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Helping Seniors Learn

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  • Stephen Rafe
    Seniors learn differently as we age. Yet, barring physical or emotional disease that might affect the learning process, we all have to potential for increased
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 1, 2011
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      Seniors learn differently as we age. Yet, barring physical or emotional disease that might affect the learning process, we all have to potential for increased and improved learning.

      Some time ago, I posted an offer to provide an online copy of my manual, "Teaching Music Painlessly," to anyone who requested it. At about that time, I also read and commented on Jay Gialliambardo's approach to teaching music to barbershoppers and found we were essentially coming from the same place. The one major difference was that he advocates teaching notes first and I, on the other hand, advocate teaching words and their meaning first.

      For more than a few years now, I have been delving into the most-recent and historically significant research on helping adults learn, have taken graduate courses in that field, and have written articles on the subject. From that perspective, then, here is my reasoning for teaching words and their meaning first:

      Understanding the message a song conveys taps into "emo­tions" -- which master educator, Laurie Bartels, calls "the largest hook into learn­ing." She says that by accessing and involving "feelings," we tend to remem­ber things better. The reason can be explained in terms of brain function: That process causes three different parts of the brain to become engaged: The amyg­dala, the hip­pocam­pus and the hypothalamus.

      As Bartels explains, “The amyg­dala deals with our emo­tions, helps process our mem­o­ries, and gets totally absorbed in man­ag­ing our response to ... stress" and new learning can be stressful. Consequently, other parts of the brain -- the hip­pocam­pus and hypo­thal­a­mus -- also become involved. Their role? As Bartels points out, "The hip­pocam­pus han­dles fac­tual infor­ma­tion, while the hypo­thal­a­mus mon­i­tors how your body is doing inter­nally and directs the pitu­itary gland to release hor­mones." Specifically, and risking too much information here, the anterior pituitary gland produces several types of hormones including two (ACTH [adrenocorticotropin] and TSH [thyroid-stimulating hormone]) both of which help the body deal with stress.

      As noted the act of learning involves stress. Thus, when we tackle a new piece of music by first reading the words and discussing the emotions and meaning contained within them, we enable a large portion of our brains to become involved in the process. Specifically, accessing emotions this way enables us to involve all the key parts of the brain that are essential to stress-free learning.

      Stephen
      STEPHEN RAFE

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Shelley Herman
      Steve I agree with your idea of teaching words. Although my personal tendency has always been melody first and it drives me nuts when I don t hear the melody
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 1, 2011
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        Steve

        I agree with your idea of teaching words. Although my personal tendency has always been "melody first" and it drives me nuts when I don't hear the melody when a quartet, or any other group is performing, I find that if a piece of music does not have words, I will put in some of my own words to identify the music.

        Shelley Heman
        Sent from my iPhone

        On Oct 1, 2011, at 8:56 AM, "Stephen Rafe" <rapport1@...> wrote:

        > Seniors learn differently as we age. Yet, barring physical or emotional disease that might affect the learning process, we all have to potential for increased and improved learning.
        >
        > Some time ago, I posted an offer to provide an online copy of my manual, "Teaching Music Painlessly," to anyone who requested it. At about that time, I also read and commented on Jay Gialliambardo's approach to teaching music to barbershoppers and found we were essentially coming from the same place. The one major difference was that he advocates teaching notes first and I, on the other hand, advocate teaching words and their meaning first.
        >
        > For more than a few years now, I have been delving into the most-recent and historically significant research on helping adults learn, have taken graduate courses in that field, and have written articles on the subject. From that perspective, then, here is my reasoning for teaching words and their meaning first:
        >
        > Understanding the message a song conveys taps into "emo tions" -- which master educator, Laurie Bartels, calls "the largest hook into learn ing." She says that by accessing and involving "feelings," we tend to remem ber things better. The reason can be explained in terms of brain function: That process causes three different parts of the brain to become engaged: The amyg dala, the hip­pocam pus and the hypothalamus.
        >
        > As Bartels explains, “The amyg dala deals with our emo tions, helps process our mem o ries, and gets totally absorbed in man ag ing our response to ... stress" and new learning can be stressful. Consequently, other parts of the brain -- the hip pocam pus and hypo thal a­mus -- also become involved. Their role? As Bartels points out, "The hip­pocam pus han dles fac tual infor ma­tion, while the hypo thal a mus mon i­tors how your body is doing inter nally and directs the pitu itary gland to release hor mones." Specifically, and risking too much information here, the anterior pituitary gland produces several types of hormones including two (ACTH [adrenocorticotropin] and TSH [thyroid-stimulating hormone]) both of which help the body deal with stress.
        >
        > As noted the act of learning involves stress. Thus, when we tackle a new piece of music by first reading the words and discussing the emotions and meaning contained within them, we enable a large portion of our brains to become involved in the process. Specifically, accessing emotions this way enables us to involve all the key parts of the brain that are essential to stress-free learning.
        >
        > Stephen
        > STEPHEN RAFE
        >
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        >
        >
        >
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