When you think of music, do you think of literacy? Chances are you do not. But the two disciplines have a lot in common and we teachers can take advantage of these similarities to help our students become motivated learners. Over the next few blogs, I would like to explore these ideas and see where it takes us…

Let’s first consider music listening with reading. A while back, I wrote an article entitled “Listen Like you Read” and in it I explored the parallels of reading and active listening to music. For example, when someone reads, there are things they do before, during and after the experience. In fact when we teach reading, our lessons are structured around this format.

The same applies to listening to music. Before you listen, you must know some background about the genre, composer or piece. While you listen, you are concentrating on the experience by becoming familiar with the music as you listen to it many times. After you listen, you interpret what you have just experienced by making judgments about the music.

Knowing the background of the music we listen to can be beneficial. We can learn about the composer, the time in which he/she lived or the style of the piece. Learning about and playing some of the instruments that are used can also provide students with some good vocabulary to use later as well as using vocabulary words learned in music class.

As soon as we begin to read a story we are experiencing it. The same goes for listening. The more we listen to a piece of music, the more we remember main themes, hear the detailed layers of the instruments, anticipate familiar or favorite parts and even pick up on new surprises. Listening to good music has the same effect as reading a good story: we want to listen over and over to continue enjoying the experience.

After we have experienced a piece, we are open to interpretation. We think about and
discuss what the piece means to us, making judgments about it, the instruments and even the composer. It is in this stage that integration takes place. Your objective for your students will determine what activity your students may do after they listen. You may want them to write, draw, create something, or practice their speaking skills. The sky is the limit.

There are other parallels to reading and listening to music. Take read alouds. They are used to share experiences, model good reading strategies and build community. The same is with music. When you share listening experiences with your students you are doing something special with your class.