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Saturday, May 11, 2019

Making Musical Stories With Picture Prompts | The Learning Network - The New York Times

Every day of the school year, The Learning Network publishes a Picture Prompt, an accessible, image-driven prompt that invites a variety of kinds of writing. In this Reader Idea, Meghan Mardus, an elementary music teacher at St. George’s School in Cologne, Germany, uses these prompts to inspire a different kind of activity — musical storytelling.

Music Is Storytelling by Meghan Mardus

Meghan Mardus’s students pose with their instruments, image prompt and story worksheet.
Photo: Meghan Mardus
As a teacher, I collect further qualifications the way other people collect artwork — thoughtfully, and with appreciation for how each one enriches my perspective. I am qualified to teach in all age divisions; I have been a class teacher, a French teacher and a special-education teacher, and I’ve loved them all. However, I have found my ultimate teaching “happy place” in my current position as an elementary music teacher.

Each of my teaching assignments has informed the next, resulting organically over the years in a very cross-curricular teaching philosophy. Music lends itself incredibly well to cross-curricular connections: Breathing exercises teach anatomy; counting beats is number sense; determining note values is working with fractions; moving to music is dance; the history of music is the history of a culture. Music is patterns. Music is language. Music is current events. Music is poetry. Give me a subject and I’ll show you how it connects to music.

Which leads me to the activity I designed for my second- and third-graders at the British international school where I teach in Cologne, Germany: Telling stories with music.

For the past month, they had been learning to play a variety of percussion instruments in their weekly lessons. Now, it was time for them to work together to create something all their own. I wanted to step back and let them explore...

An important aspect of the project was writing down their musical plan in the space beside each sentence. The goal was not to simply improvise, but to create something and rehearse it. Who would read each sentence? Who would play which instrument and when? In the final five minutes of rehearsal, I gave them my usual reminder: Know how you begin and how you end. Even if a performance falls apart in the middle, having a clear ending in mind helps the performers be successful and helps the audience know when to applaud.

Source: The New York Times