Visualization in Music and Writing

In my last post, I wrote about how visualization using music can help students build their visualization in reading.  In this post, I want to explore the possibilities of using musical visualization to prompt good writing.

Being able to allow students to imagine their story, repeat it in their minds, and “walk around” their visualization to clarify details is a step worth taking in a prewriting stage of composing a story on paper.  How many times have we asked students to add details to their stories or descriptions of what they are trying to convey?  Music can be a wonderful vehicle to get those juices flowing.

A couple of weeks ago, my students and I were listening to Chopin’s Prelude Op. 28 No.7 A Major: a short, beautiful piece for which students have a variety of interpretations.  After listening a couple of times to the piece, I ask students to start visualizing the story in their  minds.  Just prompting them with this one suggestion is all they need to get a story going in their mind.  (Some don’t even realize they’ve been doing it until I point it out to them.)  Once they have started to talk about their stories, we discuss character, setting, sequence of events, conflict and resolution.

Each time we listen to the piece, I encourage the students to close their eyes or stare at a spot in the room so that they can focus on the visualization in their minds:  “Walk around the story in your head.  Look around.  Notice the details.  Where are you?  What is going on?  Who is there?  What are they doing?  How are they acting?”

This particular piece of music is perfect for this type of activity because you can play it many times in one sitting with your students since it is only 53 second long!

Sensory Imagery – With this type of visualization, it is the perfect opportunity to talk about the senses.  When students “throw themselves into the story” they are invited to use their senses to explore what is in their minds.  (This works well with artwork too!  Pick a piece of art and ask students to “throw themselves into the painting” and look around.)  After talking about their experiences, students are ready to put into words great descriptions on paper.

Writing Stories – Of course, a natural extension of asking students to come up with a story using music visualization is to have them write it out.  Usually I would ask students to plan their B, M and E (beginning, middle and end) with a graphic organizer.  With my class this year, however, I did something a little different.  I had students create stories in a poetic way using a Story Pyramid that was shared by @evab2001.   Here are examples of what my fourth graders came up with.  (Read it to yourself while playing the piece for the full effect. 😉 )


Sad, heartbroken

Rainy city; Nighttime

His girlfriend dumped him.

He got soaked by rain.

He stepped in a huge puddle.

He walked into his house very wet.

He will get an awesome, new girlfriend tomorrow.


Friendly, cute

Deep, dark forrest

He is very lost.

He needs to find shelter.

He needs to live by himself.

He is finding an exit to home!

He found his loving owner all by himself.

Music inspires so many things!  This month, I hope it inspires you to bring new depth to your literacy programs! 🙂


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. Jennifer Rice says:

    What wonderful poems!I get so blown away with what our students are capable of. Music is probably the next closest arts area I am most comfortable with first being visual arts of course. I need to get on board with technology and buy an IPOD dock so I can just download songs and play them to my classes. I have a mess of CDS everywhere right now and can never find ones I want. You have inspired me Elizabeth to use music more in my art room. You can use it for showing rhythm in a work of art which is a principle of design that is very hard to explain to my students. Music can also tie into showing mood in a picture, creating energy and movement in a work of art, explain the principle of emphasis! The wheels just keep turning!

  2. And you have my wheels turning too! I would love to learn more about art and the principles that pertain to music. I look forward to hearing about what you do in your class next year!!!

  3. Tori says:

    I wrote last night about Using Music for Struggling Readers. Not once did I think about incorporating those techniques with WRITING! Jen, those wheels are hard to get turning during the summer but I love seeing your face when you feel inspired by something! I know that you will be able to accomplish that IPOD docking thing…You teach a gazillion different children every WEEK. Technology is a piece of cake compared to reaching and teaching those many individuals. As a classroom teacher and I am looking forward to seeing what I can do to help those who finding reading and writing to be a struggle when I pair those concepts with music.

  4. Julie says:

    Jennifer – I love to hear you talk about how the music can help you explain and illustrate elements of the visual arts to your students. I, too, look forward to hearing about your adventures in arts integration this year. New beginnings…

    Elizabeth, I love this idea of “throwing yourself into the story”…be it a piece of visual art or a visualization in your mind. I just jotted myself a note to share your blog with my daughter’s 5th grade ELA teacher and some other upper grade teaching colleagues. I am anxious to have a conversation with them about integrating the arts into literacy and the writing process. Who knows…maybe you’ll get some new students for the next session of your grad course…

  5. Jose Corrales says:

    Hello, I’m Jose, an English Teacher Student from Venezuela. I’ve done this excercise with my classmates during a class that I had to prepare and it was just great!. I really thank you for sharing this; I had something similar in mind but you’ve put that in an amazing structure (the pyramid).
    The song I used was ”Winter”, by Antonio Vivaldi; because I really love his music and this piece in particular. The classmates were very touched by the cold feeling of the song and they wrote compositions in a very introspective way, letting us see a bit more of what they really are; always in a very cold and windy mood (that was what I was expecting by putting ”Winter”). It was a real success!. Everybody felt very relaxed and inspired by the music and the way it helped to develop the character and the other aspects of the story. Again, Thanks for sharing this! Greetings from Venezuela!

    • Jose, It’s comments like these that keep me blogging! I am so excited to hear about your success. Thank you so much for sharing! I too use Vivaldi’s Winter. 🙂 In fact, we are starting that this week.

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