I often have what I think might be a little weird experience during conversations with others. While listening to others I find that their words trigger a reaction where I instantly have the words to a song flooding my mind. While I am not musical and honestly struggle to remember the names of many songs, the lyrics to songs seem to make connections. As I started thinking about this post, the title conjured a connection to the song "I got the music in me" and so a youtube search later here it is.
The other morning I was driving to work and a conversation on the radio about changing the melody of a song sparked an idea about the multitude of activities that can be connected to student learning. I will share a few examples that I have experienced as a student or used with students. More importantly, this post is about looking for examples others have used. I would love to create a database of ideas that teachers have used with students that incorporate music.
I have tried to break down the potential ways of using music in the classroom into different applications, but I am sure there are many more. An obvious one that I don't have listed below is to play music to set the mood or tone of the class. We know music is a powerful force and in teaching culture and history, the examination of time period music - actually hearing the music is a cool experience especially witnessing student reactions to what was cool back in the day!
Here is another post about music I wrote that might shed a little more light on my musical connection weirdness.
"We Didn't Start the Fire,"
I want to say the first time I used music as an educational experience was in high school when we used the song "We Didn't Start the Fire," by Billy Joel. I really don't think that is accurate but it is definitely one that stands out to me. We listened to the song and then jigsawed the events listed in the song. Each of us, or with a partner were asked to examine the event and report back to the group. Here is a link to a post about how I would update We Didn't Start the Fire.
"Banned in the USA"
Another lesson from my High School History class. I remember the activity was about the Bill of Rights and examining current issues. I chose to look at the First Amendment and use the group 2 Live Crew's song "Banned in the USA" that was in response to laws and court rulings that wouldn't allow them to perform in certain cities because of lewd lyrics. As a high school kid who's interest perked up when told that I couldn't do something, this interested me. I had to research the case surrounding the band and the song and the First Amendment protections. In my presentation we listened to the "Banned in the USA" song and convinced our young teacher to listen to one of the songs that sparked the controversy. I would not recommend that to teachers today.
Welcome to the Fish Bowl -
A few years ago I was teaching in a district that decided to go BYOD Bring Your Own Device. I asked the superintendent what was our policy on using these devices in the classroom. He directed me to the district's site that basically said students should bring their own device. It didn't discuss policies, expectations or provide any real guidance for teachers, parents or students. So I decided we needed a class policy. Instead of creating one and handing it to students, I took a couple of days and created one together. We listened to the song Welcome to the Fish Bowl a song that I had just stumbled across. Then using a Padlet type site we created a list of positive uses and behaviors that weren't acceptable. It was an amazing experience and I must say I learned about a lot of technologies/apps students used that I didn't know about before. Some of them beneficial, others concern me that students can access these and be exposed to the behaviors associated with them. Here is the lesson plan with links to Welcome to the Fish Bowl.
Sociology Deviance Lesson
The following is a lesson shared with me by Reuben Hoffman. The idea is to examine one of the most popular aspects of culture- music for the concept of Deviance. Students look at the lyrics of songs and discuss the examples of deviance they find within. Deviance songs.
We Built this City
Jefferson Airplane's "We Built This City" is a song that connects to an activity I did with students to build their own civilization. I will share it here and freely admit that I would revise it in multiple ways if I were to teach it again. I begin the lesson with a video of a nuclear war between the US and North Korea that leads to the destruction of modern society. The class is forced to choose a new location to rebuild civilization and make choices about how to establish society. The song seems to pop into my head every time I think about the Build Your Own Civilization activity.
An activity we did in school was to look at songs of the Vietnam War Era. I remember reading through a song by Bob Dylan and other artists and having the ideas come to life in my head. I think there are so many opportunities to look at the actual words of a song and take time to ponder their meaning and why they were chosen. If you are like me you may have sung a song using incorrect words at some point in your life. Then you read the lyrics and realize -- wow that's what they were saying! Well words are chosen for a reason and depending on the song they can connect to real world events that students should explore in more detail. What songs can you dissect?
Revise or Rewrite
I used to break down the Middle Ages into a jigsaw activity where students would explore the impact of of different areas on society like the role of the Church, the Black Death, Feudalism, etc. Students worked in groups and had to present their information to the class. I required them to perform a short skit that depicted the most important concepts. Also write a song about their topic. I encouraged them to use the format of a Ballad like the Ballad of Roland, but found it to be difficult for some students so I allowed them to choose their genre. One that stands out the song "I'm Religious and I know it" - set to the song "I'm Sexy and I Know it" by LMAFO. I gave the students one final aspect of the project- if they felt they couldn't demonstrate their knowledge enough in the skit and song they could present an overview of the topic in 3rd format to help their classmates understand the topic.
