Many of our readers are interested in actual lesson plans and ideas.  So, here you go!

My mind over the last week has been focused on collaboration and how it is the key to effective integration.   We cannot all be experts in everything, so we need to ask for assistance with things we may be otherwise unfamiliar.  Today, I’d like to highlight a collaborative partnership between an ELA teacher and music teacher.  The following modified excerpts come from my book, Inspired by Listening: Teaching Your Curriculum While Actively Listening to Music.

Collaborating with other teachers can be rewarding and often fun.  With Active Listening experiences, the integration of music is different than the traditional norm.  Here, the collaborating teachers are focusing on both the music and the curriculum; both have equal importance.  When this happens, two things occur: the students are learning about the music as they experience, analyze and interpret it and other parts of the curriculum are being taught, developed or reinforced.

During music class, students are developing their music skills as they actively listen to music and during other classes they are using the listening experiences as mini field trips to interpret the music.  For example, after actively listening to and studying some program or instrumental music in music class, students will write a narrative in language arts using the music as a springboard for inspiration.  Instead of using music to interpret the curriculum, you use the curriculum to interpret the music.

If you are a music teacher, you could be the one to introduce the musical concepts as well as the music itself:

Once your students have listened to a piece of music, allow them time to tell what they thoughtof it, whether it be a musical observation or a personal one. Then listen again and again at various times during a given week or class period. Each time you listen to a piece of music, you will hear new things. Challenge your students to discover surprises. Asking open-ended questions between the times you listen is the best way to get students thinking and talking about the music.

  • Why did you like/not like the music?
  • What made the music pleasing? Why?
  • What was your favorite part about the music? Why?
  • What was your least favorite part about the music? Why?
  • What did the music sound like/remind you of? Why?
  • What do you picture/imagine when the music is playing? Why?
  • How did you feel when the music was playing? Why?
  • What could have been the composer’s thoughts when he/she wrote this?
  • Why did the composer use this/these particular instrument(s)?
  • Why did the composer write/use these lyrics for the music?
  • Why do you think this piece was written?

The classroom teacher could follow up and allow time for repetitive listenings.  Allowing for this time is important to keep students interested and listening.  Students need repetition in order to fully experience a piece of music.

Active listening time is similar to taking students on a field trip. You give them experiences outside the regular “norm” and build upon those experiences. Listening to music in your classroom is like taking a short filed trip and when you “get back” you are able to use these experiences to enhance your curriculum, especially in the language arts. You can do something as simple as journal writing in response to your class discussions or as complex as write a story using the music as an inspirational springboard.

The ELA teacher can then take those experiences and integrate them with his or her current curriculum.  Interpretation can be something you do in music class but also in other classes as well, especially in language arts.  There are many ways to integrate the language arts into the interpretation of music: poetry writing, story writing, letter writing, development of the parts of speech, etc.  For a full list of activities and lessons to use, please see the book, Inspired by Listening.

Here are some other ideas to use now:

  • Brainstorm some words and/or phrases that come to mind as you listen to the music. Use these words/phrases to create a poem.
  • Write a letter using the interpretations of the music. The letter may be from the composer telling why he/she wrote the piece, from the audience about the piece, or to or from an instrument in the piece.
  • After listening to two different pieces of music, have students write a comparison paragraph or essay.
  • Use a graphic organizer to develop a story including: character, setting, problem, details and solution. Have students fill out a graphic organizer using their interpretations of the music as inspiration. Students then write the story or tell it orally.

Music is motivating and inspiring to teachers and students alike!  Not only will students be stimulated as they actively listen to music: experiencing it, talking about it, and writing about it, but teachers will feel empowered as they collaborate with each other.  Providing these enriching, integrative experiences for your students is a collaborative effort well worth your time and effort!

In what ways have you collaborated with other teachers?