Why Do We Have To Write It Down?

While working on her Poetry & Composition project one of my students asked,

“Why do we have to write it down? I can remember it, I don’t need it written down.”

When my students ask why they need to do something it lets me know that I haven’t covered the objectives of the assignment well enough. I told her it was a great question and decided that we would have a class discussion in which the students could answer the questions together.

I gathered the class together and explained the question that had emerged. We dove into a great discussion about why people write anything down. They came up with four main answers:

  • To remember something
  • To teach something to someone else
  • To communicate 
  • To document & have proof of an event

We discussed many questions:

  • When did people start writing music down?
  • Was music always written in the same way?
  • When a piece of music is performed today, does it sound exactly the same as it did when it was written?
  • How do we write music so that someone else can understand it?

This made me realize that my students were lacking an audience for their writing. I proposed an experiment:

Each group would do a sound recording of their composition and write the music down using invented notation. Then the written music will be given to a group from another class. The new group will try to play the music from the notation and record their version. Then the two versions will be compared.

This new addition to the project gave them an authentic audience for their writing – something I will consider for future projects. I’m very excited to hear the original and new versions of everyone’s work!

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