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July 10, 2008

Lesson Ideas

Integrating music into curriculum allows creativity and connections. I teach middle school math, and with the mathematical standards increasing each year, time is a valuable resource. I also find it difficult to find appropriate and worthwhile lessons that integrate music in a logical and meaningful way. However, here are some examples of lessons that I will incorporate this next school year.

1) Miscellaneous musical interludes: I would like to download popular music (from all decades) that have recognizable and relevant verses and/or melodies. I will import them into my smartboard notebook software so that they are embedded into my notebook files. Then, whenever the time arises I can use them to enhance and entertain my students. For example, some songs I could use would be:
a. Another Day in Paradise
b. The Way It Is
c. Don’t Give Up
d. New Attitude
2) First and last week of school: As a community building and get to know you activity, have students create their own soundtrack…first, we will talk about what a soundtrack is; where have they heard that word before? Movies? Why do movies need soundtracks? Do they help tell the story? How are songs chosen? Then, go into discussions about choosing songs, and how songs make you feel. What’s the first thing you notice when listening to music? The lyrics, the mode, the melody, the instruments? If you had to pick one song to describe how you feel right now, what would it be? Why? Then, we will move on to creating their personal soundtrack. They will need to pick songs that go with their life, and to be able to explain why they picked each song. It can be how they feel when they listen to the song, or it can be because of the actual lyrics themselves. There would then be a sharing…I think small groups for most of the sharing would be good because then we may be able to listen to parts of different songs. The benefit of an all-group discussion would be beneficial if I was using this as a get-to-know-you activity. Time constraints may be the deciding factor for the sharing portion of the lesson. The reason I would do this the last week of school would be for the students to compare their soundtrack from the beginning of the school year. This could then lead in to discussions about the school year – what happened during the year to change part or all of your personal soundtrack? Do you feel different? What do you like about the two different soundtracks? Were there any similarities? What were they? Why were they there?
3) Chapter Review Project: I like to use a variety of projects throughout the year in order to encourage creativity and to increase interest and productivity. When the students are done with a chapter (meaning a a new topic), we always review before taking a test. Sometimes I like to do stations, group work, etc. One way I could incorporate music would be to have the students each be in charge of one part of the chapter. Then, they would develop either a song or a rap that includes specific important parts of their required section. The sharing portion would be a performance, which would also allow the rest of the class to study before the test. I could make this as involved as I wanted, with how many sections each group was in charge of, how many verses their songs needed, if lyrics needed to be typed, and how involved the presentation would be. I could also do this project in place of a test instead of for a review day. In this case I would make sure that the directions were detailed enough in order to be able to assess the students’ knowledge of the content.
4) I would also like to do an on-going American Idol unit. I would have it be the same length as the season of America Idol, and it would just be a 10-15 minute segment each Thursday through the season. We would be analyzing voting data for the show each week. How many people voted, who won, and then practice converting between decimals, fractions and percents. If students were engaged and liked the idea, I could always expand into different graphs and data analysis.
5) I would like to also incorporate songs that are already written about math – similar to School House Rock songs….there are many out there about all different mathematical concepts, I just need to find them and use them! Here are some sites to start me off:
a. http://www.school-house-rock.com/
b. http://www.songsforteaching.com/mathsongs.htm
c. http://www.mscc.cc.tn.us/webs/vyoung/songs/Main_Pages/Tables.htm
d. http://www.mathwire.com/music/music.html
e. http://www.rogertaylor.com/clientuploads/documents/references/Mathsongsing-a-long.pdf
f. http://mathsongs.com/
g. http://www.science-groove.org/MASSIVE/

Video Review: Part II

Reading Ms. Steel’s review on Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl? video, I have to agree with the negativity of the reviewer...

Not only is the video inappropriate, but it’s also boring. She is obviously not really singing, and concentrates more on playing with the fan instead of pretending that real words are coming out of her mouth. The actions and clothing are lacking – both figuratively and literally – and lighting make it seem as though she used her own personal video camera. It comes across as cheaply made, with not very creative people in the directing roles. In the end you realize it was all a dream, but maybe it was a nightmare for the audience instead.

Video Review

The Pussycat Doll’s Video “When I grow up? is one of mtv.com’s most popular videos.......

A car full of women starts the video off, all dressed in low-cut tank tops. They are waiting in their convertible during rush hour, tapping wrists, rolling eyes and looking annoyed. Then the music starts; the women starting to dance in their seats; the purpose of the first verse “what’s up sexy? is to get the attention of their audience before they begin their message.
The women continue to dance in their car, men beginning to look at them from their own cars. The first words being “Now I’ve got a confession? while looking over her sunglasses, further seducing her audience. “When I was young and all I wanted was attention and I’d do anything? words that seem a little ironic since she is wearing a risqué outfit and dancing on the top of a convertible as she sings.
The bridge begins with the words “I ain’t complaining, we all wanna be famous? while the women now begin to jump out of the car, dancing around the other waiting cars, and on the hood of their own. A man looking from a nearby car gets a dirty look and a elbow from his girlfriend as the women’s words and wishes seem to be coming true.
When the chorus begins; listing all of the things they want while they become famous flashbulbs start flashing, symbolizing that they have made it. I want to “drive nice cars? – which they’re dancing upon – “I wanna have groupies? – which she does; the words mimicking the actions throughout the chorus.
Then, the hook part of the song takes a little different approach. They begin to walk down the street, the dancing on hold for now, their faces a little more serious. All the while the words now are “be careful what you wish for, you might just get it….?
The chorus then repeats, followed by another round of the hook verse. The video is well executed and mirrors the meaning of the lyrics. Unlike many of the other mtv popular videos, this one doesn’t need vulgar language in order to be successful, and has many meaningful lyrics that younger viewers will find intriguing and real. It is creative and takes its own approach on what it’s like to be famous, and asks the question of whether it’s worth it or not.

