Printer Friendly

The influence of music on core learning.

Glenn (1992) observed that music can hone creativity through participation in one of the great art forms. Leng, Shaw and Wright (1990) believe we can examine higher creative and learning functions through the study of music. Gardner (1983) identifies musical intelligence as one of seven basic intelligences. Therefore, music may help students learn more and more effectively. Music can make a significant contribution to all of education in terms of student benefits by enhancing key developmental goals such as self-esteem and creativity (Music Educators National Conference, 1991). Various studies and observations indicate that music can influence learning in core subjects as well as contribute to the attainment of core goals of learning. Weisskoff (1981) explored selected outcomes of using the medium of commercially-recorded pop/rock music as an integral part of the instructional package in language arts. Comparisons were made between alternate learning conditions-music and no music--with respect to task performance and continuing motivation. The central question to be answered was: What effect does music have on children's task performance and continued motivation in language arts? In other words, would music enhance or take away from achievement and motivation in language arts? According to Weisskoff (1981) students who received the music condition scored significantly higher with regard to continuing motivation. The definition of continuing motivation in this study was the tendency of students to return to and continue working on tasks away from the instructional context in which they were initially confronted. This was measured by a simple three-item self-report device and a three-point Likert-type scale reflecting teacher perception of typical student behavior. In reference to task performance, there were no significant main effects or inter actions obtained. The music condition did not enhance achievement. This study clearly answered questions concerning the theory that music does serve as a motivational force for children. However, it has been found that background music during tasks does not enhance achievement. Music was found to serve neither as a positive force nor as a distraction to achievement. This finding is of particular interest in light of the significant relationship demonstrated between music and continuing motivation. The study pointed out that, students who were almost always unmotivated became motivated because of music.

Tucker (1981) compiled several reports concerning music and the teaching of reading. He reported that using music in teaching reading may enhance motivation and abilities of children, whether or not they are musically talented or intellectually above average. The back to basics approach to education is an important reason why music should be fused with reading in order to enhance the effectiveness of reading instruction. Many similarities exist between music and reading. Both use a symbol structure that can be decoded into sounds that have meaning. Visual and auditory discrimination are required in both subjects and are oriented to a left-to-right framework.

According to Cohen-Taylor (1981), popular song lyrics used as reading materials caused middle grades students to approach printed materials in a positive manner. Students had been approaching reading materials with apathy. However, when song sheets were introduced, students immediately became enthusiastic and excited about using lyrics as reading materials. Reading skills can be effectively taught using popular song lyrics. Some suggested activities involve working with word cards featuring favorite words of favorite songs, forming new sentences from words in favorite songs, guessing first lines of songs for which the teacher has supplied word configuration clues and creating crossword puzzles in which the entries are words in song titles.

A study done by Brunk (1981) validated the effectiveness of a socio-music curriculum. Music was integrated with social studies and science for young learners. The treatment curriculum consisted of two thirty-minute socio-music lessons per week throughout a semester instructed by classroom teachers. The comparison curriculum consisted of separate subject instruction in social studies, science, and music instructed by subject matter specialists. Learner performances on the achievement instrument were compared on two indices: (a) group mean score on social studies and science items, (b) group mean score on musical items. The sociomusic treatment group attained a higher mean score on both indices than did the separate subject comparison group. The conclusion of this study was that learner achievement in social studies, science, and music concepts resulting from the integrated socio-music curriculum was superior to that resulting from the separate subject curriculum.

Popular Music Influences on Student Learning

Popular music was found to improve students attitudes toward history and subject matter knowledge in a study done by McTeer and Bailey (1980). The study used two sections of senior high school students enrolled in classes in recent United States History. One section of the study was taught using the lecture-discussion method while the other section used a great amount of popular music to reinforce the study of history. Both the experimental class and the control class were drawn from the total number of recent United States History classes taught in a Metropolitan area in the Southeastern United States. Both classes met for fifty minutes during each school day. Both groups had the same teacher. In both areas of attitude and subject matter knowledge, the means of the gain-scores were greater for the experimental group.

