Monthly Archives: February 2014

A Broader Approach

In exploring the idea of using music in an everyday classroom, there is one idea that has come up over, and over again: integrated curriculum.  Integrated curriculum is many things.  In Meeting Standards Through Integrated Curriculum, authors Susan Drake and Rebecca Burns attempt to define and characterize the idea of integrated curriculum.  They explain that its all about the fusion of ideas and making connections.  The goal of integrated curriculum is to provide relevant and engaging material to students.  In their introduction, Drake and Burns highlight several scenarios in schools across the country where integrated curriculum has largely benefitted students.  They write that in the listed examples of integrated curriculum, 

“…student achievement is a primary focus. Teachers maintain accountability while designing learning experiences that are relevant to student interests. Interestingly, two of the schools serve populations of diverse students. In each case, teachers have developed intriguing curriculum that pushes beyond the boundaries of traditional disciplines to produce positive results. Comprehension, for example, is comprehension, whether taught in a language class or a science class. When students are engaged in learning, whether they are taking part in the arts or role playing in a microsociety, they do well in seemingly unconnected academic arenas. These are only a few of the countless examples of students involved in interdisciplinary studies at all grade levels. The examples highlight the potential of integrated curriculum to act as a bridge to increased student achievement and engaging, relevant curriculum.”

This passage stresses that a foundation of integrated curriculum has to be student engagement.  Student engagement seems to be the key to real, meaningful learning.  

The authors go on to touch on a plethora of topics concerning integrated education.  The whole book is available for purchase, but I, of course, only had access to the first chapter!  I found their writing very interesting, and it made me think about the possibilities of things to do in my future classroom.  After reading some alternate articles, I really do believe in the value of integrated curriculum.  Some naysayers might comment on the fact that it requires a lot of additional work and effort on a teacher’s part.  I choose to believe that any extra work put in by teachers is completely worth the benefits students would reap.

As my project continues, I’ll keep looking for more examples and information on the positive effect music can have in a classroom.  But, now, I’ll know that looking through the lense of integrated curriculum can also be helpful and significant in understanding the process more fully.  

It seemed safe to start this project with some research.  I opened a new web browser and began google-ing.  I tried several different searches, but finally found some results with “integrating music into the elementary school classroom.” There were an abundance of blogs by music teachers, but that’s not what my project is about (though I may troll that information base when brainstorming specific activities to incorporate into the classroom).  I’m curious about the benefits and possibilities of integrating music into core curriculum, and a normal, everyday/all day classroom.  So, I kept digging.  I came across this blog that connected to what I was looking for!

In this post, the Gaetan Pappalardo begins his piece discussing the importance of passion.  He describes being asked, “What’s your passion?” and being able to answer honestly…can you? Pappalardo encourages teachers to “bring the heart and soul back into the classroom.”  This connected with me because, in essence, my 20% project is inspired by my own passion for music.  I hope that exploring this topic will give me ideas that allow me to incorporate my passions into the lessons I teach, and that these lessons will affect my students for the better!

Pappalardo continues to describe the meat of his piece, and offers two very real tips of choosing applicable and exciting music and making sure students are engaged.  He then outlines an activity that I found COMPLETELY on point.  He suggests playing students different pieces of music and allowing them to think creatively and create narratives that go along with the compositions.  I love this idea.  It gives students the opportunity to engage in more out-of-the-box thinking, with no real ideological boundaries or limits.  I would really like to utilize this plan and use it in my own classroom one day.  I could also see a version of this plan working with a more physical aspect, perhaps instructing students to act out the way a song sounds and then use adjectives to describe it.  You could even try and make connections to poetry and figurative language terms.

On the same large website, (www.edutopia.org) I found a post that even better supports the idea of incorporating the arts into every day core curriculum.  Dr. Karan Nolan offers a very interesting argument of teaching core curriculum through the arts.  Nolan provides a step by step guide to incorporating the arts into a classroom.  She addresses the resistance behind incorporating arts into an everyday classroom and encourages teachers to move through that blockage/discomfort for the greater good of his or her students. I found her section on planning Arts Integrated lessons very insightful and helpful.  Her post got my own wheels turning and brainstorming more ideas for bringing music into my classroom.

The Beginning

I am a student at the University of Georgia.  This semester, I begin every Tuesday and Thursday with an 8:00 AM Edit 2000 class.  This is a class that explores the use of technology in a classroom and encourages students to learn and integrate technology in a plethora of ways.  Specifically, the class requires the creation of a 20% project.  A 20% project gives a student complete autonomy to be creative and explore a topic that interests them. 

In exploring my own ideas for a 20% project, I knew I wanted to research something withing the elementary school classroom, as that is where I hope to end up! I considered different uses of technology, and it’s effects on students who use it.  Thinking about the elementary classroom made me think back to my own childhood experiences.  I thought about what I liked best in elementary school, and realized it was the music classes I was a part of.   That got me thinking: when I teach in my own classroom, I would love to incorporate music in a very accessible and fluid way.  I feel like it could have positive influences on my students and their overall development.  So, that is what I decided to do my project on!  The rest of this blog will focus on my exploration of the subject and the results that I find.