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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Music - A Key to Learning!

Mastery and transfer is, or should be, the goal of all learning. Teachers, after all, do not spend time planning and teaching only for students to simply learn, pass a test, and disregard information. At least one would hope that is not the case! For learning to move to mastery and transfer, however, students must be able to quickly and fluently recall and apply that which they have learned. I believe that one key to learning concepts and information for instant recall is music!

I am not a singer. Not that I don't enjoy singing, but others, perhaps, would not enjoy listening to me sing! That, however, did not keep music from my classroom. One quite valuable resource for using music with my students was an album called All Around Us by singer, songwriter, and my friend,  John Farrell.


The album contains ready to use songwriting tracks called "Sing, Write, & Learn". Through the use of the tracks your students can create a song for any learning! There is even a track explaining how to use them and tracks with examples created by the artist and children in a classroom. The entire album can be purchased and downloaded (or purchased in CD form) for $9. You can even purchase it as a gift and have it delivered via email to a friend.

Here is one example created by my second graders, telling facts about owls. Sometime after creating the song, we were on an outdoor ed field trip when a naturalist asked my kids what they knew about owls. They began sharing facts and it didn't take long for me to realize they were sharing them in the order they were recorded on their song! The track is called "What's So Great About...?" and can be purchased individually for only $1 if you would like to give this idea a try:


The process is really quite simple (more so now even, than when I used these tracks with my students! There is also a tutorial on the actual album called "Introduction to Songwriting Tracks");
  • Choose a learning concept or topic or question needing an answer. That becomes the title and theme of the song.
  • Students use research skills to gather facts. (There is the standard!)
  • Students apply writing skills to form well written factual statements. (Another standard!)
  • Working together, the class decides which statements to include in the song and in which order they should appear. Timing becomes important and the class will need to plan order and presentation to fit the musical track. (Collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving!)
  • Create the chorus.
  • The entire class rehearses the chorus, while individual students practice reading their lines with fluency and timing.
  • Enjoy the song!
  • If you would like to make it permanent, download and record the musical track to your digital device. One example would be the use of iMovie which allows multiple audio tracks along with a video track where you can add images. 
  • Practice singing the song along with the track until you have the timing down. Record, add images, and share! Posting to Youtube allows your class to share their work with the world!
Sharing with the world may seem a bit lofty as a goal, but the following video was also created by my second graders and they did just that! After watching a global online event by TakingITGlobal, about the orangutans in Borneo, my students wanted to learn more. We invited our superintendent, who had worked in an International School in Borneo, to speak to the class. They researched in books and online to learn about the issues. One site they found particularly interesting and helpful was Orangutan Outreach. As they learned, they felt the need to take action. It was one of John Farrell's songwriting tracks that became their strategy. The kids created the following video to post for the world (This track is called "Welcome to the World"):

They had contacted Orangutan Outreach for permission to use images from their site, and sent a link to the video when it was posted to Youtube. Orangutan Outreach posted their video on the website and gave the kids a free orangutan adoption so they could follow the story of a young orangutan. We also posted the video on Twitter and our website. The kids received feedback from around the world. This project is still a favorite memory of the kids who experienced it. I believe music was the key.

Another track on the album is called "I Wonder What We'd See?" and would work perfectly for any habitat or geographical study. Although there are examples and ideas for the use of the tracks, they are limited only by your students' imaginations and creativity. Music is one of the best ways to connect learning to memory, achieving mastery and transfer. And, perhaps most important of all, it makes learning fun! Please don't leave the fun out of teaching and school! 
There are many resources for adding music into your classroom. If you have not used the resources created by John Farrell, you will not regret taking time to explore. His sites include not only links to download the songs, but also lyrics and sheet music. 




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