When Students’ Interests are Sparked

Every so often you hit something just right with a student or group of students.  Sometimes you try to do so and succeed (or fail).  Other times, you are just doing what you do and something just strikes right.

That has happened to me this year with some of my students and it’s been fun to watch.

As you may know, I listen to music every day with my students at snack.  It’s something I’ve done ever since I started teaching in 1999.  Each month we listen to one composer or genre of music, focusing in on one piece every week.  We discuss the music, talk about our interpretations and build community throughout the year.  It is one of those practices that I haven’t changed over the years and it always is one of the highlights of my students’ years.  In fact, year after year, I get emails and notes from present and past students commenting on it.

One morning I walked into my classroom to find a note from a former student on my desk, “Remember when we listened to music?  That was fun!”

Another mom sent me an email with this line, “My son has learned to appreciate such a variety of music this year.  Thank you.”

Once, a parent took the time to write me a note about her daughter’s interest in music has grown, “This year, I noticed my daughter listening more closely to the music and lyrics.  Also she has learned a lot about composers.  For example, when we went to Applebee’s for dinner, she promptly pointed out Duke Ellington’s picture on the wall.  She also stops what she is doing and says, ‘Oh, that’s Beethoeven!’ or ‘Mom, listen.  It’s Vivaldi!’ ”

The biggest joy comes when a student’s interest is sparked in a way that he or she wants to learn more on their own.  (Isn’t that what teaching and learning is all about?)

When asked to come up with an independent project, one girl decided to create a book of composers.  She researched some of the greats we had listened to and even a couple that we hadn’t (yet).  She worked diligently each day during project time and even created a clay model of Mozart to accompany her book (which now resides in our classroom library.)

In the week that followed, I noticed a couple of boys had taken out books about composers from the library.  At DEAR time, they lay on the floor on their stomachs and silently read.

As I walked over them to get to my desk, I smiled.  How wonderful for them to expand their horizons!

I know we spark students interests.  We do it as we show our own excitement in a concept we are teaching or book we are reading.  When we are invested, our students become invested as well.

I hope you are able to see some of the sparks you cast off to your students as they ignite their curiosity and enjoyment of learning!  When we stop to notice those sparks turn into small flames, it truly helps to keep us motivated!


Inspired by Listening book

“Giving students a basic knowledge about the composer or genre of a piece of music is important.  It allows them to see another level of the music.  A student may begin to understand what relevance the music had to a composer’s life (why the composer wrote the music he did), how events in history affected the sound of the music (evolution of instruments) or any number of other things.  Students gain a sense about the music that makes the listening experience much more real to them.  They find a connection with the music that is of a new dimension.”

Excerpted from Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource for music integration.

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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 www.theinspiredclassroom.com. 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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