We’ve seen this play out with our students. Certainly, they’re having fun, but they tell us how easy it is to write an essay now after using the tool to record the content because the information is right there, stuck in their heads like an earworm. Some of our students are using this music tool to earn higher test grades because they’re recalling what they memorized much better.
Groups of three are optimal
We put our students in groups of three; the group dynamic has its own obvious benefits. One student might record a beat, the next one record the song over it and the third could sing the lyrics they’ve written. Or some sing together and there’s often one “tech person” in the group who will save the results, do the uploading, share with the teacher, and perform other tasks. In the midst of all this, students are also getting a healthy dose of the so-called four C’s — critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.
Also see: 7 ways schools can get creative with STEAM
Our program grabs students via the creative aspect of writing and performing music while still supporting our educational goals. For example, if we use this digital tool in a history class about World War I, the teacher would talk about concepts like militarism and nationalism in class. Then, the students use their computers to research the possible causes of the war, and create a song about it. It’s teaching them, but in a different way that holds their attention.
Engagement, rather than poor behavior
Whenever I come into a classroom to do a creative music lesson in comparison to traditional pen and paper lessons, the kids are all engaged and everybody wants to participate. This includes the students who rarely raise their hand, don’t pay attention, or even misbehave. We’ve had great results in both schools, but particularly in the Title 1 school because those kids particularly relate to music. Our students there have a great love of rap music, and they relish the chance to create their own beats and lyrics. These kids are performers who love to get up and present their creations. For them, it’s also a confidence builder and a way to prove that they have what is takes to be successful in school.
I’ve worked with many digital tools that exploit various creative areas but the focus on music has been the kids’ favorite. By comparison, I’ve taught graphic design using online poster-making software based on their class content but I don’t get the same engagement that happens when the medium is music.
An extension, not replacement, of regular lesson plan
Naturally, pen-and-paper lessons are still a key part of the curriculum, but we’ve found that having lessons like this using music once a week or every other week is crucial. Without effective digital tools, teachers will lose the kids, so tapping into their creativity and interests using music as the medium is a powerful instructional technique. Most people have an innate response to musicality in its many forms so tapping into the basic response to music makes the learning of content so much more effective.
Ed. note: For more on the author’s story, see the video below.