to Rock the
in the Language of Music
LitTunes is a collaborative online community designed to serve three purposes:
1) to provide educators with a centralized source of materials and support for using popular music in the classroom;
2) to provide a forum for educators to share their successful practices, experiences, and reflections involving the use of popular music, and;
3) to inspire educators to reach the disenfranchised and challenge the advanced with a powerful language of adolescence — music.
There are several reasons for using popular music in the classroom.
Recognizing music's power to influence thought, style, and culture is the first step toward incorporating pop tunes into classroom lessons in a way that inspires students to learn in a language and style unique to them. As one of the dominant modes of popular cultural expression, music provides a way to promote student interest in a variety of interdisciplinary subjects. Although LitTunes is dedicated to English and literacy, we recognize that music is a valuable too for teaching all grades, all levels, and most every content area.
Using popular music in the classroom is a valid teaching strategy. The source material is continuously changing, always up-to-date, and unlimited in scope and style. Music provides a rich body of material that can be effectively incorporated into the curriculum to challenge and interest students in the learning process.
For those teachers and educators looking for ways to address Common Core State Standards, Nagy’s (2012) interpretation of the challenge posed by standards is helpful. Nagy's assertion is that the standards essentially ask students to progress past their Zone of Proximal Development (i + too much). By interesting, engaging, and motivating students, music can help them meet any standards, a notion reflected in the formula (i + 1).
Overall Educational Rationale:
The use of music in the classroom can:
- Facilitate interdisciplinary study
- Encourage different learning styles
- Involve multiple intelligences
- Provide a multicultural curriculum
- Encourage cooperative learning among students
- Promote higher order thinking skills
Language Arts Rationale:
The use of music encourages students to:
- Recognize poetic devices of sound and sense
- Identify the "voice" of the poet/narrator
- Express literary themes
- Deepen understanding of other literature
- Improve literary analysis skills
- Develop an emotional reaction and connection to the work
Music is tied to identity in very real and important ways. When we use music in the classroom, we have the opportunity to build on students’ interests and emotions, but we also must be aware that some music can negatively impact the learning environment. Allowing students to choose their own music for classroom projects, when possible, and helping students respect each other’s musical tastes and preferences are key elements of success. There are a great number of songs in popular culture that may not work in all classrooms: songs employing misogyny, violence, and obscene language are avoided by most teachers. What is or isn't appropriate for each individual teacher's classroom makes for a great conversation with students in advance of using music.
Music is not a panacea, not the only way to engage and challenge students.
Dethier, Brock. From Dylan to Donne: Bridging English and Music. Portsmouth NH: Boynton/Cook. 2003.
Every life has a soundtrack, especially during high school and college, when young people tend to live passionately and develop lifelong tastes. Everyone identifies with song lyrics that express the love, angst, frustration, and anger we all feel at times. Brock Dethier recognizes the power of students' identification with music and turns their musical enthusiasms into material for learning and self-expression. Analyzing music and its effects makes students think. Besides, "it's the cheapest, easiest, most fun tool we can use in our classrooms," writes Dethier — no small thing for educational institutions smarting from budget cuts.
As Dethier demonstrates, music provides an effective way to introduce and explain virtually everything about literature and composition — from the importance of leads to the concept of the unreliable narrator, from the value of radical revision to romantic irony. Both teachers and students benefit from listening to music with focused attention and from analyzing their reactions just as they analyze texts. Each chapter of From Dylan to Donne presents a different way in which music can help students see, understand, appreciate, and analyze aspects of literature, composition, and their world. Each chapter provides teachers with specific suggestions for assignments, activities, and new approaches to difficult concepts.
It takes only a few minutes each day to make the musical connection. And it requires no experience as a musician or music critic to enjoy and use this book. Teachers just need to apply the book's insights to their own classes and to let students be the experts on the current music scene. For a fresh tack in English class, build a bridge between English and music — and chart a path that even the most bored and alienated students will follow to read, write, and rock.
LitTunes was launched in 2007.
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