Literacy: Beyond the Textbook By Elizabeth Hayes

Being a music education major, it is not uncommon to feel like the literacy strategies I am being taught have no real application in my future band room. That being said, I am in the field where it is arguably most important that I incorporate literacy strategies to legitimize my classroom and the importance of music in education. It is my job to not only make sure that my students are learning, but also to make sure that parents and administration can see that learning and the lifelong benefits of participating in music. My epiphany this semester was that literacy is a huge part of music education and can be incorporated easily in many non-text based ways. The following is only a few examples of my application of literacy in a performance-based band class.

Set Music Reading Goals for Each Concert Cycle

Although the pieces we play in band are not the curriculum, they play a huge part. The pieces we play are the means through which we teach and refine music concepts. In band, we read on a daily basis, but it is a different, symbolic-based language. Instead of reading aloud and deciphering the meaning, we play the music and have to come to a unison understanding of how to interpret and perform the music. Elementary and junior high band focuses more on learning the basics on holding and playing the instrument. Once the students progress to high school, the teacher can dig more into basic musicianship and music making. Setting goals in reading music can be a very simple way to incorporate literacy. The teacher could have a pretest and post-test to show very straight forward data and growth. Goals set could be reading music in new keys (incorporating scales, sharps and flats, tonal centers, etc.), music with different expressive markings (allegro, andante, ritardando, etc.), music with new rhythmic patterns (32nd notes, triplets, dotted eighth and a sixteenth note, etc.), music written in different meters (cut time, compound meters such as 7/8 or 5/4, etc.) and so much more. These concepts can be incorporated into warm-ups to isolate the new concept and then put back into context in the concert piece.

Setting Goals in Musicianship Skills

Band classrooms are unique in the sense that there are at least 10 different instruments with even more parts being played at the same time during class. This can make it difficult to teach to the entire class when they may have separate goals from instrument to instrument and part to part. Basic musicianship skills are the basic skills that any instrumentalist needs to build to progress in their playing ability. Many teachers may not want to "waste time" on elements such as these because they have a concert to prepare for, but in the long run, taking time to enhance these skills will save the director time in rehearsal. Another great aspect about setting musicianship goals is that they can not only be generalized for the entire class, but it is also easy to identify different tiers of achievement that should be reached for Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. That way, each student is getting a more individualized learning experience even after being in band for several years. For example, learning scales is a very effective way to gain skill on an instrument and improve playing ability on concert pieces in the corresponding key. Freshman may be required to learn all 12 scales and the chromatic scale in one octave, Sophomores all 12 natural minor scales in one octave, Juniors all 12 scales and the chromatic scale in 2 octaves, and Seniors all 12 minor scales in all three forms in 2 octaves. Is sounds like a lot, but when broken up into quarterly goals with written tests and playing tests at the end of each quarter, it is a very practical way to show growth and literacy on their instrument.

Setting Goals in Music Theory and Music Appreciation

While the main goal in band is often the upcoming concert, music theory and appreciation are an equally important part in music education. It is rare for high schools to offer these classes, and even more rare that student enroll in them due to time constraints. In the long run, learning about other aspects of music can help improve the overall performance of a piece. When you understand what role you play in a chord, you can more appropriately tune, and when you know what time period the piece you are playing is from, you can more accurately interpret the articulation and dynamic markings to match the style in which it was meant to be performed. Simple daily or weekly exercises in these areas can make a great impact on a student's musicianship. Music theory has a very direct relation to math. It is more straight forward with rules and "right and wrong answers." A class could start with small in-class and homework activities and move to annotation of the pieces being played in class. Music appreciation is a version of music history and can be treated as any history class. This would be a great time to read articles and text and use literacy strategies that incorporate discussion, allowing students to decipher the meaning behind a piece or the purpose the composer was attempting to fulfill.

Allowing Students to Create

Too often students sit in band and the teacher just tells them what to do and what not to do. Music is a subject where creativity is embedded quite obviously, yet we don't allow our students to express and create. Creativity projects can be a chance for the students to show their knowledge of music writing, music theory, and even music appreciation in some circumstances. Composition projects, small or large, with no constraints to several, are a fantastic way to let students shine. They'll probably enjoy getting to express themselves and we can even have a student recital where their pieces are played. It really is exhilarating having your music come to life. Another way to let students have a little freedom is to give them a chance to conduct. It can start with basic lessons in conducting patterns to group projects where students are given a piece and a score and have to set goals, determine a rehearsal plan, and prepare, conduct, and perform a piece.

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.