cooperative learning

Book Review: Making Music Cooperatively

Book Review

Making Music Cooperatively: Using Cooperative Learning in Your Active Music-Making Classroom


While it is often a normal occurrence for the content of a book to diverge from its title, this is definitely not the case when it comes to Making Music Cooperatively: Using Cooperative Learning in Your Active Music-Making Classroom, written by Carol Huffman.  Huffman, an experienced music educator whose expertise has taken her to the Jacob School of Music at Indiana University, offers her rich, varied and skilled musical background, as well as her strong devotion to the Orff-Schulwerk process of teaching, to the world of cooperative learning in the music classroom.   

Published in 2012 by GIA Publications, a major and reputable publishing house for music education resources and materials, Making Music Cooperatively, is logically compiled.  It starts with how best to prepare students and teachers for success with cooperative learning, diving deeply into developing a safe and healthy learning environment.  Sequencing straightforwardly, Huffman gives tools with which the progression of cooperative learning can unfold.  She then presents a host of cooperative learning activities that can be used in a multitude of ways, all the time maintaining the conviction that when students become their own teachers, knowledge is more readily acquired and more profoundly retained. 

Ms. Huffman’s style of writing leads the reader into an effortless communication with her, yet still remains articulate and professional, as though one is in attendance at a rousing workshop.  Since she is so descriptive about cooperative learning from beginning to end, any questions that arise while reading are eventually answered, leaving the reader ready to tackle any situation that may arise while embarking upon this teaching and learning process.  The topic is also approached practically, considering honest and candid classroom situations.  Realities of the music room, including time restraints, skill levels of children, age, behavior concerns, and family and colleague apprehensions are not shied away from.  This authenticity allows the reader to imagine themselves engaging in cooperative music learning rather than becoming defensive, believing that these pursuits could never happen in their classroom.   

How many music educators find themselves questioning if children today seem different somehow.  They are needier.  They lack social skills and a respectful manner.  This struggle that we face each and every day with our students is taken on boldly by Ms. Huffman.  She challenges teachers to commit to teaching children beyond the subject matter of music.  While she believes that we are “teachers first and music teachers second”, she never abandons her strong conviction that students remain in active music-making, the literal act of being engaged in music making.  Through cooperative learning, not to be mistaken as group learning or group work, schoolchildren can grow both as sensitive musicians and thoughtful human beings.  If you believe that you have a duty and responsibility to teach our children in this manner, this book is definitely for you.   

The most impressive feature of this book, besides the fact that is both strongly based in research and powerfully grounded in the heart, is that no matter your philosophical beliefs about music education, how many years you have taught, or where you are in your teaching at any given moment, the ideas employed in this book can be taken, adapted and made your own.  The reader is encouraged to use as much or as little as both teacher and children can manage.  Huffman embraces all music educators, supports their situations and perceptions, and believes that all can move forward in this beautiful adventure. 

Making Music Cooperatively:  Using Cooperative Learning in Your Active Music-Making Classroom, by Carol Huffman, is available through most booksellers as well as music specialty merchants such as GIA Publications or Music Is Elementary for $17.95.  This book may also be purchased through Amazon for $29.99 for the spiral bound version or $16.99 for the digital version.   

cooperative learning

Allison Cowan

Allison Cowan is a music educator specializing in the practice of Kodaly and Orff philosophies. She has been teaching in Shaker Heights City Schools in Ohio for 17 years.

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  1. Carol Huffman on June 14, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    Thank you for such a glowing review. I am thrilled you have captured the essence of cooperative learning and OS that I had hoped for.

    • Doug Marquis on January 7, 2019 at 4:08 pm

      Very good book! Lots of practical suggestions. I wonder, can anyone help me locate the Keetman piece, “Berceuse” that is mentioned in “Jigsaw” activity in the Lesson Suggestions chapter?

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