Friday, July 6, 2012

Popular Music in the Upper Elementary Classroom

Hey all- below will be a copy of the paper I am writing for Grad School on using popular music in the upper elementary classroom.  A few main points if you don't want to read the entire 11 pages.

*Know each class- some kids Love the Top 40 current hits, some love "oldies", some love movies.   Use what your kids love!

*Use popular music in all 3 stages of learning- prepare, present, and practice- just make sure it really teaches what you want it to.  Don't use it just to use it.

*Using popular music can hook students in and give them something to connect to- but that doesn't mean that folk music, masterworks, and art music should be put aside.  Don't change your current curriculum to focus mainly on popular music- add it in where it fits and keep using those folk and art songs to teach students and give them a great background into the history of their culture!

*Popular music can be used to teach across the curriculum- from literature, to going green find what works for you!

***UPDATE***  This is the final version of the paper I turned in- It is pretty much the same- just some sentence structure things.  :)

Bach to Pop: Balancing Folk, Masterworks and Popular Music in the Kodály-centered Elementary General Music Classroom

            As many of general music teachers have experienced, fifth, sixth, and seventh grade students in today’s general music classroom usually do not have an inherent connection to folk music or masterworks and thus struggle to appreciate such music.  The students often state that folk songs are boring or childish, and they often complain about learning about “dead guys” every time a new composer is introduced. Folk music is not generally the music of the students’ inherent culture anymore.  Many families do not play instruments or sing much at home.  Parents may remember a song from their own General Music class, but folk music is starting to be left behind.  Music teachers need to keep folk music alive, as it is perfect for teaching the intricacies of pitch and rhythm, giving children a great background history lesson into their ancestors.  However, to connect to children of today’s world even more music teachers need to start incorporating into their curriculum the music of the students “culture”- songs they can immediately relate to.  By using traditional folk music along with more familiar music, general music teachers can put together a curriculum that relates to students lives and remains in touch with our history.
The most successful system for relating folk music to musical concepts in an organized sequence is the Kodály philosophy, put together by Zoltán Kodály in Hungary in the mid-twentieth century. There are five main premises of the Kodály philosophy: 1) True Musical Literacy -- the ability to read, write, and think music- is the right of every human being, 2) Music learning must begin with the voice, 3) The education of the musical ear must begin in Kindergarten, or earlier, and the primary grades if it is to be completely successful, 4) Music skills and concepts necessary for musical literacy should be taught with folk music of the mother tongue 5) Only music of unquestionable quality- both folk and composed- should be used (deVries 25). This paper will focus on the last point and discuss the legitimacy of adding contemporary popular music to the cannon of Kodály-accepted folk songs. So, where does popular music fit in?
In 1967, the Music Educators National Conference (MENC), now the National Association for Music Educators (NAfME) hosted a symposium of music educators held at Tanglewood. At this symposium a panel decided that music classes needed to connect more to the musical experiences students and adults have outside the classroom.  The panel agreed at Tanglewood that: “music of all periods, styles, forms, and cultures belongs in the curriculum… including popular teenage music and avant-garde music (Choate 139 via Isbell 2).”  They were trying to address the fact that many students give the following reasons for not participating, or dropping out of a music program: there is a lack of interest and there are poor repertory choices to keep them interested, there is insufficient connection with local ethnicities and cultures and finally, there is a lack of relevance in the music curriculum (Hope, 2004 via Isbell 2).  Some music teachers may say that students hear the popular music all the time, so it is our job to expose them to music that is not commonly heard on the radio, or in their daily life, but elementary general music teachers can use popular music to augment their standing Kodály-centered music curriculum in ways that teach musical concepts while fostering the joy of music.  In the newly released Ohio Music Standards, there are many content standards that include popular music. These include 1CE (or creating) for the seventh grade: Recognize, Identify and demonstrate form in world music (e.g. Western and Non-western) and popular music and 1RE (or responding) for fifth grade: Justify personal preferences for certain musical pieces, performances, composers, and musical genres, both orally and in writing.
This study cites reasons why popular music can be a great teaching tool and give many examples from my own classroom and others.  The term popular music is defined for the purpose of this study as the style of music that students love.  That can be what is deemed “pop”, “underground”, “classic rock”, or anything else the students may hear in their everyday lives.  It is important to know each general music class because popular music is constantly changing and evolving.