Educational rap music provides motivation for students of Sonja Burdix (as cited in Merina, 1993) Indianapolis, Indiana. "This music, as a form of communication, causes students to appreciate poetry such as that of Langston Hughes", touts Burdix (p. 1). Students are involved in reciting poetry in the traditional manner and through setting poetry to rap beats. The rap beat versions cause students to become motivated and interested in reciting poetry, because of the students' familiarity with rap. Peter Brown (as cited in Merina, 1993) a former teacher in San Diego, California, describes rap music as being about power, communication and culture. According to Brown "Whatever rap is, it is here, and some teachers may find constructive uses for the music" (p. 1). Millions of students listen to rap music, as it contains words and rhythms of their world. An understanding of that can cause teachers to get closer to students. Since rap music is unifying an entire generation of various cultures, it should be used in the classroom as a multicultural approach education. Positive lyrics can be improvised and composed to a driving beat to add interest in lessons to be learned (Merina, 1993).

Vande Berg (1986) experienced jazz improvisation in the classroom permitting every child to participate in an active manner. A non-threatening environment is set in the classroom because no students' contributions to verbal exercises are perceived as right or wrong. Every contribution is a valid personal creation that is applauded by the class. Verbal exercises taken from newspaper articles can be read to a steady beat in the classroom. Various elements of music are changed during the reading process. Pitch, rhythm, volume, etc., using jazz inflections are altered in interesting ways. The trading of reading passages between students is enjoyable to the students during this improvisational process. Some students will want to read extended passages as solos. This trading of passages and soloing process is known as the call-response technique of improvisation.

As students read to a beat together in the classroom, they begin to feel the beat of the words and syllables. The natural rhythmic sound of words and syllables have long, short and a combination of long/short beats. Of course, during the improvisational reading process, one has the freedom to alter natural beats and create syncopated beats to lyrics. Syncopation is an interesting way of shifting accents of words and syllables from strong to weak beats. Shifting beats should enhance the feel of words and syllables. In jazz, the feel of beats is important in order to stimulate interest in the intended message of lyrics (Hodges, 1987). It has been witnessed by Vande Berg (1986) that as students become more efficient at rhythm reading in an improvisational manner, they want to move into improvisational singing.

Improvisational inflections are found in all forms of popular music. Popular music is also very appealing to students. Therefore, if it is integrated with reading exercises in a group fashion, students might develop as sense of joy for reading exercises. Jazz may be introduced at an early stage, as it usually provides additional motivation and tends to reinforce other aspects of students' progress (Hodges, 1987). Curnow (1987) pointed out that teaching a student how to use learned skills in a creative manner is an educator's most important function. One way to teach creativity is through the study of song lyric improvisation. Mixing improvisation and reading implies some promise for students to discover new insights when transforming and rearranging language to syncopated beats and sound and composition projects. Various writers on creativity argue that musical improvisation and composition should be as routine as writing an English composition or learning the multiplication tables. The goal of these activities in the classroom is not to master the art of composition but to stimulate involvement in the creative selection and arrangement of musical materials. Also, the goal is to develop skills in self-evaluation along with constructive self-criticism. Thompson (1980) recommends vocal improvisation as a medium for exercising the creative process. The act of improvising music allows students to exercise cognitive and affective decision-making. Improvisation involves creative thinking which is a dynamic mental process that alternates between divergent (imaginative) and convergent (factual) thinking (Webster, 1990).

A project called Monitoring Academic Progress of students (MAP), has been effective. The program was piloted using thirty students in a middle grades classroom. Workshops were held which included music, poetry and reading selections in order to raise self-concept and reading achievement. Students were provided opportunities to work together in writing lyrics for songs. Lyrics and reading passages were also selected that would encourage students to think of themselves and others in a positive fashion. Songs used include The Greatest Love and Lean On Me. Students wrote original works of poetry. Also, they presented poetry in forms such as concrete poetry and poster poetry. Reading and listening for comprehension activities were included in this project (Hadley & Hadley, 1990).

Technological Music and Learning

Technological music projects make for exciting learning on the part of students. Musical creativity (improvisation and composition) can be enhanced through the use of Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) technology. MIDI involves computers, electronic instruments and software for intercommunication. MIDI -compatible electronic keyboards are equipped with attachments that connect with other MIDI devices. Musical sound is encoded into digital information to be read by the computer. Aspects of musical sound, such as pitch, length, attack and instrument, are assigned numbers. As MIDI instruments receive these numbers from the computer, the appropriate sound is produced. The ability to create, edit, and re-create music is the ultimate power of MIDI. Students are interested in creating music and making it personal (Moore, 1992).

