Music in Instruction

Students of all ages are surprised when their instructors introduce a popular song to the learning environment.  Music stimulates areas of the brain that normally snooze along during a standard text or lecture driven lesson.  Any music will work- old, new, traditional etc- but it must be used with purpose.  Here is a recent Prof Hacker post with some inspiring uses for specific popular music, but you can probably think of connections between the music you enjoy and your content area.  Here are a few ideas; can you add your own to the list?

1. Analyze lyrics for a theme that is relevant to the learning objective.  Remember themes are universal.  Shakespeare was writing about the same issues that Keisha writes about today.  All that really changes is context.

2. Game changing music.  What bands or artists broke the mold and innovated, forever changing their genre or sub-genre? This historical perspective translates over into many other curricular areas.  Use this concept as a bridge into the “game-changers” of psychology or biology.  Who changed the face of micro-biology research and how?

3. Provide a backdrop. Does your lesson focus on the history or background of your topic?  Maybe today you’re exploring the history of criminal justice.  Did a ‘battle-cry’ emerge in popular music during a particular era or decade? Is music a way to express perceived injustice?

4. Language, Writing, Reading.  Many courses have an emphasis on literacy skills, and the connections between music and literacy are so blatant that I almost hesitate to point them out.  Many lesson objectives can be accomplished by pointing to literary elements in the lyrics, tone or body of work from a particular artist. Music can teach vocabulary, metaphor, storytelling, poetry, theme, and more.

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