While the quality of popular music is always in question, as, just like any genres of contemporary music, it has not had the chance to stand the test of time, research shows that most students’ prefer listening to contemporary popular music.  According to Minks fifth graders are eager to “hear the latest cool song, to show off their ownership of a cool song, or to demonstrate their worldly ways by singing all the words to a song (Minks 79).”  Experts argue that musical concepts such as beat, tempo, accent, meter, rhythm, ostinato, and syncopation can be demonstrated using not only the typical folk music or masterworks, but popular music as well. Mark Biondi, the School of Rock’s national director of operations states that: “rock [and pop] has shaped and inspired generations.  Music should move people, emotionally and physically. Rock & Roll does that so well.  You can teach the Rolling Stones as intensely as you can teach Mozart (Randall 30).”  If teachers can use popular music to introduce a concept and showcase the similarities between popular music and masterworks, students will be more eager to listen intently and will ultimately have a better experience in general music class. 
As we know, students often engage in musical experiences outside of class- they listen to music on the radio and might even sing a popular song at recess.  Peter deVries mentions a personal experience in his article Listen to the Fans in which students are eager to learn the harmony in a Spice Girls song because they want to perform it just like it is on the recording.  This then opened the door for deVries to introduce other forms of singing in harmony to students such as rounds, canons, ostinatos, etc (deVries 26).  If teachers investigate their own students’ musical preferences, they can foster similar experiences in their own classroom.  I personally have demonstrated this concept with the Taylor Swift song, “Safe and Sound”, from the Hunger Games soundtrack.  My students were eager to come in during recess to learn the harmonies in the song and it opened the door in general music class to expand on the types of harmonies- both homophonic and polyphonic, intervallic relationships between notes, etc.
 Because music is such a large part of students’ social identity, it is logical to assume that students’ interest will be piqued when the musical styles showcased in class are songs taken from their own current musical experience.  According to Piaget’s theory of knowledge construction: “a child’s learning is always governed by his or her pre-existing mental maps”.  If a musical experience is a repeated one, the idea or concept will fit easily into the child’s cognitive structure so that he or she can maintain mental “equilibrium.”  However, if the experience is different or new, as it typically is with folk music and master works, the child loses equilibrium, and must alter his or her cognitive structure to accommodate the new conditions (  Therefore, if students are familiar with a song, it will be easier to find a musical concept within it and the corollary is also true- if students are familiar with a concept it will be easier to locate it within a new song.  
Kodály teachers strive to keep the child’s mind maintaining a mental equilibrium with our Prepare, Present, Practice stages of teaching.  Students always experience a concept many times in different settings before it is taught. They find the concept in various song literature using code words.  For example- Tika-tika, jjjq, is often called “alligator” before it is presented.  Students find those four even sounds on one beat, and once they are proficient, it is presented with a familiar song.  When a concept is presented, students learn the musical name for what they have been preparing and experiencing, and see what it truly looks like.  Finally, after being presented, the concept is practiced with brand new literature.  Popular music can be used in all three stages if we ware weaving quality materials into the prepare and practice stages of learning.
There is a wide range of types of popular music from current to classic rock, to country, from the “Top 40” to movie soundtracks.  It is up to the teacher to figure out what popular music works best in their classroom with each different population of students.  Popular music is always changing so new lessons and ideas can be added year after year.  A teacher should try to use a variety of music in a classroom to show students who are more attracted to the hard rock than country or Justin Bieber, or those who are movie buffs rather than radio aficionados that they can learn musical concepts from quality music of any style.  A teacher must know their students and their preferences, which can take a while to learn.  One teacher even says that: “Ironically, I found that oldies were a lot safer to teach than something new. My beginner band liked the [‘60s garage rock staple] ‘Hang on Sloopy’ much more than my (at that time) up-to-date Sugar Ray arrangement (Randall 31)!” One way I expedite the process of learning what students may like to learn about, or listen to, is by having my students create a “Musical Family Tree.”  Students make a family tree in which they list musical abilities/ preferences of their family members as well as themselves and answer questions such as: “who is your favorite artist? What type of music do you prefer?”  This gives the teacher a glimpse into not only what the students have heard, but what their parents and siblings listen to, and even musical accomplishments of extended relatives who may have gone to Juilliard or played a concert with Prince.  Knowing this information can then lead to better musical experiences in the general music classroom.
