullaby time to calm themselves down and transition to the next part of their day.

What is your favorite song this semester?

I really like "Leaves Are Falling." It's in a minor key, which is good exposure for the children, and there are so many ways to develop it. I use the songbook illustration for tracking to support pre-literacy, do it as a small-movement song, use scarves, bring in drums . . . and I am so excited to try it as a round before the end of the semester!

Do you have any activity suggestions that families might try at home?

Parents can use the songbook illustrations to inspire dramatic play, which is so important for children's development. In one of my classes, we created a "farm" using the song "Vengan a Ver." We set up "pens" in different parts of the room and sang the song as we visited each area—including lots of animal noises, of course! At this time of year, many children are visiting real farms, so this is a nice way to help them make further sense of their world through play. You could make your own "farm" at home, too!

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