What If Music Ed…

Recently #whatifmusiced was being discussed on Twitter. Numerous music educators were spouting wishful statements about how they would like to see music taught in our 21st century classrooms. There were many creative ideas posted and Jesse Rathgeber asked thoughtful questions of each poster to inspire further dialogue.
As I thought about Jesse’s question I wondered how often I make my “what-if” a reality. Am I regularly and thoughtfully integrating other subjects into my music classes? Am I seeking out other educators to collaborate on projects? Am I allowing others’ reluctance to hold me back?

I have spent the last three years at a dual track school, meaning that students have to cover the entire year’s curriculum in half of the time. (1/2 day regular curriculum, 1/2 day alternate curriculum.) This occasionally becomes an excuse for not experimenting with new ideas. There is never enough time to get through everything.

I see each of my music classes for one 40 minute class each week. I’ve had to adjust my music program from teaching a lot of things on the surface to exploring less concepts more deeply. In the past I have made connections to other subjects when they have emerged organically – jumping on the “teachable moments.” While I wish I could see my classes more often, the tight schedule has forced me to be more purposeful in my cross-curricular planning.

Here are some examples of projects I have implemented with cross-curricular connections:

  • Poetry Soundscapes (students write or find a poem, then create a “soundscape”to emphasize the meaning they found in the poetry)
  • Finding math concepts in music theory
  • Exploring cultural traditions or games from other parts of the world through songs

I love when I get to collaborate with other teachers to connect music class with other subjects. I had the opportunity to help grade 4 students write rhyming couplets for their poetry unit by comparing them to rhythmic patterns they were familiar with and lyrical patterns found in songs we were singing. I supported grade 3 students in my previous school when they were learning about sound in science class. They finished their unit of study by creating musical instruments, which we used to create rhythm rondos. I would love to try having students compose using the digits of Pi while studying circles in math class.

It can be frustrating when other teachers do not want to collaborate. Is it that they feel bound by lack of time? Are they afraid to explore old topics in new ways? Do they think they lack knowledge/skills in the fine arts?

Whatever their reasons, I cannot let their lack of enthusiasm reduce my own. I won’t let lack of time control my planning. I will continue to work to make my “what-ifs” into “what-is-actually-happening.”

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