The BME Rule

If there is one thing my students learn before they leave me to move onto the next teacher, it’s the BME Rule.  I have a sign in my classroom that states: “The BME Rule – All Good Writing is Following It!”

It has to do with the fact that all good pieces of writing have a beginning, a middle and an end.  But in my class, students get this concept drilled into their heads as we listen to music each day during our Active Listening time.  When I talk about the BME Rule, I always mention music.  Like this:

“All good pieces of writing (and music!) follow the BME Rule!”

And it’s true!  Music is a composition that needs to be pleasing to the human ear, just as a story, an article or a poem needs to be as well.  Our brains love organization and even the most abstract piece of music will still have some B, M and E!

If you listen to any piece of music, you can find its beginning, middle and end.  Sometime the beginning may be short and the ending can be abrupt, but they are there just the same.  Paralleling the BME in music to the stories, reports and poems we write can be yet another effective way to show students an important aspect of good writing.

And you can take it further too.  Ask students what makes a good beginning, middle and end in a piece of music:

B – Does it grab the listener’s attention?  Does it introduce anything? (instruments/character, themes, forshadowing)

M – Does it have details?  (layers of sound) Does it tell a story? (with various themes or lyrics)

E –  Is it exciting/subdued/abrupt?  Why and what does that do for the listener?  Does the ending wrap things up?  How? Does it bring back a familiar theme (ABA form) or introduce something somewhat new (coda)?

Here are some songs you can use to illustrated musical BME in your teaching:


Celebrate Music and Literacy by taking advantage of Elizabeth’s book Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book for integrating musical listening experiences into the classroom.  The book is on sale this month only (March 2011) at 20% off!

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Article by Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth Peterson has devoted her life to education and to reaching out to other teachers who want to remain inspired. Mrs. Peterson teaches fourth grade in Amesbury, Massachusetts and is the host of She holds an M.Ed. in Education, “Arts and Learning” and a C.A.G.S. degree with a focus in “Arts Leadership and Learning.” Elizabeth is author of Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book that includes a method of music integration she has developed and implemented into her own teaching. She teaches workshops and courses on the integration of the arts into the curriculum and organizes the annual summer Teacher Art Retreat. Mrs. Peterson believes there is a love of active, integrated learning in all children and from their enthusiasm, teachers can shape great opportunities to learn.
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  1. Love the sign idea …. I might need to make one too!
    BME was something I always taught and stressed when I was teaching writing. We would look at books (especially ones we read aloud as a whole class) to see what things we could find in the BME that we really liked or even wanted to “copy” some of those ideas. I had examples of good B, good M, and good E to share so students knew what to look for. Thanks for sharing another GREAT idea!

  2. Brenda says:

    On your BME rules, my screen did not show the list of songs you had listed at the end. Could you share them with me?

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