Music in the Elementary Setting

The Value of Music in the Elementary Setting

Tiffany Magennis

There are many who may recall days spent in an elementary classroom, singing their ABCs or joining in song with classmates to memorize times tables. If the research of music in elementary education is correct, one may to this day recall the exact tune and lyrics of songs utilized in the grade school setting.

The value of music in elementary education has been well tested for validity, and yielded positive results. In the classroom, music has been incorporated as a tool for enhancing curriculum, particularly where memorization is concerned. One longitudinal test confirmed, “The researcher found that implementing classical background music in the classroom is strongly linked to increased motivation to learn, the ability to stay on-task, and the production of positive behaviors.” (White, 19)  This finding provides evidence that music within the classroom not only enhances mood, but elevates intellectual understanding of lessons.

Scientific research concerning the involvement of music in the elementary setting focuses on neurological benefits of students, particularly the Alpha Brain Wave state, which occurs in when the brain is relaxed, yet alert.  “Baroque music…creates an atmosphere of focus that leads students into deep concentration in the alpha brain wave state. Learning vocabulary, memorizing facts or reading to this music is highly effective.” (Brewer, 1)  There has also been neurological evidence stating the integration of music in the curriculum of elementary aged children may reap tangible results such as, “Playing music at school and elsewhere can help create a dynamic balance between the brain’s more logical left and more intuitive right hemisphere— an interplay thought to be the basis of creativity.” (Yoon, 25)

The value of music in the elementary setting has been proven in not only science, but in the practice of teachers. Music is a mnemonic device, meaning there is a pattern or association with the topic being used for memory recall. In the study of music, the music itself is the mnemonic device, which elementary teachers utilize often. One study states, “The use of music as a mnemonic device has long been heralded as a positive and effective way of learning, especially for the elementary student. Teachers use them universally to aid them in their instruction of content area subject matter.” (Hayes, 22)

Insofar as the value of music in the elementary school setting, one study found unanimous agreement, reporting, “The teachers surveyed all recognize the effectiveness of mnemonics as a learning strategy in the classroom,” (Hayes, 32).  Another study discovered, “More and more teachers are using music in their classrooms, especially during language arts instruction,” (Fisher, 40) indicating large success in the use of music in elementary classrooms.

In one study, teachers interviewed provided experience from music incorporated in the classrooms of their childhood, “…teachers were able to recall musical or rhythmic mnemonics from their youth, among them a song about planets, the Nifty Fifty United States, and Thirty Days hath September.” (Hayes, 32) This memory recall from years previous strongly supports research that music is a powerful tool in the elementary classroom.

All studies listed have unanimously observed positive neurological, psychological, and developmental effects on children, while also enhancing academic lessons. Furthermore, one study provided additional evidence that the use of music as a mnemonic device in lessons has a lifelong effect in the brain. Conclusively, research has concluded that the value of music in the elementary school setting is, truly, invaluable.


Brewer, Chris Boyd. “Music and learning: Integrating music in the classroom.” Toronto: Zephyr Press. Retrieved, March 3 (1995): 2008.

White, Kevin N. “The Effects of Background Music in the Classroom on the Productivity, Motivation, and Behavior of Fourth Grade Students.” Online Submission (2007).

Yoon, Jenny Nam. “Music in the Classroom: Its Influence on Children’s Brain Development, Academic

PeHayes, Orla C. The use of melodic and rhythmic mnemonics to improve memory and recall in elementary students in the content areas. Diss. Dominican University of California San Rafael, CA, 2009.rformance, and Practical Life Skills.” (2000).

Fisher, Douglas. “Early language learning with and without music.” Reading Horizons 42.1 (2001): 8.

Research Paper

“Prayer for Liberation”

Eluard and his Poem “Liberty” as Prayer

Tiffany Magennis

After its publication, Paul Eluards’ poem “Liberty Ton Nom” swiftly became a symbol and anthem for the French Resistance in opposition to German forces.  This poem was shared secretly among those sympathetic to the French Resistance primarily through the form of orality in order to prevent evidence for subsequent punishment on grounds of possession of a poem that  had been deemed dangerous material by Nazi rule. Therefore, orality became a preferred form of the communication of literature to persons loyal to the French Resistance and elevated the poem “Liberty” to a prayer-like status through meaning and reiteration of message.  The meditative nature of the poem is exemplified through the use of structure and familiar everyday imagery that referenced universal objects and places, and lyrical qualities through song-like construction.  This lyricism enables creative opportunity to promote the spiritual qualities of “Liberty,” and its spiritually cultural effect.

The creator of “Liberty,” Paul Eluard, was a politically active Surrealist poet who had not only served in World War I but immersed himself politically in the time of French Occupation of World War II.  In this time, the Nazi occupiers rigorously oversaw not only the economic, daily activity  of French citizens but cultural movements, mainly media.  All art, publishing, and radio were under the watchful eye of the Nazis, who ‘approved’ publications through their own publishing company in order to monitor the French. Any hint of resistance, text or otherwise, against Nazi approval could result in harsh reprimand and imprisonment, and so rebellion was incredibly risky.  It was during this dangerous period of the French Occupation that Eluard became most politically active, “carrying a briefcase loaded with forbidden papers and clandestine editions, each day risking recognition and arrest” (p.23, Lloyd) to persons against Nazi oppression. During this time, “Liberty” was made, while Eluard was in hiding from the Nazi Gestapo. Eluard, who was a steadfast supporter of the French Communist party with Surrealist ideals of social freedom and equality for the marginalized, refused for his message of liberation to be quelled under oppression of Nazi invaders, and took great risk in spreading his what became his most famous works, as well as the work of others.

The Surrealist movement “in its eloquent statements and histrionic behavior, called for total liberty in all human activities” (p.171, Fowlie) which Eluard staunchly defended, especially during the French Occupation in when he wrote Poesie et Verite , which included his most famous poem, “Liberty.”  Surrealists, as a whole, were focused on revolution in both literature and matters of society with a heavy emphasis on unrestrained  thought, the freedom of choice, and anti-bourgeoisie values that glorified the ‘common man’.1    Eluard wrote frequently of universal desires such as equality, and was deeply affected  by social injustices and oppression of any kind, especially by that of government.2   French Surrealist Paul Eluard was a passionate member of the French Communist party and known for his political influence through his production of over seventy texts, which included collaborations with writers and artists such as Fernand Leger and Andre Breton.  These collaborations included The Communist Manifesto and “Liberte Ton Nom,”(the cover of which was illustrated by Leger) which evolved to be significant works for  artistic and national movements in France.  While Eluard did not participate in automatic writing, the trademark of surrealist poets, he focused on the central theme of the Surrealist movement: uninhibited love and thinking, social equality and liberty, and exploration of the mind. Surrealism was a highly cerebral movement, and emphasized psychological theories such as the Freudian excavation of human consciousnesses, or Jung’s use of symbols, dreams, and archetypes. While other Surrealist writers used a more Freudian approach in their works (such as Breton and Aragon’s automatic writing) Eluard was influenced politically and socially by his own life experiences to dogmatically follow the spontaneity of Surrealism and developed his own poetic style, which has been described as “one of a disarming simplicity.” (p170 Fowlie) Eluard’s poetry is indeed straightforward and without pretention. As a writer he seldom uses a scholarly vocabulary, or ‘high brow’ wording. This may have been, in part, because he so supported social equality that he chose to refrain from words that would limit his audience to only the educated and/or wealthy. Even in his poetry, Eluard does not use overly complicated or strict rules in form, but simple quatrains or free verse. The exception to this are his Dada years, in which he, like many writers, “generated what could be mildly described as balderdash” (Cohen, p.4). As his work evolved and became a distinctive personal style, Eluard shied away from the chaotic and showed, “very few traces of surrealist exaggerations,”  (p. 172, Fowlie) in his writings. This resulted in some distance between Eluard and the Surrealists. Instead of the nihilistic writing of Dada and automatic chaos of Surrealism, Eluard changed his writing career to pursue a way of writing that was inspired by his Surrealist roots but would be simplistic enough for all to understand the message of his work: thus “Liberty” was written.

The foundation of understanding the religious implications of “Liberty” begin with the study of oral tradition, or rather, orality.  Orality can be broadly defined as the simple act of verbal communication from one individual to another (or to a large audience). The practice of orality is as ancient as the foundation of language, and was often used when textual information was unobtainable or inapplicable to the audience, sometimes for reasons of illiteracy, or passing of sensitive information. This is seen in the distribution of “Liberty” during the time of Vichy France, in which Resistance sympathizers were safer sharing the poem by word of mouth than by tangible means such as books or paper.  Moreover, the French citizens during the Oppression were impoverished, requiring their money be spent on high priced food items such as meat, cheese, and bread. Food shortages, caused by the sacking of Nazi soldiers, devastated the French economy and left little money for spending on material goods. This economic downturn took orality and the tradition of verbally relaying information to a higher and more culturally significant level, which is perfectly portrayed in the continuation of “Liberty.”

However, the subject of orality and the power of vocal narrative delves far deeper and holds more cultural significance than the sharing of stories or information, as specialist Paul Zumthor explains the topic as, “symbolic possibility open to representation, constituting through the ages a cultural heritage transmitted with, in, and through language and other human coding systems,” (p.6).  The method of oral communication is one that, in accordance with this statement, holds an abundance of symbolism that possesses unique meaning to each culture in which the message is broadcasted, and where the importance of cultural heritage lay. The practice of oral narrative was also employed for folklore and ‘storytelling,’ which are integral parts of the cultural system Zumthor referenced, and aid in forming cultural identity. Cultures pass down strong community values generationally, by way of poetry song, or stories This is done not for the sole purpose of being entertaining, but passing on the values of a nationality, as demonstrated by those of the French Communist Party in the recitation of “Liberty.”

Orality is not, however, a forgotten mode of communication that had been reserved for cultures of ancient history, but a method still utilized in the present through contemporary media and society (including that of the French Occupation). Cell phones, television, spoken lecture, and radio are prime examples of modern oral communication, but are not the limitations of its uses. A fundamental and imperative employment of orality that is rooted in ancient tradition and currently practiced, is its application in religious contexts.  The use of voice and memorization in terms of religion can be described as, “the sensual dimension of religion” (p.159, Graham), and is universal in its presence in spiritual settings. The use of orality varies in religious groups, but generally is used in memorization of prayers, songs of praise, religious rites (such as marriages, funerals, and initiations) and meditation.  Orality is an essential part of these practices, by reinforcing the use of memorization not only for functional needs, such as mass or the salat, but by creating a connection with these recitations in a more intimate form that is difficult to achieve by reading text. Reading textual information, however meaningful to the spirituality of an audience, does not produce the same bond with either party as memorization.  To memorize a text requires one to internalize and process information on a level that exceeds casual familiarity and become ingrained in the speaker in a more personal way (hence the idiom ‘know by heart’).    William Graham of Beyond the Written Word describes the link between memorization and religion as “a spiritual resource that is tapped automatically in every act of reflection, worship, prayer, or moral deliberation, as well as times of personal and communal decision or crisis.” (p.160) This is an accurate portrayal of the meaning of “Liberty” as it became more than a poem, but almost a prayer for release from Nazi occupation.  The oral nature of the work elevated camaraderie among French sympathizers and was readily available for all to share among one another, which was the poem’s typical method of transfer.

This simplicity illustrated in “Liberty” which has phrasing that focuses on vibrant and universal imagery, giving the poem life.  Use of this imagery is a dominant factor in memory retention, relatable qualities of  the poem, and most importantly, its prayer like potential.  Much of Eluard’s poetry is filled with similar traits, with “Liberty” epitomizing the beauty of his visual references and song like structure.  Cohen writes on this lyricism, “ It is almost impossible to read Eluard in silence. To appreciate the musical quality, Eluard’s poems must be read aloud.” (p.5)  Musicality is closely related to prayer and gospel, and so reaffirms the prayer like construction. Almost every known religion has prayers or textual references that are sung aloud, such as the Catholic “Our Father” or the Jewish praise at temple. This transformation of text not only reinforces memory of a message but is a variation of worship. As “Liberty” contains song-like traits, it is obvious to grasp how the utilization of music (or singing) would be both appealing and safer among fellow compatriots than text. Song would not only aid adults in learning “Liberty” but  enable younger generations to recall the poem with relative ease, just as they are taught to sing prayers or gospel to recall religious information. What makes this teachable aspect of the poem valuable to younger generations was in making “Liberty,” a tool against Nazi  influence in French grade schools. Children especially were at risk of Nazi predation and brainwash, and so the French who were against Nazi manipulation would urge their sons and daughters to recite “Liberty” to counter influence. Even Eluard’s political adversary “professed that all French schoolchildren should learn the famous poem “Liberty” by heart. And they did and, to this day, still do.” (p.2, Cohen)  The young generations, having the poem  memorized and  passing it along to their children, have not only kept “Liberty” alive in into modernity but cherished the poem as a ‘prayer’ of their nation. It had, essentially, become the “community’s authoritative scripture” (p.152, Graham) and passed down with the same reverence as a personalized prayer, or gospel song for France.

Despite having the opportunity to do so, not all perpetuation of  the poem was in the form of song or text, but instead recited from memory.  As a poem which reflects the heart of the French Resistance, “Liberty” becomes a literary manifestation of “a city unable to resign itself to the enemy’s regime, of the masses and poet’s faith in the masses unwilling to accept injustice” (p.172, Fowler) and Eluard’s composition of a national prayer for France. This was done to glorify the spirit of a once free France and rally its citizens with the message of never giving in to oppression, but instead realize that freedom cannot be taken as long as its citizens maintain faith in France and their comrades.  The emotional attachment and trust in  the ideals of freedom and beauty found within “Liberty” share multiple traits with prayer, with the most dominant of these is explained by orality  expert William Graham as, “shared text is a powerful binding factor in any group, and especially in a minority group at odds with and bent on reforming or converting the larger society around it.” (p.161)  Though this excerpt is in reference to purely religious texts, the philosophy and overall sentiment of persons involved are identical. “Liberty,” though written as a political poem to be shared with oppressed  and marginalized  French men and women, transcended its original meaning and became an earnest invocation for the spiritual release of France from Nazis.

Other prayer-like traits of “Liberty” can be found in the straightforward descriptions of where, if one is searching, ‘liberty’ could be discovered. The mentioned locations contain both the fantastic and concrete, much like parables of a religious text such as the Bible or the Qur’an.  To begin with, liberty is not a tangible object, but neither is “steps of death,” “vanished risk,” or “wonders of the nights,” yet these Surrealist aspects of the poem stand, very much as the miracles of a religious book or prayer. By the same token, there are other, concrete images that any person can relate to universally, such as “my gluttonous and loving dog,” “on all the pages blank,” and “stone blood paper or ash” that relate to parables of religious books in which real life situations are used.   For example, in the Bible there is a scene where Jesus, invited to a wedding (not by any means an unusual event) turns water into wine (considered a miracle). Both the fantastic and realistic are contained in this story, which is very much like the poem. Eluard’s  writing technique contains familiarized religious background to feel that the audience is connecting not only to the poem, but the community of sympathizers who also dream of liberation and freedom from Nazi rule.

In conclusion, the  poem “Liberty” could be utilized in any number of religious forms, be they song, music, chanting, or gospel. All of these resemble a type of prayer, because of  their earnest nature and relying on faith in country and fellow French men (and women) for success in the expulsion of the Nazi presence of their nation.  “Liberty,” as a prayer or poem can be used as a still in the time of the French Occupation, as it is a mix of Surrealism and reality, repeating as one would a chant for liberty, social freedom, and happiness. Moreover, this chant is shared with fellow sympathizers, creating a sense of camaraderie and knowledge, as Jung stated that  “makes  something reverberate in us that tells us we truly are no longer alone.” (p. 6, Zumthor) The shared prayer (or song) like message of desiring personal liberties and a free, peaceful nation served as a wish for hope among the citizens of France.  Eluard, who consistently stood by his country and risked career and potentially life and limb to create a creed for French liberation while in hiding from Nazi threat so the people of France during the ‘Grey Years’ of the Occupation would have a text as common and uplifting as a prayer.  Even in contemporary French society,  Eluard’s poem “Liberty” is recited by children in schools and known by memory. It is this continuation of “Liberty” that further reveals that it has become far more than a poem for France, but a national prayer that will continue for generations.

