The purpose of this study was to develop a model to help fifth-grade music students connect the skills and concepts learned in their general music class with those learned in their instrumental performance group. This model included a plan by which teachers of general music and beginning band can identify overlapping or similar musical concepts and performance skills between the two classes. The end result was a course of study that allowed general music class and beginning band to be taught separately, but with common objectives.
There were several reasons why I wanted to develop a more integrated approach to the study of music in the fifth grade. First, students in the upper elementary grades seem to be losing interest in school in general, and music class in particular. However, when given the opportunity to apply concepts they are learning in general music to their band instruments, they show renewed interest because playing an instrument is something they are newly motivated to do. Second, collaboration in the planning between the two classes gave focus to both of them and maximized the time allowed for music as a whole. Third, learning that builds on prior knowledge or connects with other aspects of learning can be beneficial and helpful to students in their overall understanding of music.
The literature review covered a range of topics pertinent to upper elementary general music, beginning band, and suggested ways to help students understand the interrelationship between the concepts and skills learned in the two classes. Comprehensive Musicianship was discussed as an example of integrating many facets of music education.
Two basic areas for creating connections were explored in the course of the project: planning for student learning and the use of similar teaching techniques for both classes. A planning grid was developed for determining the skills and concepts that overlap between general music and band. The overlapping skills and concepts were then targeted for evaluation. In order to give non-band students the opportunity to apply the concepts on an instrument, sessions were planned for these students to work on classroom instruments. In the end, a course of study for the entire school year was outlined, giving unit planning grids, lists of material for both classes, ideas for evaluation, and a sample lesson plan for one week of each unit.
The benefits of helping to make connections in student learning make these ideas applicable to all music teachers. Whether they simply make sure that counting systems are compatible or collaborate on objectives for their classes, their students can benefit by making learning connections across the music curriculum.