The Elements of the Music Curriculum
Playing instruments, dancing, singing, listening to music, composing, and improvising is usually associated with the music curriculum and classes. However, these activities as the key elements of the music curriculum can be actively applied in different classrooms without any dependence on the subject. The focus on the listed activities is essential not only for developing skills in music but also for improving students’ knowledge and abilities in different areas because music activities provide individuals with opportunities to enhance their listening skills, attention, reading, memorizing, and even writing among other aspects.
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It is possible to support the idea that listening to music, singing, and dancing can be used in any classroom. The reason is that listening to music develops students’ skills in recognizing and memorizing words, pronouncing, and audition. As a result, their skills in listening, speaking a foreign language, and reading aloud can improve significantly. Moreover, the results in writing dictations can also improve after using listening to instrumental music and songs. Singing can be used for developing abilities in pronouncing unfamiliar words and memorizing large parts of texts. The technique of using songs is applied when teaching different subjects, and it is attractive to young children. As a consequence, students usually demonstrate better results when performing from memory. Dancing develops individuals’ coordination, attention, as well as the focus on rhythm and tempo. These skills are important when working in laboratories. Therefore, these elements are often used in various curricula in addition to the music one.
However, some activities are difficult to be applied while teaching subjects other than music, but they are selected by educators when they want to achieve certain goals using non-traditional methods. For instance, playing instruments is important when it is necessary to develop the motor skills required for improving handwriting or working with small objects during workshops. Composing and improvising are important when it is essential to develop students’ skills in understanding sequences of sounds and following rhythmic patterns. Thus, these key elements of the music curriculum allow educators to make their class activities more personalized and interesting to students. While focusing on an unusual format of a learning activity, students memorize more facts and improve their knowledge.
Still, there are also difficulties in using these major elements in different curricula:
- the lack of resources and appropriate materials;
- the lack of skills in educators to organize singing, dancing, and playing instruments with the focus on the course or unit goals;
- students’ unwillingness to participate in these activities because of the lack of motivation.
Thus, educators need to pay much attention to organizing the work of students to encourage them to participate in music activities and select the most appropriate resources to achieve the set lesson or unit goals. From this perspective, applying the listed techniques, educators expect to achieve course goals with the focus on unique methods that work to increase students’ attention and involvement in processes. Moreover, students’ overall intellectual and motor skills also develop as a result of using music at lessons.
Integrating Music into the Curriculum
The Way We Were
During the lesson about aboriginal people in Australia, children learn how to pronounce the names of animals and birds in aboriginal dialects.
- The teacher names different aboriginal people’s dialects.
- The teacher demonstrates images of animals and birds, pronounces their names in different dialects: Ngurran: Dingo (Kamilaroi); Koo-wark: Kookaburra (Wathaurong); Yonga: Kangaroo (Nyoongar); Bäru: Crocodile (Gupapyngu).
- Students listen to the song “True Blue Wonders” and clap when they hear the names of animals or birds in indigenous languages (BeatBoppers, 2008).
- Students sing and repeat the names of animals with the performer.
- After singing, students name animals and birds in indigenous languages while looking at pictures.
During the lesson about aboriginal people, children learn traditions, including dances.
- The teacher explains what dances are used by aboriginal people and what they mean.
- The teacher explains and demonstrates what movements were used by aboriginal people to demonstrate their gratitude, fear, happiness, or anxiety among other feelings and emotions.
- Students watch the aboriginal crane dance and listen to the teacher’s explanation regarding its elements and meaning (Roco43, 2008).
- Students are organized in groups to imitate the elements of the crane dance.
- After dancing, students share their impressions regarding the dance and their feelings.
Living in Communities
In the context of the topic “Celebrations,” students learn about Australia Day.
- Students have been asked to memorize the words of the first verse of the anthem.
- Students listen to the Australian National Anthem, concentrate on the melody and words (MVFCHighlighters, 2010).
- Students explain what they feel when listening to the anthem.
- While participating in school celebrations dedicated to Australia Day, students can sing the anthem.
Students visit a local museum and focus on exhibited music instruments.
- The teacher describes the history of using a didgeridoo in the community.
- Students have an opportunity to look at the instrument, touch it, and listen to a musician playing the didgeridoo.
- Students focus on the vibrations created with the help of this wind instrument.
In the context of the topic “Global Communication,” students learn what musical instruments are played widely.
- Students are told that, even if people from different parts of the world do not know foreign languages, they understand the language of music.
- The teacher informs students regarding different traditional or national musical instruments.
- Students in groups are provided with tambourines, tom-tom drums, castanets, wrist bells, cymbals, and maracas to form a band, create the melody and a rhythmic pattern, and perform their variant of the composition “Friendship without Borders.”