Too often as teachers we choose the song, the activity, the method of presentation and how students will demonstrate learning. There needs to be choices involved with activities as well. I have been thinking about how to introduce the idea of analyzing lyrics and really digging into what the artist is trying to say or how it connects to a larger societal issue. I have listened to interviews with artists explain the inspiration for their songs and found them to be eye opening. Often not what I thought the song or a particular verse was about. I wonder if we introduce the idea of analyzing lyrics to students by giving them the choice of which song they want to dig into. Let them bring in a song of their choice and do the work on song they want to investigate.
When I was 7 Years Old
This song seems to be on replay on my Amazon Music, or I just can't get it out of my head. But the song instantly pops the image of a timeline activity in my mind. I wrote a post about this with a few alternative activities. When I was 7 Years Old I realize this is already a long post and want to keep each idea relatively short so please check out the post if you want to see more.
When I Look into the Eyes of My Brother
I heard this song recently and it really started me on a path to write a number of posts about music in the classroom. I am a visual person and had some ideas about what I think the song was about and how it could be used and then I saw the video and this changed my perception of what is possible. Here is the post on When I Look into the Eyes of My Brother.
Engage Student Talents
Teach the to Dance
When teaching students about the Roaring 20s, I came across a lesson that talk about the dance the Charleston. I decided it would be cool to try to teach my students this dance. Admittedly I had never done it so I turned to Youtube for help. We all worked on the steps and I recorded their dance competition on Vine. I was fortunate to have a really good group of students and they were willing to take a risk with me. I think expanding this to other eras and other dance styles could be amazing for students, and let's face it some of our students are already dancers on the dance team or otherwise and they could teach us. Let their talents shine.
I worked with students to create a presentation last year using a Google Slides template created by David Lee that looks like a museum. This is an amazing looking template. What really made this awesome was that a few students went home and recorded themselves playing a song that was used to turn a Google Presentation into a video. The students tapped into their own talents and created something special and memorable.
When I was in 8th grade my English teacher assigned us to create a radio program. We had to create our own commercials and program a list of songs. The cool thing was recording our own commercials and the planning of our hour long program. We didn't record all the songs for an hour just the commercials. I wonder if we could create an opportunity where students create radio programs from different eras. What music, commercials would have existed. I know we could do video projects, but remember it wasn't until the 1950s that we had television.
This might be a staple in many History Teacher's tool kit, and it could be either a great activity or a disservice to students. I will start with the disservice. When teachers use the jigsaw activity of having students research and create a presentation about a decade for the rest of the class as the main form of instruction about the time period this doesn't do justice to the time period or student learning. The decades closest to the present that are most likely to resonate with students is glossed over while we spend weeks on topics students struggle to see any relevance. I speak from experience and hope to make awesome projects for students.
I like the idea of exploring a time period especially when looking at the cultural, and human aspects. Too often history is explored from a global or ideological perspective instead of making connections to the individuals who lived them. What I enjoyed about doing a decades project was the exploration of the dress, food, and especially music. Our group made a video and included music of the time in our VHS masterpiece. I remember spending hours editing this video to create just the right final product and I was hooked by the sense of accomplishment. This helped unlock the door to the things that I do today.
How to make this academically awesome? First let kids use their talents and have choice in the final product. Second and maybe more important is -do not let this become- oh crap we are out of time and need to cover the last 40-50 years of history. This cannot be the only connection to the more modern era students have. Cut out other things in your curriculum that hinder you from getting to the modern era and always make connections to the modern era to help students see why they should care about history. History isn't about events it is about human behavior and the stories of individuals doing great things.
Please share your music lessons below
I have had a number of lesson ideas that have resulted from hearing a song, sometimes from the very first time I hear it, other times it is a song I have heard over and over again that just seems to resonate differently this time.
When driving home after running some errands for school I was listening to the radio when a song came on that I had never heard before, "When I look in the eyes of my enemy I see my brother." As I was driving I was envisioning a great social studies lesson. I remember reading "Citizen Soldier" by Stephen Ambrose that recounted the realities of war and history through the eyes of individual human beings.
The song had me seeing images of soldiers facing off, looking eye to eye and realizing they are more alike than different. It reminded me of the stories I have read about soldiers during conflict finding momentary lapses in hostilities to connect and learn about each other. To break down the walls of hatred. I began thinking about how to leverage this in a social studies lesson. How could I get students to explore some of the most important historic events through the eyes of the individuals and not as concepts most students in America cannot really relate to?
Then I watched the video and this changed. The first images are of people from various walks of life. Then you see a young girl who takes pictures of numerous people each time giving them a card. I was moved by the images as I listened to the words that made me see each of these unique individuals as special human beings. The music, lyrics and images are so powerful. They conjured up so many emotions and ideas about how to recreate this with students.
I began thinking about how to use this song and the idea of taking pictures of so many unique individuals in our community. But then the video pulls it all together. The cards the young lady handed each person she took a picture of brought them all together to an art exhibit. All of the pictures with a description were hanging in the room as the people who were in those images mingled, and learned about each other. It was a powerful experience.
How can we create this in our buildings? How can we create something like this for teachers in our buildings or better yet in our district? How can we create opportunities to build community within our own organization? How could we recreate this were students can create a gallery of their classmates. How could our art classes use this idea to create art exhibits? When I first saw the images I was thinking that they could include a QR code with a audio/video recording sharing information about the person, but the face to face was so much more powerful.
I have lots of questions about this song, but hope to add more answers to those questions as I spend more time with it. I would love to hear your ideas for using this song and music in general in your class. Please add comments.
My First ISTE and IGNITE Sessions
I attended my very first ISTE earlier this year. I have to start by saying that finding ISTE on Twitter a couple of years ago was a game changer for me. I followed the feed and feverishly bookmarked the links and favorited the tweets being shared by the amazing educators. I spent much of the rest of the summer checking out the links, connecting with the amazing educators who shared out, and changed the way I taught as a result. Well this year I made the transition from having my own social studies classroom to being a tech integrator and I owe a huge thank you to ISTE and the educators who help me learn about things I had never heard of. If not for that learning opportunity I wouldn't be where I am today.
My ISTE experience kicked off with an amazing IGNITE session. If you unfamiliar with IGNITE sessions they are 20 slides and 5 minutes with no animation, video or other supports. You are in the room that was set up for the key note. So picture the largest room you have ever seen add 2 of the biggest screens maybe short of Dallas Stadium I have ever seen and then add the pressure that the audience if filled with your peers. Oh and don't forget you are 1 of 15 amazing educators many of whom could be the keynote speaker and there you have an ignite session.
What made this IGNITE session so amazing? Besides being my first ever because that in itself makes it phenomenal, but add in the amazing pool of presenters and you have a powder keg of awesomeness. However that isn't the key ingredient of spectacular. What put it over the top for me was seeing a colleague Jon Spike @Mr_JSpike present his keynote on being a Karaoke Kid. He is such a humble person that he didn't tell the rest of us about his IGNITE session himself. I am continually struck by the awesome things my colleagues are doing, many times hidden from view. What I mean by this is many times educators don't advertise their efforts. They simply do great things as part of their every day existence.
Sorry for this little sidebar, but it was this presentation and then my experience the rest of the day that provided my ah ha moment and the reason for this post. Jon discussed ---- putting yourself out there- being a Karaoke kid-- Please take a few minutes and check out Jon's Ignite session. It was unique, it was entertaining, but most of all it has a message that resonates
My ISTE was filled with evenings of Karaoke. This was not in my plans when getting on the plane and leaving Wisconsin, however it seems fitting that this would be how the week would go. After watching Jon's Ignite, I started thinking about how I wanted students to view me? I wrote another post about Get up and Dance that talks more about that relationship. Jon's vision to me was able taking risks, having fun, doing things that might be unexpected, and knowing it's okay. This is something that some people in the world of education with High Stakes testing, Educator Effectiveness etc. might cringe at. What does he mean take risks, we are being told what to do and when to do it. This may seem to be the case, but you are still in control of what happens in your classroom. You get to decide if you want to make Fun Friday, or make Fun every day that ends in DAY! You can introduce GeniusHour or Genius YEAR! You decide how you engage with your students. You get to decide if you will be and allow your students to be a Karaoke Kid!
Otus Gathering- let the magic happen!
I am sharing these images from the Otus Gathering at ISTE- they created an amazing event with, you guessed it, Karaoke! I included images that I hope demonstrate my vision for this post, the risk taking, and support shown by complete strangers. It is not my intent in anyway to embarrass any person in the photos.
Karaoke and the Lessons of Life!
The message from Jon's Ignite of taking a risk and be daring for your students was already resonating with me, but then we went to the Otus Party and saw educators dressing up, (I did and there is a pic I just couldn't find it), jumping on stage, and signing and dancing whether on stage or not. Watching the interactions of these people, many who had just met this week, that day, or during the event were joining together to support each other and create an epic event. This got me thinking and led to my thought about how a Karaoke Jam Session could connect to education. Here goes:
What do we want our classrooms to look like? What do we want to be as educators? How do we want our students to feel about themselves while in our care? How can you create that learning environment where students are nurtured, challenged to be great, supported in failure and will never ever not even for a second not believe they matter!
As I watched the multitude of people jump on stage and sign, many very well, some made me think I could potentially get up there, I realized a few things. Those who were signing were taking a risk. They were likely getting out of their comfort zone. They were likely nervous and a little anxious about how well they would do, especially if they followed someone who could be on American Idol. I also watched the crowd, and if you look at the images, you see people clapping, singing, dancing along with the singers. You see that they were there supporting perfect strangers. I was among this group. I was having an amazing time no matter who was singing or how well they did. The crowd chanted, cheered, sang along to fill in the melody and threw their hands up. They did whatever it took to make the people on stage feel like they were a champion. I watched this go on performer after performer for hours. I saw the reaction by the crowd never waver in support. I can only imagine how amazing it must have felt for those on stage. And then a question hit me.
Do our classrooms look like this? Do our students feel this support in everything they do? If not why not? If not now, when? If not, what needs to change? How can we make that change? Can you do this alone, or do you need support? Who will you seek out to help? I do not ask these questions to call anyone out, but to rather broach the subject. Why would perfect strangers support people singing Karaoke at and educational conference but we don't always see this in our classrooms, faculty lounges, etc. We can do better!
It is time that we put kids first- we need to stop testing and start supporting them. We need to stop judging or labeling them and care about all of them. We need to embrace that education is not about content its about the person, the individual. It was No Child Left Behind, not we must teach every factoid. We aren't creating Ken Jennings to rock Jeopardy because Jeopardy is not our students reality. Don't prepare students for when they will be in the real world. They are in the real world! Students go home to a variety of living conditions. Some are nurtured, loved, accepted, many face a different reality. This is still the real world it is real to them, it is impacting them. It is impacting all of us. When they enter the doors of your school and your classroom will you embrace them as your student, your child and someone you are going to invest your time and talents into nurturing their abilities to see them grow and succeed, or do you see the multitude of labels our world places upon all of us. Where we come from, our circumstances, our mistakes and failures do not define who we are. It is how we respond to those shortcomings that do. Remember this when you deal with students. Be forgiving even if the person hasn't said they were sorry. teach them how to be problem solvers, inquiry driven individuals with a quest for learning and creation. Don't sell them short, don't sell yourself short. #YouMatter and your students matter most. Make sure you tell them and show them everyday that matter to you and to this world.
While at ISTE earlier this summer I went to a number of social events with co-workers, colleagues and just amazing people in general. Over the course of the five days in ISTE, we had opportunities to connect with so many people. I talked education, technology, and where to get the best Philly Cheesesteak in town. I have to admit if we didn’t find the best it wasn’t from lack of trying. My doctor would frown at my dietary choices. To the point, I was presented an opportunity to attend an amazing conference with thousands of passionate educators and there were so many choices I had to make each and everyday. Each would determine how my experience would unfold and what I would be able to take away from this opportunity. I could write about the laundry list of takeaways from ISTE, but I wanted to focus on one simple idea that stuck with me. Shut up and Dance!
A group of educators found ourselves at a social gathering where karaoke was rocking so loud we heard it from down the street. When we got there, a few in the group immediately signed up to sing. That is not something I do because I know I can’t sing. However I made the choice to dance- to get out on the floor and have fun. I knew there could be cameras there - this could be posted- this could be embarrassing- I danced in front of coworkers when I wouldn't do this in front of family members at a wedding. What is the difference between the two situations? I made a choice. Simple as that I made the decision to have fun, to dance to be part of something bigger than myself. I took the cues from those around me that this was a safe place to "let my hair down" and dance.
Listening to a great IGNITE presentation, and yes I might reference this a few times because I am thoroughly impressed by this young educator I have been able to work with over the past year, Jon Spike @Mr_JSpike. In his presentation he references the idea of being wild and crazy for the kids. To do things that are a little different and wild. This is an area in my life both in and outside of the classroom that I struggle with. Many times I put on my teacher suit that confined me to the persona of a professional. Now I am not saying that being a professional is negative, but in my case it meant building a wall between myself and my students. While I think we all have a border to maintain proper relationships, my wall was too often too tall and too think. Picture the Great Wall of China. It didn't allow me to show my students who I really am. I am someone who can relate to the quiet kid in the back of the room who knew the answer but was afraid to draw attention to themselves. I relate to the student who feels overwhelmed in math class but is afraid to ask questions because they don't want to feel stupid. I connect to the person who could be the class clown and someone who at times takes risks.
I was all of these people at the same time and yet only show my students one snapshot of me. Unfortunately, early in my career, I never took off my teacher suit in front of my students. I continued to let this wall stand between us. In the last ten years, but more honestly the last five or six I really began to make the transformation from my old rigid teacher suit to more of a leisure suit. A more flexible, hip, (at least I hope) and honest presentation of who I am. I am still a work in progress, but I am continuing to make the decision to connect with my students, get to know them, build relationships and grow.
I made the choice to dance. I hope you will too!
Let me preface this post with the same disclaimer as every other post I will ever write, I AM NOT AN EXPERT! Now that we have expectations in check, let's get this show on the road. I want to honor the idea for this post to a colleague on Twitter who had the idea to start a playlist for school to engage students. I am completely stealing the idea, however I have poured over my Twitter feed and have not been able to find the post for the idea that sparked my version. For those that may be so inclined to continue reading my posts, I hope you take away the fact that I am like the ancient Romans, I am not very inventive, but more like a pirate in acquiring and using resources. I maybe unlike the Romans, want to give credit to those who inspired my variation on the lesson, or idea.
Okay, so my legal department can now sleep easy that I have acknowledge the real creative forces out there, let's begin.
Oh you are still reading -- awesome! You must really be curious about music. I have found music to be a powerful force in my own life. It is amazing how it can transform your mood, inspire and motivate you to complete the exercise, help you concentrate, or express your ideas to others. Gone are the days with the 8 tracks and vinyl records. Yes I am old enough to remember both, so respect your elders. I also lived through the giant boomboxes that everyone stocked up on D batteries to carry around and blast your music. We witnessed the transition from tapes to CD's and now digital music. As these transitions happened, the portability of music increased. With the advent of the mp3 player students are more readily connected to music, but may also be more disconnected to their surroundings. Welcome to the 21st century where a phone is a mobile workstation and a portable stereo with limitless access to music anywhere anytime. Those are the technological changes that have sparked social changes. Students plugging in their ear-buds and tuning out those around them. When independent work time is given they immediate ask if they can listen to music. They want it, nay they crave it. And I completely get it. Music is an amazing path to escape into your own little world.
Wow! He just told us music is important to students, he must be a genius. Well no, not really, and no I am not trying to insult your intelligence, but rather set the stage for using what the students crave to your advantage. When you watch a movie the music pulls you to ramp up the excitement, feel the emotion of the main characters. The producers spend a lot of time choosing the right music to get those results. They want you to remember the events more vividly. The same could be done in a classroom setting. We can set a mood of excitement with high energy music, or grab students' attention with a short clip like at a football or basketball game. You could use it as a transition or as a timer. I plan to use it in some of these forms, but also to connect to my content. I think students pick the music they listen to many times because of the beat, the sound, the tempo, without always realizing what the song is about. Think about connecting to your content. In just the last two days I have a few ideas for lesson plans with music.
To give you a quick example, you can use a song that discusses discrimination or intolerance such as Everyday People, by Sly and the Family Stone, or more modern, Born This Way, by Lady Gaga., or one I will use and have a lesson plan for, Fishbowl by Kenny Chesney where he discusses the impact on our lives of social media and technology. Here is the lesson.
Another lesson I plan on creating is to have students look at the music being played at different times in history. What were people listening to during WWII, Vietnam, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars? What does this say about the impact of war on our society? Has it changed over time? Has war had an impact on the home-front? These are just a few things that have come to mind as I think about incorporating music into my classroom.
I have begun a music spreadsheet for the purpose of connecting to students. There are several tabs that have been created to separate the purpose of the songs. Please take a look, add your ideas, and take what you can use. Also add lesson ideas or class connections you can think of. This is a work in progress, but I know we can make our classrooms better through collaboration.
The inspiration for this post comes from several other educators who have shared their playlists, or ideas for music with me. I didn't invent the idea of using music as a hook or connection to students, I just decided this year to incorporate the ideas started by others, and implemented in my own manner. Please take a look at the google spreadsheet I created and share ideas or comments you have as well as steal anything people share to better enrich your lessons and your connections to your students.
Credits for this post - I included the link to their post in their name.
Michael K. Milton @think42
Josh Gauthier @mrgfactoftheday
DDEUBEL'S BLOG - 50 Ways to incorporate music into the classroom
Here is some research supporting music in the classroom:
John Hopkins University
There were others that I looked at in my quest, but unfortunately I did not do a good job chronicling all of the sites that I found useful to help me in my journey to use more music.