Teach Them Well
Something that stood out to me in the course of this class was that music is extremely overwhelming. The history of popular music has shown that the family tree of music is so inbred and inter-related that to separate genre from genre, while possible, is not possible. For example, we learn that the start of â€śhip-hopâ€? formed from different musical areas such as disco, jazz, funk, blues and rock. For the sake of the consumer and the artist a label had to be placed on the multiple versions of music available. As an example, I am not going to go to the disco section expecting to find LL Cool J any more than I expect to find ABBA in the heavy metal group. Another thing that was expanded on for me was that music is everywhere. It is found in the silence of an early morning, the whir of cars muffled outside my kitchen window, and even in the workings of a corporate office. The question is how to articulate that to the students.
I stopped teaching about three years ago and time spent in a classroom is no longer something that I do. During my short classroom career, I was a kindergarten teacher. Music was something that I used every single day to get my students motivated to start the day, learn a new letter or clean up their work. Five and six-year-olds sponged up songs and would soon be singing the tune before I even had to press play on the radio. It surprised me the most when my little Kindergarteners would come into the classroom, not singing the songs that we listened to about colors and shapes, but current top ten hits from the radio. As I started thinking back to my teaching days I realized that the everyday music and situations are what I would use to create my lessons. The lessons written below are not necessarily meant for a certain grade. Any one of these can be modified for late elementary school up to 12th grade. For the younger grades they can be modified to be large classroom projects or family projects at home.
1. Music in Media: Evaluation and Critical Thinking
To start students will pick a movie or television show and list out each of the songs that are used in the course of the film or particular episode. A list can usually be found in the ending credits of a movie or the shows website. I have also found the website http://www.tunefind.com/ helpful for recent movies and episodes of shows although it is not comprehensive.
Student will then have different options for assignments. The assignment will last for approximately three weeks.
1. Student will critique critical moments in the movie and how the song affected the outcome of those moments. How would you make it better? What would you do differently? If you would not change anything, why?
2. Student will look at the genre of movie and compare it to the type of music that is included in the movie. Do romantic comedies equal a soundtrack full of pop artists and top ten hits? Do independent films equal independent artists?
3. Students will remove songs from a portion of a movie and replace those songs with something they choose instead. They will then present a scene with their song in its place. Is there a difference in the scene now that the music has been changed? Does the tone of the movie change? If the change is in the beginning of the movie how does the anticipation change?
2. Soundtrack to your Life: History
The student will think back to key moments in their life and the year that these moments occurred. They will then have to create a soundtrack that is equal to the timeline of their life. For example, if you were born July 5, 1981, you will have to use a song that was made July 5th, 1981 or earlier. If you know the year of a particular moment but not the date, the song has to be from that year or earlier. Student will have to pick 10 songs/events minimum and concurrently write a 1-2 page paper on an occurrence that also happened at the same time. This project will last for 10 weeks and in the end the students will create a â€śgreatest hitsâ€? for their life up to that moment.
Example: July 5th, 1981 Birth of Kimberly Steele. Historical event on that date: Police attacked in Liverpool riots, http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/july/5/newsid_2494000/2494599.stm
Song: Foreigner â€śWaiting For a Girl Like Youâ€? (Album released in July 1981)
3. Track your Music: Continual Research
The music that a person listens to does not stay the same in their lifetime. At any particular moment a person may be big into country, the next week listening to jazz and the next week folk. Students will pick one day a week and track their consumption of music. This will go on for the course of the English program.* The students will journal about the songs they listened to and why one particular song affected them. They will need to discuss a minimum of three different aspects song such as the words, beat, background singers, tone, etc. In the end of the project students are required to do a research paper based on the songs as well as the corresponding events they journeled about. Are they finding a pattern to what they listened to or was it random?
*Growing up my English classes were split between Freshman/Sophomore and Junior/Senior. For 9th and 10th grade English we had one teacher and for 11th and 12th grade English. This project would be designed to be ongoing between either the whole high school career, two year increments or grade level. This will take organization in order to keep track of music and ongoing changes.
4. Music Interpretation: Playwriting, technology, performance, geography
As a class or small group students are to write, create and present a music video or performance based on a song from another country. The students are to research different aspects of the song (lyrics, language, hidden inferences) and present an accurate portrayal of the countryâ€™s culture using clothing, material objects and dancing. Student will have to turn in their research and present the video to the class.
5. Use of Music in Science: Does Classical Music Make Plants Grow?
In groups of 2 or 3, students will study the effects of different music genre on plants. Students will grow three of the same type plant. One will be a control, one will â€ślistenâ€? to Type A music and one will â€ślistenâ€? to Type B music. Students will maintain strict variables on the plants and will present their findings in one month.
These are some classroom ideas that, while rough, have potential to widen knowledge in science, history, English, technology, critical thinking, role-playing and research. All these lessons are discovery processes that are best utilized with a teacher who is willing to look outside of the standard teaching model and use their studentâ€™s experiences in the learning process. I may not be in the classroom anymore, but I am always learning and will always be a student myself. Music, media and pop culture are engrained in my life and yet, they are more a bigger piece of todayâ€™s youth than ever before. The evolution of music doesnâ€™t stop inside a classroom; the classroom is where the evolution of music is exponentially expanded. A family tree doesnâ€™t get bigger without new blood. For every new song and every new listener the seedlings of popular music gets pushed deeper into the soil of culture. May the rings of this tree keep growing.