Thursday, January 17, 2008

Use Listening to Music as a Story Prompt

When I was a student (many many years ago!) we were encouraged to write while listening to different types of music. By doing that, my teacher instilled in me a love of writing and a love of music. I was taught to feel the mood of the music and to write about the action going on and tell about the scene. I would describe the setting and the characters. Then I tell the story that showed the characters interacting and all of this was brought out by the music. It was a wonderful time in my life!

I decided to try that with my students and it was so successful! I encouraged them to use their imagination and that there were no limits to what could happen during this time. At first, they were apprehensive and wanted to know how long it should be, and how picky would I be about grammar and spelling. I told them that they would be graded on participation only. If I saw them not working while the music was playing, they would lose 5 points every time I saw them not working. It was totally amazing the work they turned in! I even asked some of them if they would share their story with the class but if they didn’t want to, they didn’t have to.

When I looked over the work, I looked for the mistakes they made in writing and made a list. During the next class we talked about the mistakes that the majority of students made and worked on those skills. The next time we wrote, I asked them to focus on one of the skills and really try hard not to make those mistakes with that one skill. When they focused on this and didn’t feel a lot of pressure from me, they did much better. While reading the stories, if I couldn’t read a word, I had the student tell me the word and I correctly spelled it for them. I asked them to use this paper as a reference next time to spell the words correctly. This helped them improve in spelling.

By doing this once a week, their writing improved and the creativity was encouraged. Since I taught a special education class, writing was definitely not one of their strengths but this was a great way to get them writing. While their writing improved, their reading actually improved also. I believe that writing and reading goes hand in hand and this was a great way for the class to do both.

Students also learned different types of music and I told them they didn’t have to like all of them but if they weren’t exposed to different ones, how they would know. I used classical, bluegrass, jazz, and Celtic music but I admit that I didn’t play hard rock or rap because I felt like my students were exposed to that enough. I also noticed that certain music tended to calm some of my ADD students and my emotionally disabled students, so I was extremely pleased with doing this lesson often. After the initial resistance to hearing music they weren’t used to and writing stories, which they also weren’t used to, my students really got into this lesson and looked forward to it.

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