Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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A Jazz Festival in Your Classroom

World of Music_jazzAs the weather warms, jazz festivals will be springing up all over. Why not celebrate spring and Jazz Appreciation Month this April by holding a jazz festival in your classroom? A key word search for “jazz” on learner.org returns a host of resources that you can use to guide your students to appreciate this uniquely American musical genre and to understand its influence on culture here and around the world.

For example, American Passages: A Literary Survey, unit 11, “Modernist Portraits,” describes the dramatic social and cultural changes that Americans experienced during the years between World War I and World War II.  Jazz provided the soundtrack for these changes and had a profound influence on visual artists, poets, and novelists who sought to capture its images and rhythms. Use the American Passages archives to find audio and visual artifacts from the Jazz Age that illustrate the innovation and energy of musicians and writers such as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Jacob Lawrence.

Try asking students how structure, improvisation, and collaboration—aspects of jazz adopted by so many artists working during the modernist period—can be applied in their world. The Problem-Based Learning activities included in unit 11 could be presented as a way to put a jazz spin on collaborative projects in school.

Jazz up this historical exploration by inviting a local performer or your school’s jazz ensemble to play for your students and to discuss the unique interaction of structure, improvisation, and collaboration in jazz. Or check out Exploring the World of Music, program 11, “Composers and Improvisers.”  At 9:09 you’ll find a great discussion from saxophonist Joshua Redman about the role of improvisation in jazz. In program 10, “The Shape of Music,” the segment that begins at 8:52 illustrates why collaboration is essential to improvisation in a group performance.

What are other ways to use jazz to inspire learning in the classroom? I’d love to hear your improvisations!

 

Music in Math

mathoftimeMarch is almost over and so is Music in our Schools Month. We finish this set of Monday Motivations on music by looking at how to incorporate music into the math classroom.

High school and college students can study how the Greeks applied mathematical thought to the study of music in the video and online text for Mathematics Illuminated, unit 10, “Harmonious Math,” section 2, The Math of Time.  Section 3, Sound and Waves, looks at how sound waves move through the air and section 6, Can You Hear the Shape of a Drum?, asks if it’s possible to deduce what object makes a sound based on the frequency content of the sound.

Música, Musique, Musik

“Music is the universal language of mankind.”

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

TFL_French_ZydecoMarch is Music in Our Schools Month and educators are urged to make a case for including music education in the K-12 curriculum. It would seem to be an easy argument. According to Christopher Viereck, Ph.d., Developmental Neurobiologist in Residence for The Music Empowers Foundation, ongoing music education creates “new connections (‘wiring’) between brain cells.” Music education “also benefits students in other academic domains,” writes Viereck in Music Education and Brain Plasticity 101, the first of many articles in the Your Brain on Music Education series.

Still, despite the substantial amount of evidence that supports the claim that music enhances learning, music programs in budget-strapped schools are often considered niceties, not necessities. There are ways to incorporate music into lessons, should formal music programs face the axe, however. Take foreign languages, for example.

The Teaching Foreign Languages K-12 video library provides two examples of how to incorporate music into language lessons. Watch French: A Cajun Folktale and Zydeco. At about 20 minutes into the video, students are introduced to Cajun music. See how the teacher builds excitement for what students will be learning and how music helps students better understand cultural traditions of the people who live in that particular region of Louisiana.

Music can take students from the Bayou to Ancient Rome. In this mixed-level Latin class at Westfield High School in Chantilly, Va., teacher Lauri Dabbieri uses music to help students understand the difference between translation and interpretation, as well as to make historical connections to Roman culture.

How else might you use music in your foreign language classroom?

 

Monday Motivation: Tune up your lessons with music activities.

learningclassroom_4Happy Music in Our Schools month! Many of your students probably love music as much as you do. Have you thought about how music could be used to increase student motivation and interest in your content area? You don’t have to be a musician to bring music into the classroom.

Stay tuned during this month of Mondays for ways to inspire and engage your students by adding music to lessons in your own subject areas. Start by watching The Learning Classroom: Theory Into Practice, session 4, “Different Kinds of Smart – Multiple Intelligences,” for information on Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, which includes musical intelligence.  See real applications of this theory in classrooms with mainstreamed special needs students.

Do you already use music to teach lessons in your non-arts subject area? If so, how?

 

Using Music to Teach and Remember the Holocaust

'The Children of Willesden Lane' International Holocaust Remembrance Day is January 27th  and is a time for reflection. Sadly, children are often subject to the same worldly violence as adults, especially during times of war. In our more recent history, think of the number of children who perished during armed conflicts in Vietnam, Kosovo, and Syria. Go back a few more decades and recall that, in Nazi-occupied Europe, more than 1.5 million Jewish children were murdered in the ghettos and death camps. Students need to “make meaning” of history’s tragic events if they are to understand the past and what roles they have in securing a more peaceful future.

If your students have already read The Diary of Anne Frank, try The Children of Willesden Lane. The series TeachingThe Children of Willesden Lane’ offers resources to help middle and high school students better comprehend survivor Lisa Jura’s story of loss, resilience, and ultimate triumph. Mona Golabek, Jura’s daughter, wrote The Children of Willesden Lane to honor her mother, who was spared the cruelty of the death camps thanks to the Kindertransport (children’s transport). In all, the operation saved nearly 10,000 children.

Music as Teacher

“Hold on to your music. It will be your best friend.” -words spoken to Lisa Jura by her mother as she boarded the Kindertransport

Music is as much a character in The Children of Willesden Lane as Jura. Therefore, each reading includes a musical selection that highlights the theme of that segment. In Reading 2: Uprooted (Chapters 4-8), high school history teacher Martina Grant asks her students to identify a song that would remind them of home, should they ever have to leave. After students respond, Grant reads the passage from the book where Jura takes the music for Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” with her when she leaves home. At about 2:45 minutes into the video, students listen to that piece and determine how the music revealed Jura’s feelings.

The video also shows how teachers from different disciplines can work together to provide a more meaningful lesson. Grant asked the school’s music teacher Jeff Arzberger to conduct a lesson on basic musical concepts such as rhythm and harmony, and the difference between major and minor keys. Arzberger meets the lesson objectives by asking students to listen to and then compare the musical approaches taken by Beethoven in his “Moonlight” Sonata and by Debussy in “Clair de Lune.” Would you be comfortable teaching music? Who might you call on to help you familiarize your students with music and music history?

Students then discuss whether it is important to understand Jura’s music in order to understand her story. As you watch the video, consider how music impacts Jura’s story. Does it make it more meaningful? Why or why not?