This study focuses on developing and implementing a unit of integrated thematic instruction in a multi-age third and fourth grade music classroom. This is a working model which provides the framework for using integrated thematic instruction while keeping the integrity of music education intact.
Integrated thematic instruction is a method of teaching which attempts to help students relate what they are learning in different subject areas by organizing all areas of curricula around one broad theme or idea. This process allows students to identify similarities and differences in educational settings and encourages critical thinking in real life situations. Music is often ignored in this integration process, or used in a way which discredits the purpose of music education.
This paper reviews the literature on integrated thematic instruction and music education, paying specific attention to the rationale for integrated thematic instruction and the maintenance of the integrity of music education during integration. Research studies involving integration are reviewed and their findings included.
A piece of curriculum using integrated thematic instruction was developed for the musical concepts of la-centered melodies and syncopation. Six lessons were implemented over a seven day period under the school-wide theme of “Connections to Nature.” Lesson plans were developed using the Orff Schulwerk approach to music education and are included to serve as models. Ten students were interviewed at the conclusion of the lessons to examine any connections made between subject areas. Most students revealed either topical or higher-order thinking connections.
Major findings in this study show that the theme itself must be broad enough to incorporate many learning areas, that teacher planning time is essential in this process, and that the integrity of music education must be kept during the integration process. An important strategy for keeping the integrity of music education is to incorporate the theme into an already existing music curriculum. This allows the thematic connections to enhance the musical learning.