How to Integrate Music Instruction with Other Subjects

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  • 0:04 Music in the Classroom
  • 0:53 Songs as Memory Aids
  • 1:34 Engineering & Math
  • 2:52 English, History & Politics
  • 4:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

In this lesson, we'll discuss methodologies for integrating music instruction with various subjects. We'll also examine the relationships among the concepts and processes of music and other classroom teachings.

Music in the Classroom

Have you heard how some teachers are using music like Mozart's in the classroom to help build a creative environment? This idea can be taken a step further by actually integrating music instruction with various subjects.

For example, music can be used as a motivator to get the class started. Before the bell rings and while students are filing in, play something uplifting like Beethoven's Ode to Joy, or if the subject for the day is the planets, play something fun and space-related like the Star Wars theme.

As a general rule, most educators recommend playing short excerpts of songs intermingled with a relevant lecture or slide show presentation. Anywhere from one to five minutes is ideal, for three reasons:

  • Students have short attention spans.
  • It allows for time to discuss the music.
  • The music may be replayed.

Songs as Memory Aids

Have you ever noticed how students who can't memorize vocabulary words know the lyrics to hundreds of popular songs by heart? Using songs as a memory aid can be a valuable teaching asset. For example, do you remember those legendary Schoolhouse Rock songs that helped us learn about English, government, and civics? They educated us on everything from conjunctions to interjections to how a bill became a law. To this day, some educators still use those old videos to teach, which you can now find online. Other teachers play short podcasts that also use songs to teach, while some really innovative educators actually create songs of their own to both entertain and educate their students.

Engineering & Math

Music also helps students delve more deeply into the concepts behind specific subjects. For instance, students can explore engineering concepts by making their own music with free music apps and websites. Teachers can then quiz students on different engineering concepts and how they apply to real-world situations. For example, a teacher could ask students to compare the sound of older albums and analog recording with newer compact discs and digital recordings, listing some of the pros and cons of each type.

Moving on, have you ever heard someone say that mathematics and music are related or that without mathematics there would literally be no such thing as music? Teachers can use music to teach fractions, by having students tap to the beat. For example, as four quarter-notes add up to one, students would tap four times. The teacher could also draw a circle, divide it up into four equal pieces, and then draw a quarter-note in each of the four sections, visually demonstrating that four quarter-notes add up to one full note. Next, the teacher could divide another circle into eight equal pieces, draw an eighth-note in each of the eight sections and then ask students to tap eight times. Both circles still add up to one, even though they're comprised of a different amount of notes.

English, History, & Politics

English teachers can have students convert popular song lyrics to poetry, or conversely, have them create a song out of a well-known poem. They can also ask students to study television commercials and then try to write their own ad jingles, or pretend they're music critics and write a review of a song in order to practice their analytical writing skills.

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