Learning the topic “Immigration,” students focus on national dances.
- Students in groups choose the national dance typical of immigrants from their community.
- Students prepare a story about the history of this dance, its meaning, and the popularity in Australia and worldwide.
- Groups of students organize the performance during which they inform the class about the selected dance and demonstrate its elements.
Aboriginal People’s Dances
- Level: Stage 1
- Students will be able to describe aboriginal dances that were spread and popular in Australia;
- Students will learn how to move while dancing like aboriginal people when following a certain rhythm;
- Students will become able to coordinate their movements when dancing as a group.
- Learning outcomes:
- Teaching materials: A projector, 2 music speakers, the YouTube video “Australian Aboriginal Crane Dance” (Roco43, 2008), pictures with dance movements.
- Clear the space in the middle of a classroom to provide students with opportunities to dance.
- Explain what dances aboriginal people had or have and what they mean while demonstrating pictures. Show what movements were often used to reveal people’s gratitude, fear, happiness, or anxiety among other feelings and emotions while using pictures and demonstrations.
- Use the projector to present the aboriginal crane dance and explain its specific elements and meaning. To make all students interested, it is necessary to ask questions about the most unique dance movements and their meaning before starting the demonstration.
- Students watch the video (Roco43, 2008).
- Students are organized in groups to repeat dance movements after watching the video while focusing on the pictures shown by the teacher.
- Each group tries to imitate dance movements in rotation while following the music rhythm and coordinating their moves.
- Assessment: Students are asked to share their impressions regarding the dance and their feelings about dancing together. The teacher’s observations regarding performing required movements and following the rhythm are presented and used for the assessment.
- Liks to other subjects: n/a
The Australian National Anthem
- Level: Stage 2
- Students will be able to recognize the melody and words of the Australian National Anthem;
- Students will be able to sing the Australian National Anthem in tune.
- Learning outcomes:
- Teaching materials: A projector, 2 music speakers, the YouTube video “The Official Full Version of the Australian National Anthem with Lyrics” (MVFCHighlighters, 2010), copies of lyrics.
- Students have memorized the words of the Australian National Anthem in advance, and now they are provided with copies of lyrics to use them when singing.
- Discuss the role of Australia Day for the nation and tell the history of creating the anthem.
- Students watch the YouTube video and listen to the anthem while focusing on the melody and words (MVFCHighlighters, 2010).
- Ask students to share their emotions after listening to the anthem and describe their feeling regarding the melody. If some students do not share their emotions, it is important to ask them directly and stimulate their interest in a conversation.
- Clear the space in the middle of a classroom and organize students to stand in rows like they will stand when participating in school celebrations dedicated to Australia Day.
- Organize students’ singing the anthem with the focus on such aspects and concepts as rhythm, pitch, and tune.
- Assessment: Individual students and groups of students are observed to sing in tune with the focus on rhythm, pitch, and tune. The teacher reports how individual students participate in singing.
- Liks to other subjects: n/a
Playing Music Instruments
- Level: Stage 3
- Students will be able to play different traditional music instruments like a band;
- Students will be able to perform accurately and focus on such aspects as rhythm and structure;
- Students will be able to effectively coordinate their movements and rhythm to play in tune.
- Learning outcomes:
- Teaching materials: A projector, 2 music speakers, videos on traditional music instruments from different countries, pictures representing traditional and national music instruments, 2 tambourines, 2 tom-tom drums, 4 castanets, 6 wrist bells, 4 cymbals, and 6 maracas.
- Provide students with a background on the role of music as the international language in the world for global communication.
- Organize watching videos on traditional music instruments from different regions of the world.
- Using pictures demonstrating these instruments, ask students to name them and the country of their origin.
- Clear the space in the middle of the classroom to provide students with an opportunity to play instruments.
- Demonstrate such instruments as tambourines, tom-tom drums, castanets, wrist bells, cymbals, and maracas and show students how to use them to get this or that sound and follow a certain rhythm.
- Students are organized into groups and provided with the instruments and learn how to use them and produce sound under the teacher’s guidance.
- Students are asked to form a band and create the melody and a rhythmic pattern for the composition that can be named as “Friendship without Borders.”
- Students in groups (“bands”) perform their short compositions that are based on a simple rhythmic pattern while using tambourines, tom-tom drums, castanets, wrist bells, cymbals, and maracas.
- Assessment: Observations regarding students’ ability to play instruments and follow the rhythm and melody while performing in a band should be reported to provide children with the required feedback.
- Liks to other subjects: n/a
BeatBoppers. (2008). Australian children’s song – True blue wonders. Web.
MVFCHighlighters. (2010). The official full version of the Australian National Anthem with lyrics. Web.
Roco43. (2008). Australian aboriginal crane dance. Web.