National Writing Project

Music in Schools Celebration Is Also About Writing

Date: February 28, 2010

Summary: March is "Music in Our Schools Month," so the NWP is celebrating the intersection between music and writing by providing resources that link music, reading, and writing.


Whether it's using lyrics to inspire student poetry or using songs as writing prompts, writing and music have always had a close and vital kinship in the classroom.

As Nevada teacher-consultant Rob Stone says, music is one of the most important things on most teenagers' lists of what they need for survival, if not entertainment.

"Put lyrics on the overhead and watch the focus in their eyes," he writes on the Northern Nevada Writing Project's WritingFix website. "Hit play and they are yours. Implement a well-designed lesson attached to that song and you can do magic."

March is "Music in our Schools Month," a celebration sponsored by MENC: The National Association for Music Education , a 103-year-old organization whose goal is to ensure that every student has access to a well-balanced, comprehensive, and high-quality program of music taught by a qualified teacher.

The purpose of Music in Our Schools Month is to raise awareness of the importance of music education for all children. The theme for 2011 is "Music Lasts a Lifetime." As budget constraints put increasing pressure on music in the schools programs, a special emphasis of the month this year will be advocacy for music programs.

NWP teachers have long understood the centrality of music to many of their students' lives, and they've found ways to build on this keen interest to motivate writing and reading.

Here are some of the articles we have published that link music and literacy.

Oregon Teacher's Songwriting Program Stirs Student Interest in Words

The Deep Roots program turns students into songwriters: professional musicians set the students' lyrics to music and then record the songs—and in the process, students stay academically interested and engaged.

Arkansas Professor Finds Place for Teens' Music in English Class

Chris Goering, University of Arkansas assistant professor and site director of the Northwest Arkansas Writing Project, says discussing song lyrics in the classroom can help students connect in multiple, complex levels with traditional literature.

Put lyrics on the overhead and watch the focus in their eyes.

Using Favorite Songs as Prompts

Michael Fulton explains how he makes use of the Robert Medici song "Invisible" to connect to student concerns, build situations appropriate for writing, and direct students toward creating pieces in a variety of genres. He discusses the application of these techniques to other situations.

Music and the Personal Narrative: The Dual Track to Meaningful Writing

Chris Goering describes his "Soundtrack of Your Life" assignment, in which students reflect on their lives using songs. The project motivates sharing and skill building for expository writing, as well as providing a springboard toward publication.

Words from Music: How Mozart and Mangione Inspire Writers

Eighth grade teacher Roger Corey describes how he uses music to set a mood and evoke ideas for stories in his students' imagination. He names specific pieces of music, describes his process in using the music, and shares examples of his students' creations in response to the pieces he plays for them.

Heart and Voice: A Digital Storytelling Journey

Digital storytelling transforms writing into video by combining images, music, and voice narration within a multimedia program. Texas teacher-consultant Kerry Ballast describes how she and her students embarked on this journey, which began with the simple act of students putting words on paper but led to a different kind of composing.

Inclusion and the Multiple Intelligences: Creating a Student-Centered Curriculum

Echoing Howard Gardner's work on multiple intelligences, Jennifer Borek identifies learning similarities in her students and describes ways she uses knowledge of those similarities in her classroom, including the "musical modality."

Book Review: Blending Genre, Altering Style: Writing Multigenre Papers, by Tom Romano

Tom Romano's multigenre approach engages students in higher levels of creative thought, helping them also to develop and hone basic skills.

Poetry Doing Hard and Healthy Work: A Poetpourri of Ideas from the Maine Writing Project

By incorporating music, technology, art, public speaking, and various other media of communication into the creation of poetry, the Maine Writing Project developed novel ways of rekindling the passion for poetry.

Teachers Write to Music at NWP's First Music Marathon

NWP teacher-consultants from several states came together—in person and online—to write to the same beats in the first-ever multisite music marathon.

Other Resources on the Web

What follows is a potpourri of other sources that link music to the skills of reading and writing.

Writing Across the Curriculum: iPod Lessons

On WritingFix , Rob Stone hosts an interactive Web page that encourages teachers to put their iPods to use in the creation of lessons that link music to writing.

The page presents lessons created by teachers from nearly all curriculum areas. Each lesson is tied to the writing process, the writing traits, and a "mentor text," which is the song and its lyrics. For instance, students might use Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund" to "mentor" a poem about a historical event. Or "Yesterday" by the Beatles as a way into writing about past, present, and future.

18 Poetry Lessons Inspired by Song Lyrics

Whether it's Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B or Kelly Clarkson's Addicted, you'll find a range of musical genres applied to things like word choice or idea development in poetry on WritingFix.

Reading, Writing, Rapping

Elizabeth Wellington surveys the use of hip hop to teach literacy, providing examples ranging from students learning the alphabet with the aid of rap to creating a simulated record label to advance interdisciplinary skills.

On a Musical Note: Exploring Reading Strategies by Creating a Soundtrack.

Students create their own soundtracks for the movie version of a novel they have read, selecting songs that match the text and fit specific events in the story.

Stairway to Heaven: Examining Metaphor in Popular Music

After searching through their music collections for examples of metaphor, students create a multimodal analysis of metaphor in a selected part of the lyrics.

Promoting Literacy Through Music

Laura Woodall and Brenda Ziembroski advocate strategies for using music, with its inherent qualities of sound and rhythm, to help young children gain confidence in oral language.

Teaching Writing with Mozart

Hamilton Salsich explores the connection between classical music forms and formal essay assignments. "When I listen to a Mozart quartet, I hear the main theme developed in various ways, just as I (hopefully) see a thesis expanded and explained in the students' essays."

Music and Literacy...A Perfect Match!

Literacy Connections explores the many ways that literacy and music are connected and provides practical ways to assimilate music into the lives of young children.

Learn Music to Boost Literacy in Kids?

Learning music may help children's communication skills more than studying phonics, according to a new study.

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