If there’s one art form capable of directly engaging teenagers in immediate conversation, it’s music. Music is embedded in teens’ DNA. They absorb music. They react to music. They respond to music. It’s only logical then to recognize the abundance of support for the use of music in the teaching of language arts and literacy. It might be difficult to get all your students to create original music or songs, but it’s easy to get students to make connections between class content and the music world. As such, music has the power to enhance the understanding of content, enrich teaching situations, and to connect existing curriculum to students’ lives.
We know students work best when they share ownership of class content. Music is perhaps the easiest way to share that ownership. Sitomer (2009) asserts that to “validate a student’s music, you validate the student and conversely, to devalue a student’s music is to risk devaluing the student.” Music allows students the opportunity to express their ideas and emotions in a way that they best understand. This process invites students to participate and build community. Embracing a student’s music encourages access of the student’s personal life into the content.
Music also allows teachers to set the context and tone for the exploration of a topic. Music provides the sensation of hearing appropriate music of the time period of a novel or historical period as well as directly experiencing the sources of a time period. Additionally, allowing students to make their own selections of contemporary music encourages their voice in explaining how they perceive the content being studied. Music provides students with an outlet to express themselves as well as the context needed to understand or empathize with a setting, character, or concept studied in English language arts.
As best said by Burenheide & Goering (2010), “Music is universal and motivational. Motivation leads to engagement and engagement leads to achievement.” In creating a classroom culture where students’ music, ideas, and opinions are highly valued, my students are definitely more connected, motivated and engaged in the curriculum.