We can all learn something from this creative mind

By on July 7, 2014

Last week we featured a few ways Nani Bullock--a K-3 music teacher--uses comprehension skills to teach her students how to read sheet music. This week, we are happy to share a few more examples of how Nani Bullock uses literacy skills to teach her kids how to read music. Our hope is that non-core content are teachers can make connections to Nani's classroom practice and begin to see how they can use literacy skills to teach their subject matter.

Investigative Reading

I adapted this skill for listening activities and called it Investigative Listening. I introduce one “building block of music” at a time such as rhythm, tempo, melody, instruments (tone color), form, dynamics, etc. I play several samples of music and students “investigate” what they hear in the music. I begin doing this in a whole group and progress to partners and small groups. Students write down what they hear and any questions they may have.
Nani Bullock
Nani Bullock

After students are confident in investigating the different music building blocks in several samples of music (usually over a few months of practicing for a few minutes in one class per week), I divide them into small groups to investigate multiple building blocks in one music listening sample. Here are the procedures:

  1. They listen to the music with their eyes closed and no writing materials or talking for the first time. We call this SQUILT or Super Quiet Un-Interrupted Listening Time.
  2. Next, they use whiteboards and draw a graphic organizer. (Our district is moving towards going paperless.)
  3. Each student in the group takes a turn to ask the rest of the group an investigative question about the music using the building blocks we’ve studied in class as a guide while the music is played repeatedly in the background. This enables them to refer back to the “text” for evidence.
  4. They write the question or building block in a section of their graphic organizer and discuss answers before writing them down on their whiteboards.
  5. I assess student answers by taking photos and grading them later which allows me to walk around and monitor discussions. It also allows me to upload their answers to an electronic portfolio where I can track growth over time.

I did this with my 2nd grade classes using Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Säens, but with a little twist. After they investigated each song from the large work, they used their answers as clues to infer what animal/object was represented by the music. I shared the answers after everyone completed the activity. The students had a lot of fun and also improved their listening and evaluating skills throughout the year.

Previewing and Predicting, Analyzing Visuals, and Analyzing Structure

I often use listening maps to guide students while listening to a piece of instrumental music. I did this with both 1st and 2nd grades at a basic level. After each student has a copy of a listening map (which is also projected on the smart board), I first have them preview and predict what they think is going to happen in the music. Students look for patterns and analyze what each different graphic representation might sound like. For instance, small footprints might represent soft, short, tip toe sounds in the song. Next, students listen to the music while following the listening map. They then discuss if their predictions were correct and how each graphic representation related to the music using evidence from the music. Finally, students discuss as a whole class if the listening map was effective. Were they able to follow it without getting lost? Did the map accurately represent the music they heard? Was there anything that was confusing? Was there anything they would change?

I also had students analyze the structure of the music (form) after completing the above activities. Students identified the same and different patterns in the music using the listening map as a guide after which I reviewed what “form” means in music. Students then used whiteboards to identify the form of the piece using either shapes or letters. They shared their answers with a partner and discussed how they knew their answer was correct by using evidence from both the listening map and audio recording. I then had them share answers with the whole class before going over the correct answers using a projected copy of the listening map while playing the recording again, stopping it at each new section and discussing if it was the same as a previous section or different. I wrote the answers on the whiteboard and students double-checked their answers for accuracy. Finally, students discussed what was easy and/or hard about the activity and what strategies could be used next time. I successfully did these activities with both my 1st and 2nd grades using music and listening maps appropriate for each grade level.

For my kindergarten classes, students analyzed structure using songs containing verses and refrains. I introduced “verse” and “refrain” and the class discussed their meanings and listened to sample recordings to practice identifying the differences. I used Down by the Bay as my first listening sample and had students stand during the refrain and sit down on the verses. I then guided students in transferring their standing and sitting actions to writing the pattern of the music (form) using shapes drawn on the whiteboard. Eventually, students were independently able to identify the verses and refrain of a variety of songs using their own whiteboards.

LiteracyTA is grateful for Nani's work and happy she decided to share it with us and our community of inspired educators.

Interested in sharing your experiences with our community of educators? Have you had success with skills on LiteracyTA? Join the conversation below or send us your stories and we share them in our weekly eCoach.

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Literacy Standards In Action

We've mapped our literacy lessons and reading, speaking, and writing skills to state standards, Common Core, and NGSS. The standards are "the what" to teach. Our lessons are "the how" to meet the expectations defined by the standards. Click on the links below to view our quick reference table that maps standards to literacy lessons.

Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and large portions of the text relate to each other and the whole.
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