Student compositions utilizing the computer bring excitement, motivation and problem-solving to the learning process. As melodies are created through improvising with sounds, musical considerations, such as length of melodies and compositions, can be varied. For example, melodies of eight measures can be lengthened to sixteen measures by adding sounds. The significant value of this project is that it allows students to actually create music with the computer. The teacher should emphasize the idea that each student's composition is a distinct and valuable musical expression (Flagg, 1986).

MIDI technology can encourage divergent thinking through improvisation and composition. Webster (1990) presents the following scenario: Utilizing MIDI, a student would be able to sit at a music keyboard with a computer screen providing the sheet music. The student is able to improvise and compose brief fragments of music by playing on the music keyboard. Student fragments can be displayed on the screen (in traditional notation or in symbol forms) and is played through speakers. The student is able to continue working with many different musical elements and phrase patterns to expand the original fragment. When the student decides to stop, the improvised composition may be saved. As the student returns later, the saved work can be retrieved enabling continuation of the process until a final version is completed. The student could then print a copy of the sheet music and transfer the recording from the MIDI network to a cassette tape. This would allow parents and friends to experience and enjoy results of student's improvisation and composition.

MIDI 101 is an example of a network involving computers and MIDI instruments. Digital messages concerning what is played, how a sound is defined and other data are interpreted into musical sounds. Tiny microprocessors or computers are contained within all MIDI keyboards and MIDI-compatible instruments. The MIDI network allows the computer in one instrument to communicate with the computer in another instrument.


Brunk, V. N. (1981). Validations of a sociomusic curriculum: Music integrated with social studies and science. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Texas A and M University, College Station, Texas.

Cohen-Taylor, G. (1981). Music in language arts instruction. Language Arts, 58 (3), 363-368.

Curnow, R. (1987). The jazz experience: A curriculum for creativity. New Ways for New Days in Music Education, 3, 12.

Flagg, H. S. (1986). A computer concert that showcases student compositions. Music Educators' Journal, 73 (4), 30-32.

Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.

Glenn, K. (1992). The many benefits of music education--now and in the future. NAASP Bulletin, 76 (544), 1-4.

Hadley, W. H., & Hadley R. T. (1990). Rhyme, rhythm and reading for at-risk students. Thresholds in Education, 16 (2), 25-27.

Hodges, M. J. (1987). Jazz in the curriculum. Georgia Music News, 47 (4), 26.

McTeer, H. J. & Bailey, R. T. (1980). The effect of the teaching technique using popular music" upon students' attitudes toward history and subject matter knowledge. A study conducted at South Cobb High School, Austell, GA. April Dialog, ERIC, ED 196 749.

Merina, A. (1993). Sounds of our times. Rap: tool or trouble. NEA Today, 11 (8), 1.

Moore, B. (1992). Music, technology, and an evolving curriculum. NAASP Bulletin. 76 (544), 42-46.

Music Educators' National Conference. (1991, March). Growing up complete: The imperative for music education. The report of the National Commission on Music Education. Reston, VA: Author.

Leng, X., Shaw, G L., & Wright, E. L. (1990). Coding musical structure and the trion of cortex. Music perception: An interdisciplinary journal, 8 (1) 49-62.

Shubart, Mark. (1990). Touching every child through arts. The School Administrator; 47 (10), 52.

Thompson, K. E (1992). Integrating music into the curriculum: A recipe for success. NAASP Bulletin 76 (544), 47.

Tucker, Albert. (1981). Music and the teaching of reading: A review of the literature. Reading Improvement, 18 (1), 14-19.

Vande Berg, K. (1986). Teaching jazz/show choir: The team approach. Georgia Music News, 47 (1), 39-41.

Webster, R (1990). Creativity as creative thinking. Music" Educator's Journal, 76 (9), 22-28.

Weisskoff, R. S. (1981). The relationship of pop/rock music to children's task performance and continuing motivation in language arts instruction. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Connecticut, Hartford, CT.


Assistant Professor

Educational Administration

Jacksonville State University



Secondary Education

Jacksonville State University
COPYRIGHT 2004 Project Innovation (Alabama)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Eady, Isreal; Wilson, Janell D.
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2004
Previous Article:Supportive practices in teacher education: finding out what pre-service teachers know about teaching, learning, and community, through purposeful and...
Next Article:Elementary school teachers' perceptions and attitudes to the educational structure of tracking.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |