Sunday, November 7, 2010

Off Key: Using Music in the Classroom

I love to read success stories like the one Joann shared about the new music teacher at her school. It’s wonderful to see a music teacher step out of their comfort zone to bring the love of music to students, but what about schools like the ones in my town that don’t have a music program at all? How far does a regular classroom teacher have to step out of their comfort zone to successfully bring some kind of music education into an already-crowded curriculum?

There’s nothing like walking into a kindergarten class and hearing the kids sing “My Uncle’s Ukelele” with abandon. You don’t know that one? I bet you learned songs about phonics, weather, and everything in between when you were in the primary grades, too. Primary teachers often have a special gift of being silly and singing with their students. In these younger grades, students really appreciate the silliness as they jump and dance to the tunes, getting out some energy and learning at the same time. As students get older, there is less time available for music with so much class time needed to prepare for tests and meet the standards required for each grade. With some creativity, you might be surprised at the small amount of time it will take you to integrate music into your lessons. Music may help your students prepare those tests and meet those standards instead of just taking up valuable class time.

Sensory triggers like sights, sounds, and smells can prompt emotions in students that help them remember facts and scientific processes in a fun way. Maybe you are not the type to sing or play an instrument in front of your class. Luckily, kids seem to appreciate our efforts even when our tone or pich is less than perfect! Thanks to the internet, you are not on your own. Even the least musically-inclined teachers can help their students learn with the help of songs, videos, and activities available for free on the internet.

I grew up with the educational videos of Schoolhouse Rock (Do you remember Conjunction Junction and How a Bill Becomes Law?) You can find lyrics to all of the old Schoolhouse Rock videos along with links to the music videos on YouTube. These videos might seem outdated, but I have to admit that I spent a little more time than I probably should have spent watching them. (It was in the name of research!) These videos have catchy tunes and are a fun and memorable way to introduce concepts to your class. The lessons they teach range from math to social studies to science. If you are looking for more contemporary videos, try They Might Be Giants. Their videos from “Here Comes Science” are very well done, and could be right at home in elementary to high school classrooms. If you search YouTube, you can find videos from their collection. A couple of my personal favorites are the biology song called “Bloodmobile” and chemistry song titled “The Elements.”Check them out…you won’t be sorry, and you might even learn something new!

Adding educational songs like these is one way to integrate music into your curriculum. There are other simple things you can do, even if you aren’t a music expert. History and Social Studies teachers may want to start a unit with popular songs from a particular era. Maybe you can play a different song each day to set the mood as students are coming into your class. Instead of assigning a report at the end of a unit, your students can demonstrate their knowledge by writing new lyrics to a popular song. One teacher challenged her class to make musical instruments from recycled materials for a class competition. This activity challenges students’ creativity as it helps them gain a better understanding of music and how instruments work. Another teacher used music and movement at the beginning of every morning to get her students’ wiggles out for the day. For more ideas about music integration search the hashtags #musedchat #musiced on Twitter.

Sing it loud and sing it proud! Let’s show our students that music can be a part of many different subjects in our lives this week. I will be using the music video “Solid, Liquid, Gas” with an experiment for sure, but if I sing along, I can’t guarantee it will be on key. At least we’ll be having fun!

~Peggy's Corner - 11/4/2010~

1 comment:

  1. Hadn't seen those videos but you are right, I was not disappointed ;) Great shares!


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