Popular songs are useful tools for preparing, presenting, and practicing new concepts because, as MacLachlan states, they are short and repetitive, having simple strophic or compound strophic form, which is great for comparing with folk songs, ballads, and art songs.  Students can hear concepts repeated three or four times within a song, and songs can be easily played again due their short length (Biamonte 75).  After a concept is introduced, teachers can easily move to Classical examples to broaden students’ knowledge and expose them to folk or classical music that is not typically in a student’s listening repertoire.  For example, when teaching the diatonic scale, teachers can first use the verses of the song “Hallelujah” originally recorded by Leonard Cohen, but also used in the Movie Shrek which is an ascending scale, or the verses of “Safe and Sound” from the movie The Hunger Games which is a descending scale from m to s, and then move into the basic theory behind it using board work, and finally make the connection to art music using the “Pas de Deux” from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.  Students will be excited to hear music from a beloved movie, and will then be eager to translate the concept to other musical examples.  This idea can again be applied to many concepts if the teacher is willing to find appropriate music. 
This methodology of first playing a song while listening for ‘active listening’ items, then reinforcing them on a second listening, moving to the concept removed from the particular example, and finally finding the concept in other music can be used for many musical concepts and ideas.  When teaching about the orchestra one can use the song “When I Get You Alone” by the performer Thicke, which is also covered by the cast of Glee, to introduce Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.  Thicke’s song samples the first theme of the first movement of the symphony almost in its entirety.  Students can listen to all three recordings- Thicke, Glee, and a traditional orchestral recording- and make connections between all styles- what instruments are used in each, if any and what are the timbres; are there differences in the rhythms, melody and form? The song can then be used as a bridge to move into learning more about the orchestra, or Beethoven, his life, and more of his music.  The same concept can be applied using the Pink Martini song, “Splendour in the Grass” which features Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, or even utilizing the Beatles album called Beatles Go For Baroque in which their music is applied to Baroque ideas. Teachers can even isolate the use of an orchestral instrument in a song to expand to instrumental families, timbre, etc.  An example of this could be Lady Gaga’s new song “Edge of Glory” as it features a saxophone solo or “She’s Come Undone” by Guess Who, which features the jazz flute. 
This paper has examined teaching with songs students are familiar with, making it easier to teach new musical concepts.  So let’s now look at how Piaget’s theory works the opposite way- when students know a concept and want to expand their knowledge by locating it within a familiar song. For example: if students have had adequate time to become comfortable with a concept, such as time-signatures, a popular song can be used to reinforce the idea and give the students a reason to think about it again and be excited about it. In this case, the concept is already in a mental map, and the popular song helps them get a more clear idea of what that map should look like. Students learn about time signatures early on, but it is a concept that is consistently being mentioned, getting more complicated as the students learn more. Great popular songs with less common time-signatures include: The Clash song “Rebel Waltz” is in 3/4, Alicia Keys “Fallin’” is in 6/8, and The Beatles “All You Need is Love” is in 7/4 (or sometimes notated as 4/4-3/4).  Many country songs are also in 3/4 or 6/8.  Another example is the reinforcement of the compositional technique of using ostinatos.  Using Bruno Mars’ song “Just the Way You Are” is a great way to show that ostinatos aren’t just a way to add accompaniment to a folk song, but are used commonly in many types of music.  This song is a great example as each instrument plays only one rhythmic/melodic the pattern during the song.  The easiest to recognize is the piano- because it plays for the entire song with no breaks.  There are even popular music examples for teaching modes if your students are that advanced- Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” chorus is Mixolydian, The Beatles “Norwegian Wood” is in Locrian and Santana’s “Evil Ways” is Dorian.
As briefly mentioned above, movie soundtracks are a great way to mix contemporary popular music into the classroom.  We all know the solfege pattern: s,s,s,  d   s   fmr  d’ s   fmr d’ s  fmfr - and can probably sing it in the correct rhythm on the second try.   It is the “Main Theme” from Star Wars.  While the oldest of the series is over 30 years old, and newest over 10 years old, almost all students have seen at least one of the six movies, watch the cartoon, or at least know the tune of both the “Main Theme” and the “Raiders March”. Using movie soundtrack patterns, such as the “Main Theme” from Star Wars, for sight-reading will immediately hook students into the lesson.  Familiar theme songs can be used to reinforce many melodic and rhythmic concepts.  See appendix A for a few more examples of soundtrack Sight-Reading.  Soundtracks can teach many other things as well.   Not only can a class sight-read examples just as you could any other listening example, but soundtracks can cross the curriculum into literature.
