Music Connections Beth Halbert, Mt. Juliet High School, Mt. Juliet, Tennessee

Music Connections
Beth Halbert, Mt. Juliet High School, Mt. Juliet, Tennessee
The 2006 WTWP Summer Institute was full of music. I believe I recall a visit by
Johnny Mathis. There was the music coming through the wall from the Governor’s
School class next door. Nancy Warden invited us to write about music because, as she
said, “everyone can connect to music.” Since Blair Chadwick was in my writing
response group, I got to hear a lot of writing about music and do lots of talking about
music. I found over the summer that I enjoyed having all this music around.
My classroom inquiry project, therefore, included using music in my Advanced
Placement class to teach tone, diction, syntax, selection of details and figurative
language. I also ended up incorporating music in my honors and regular classes as well.
Near the beginning of the semester, all of my students wrote their music life
histories. Nancy was right. Everyone can connect with music. Not one student
complained of having “nothing to write about.” One student wrote about listening to
country music in her grandfather’s pickup truck. Many wrote about bands I had never
heard of like Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie. A few wrote about playing
I also used music to teach those AP terms that I originally had in mind, especially
tone. We had a great couple of days listening to music and thinking of words to describe
the tone. Just as there had been when we were writing about music, the classes were
energetic and fun. Everyone was engaged, writing, and talking.
Just last week I was struggling with a way to introduce the concepts of
transcendentalism to my eleventh grade American Literature classes. I came across an
idea on the internet of using music. I made a soundtrack to play one day in class that
included songs like Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful
World,” and Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up.” Then the students brought in their own
examples of music with transcendental themes and wrote a learning letter about
transcendentalism. Most of theme remarked in their letters that they had no idea what
transcendentalism was (even after talking about it and reading the selections in the
textbook for several days) until they had the chance to listen to the music.
We began the process of classroom inquiry in the summer institute with
“wondering.” We “wondered” what would happen if…. I wondered at the summer
institute what would happen if there was more music in my classroom. I learned that
music helps build a community atmosphere in the classroom and can make tough
concepts more accessible.