Writing Ideas in the Music Class: Listening Stations and Writing


It’s been a busy past few weeks as I have been winding my Ph.D. residency down. Workshop and research presentations, trying to get papers in order, homework……but the light is coming, and soon, all that will be left is the dissertation.

Back in my other life, getting ready to return to public school teaching:

I was very excited to find out I received a local education foundation grant for listening centers for my music classes. Three small Boomboxes (because IPods would have been tricky through our technology department at this time) and listening center boxes, some burnable CDs, and I have the settings to begin some cool writing/listening activities.

With any of the activities, the students will divide into groups. Each group will be assigned a particular work, so there will be a variety. Topics can include:

  1. The music critic. Each group will listen to a different work. Based on previous knowledge of musical elements, students will write an opinion paper on their groups’ selection. By working in groups, the kids have others with whom to share ideas, but in the end, of course, the writing and opinion paper must be their own. (Good opening to discuss plagiarism and copyright issues). Provide prompts for all groups, such as:
              *What is the media of the recording?
              * What mood does this recording bring out? Why?
              * What is your favorite part of the recording? Describe the musical elements that help sell you to the recording.
              * What do you feel needs improvement? Why? Describe the musical elements you feel are missing.
  2. The soundtrack script writing. Again, each group has a different musical selection. From this selection, the students will write a descriptive paper on a movie scene or plot they believe would be enhanced by the particular work. Again, music elements come into play. What elements bring across the emotion or action imaged for the film? What are the personalities of the characters based on the music? Could this be the theme song for a particular character? Why? Use the music elements to describe your choices.
  3. The choreographer. Upon listening to the music selections, the students will describe a dance routine that will best fit their song choice. If you get ambitious, have each group choreograph their work after writing directions for it. This is a great time to utilize Laban action words and other movement phrases such as levels, locomotor, non-locomoter: OR, from the directions, another group will be able to perform the movement activity.
  4. The historian. Select common pieces related to events in history (Civil War songs, World War II songs, work songs). The students will describe what events they believe inspired the songs and why, based on lyrics and other musical elements.

If you can get multiple listening stations for your classes, there can be unlimited possibilities for your older students. If you can only set up one listening station, consider regular centers activities in which the listening station can be one of several other activities. These activities can incorporate writing as well as fulfill the current music National Standards 6, 7,8, and possibly 9, depending on your activities.

Make sure you display the best writings and keep them as artifacts. If the classroom teacher does not want to use these as writing samples, you can still keep them (or copies of them) for your own use or for the students’ portfolios. 

As for me, I am excited about being able to order these stations and get going on these next year! I’m intrigued as to the results. I plan on using thee ideas with later fourth grade, fifth grade, and sixth grade.

Some of you are winding down your days, and some have a little time left. I will be going back in a couple of weeks to finish out the year for my sabbatical replacement, who will be starting a new life in the National Guard and as a Masters student. I appreciate everything he has done!

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Hi there!

I am an elementary music teacher and adjunct professor from Missouri and have completed my Ph.D. in music education through the University of Kansas.

I am an elementary music teacher and adjunct professor from Missouri and have just completed my Ph.D. in music education through the University of Kansas.


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