One parallel between reading and listening to music that comes up again and again in my classroom is repetitive listenings and readings.  When you actively listen to music, it is important to have students listen again and again over the course of some time (each day for a week, for example).  Each time your students hear the music, they will pick up on new things in it whether that be details in a story they see in their imaginations or details in the music itself (instruments in the layers of sound, differences in dynamics).  You can help them along by encouraging discussions by setting purposes, asking guided questions and conducting other active listening activities.

The same goes for reading.   Each time a student hears a story, they get more out of it.  Often they are encouraged to look back in the text to find an answer to a question, find details that will support their thesis or to simply reread a section they enjoyed.  This is an important skill!  And students should not be afraid to use it.

I find that since we do listen to music each day in my class: one song each week, my students get used to the idea of hearing things repetitively with a purpose.  Each day that we listen to the same piece of music, we are listening for new things, making our active listening experiences deep and rich.

I am always referring to the parallels between this and how it applies to our reading.  Just yesterday I, in preparation for my students to write their big tested narrative, decided to read to them Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume.  One of my colleagues loves reading this book to her students, drawing their attention to how each chapter is like a mini narrative.  In fact, she read it to both of our classes earlier this year.  But that didn’t stop me from bringing it out again.  When my students saw me take it out and introduce it they were very accepting of the idea of reading it again.  There were even some students (who not only had it read to them before, but read the book on their own) who were excited to read it again.  (Now that’s what we strive for!)

But before starting the book, I told the class that, since they had heard the story before, this time we would be reading for a different purpose.  This time we would read with an Author’s Brain, looking for how the author pieces together the narrative and why.  Then we made a short list of the things we would look and listen for this time around including word choice, dialect, and descriptions of setting and characters.  As I read through the first chapter, I would pause every once in a while and we would discuss how Blume describes something or builds tension to create interest for the reader.  In short, it made for some wonderful real-life discussions around how writer’s write.

This is what we do everyday in class with music.  We listen to music and then each day we listen again and again and every time, we pick up on new things.  Now, we have the perfect opportunity to do the same with reading and, in turn, improve our writing (at least that’s the hope!)


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This is a modified excerpt from Inspired by Listening by Elizabeth Peterson.

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