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Using music and multisensory learning to engage students


Like most of FNietzscheriedrich Nietzsche’s philosophies, his thoughts on music were both thought provoking and extreme: “Without music, life would be a mistake.” Whether or not you agree with our Deutsche friend, it is true that music has a profound and transformational impact on human identity. It is also true that music is a great way to liven up your classroom and incorporate multisensory learning into your activities.

Although tradition—as opposed to scientific data—has influenced many educators to set academic information to music (think about the way you learned the ABCs), research does suggest that it works. In his book, A Teacher’s Guide to Multisensory Learning, Lawrence Baines cites scholarly research that rather convincingly suggests that music-infused classrooms positively impact students’ reading comprehension, vocabulary acquisition and pronunciation.

In our last post, we talked a bit about arts integration. We’d like to continue the discussion by offering a few ideas for how you might incorporate music and multisensory learning into your lesson plans.

Multisensory Learning Activity: The Film Score

  • After your students read a novel or short story, explain to them that there’s good news: The novel has been adapted for the big screen and they are responsible for scoring five of the film’s scenes.

  • You’ve already selected five songs, typed up the lyrics to songs that aren’t instrumental and handed them out to the studeconductor handsnts.

  • Before you play each song, you should spend some time (it would be best if this was done the day before the activity) going over some basic music terminology.  For example, do they understand tone, dissonance, consonance and tempo? You don’t want to bog them down with technical jargon, but you do want to equip them with some necessary language so that they know what to listen for and how to articulate what they hear.

  • Play each song and have your students takes notes on what they hear. You may need to replay some of the tracks.

  • Next, put your students into groups of four. Assign a “secretary” to each group—s/he will be the note taker who is responsible for jotting down the group’s conclusions—and ask them to collectively decide which song should be paired with which scene in the novel. Explain to them that they must write persuasively about their decision by telling the reader (you) what they heard and why it suits the tone, plot, dialogue, language, etc., of the scene they’ve paired it with.

  • Come back together as a class and have each group discuss their conclusions.

If you want to get fancy, you can take this activity a step further and have your students choose contemporary actors, actresses and directors for this film adaptation. The idea, of course, is for them to write persuasively about their choices and use textual support to bolster their argument.




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