Rationale for Teaching Multiple Activities During a Single Music Class
As a professor of music education, cooperating teachers often ask me for a rationale about including multiple activities, each with a specific learning objective, into a single music class. Pressure from the Principal is most-often cited for this request. Math, Science, History, and Language Arts teachers generally plan with one learning objective per class meeting, so why not Music educators?
While we are educating students in the 21st century, our education system is still based on a 19th century model. Just because we have always taught in a certain way does not mean we should keep teaching this way for all classes if the template does not fit correctly.
Elementary school must be the place for the laying of musical foundations through hands-on learning experiences to develop singing, reading, and musical hearing to the highest level. The development of these musicianship skills happens only through sustained effort. Zoltán Kodály cautions that one of the chief causes of failure in school music teaching is the complications of rhythm and pitch that suddenly confuse unprepared children (Kodály). Keeping this in mind, current music educators must teach through a systematic, developmentally appropriate approach to lead children to music literacy.
1) “We all need to continue to remind school leaders that if they are going to push for innovation in school curricula, they need to put their trust into the arts to fulfill that mission (Mazzocchi).” Music is different than other courses and must be treated as such. While, admittedly, it is easier for everything to be the same, the reality is – life doesn’t work this way. All good teaching does not fit into a one-size-fits-all model, nor should it be expected to do so.
2) Music learning, like all learning in schools, relies on a systematic building up of skills and knowledge of musical elements:
Singing skills Melodic Elements
Playing skills Rhythmic Elements
Part-work skills Harmonic Elements
Expressive Elements: dynamics, phrasing, tempo, articulation, etc.
3) With the infrequency of music instruction, the scientific yardstick to measure musical literacy needs greater maturity and a longer period of study (Kodály):
In most elementary schools, Language Arts and Math are taught daily; time is built in each day for review of previous instruction before applying it to the next learning objective. To point out the obvious, this review is based on the learning from the previous day. Music instruction, on the other hand, is generally taught once or twice a week/6-day cycle. It is for this reason that multiple learning objectives must be spread out across time because the review of – and building upon – knowledge is based on learning from the previous week.
4) Because music teachers plan for this long-term instruction, they must be permitted to work so that the interrelationships between the stages of development and the areas of study in music become clearer as the children age. During the teaching process, musical elements should not be separated from one another, but must form a permanent and organic unit in the progress of musical learning (Hegyi). Therefore, the elements of music and the skills of music become more intertwined the older the students get if the groundwork has been laid properly in the early grades. This requires specific instruction through multiple short activities per class period while children are young so that they may “experience first, and then intellectualize (Orff).”
5) Rather than drudgery of a single song performed for 30-45 minutes, “every lesson should be built in such a way that at its end the child should feel his strength increased rather than any sense of tiredness: moreover, he should look forward to the next (Kodály).” By planning multiple learning activities within the course of a lesson, the teacher can prescribe restful fun periods of activity woven between strenuous mental activities. By keeping each activity short, the students do not get tired of any one song or piece of music but, rather, wish to revisit them in future classes.
Hegyi, Erzsébet. Solfege According to the Kodály-Concept, vol. I. Editio Musica, 1975.
Kodály, Zoltán. The Selected Writings of Zoltán Kodály. Boosey & Hawkes, 1974.
Orff, Carl. Carl Orff – Wikiquote, en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Carl_Orff as quoted in “The Orff Process” (4 July 1997) by Deborah Jeter, page update 16 Jan. 2018, retrieved 16 Jan. 2018.
Mazzocchi, Anthony. “The Truth About Why Music Is Cut from Schools (and What We Can Do About It).” The Music Parents’ Guide, Wordpress, 28 Aug. 2015, retrieved 16 Jan. 2018.