In my experience as music educator, I can say that the connections between music and ELA are strong, organic, and easy to capitalize on with a few simple strategies. One of the concerns I usually hear in integrating the arts, particularly music, into the classroom is that the teacher lacks musical expertise. I am here to share a few music strategies with you that require little to no musical expertise, per se, but rather a general understanding of musical concepts and elements. With a few good strategies and resources under your belt, integrating music into the ELA classroom is within your reach!
Use music as a writing prompt.
Listening to music can provide really authentic opportunities for writing. Students might write a response to a piece of music they’ve listened to, describing musical elements they observed in the piece, responding to the music with thoughts, feelings and questions, or they might share their opinion on a piece, supporting their opinion with musical details. Students might create a mental picture or an imagined sequence of events to match the music and write a story based on this picture or sequence. The possibilities are really endless. Check out Deirdre’s article on guided active listening as a writing prompt.
Create soundtracks or sound stories.
Students may create soundtracks using composition apps like GarageBand to serve as the background music for a original work or a known story. They might also use instruments or audio recording applications like Audible to create a sound story, using appropriate found sounds or instrumentation to enhance a story.
Read music as text.
Have students listen to the piece while following musical notation (if applicable) or a listening map. Musical notation and listening maps provide visual representations of musical elements such as melody, rhythm, dynamics, themes, form, tempo, and timbre- they are their own language. Experiences in guided listening with such visual representation allow students to organize their understanding of the music as they are listening by associating a visual text with the musical text, which requires the same skills as reading an ELA text.
Explore point of view.
Have students listen to a piece of music, preferably one that features a particular instrument. Have students write a monologue from the point of view of that instrument. You might also have students listen to a musical work that features different characters, as in Peter and the Wolf or The Carnival of the Animals and discuss how each piece of music/instrument appropriately represented each character.
Listen for parts of a story.
Form in music can be a great means to reinforce the parts of a story in ELA. Use The BME Rule to as an application to music, and then transfer that understanding to ELA. Listen to a piece of music for beginning, middle, and ending sections, and then make the connection to writing and reading. Make the connection between author’s craft and purpose and composer’s craft and purpose.
Brianne is a former music educator from Chicago and current graduate class instructor with EdCloset’s Learning Studios. She earned her Masters degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music and has over a decade of experience in the elementary general music classroom. With her experience in the performing arts, Brianne is dedicated to building connections between the arts and Common Core Standards, 21st century learning skills, inquiry and project-based learning. In addition to her work with EducationCloset, Brianne is a yoga instructor in the Chicagoland area. You can also find Brianne here: https://artsintersection.wordpress.com/