July 8, 2008

This.....is American Idol

“This…..Is American Idol.? Those famous words that begin each show – a show that not only millions of people watch - but pay money - in order to participate in the process. As possibly the show that began the reality show phenomenon, American Idol has captured the attention of all ages. Even if you’re a critic of the show, it’s hard to argue with its success...


The season begins with a few weeks of auditions. This is the time where they take obnoxious, talentless performers to embarrass themselves and entertain others and mix them in with the talented contestants. They also follow a few of the unsuccessful, first showing their story to an ironic soundtrack in order to entice the audience. Many people watch just for the auditions – a time where it’s okay to laugh at others, feel better about yourself, and just shake your head in embarrassment. People knew what they were getting into, so they deserve it, right?
After the seemingly exhausting (although you never really know what reality is in reality tv land) audition weeks are over, the top contestants are chosen and the judges “work? is done – now it’s up to the audience to carry the show. Performances start each week, eliminating contestants week by week until they’re down to the final few. Theme weeks begin, and celebrities are brought in to help the contestants and to further popularize the show. The judges “judge? each week - Randy usually just shaking his head and repeating his famous lines: “What up dogg,? or “it just wasn’t great for me?: Paula, commenting on how great they look tonight and how proud she is: and Simon, the judge who actually will tell you how it is, and who is usually on key with the voting audience. Finally, the finale. Two singers are left and the winner will go away with a record deal and instant recognition. Due to the success of the show, the “loser? will go away with a record deal and instant recognition…….
I, like millions of others, love American Idol. The audition weeks are my least favorite, although I do see the appeal of many and understand why many people (especially youth) watch this part and this part only. I love the actual competition and I usually agree with the voting audience, although I have never voted myself. I like the idea of the show, that there are “regular? people who are trying to make their dreams come true. While there is always more than meets the eye, overall I think that it does produce motivation for trying your best and reaching for your dreams. As corny as that sounds, I do believe that behind the money making schemes, the core of the show is based upon this belief and that the public believes it.
Whether people do watch it for the auditions, the performances, the music or the entertainment; if we have to have a reality television phenomenon, what better topic than music? To bring music into the spotlight in primetime television; and to have millions of people participating and talking about it is great – music has the power to bring all ages together to have discussions and just plain fun. And if this is the outcome, then I’m a big reality tv fan as well.

July 6, 2008

Hip Hop

Hip Hop music came alive and became popular beginning in the 1970’s. It has been a very popular music genre ever since. "Nothing else, currently, allows for you to talk about race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, politics and the economy like hip hop music and culture," says Michael Barnes, a doctoral candidate at the University of California at Berkley, whose dissertation examines hip hop DJ culture...

Like anything, there are many critics of rap and hip hop that believe that the music and the language have no place in the ears of the youth. While some of the concerns are warranted, it’s how you deal with the discrepancies that matter.
“Not only does hip-hop music engage kids in what they're passionate about, the mnemonic power of rap lyrics make it easy for students to learn and remember information. So we create positive, educational hip-hop music to get kids learning and get them engaged with academic material.? (http://www.flocabulary.com/teachers.html) Sold! What more could educators want? It seems like our job is being done for us. While this statement is written to sell a product, there is a lot of truth to the advertisement. Students are motivated greatly by societal movements – music being a large contributor. Retention is also a large issue lately and I am more than willing to look into “non-traditional? methods in order to increase retention.
It can also be a great learning tool, even just the lyrics themselves. Often, music lyrics mirror societal issues of the time, and thus can be studied as another research resource. The controversies that have been discussed throughout the evolution of hip hop can be used to discuss historical facts as well as becoming a great debate starter in a classroom.
Another way to incorporate this type of music into a classroom can be to encourage the students to become the creators. They love to be given creative freedom in any subject, and writing and performing songs or raps can be a great outlet for not only creativity but for meaningful learning. I have tried this a few times and it has always been a positive experience. This next year, one of my goals is to continue to incorporate as much music as possible, even if it’s just a line from a popular song for reference to a lesson. I struggle with how to make this happen given my subject area, but nothing is impossible if it has the ability to change learning in a positive way.
Whenever you can connect with your students on more than one level, greater, more meaningful learning occurs. This not only enhances your students’ experiences but your own as well. Music is a great way to make these connections.