Works cited and consulted:

Graham, William A. Beyond the Written Word: Oral Aspects of Scripture in the History of Religion. Cambridge. Cambridgeshire: Cambridge UP, 1987. Print.

Balakian, Anna. “Aragon and Eluard.” Modern Poets: Surrealists, Baudelaire, Perse, Laforgue, and Others. Vol. 2. New Haven: Yale University, 1948. N. pag. Print.

Éluard, Paul, and Lloyd Alexander. Selected Writings: With English Translations. Norfolk, CT: J. Laughlin, 1966. Print.

Fowlie, Wallace. Mid-century French Poets: Selections, Translations, and Critical Notices. New York: Twayne, 1955. Print.

Cohen, Isaac. “Living Well, a Voyage Without Borders.” The Chicago Literary

Club (n.d.): 1-13. Print.

Éluard, Paul, and Lloyd Alexander. “The Poet and the War.” Selected Writings: With English Translations. Norfolk, CT: J. Laughlin, 1966. N. pag. Print.

Duchen, C. “Occupation Housewife: The Domestic Ideal in 1950s France.” French Cultural Studies 2.4 (1991): 01-11. Print.

Kelly, D. “The Unfree French: Life under the Occupation.” French Studies 62.2 (2008): 247-48. Print.

Bracher, Nathan. “Remembering the French Resistance:.” History & Memory 19.1 (2007): 39-67. Print.

“Orality.”, n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2013.


  1. Peyre, Henri. Modern French Literature
  2. The Poet and the War

How to Handle a Dissatisfied Customer

Customer service Most everyone who has worked in customer service can relate to this photo; a dissatisfied client or customer has contacted you with the problems x,y, or z and you are now responsible for rectifying the situation. While it is true that some clients may feel very heated, shall we say, there is an approach that will be more likely to not only neutralize tension, but benefit your relationship with the client.

Click here to view my infographic on successfully handling these clients

5 Reasons You Need a Food Dehydrator

5 Reasons You Need a Food Dehydrator

Tiffany Magennis

Image provided by Urban Homemaker
Image provided by Urban Homemaker

Most everyone wants to be healthy. However, it’s easy to be deterred by the high prices of healthful dehydrated foods can leave a bad taste in your mouth.  So then, what is the health conscious person to do when feeling a bit peckish, but not wanting to stray from their diet, or budget?

Enter the mysterious food dehydrator. Many people who think of dehydrated food have images of astronauts opening pouches of dinner, or jerky hanging in a store room fit for a horror movie.

How would you use this thing, anyway?

The real life story of the food dehydrator is far closer to home than is given credit for, and incredibly useful for more than homemade jerky, which raises the first point of why everyone should own one.

1) The Food Dehydrator is a Multitasking Tool

The food dehydrator is a machine which uses low temperatures to slowly dehydrate its contents, which makes it an excellent candidate for gentle cooking.  For example, if you need to gently heat a delicate sauce, it can be placed into the food dehydrator and have zero risk of scalding. Better yet, the cook doesn’t even need to watch the sauce while it is being warmed! If you practice the raw food diet, the food dehydrator will be a vessel for placing your raw cookies, bars, or chips while still being true to your lifestyle.

2) You Will Be Encouraged to Eat More Healthfully

It’s hard to deny that living a healthier lifestyle would be far easier with whole, ready-made snacks on hand.  A few of these snacks are fruit and vegetable chips (think potato chips without the oils or preservatives), fruit leathers, and fruit gummies. Kale chips in particular have become a recent food trend, and are easily made in a food dehydrator in any spices you choose. Better yet, have the kids help you make new combinations and flavors!

3) Increase Storage Life of Food 

Since the water is reduced in dehydrated fruits and vegetables, their shelf life is greatly expanded. Less water means less opportunity for rot, which in turn means less waste. Gardeners in particular benefit from food dehydrators, since they can preserve their food at its prime, and then re-hydrate them if desired. This can also be applied to herbs! To rehydrate dried food, all that needs to be done is add twice as much water than dehydrated fruits/vegetables and wait.   After the food is hydrated, it is ready for cooking.

