March was Music in our School month and April is National Poetry Month, so what a perfect time to think about the overlap between music and literacy.
Why should we include music in our classrooms? Not only will music help with personal development by building confidence, imagination, memory, pattern recognition, and auditory skills, but music can also bring people together, start conversations, change the atmosphere to relaxed or excited, and create a distraction or focus. Music plays a crucial role in arts integration and also serves as an important teaching and management tool.
1. Movement - A 2013 report concluded that children who are more active “show greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed and perform better on standardized academic tests than children who are less active.” Music and movement go hand-in-hand.
2. Playing instruments - Northwestern University neurobiologist Nina Kraus found that kids who took music lessons for two years processed language better. Consonants and vowels became clearer, allowing the brain to make sense of them more quickly. It was in the playing, not just the listening that helped with literacy.
3. Ongoing discussion of cultural diversity – different types of music and different musicians help bring in themes of cultural diversity throughout the year.
4. Helps ELLs - Songs, pictures, and movements help students connect with the books' content. The engagement allowed them to learn and remember words at an accelerated rate. This process involves several of the learning modalities -- audio, visual and kinesthetic – so students have multiple ways to access the information later.
5. Relaxation - Researchers at Stanford University have said that "listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication."
Shelburne Museum hosted a poetry night at which local poets read Bob Dylan lyrics as poems. For those intimidated by poetry, song lyrics are an interesting and accessible way to make poems more relevant and personal. Apply these tips for teaching poetry to songs.
A music teacher used a Year of the Book mini grant for a kindergarten project:
“My project brought the story of "Pete the Cat: Rocking in my School Shoes" to life using classroom instruments. The story was rehearsed by the kindergarten and performed by them at their Spring Concert.
/ Seeing the students bring the story of Pete to life was wonderful. The kids were able to play their own background music, and it truly was "Rockin!" Parents and friends enjoyed listening to our tale, where these students brought the characters to life through singing and playing!
/ Since the concert, the students have been more excited about reading stories and creating music. It helped us bridge the gap between music and reading. I think students are able to bring stories to life using their imagination after our Pete Project! Thanks to the mini grant, the students were also able to take home their own copy of the book, as a reminder of how music can help to tell stories./The students have begun to discuss books and reading with me more frequently and have brainstormed ways that they can use music to bring their stories to life!
Another music teacher used a mini grant for 3rd-5th graders:
“Students will use classroom instruments (xylophones, small percussion instruments, ukuleles) to create accompaniment to stories, much like Peter and the Wolf./
Currently, students are looking at poems and discussing how to take ideas and sounds from poetry and turn them into textural pieces as part of a more dramatic presentation. The intent is for this to then apply this to artistic textures, and finally to accompanying stories./There are a lot of creative opportunities for students to connect their interpretation of a story to non-lyrical elements, making the end product feel more personal.
/One of the big changes in the "Create" standards for music is to connect the music they make to specific contexts and purposes. Having a concrete element, such as a story, to redirect their thinking towards will help to move past simply discussing melody as the primary vehicle for interpreting art.
We're currently working on writing and recording melodies for nursery rhymes (that they didn't already know), as well as learning to play the ukuleles."
Books about music and musicians
Rock and roll book list
How to incorporate music production into makerspace
Have some interesting ideas on incorporating music? Please let us know!