The University of St. Thomas


Knutson, Sandra

Knutson, Sandra

Making Curriculum Connections Integrating Elementary Classroom Music and Language Arts
Sandra J. Knutson

Researchers are beginning to uncover the mysteries of how the human brain processes and integrates information. Music’s effect on sensory integration has received some notable attention in recent years. The positive findings about music learning, especially in early childhood, have sparked some schools, businesses, and states to propose and implement programs that specifically integrate music skills and activities to promote thinking skills.

Research suggests that students retain more information when there is stimulation on both sides of the brain. This is accomplished through multisensory types of experiences. Elementary music classes meet this criteria through their moving, speaking, singing, playing, and listening activities. This capstone project explored the integrated learning environment created by combining components of elementary music education with language arts.

The purpose of this project was to explore ways to develop a collaborative effort with elementary classroom teachers, and to stimulate and enhance learning in the music classroom by involving students in creative musical-linguistic exploration. The project involved a review of literature in the areas of curriculum integration, sensory (brain) integration, and the effects of combining skills in the areas of elementary music education and language arts.

As a result of this project, it is recommended that music teachers interested in curriculum integration opportunities begin on a small scale, within their own classrooms. As music teachers become ready to try curriculum integration with another teacher, the following guide is recommended: (a) develop a rapport with other interested teachers, (b) make time to compare curricular content or processing skills that are compatible in both subject areas, (c) make meaningful, natural connections between subject areas, (d) explore options and designs for curriculum integration keeping in mind your rationale for doing the project, (e) set up and carry out the project, allowing time for reflection and adaptation throughout, and, upon completion of the project, (f) all teachers and students involved should evaluate the project to determine its overall worthiness and effectiveness.

This project offers one way of combining facets of language arts and music into a unit for the elementary music teacher and classroom teacher. The project is geared to a second grade level but could be adapted for other elementary grades as well. A selection of planning and evaluating tools, twelve music lessons, and list of resources to develop this project further are included.

Some interdisciplinary connections may seem contrived or devoid of any musical thinking. Teachers are cautioned to make sure rhythmic and melodic patterns are not used simply to help students memorize reading or mathematical facts and figures. Interdisciplinary projects or lessons that preserve the integrity of music education lead to a richer educational experience and an increase in motivation among students and teachers involved.

Capstone Advisor
Dr. Wendy Barden