4) Crafts 

This is a lesser known use for the food dehydrator that relates to the multitasking point above. Flowers can be dried to perfect specimens for scrapbooks or wall decoration by setting the food dehydrator on a low temperature. Potpourri can be made using the same method, and has the benefit of being customized to your preference of scents. Paper can also be made in the food dehydrator by combining paper pulp and/or flowers and spreading the mixture onto thin sheets.  This may take some time because of the low temperature, but the result is having handmade paper!

Dehydrated flowers can make tea
Dehydrated flowers can make tea

5) Jerky

Make your own, however you want it, for a fraction of the store bought price. Spicy, savory, umami, or sweet, in any type of meat, you are the master and commander of your jerky.

photo provided by
Oh yes

Review of Robin’s Nest Restaurant

The Robin’s Nest: a Hidden Jewel in Mt. Holly

Tiffany Magennis

            To the passerby, Robin’s Nest seems a quaint, but unassuming little building on the corner of downtown Mt. Holly.  Walking into the doorway, however, customers are greeted by a bounty of sweets in a large glass case and thoughtfully laid out shabby chic décor. During my visit, my husband and I were greeted by our smiling hostess, who seated us promptly on the spacious outdoor deck overseeing a rivulet from Rancocas creek. The deck had a relaxed cottage feel, with string lights, umbrellas, and sizeable outdoor bar with seating. I grabbed the opportunity to sample one of the specialty drinks, a Rice Pudding martini, and ordered an appetizer of truffle oil French fries.  The martini was potent and tasted exactly like rice pudding, while the fries were heavenly, albeit a tad greasy with additional oil.

            With appetites whetted from the truffle oil fries, we quickly ordered entrees, a Thai chicken salad and Mahi Mahi fish tacos. Service was moderately paced, which fit the comfortable atmosphere, and our glasses were never empty. When the entrees arrived, we were pleasantly surprised with the crispness of greens in our food and well-proportioned servings.  The tacos were full of fresh, meaty fish and perfectly seasoned; the salad was bursting with vibrant ingredients and had only enough dressing to retain the bounciness of the greens after use. In terms of seasoning, the Thai chicken salad did require some salt, but was otherwise full of flavor.  On the other hand, the tacos needed nothing except the occasional napkin to prevent dripping sauce.

Robin’s Nest is a hidden gem in the Mt. Holly area, and a perfect to spend time with your brood for a satisfying experience in a casual setting. On a five star rating, it would earn four stars, lacking the fifth for servers being a bit too paced and the food somewhat pricey.  However, the atmosphere, unique food, and quirkiness make Robin’s Nest well worth a frequent migration.

What is a Cat Cafe?

What is a Cat Cafe?

cat cafe
Cat mocha by Tzejen CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

What is a cat cafe? If this is your first time hearing this term, images evoked may seem confusing and unappealing. Why would cats have anything to do with a café? Twenty-four year old Kanchan Singh, owner of the newly opened cat cafe Crumbs and Whiskers in Washington, D.C., simply explains the cat cafe business as a place to have friends, coffee, and an opportunity to bond and play with adoptable cats for a small fee.

Crumbs and Whiskers is opening June 2015, and Kanchan has partnered with the local humane society to provide feline companions to her business. As for food health regulation concerns, Kanchan has joined forces with a bakery across the street, so no baked goods are made on the premises. In the video below, Kanchan describes her inspiration and process of opening her cat cafe.

The success is simple: people love cats, edibles, and knowing that they are supporting an ethical cause. Aside from bringing happiness to patrons, the cat cafe is a vessel for the dignified adoption of cats. These cafe kitties are never caged, and are more socialized than their counterparts in a traditional adoption center, making them excellent candidates for a forever home.

Are There More Cat Cafes? Will There Be More?

Crumbs and Whiskers is not the only cat cafe in business. The trend first emerged in Taipei, Taiwan in 1998 as a tourist attraction and place of relaxation. Word traveled to Japan, where the internet then made cat cafes a viral phenomenon. Though the current number of cat cafe locations in the USA is few, their positive reception is bound to promote growth. At it’s current rate, we may expect to see a dramatic increase in awareness of ethical treatment of cats and adoption, one latte at a time.

cat cafe
DSC_0162 by Cocoa Dream CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Let us know in the comments below: are you just dying for a cat cafe to open up in your neighborhood? Or, could you live without one?