The purpose of this study was to discover which musical activities early adolescents would choose most often and find most motivating given individualized choices. This study included the design and implementation of musical materials and activities based on a combination of Montessori principles, the Kodály approach, and early adolescent motivational theory. A review of literature examined and compared Kodály and Montessori approaches to child development and music education. As well, the literature on early adolescent development and music education was consulted.
A total of 54 fifth and sixth graders were involved in this four-month study. Students met for one hour every third school day. The hour consisted of 30 minutes of large group instruction and 30 minutes of individualized work with materials developed and collected. Materials were developed for this study based on a Kodály sequence of conscious concepts, a flow chart of musical activities from a Montessori classroom, and the school district’s curriculum outline. Musical concepts were organized into a yearly plan of instruction. Materials and activities were developed and organized in four main categories: 1) listening and responding, 2) reading and notation, 3) creating and 4) composing, and performing on instruments. These materials and activities were implemented in the classroom through careful preparation of the environment, detailed lesson planning, and the use of various teaching strategies.
To determine the level of student motivation, students recorded their choices of materials, as well as other comments, in student journals. Each day, students identified in their journals which activities they had used or observed, what they had learned, and what they wanted to do in the next class. As teacher, I also maintained written records of my own observations.
The findings indicated that students preferred performing on instruments and listening to music; they chose reading and notation materials and composing activities less often. Most students enjoyed the opportunity to freely move about the room and choose their own activities. They seemed very motivated to work with their peers and help each other, and many students appeared to be motivated by the challenge of the activities and the opportunity to develop musical skills.
This study includes recommendations for general music teachers who work with early adolescents, Montessori classroom teachers or music specialists, and music teachers who use the Kodály approach. Several recommendations for further research in the area of student motivation are included.