In my 5th grade General Music classroom, we open our soundtrack unit by sight-reading Star Wars or another example and then we discuss how the music adds to the plot of a movie.  Continuing the Star Wars example, we know that the “Raiders March” stands for Darth Vader and when it plays, bad things are coming.  All movies have some sort of soundtrack in which the music furthers the plot, explains emotion in ways that dialogue cannot or sets the mood for the scene. What characteristics of the songs made them fit certain points of the movie- was it the tempo? The volume? The tonality? Or something else? We look at Movie Soundtrack composers, such as John Williams or Klaus Badelt, and discuss how they created the music to fit the time period and the feel of the movie itself.  This can lead to discussions on jobs in music today, characteristics of music from different time periods- the music in a movie that takes place in the 1800s would have a soundtrack to match the style of music from that period, how composers create music and much more.  The culmination of the unit, after reading many songs, discussing many composers, current and classical, is for the students to create their own Movie Soundtrack to go with a book that they have read.  They must look at the plot points and decide what type of music should be played when.  They are challenged to use a variety of styles of music, and even write one of their own pieces for the final product.  The students LOVE this project, because it not only teaches them a lot about musical concepts, but it also ties into their schema of music and literature they think is important at this point in their life.
As my students are challenged through the soundtrack project to find music that fits certain emotions, teachers should also challenge students to find other concepts taught in class in songs they hear on the radio.  The teacher will teach the concept using traditional folk music and master works, then ask the students to find another example in music they often listen to.  This concepts works well for concepts such as chord progressions, scale patterns, rhythms, etc. The class can then analyze the student-found examples to see if they are correct or not.  This is made easy with new computer programs like Spotify and I-tunes.  There are pros and cons to each of these programs. Spotify can be used to look up a song and the entire song can be played for free. A teacher can search artists or keywords and make playlists of commonly used songs. However, there are ads and one must sign in using Facebook. If you get a prime membership to Spotify, for a small price, the ads will disappear.  With I-tunes, a teacher can play a clip of any song for free.  However, you never know which section will be played and to hear the whole song, you have to buy it.  Songs on I-tunes range from $.89 to $1.29, which doesn’t seem expensive, but can add up.
All of the examples above use popular music as an area of student interest to bridge to other concepts.  Popular music can also be used as a stand-alone teacher of musical concepts.  While some schools have separate classes based solely on popular music, this is not an option in most elementary schools. To expand on popular music’s uses in the classroom, one can also use popular music to teach standards such as “listening to, analyzing, and describing a piece of music using music vocabulary” and “evaluating and describing individual and group performances.”  Listening to current performances utilizing websites such as YouTube or Teacher Tube, or television shows like American Idol, Glee, X-Factor, or The Voice we can help students move past the typical “I liked it” responses and into making a more critical evaluation of the music by comparing and contrasting vocal timbres, connecting styles to history, evaluating if the instrumentation complements the vocals or is competing with it, etc.   Using these videos can also help develop a students’ awareness of performance etiquette, and gives teachers an opportunity to also discuss things such as: teamwork, during the battle episodes in The Voice or group numbers in both The Voice and American Idol; cooperation, which is shown by all performers working together- band, vocalist, lighting crew, etc. and hard work, by showing the performers preparing throughout the week prior to the performance.
Now, some may say that Pop or Rock Music is damaging to the health of youth, or that school time should not be spent on popular music, or that music teachers are not trained in pop or rock, or that it encourages rebelliousness and anti-educational behavior. However, even as these arguments are put out by many and outlined by Campbell and Herbert, they came to the conclusion that “popular music may be among the most powerful discourses available to students as a means by which to construct personal identity and interpret social experience (Campbell and Herbert 19 via Isbell 3).”  True, when listening to the radio, most students- and teachers- are not listening for solfege patterns or known rhythms: they are listening for something that makes them feel good, or forget about their hard day- using music almost as an escape from reality. When students talk about a favorite song, they often state that the song has a strong backbeat, or that it is fun to dance to as reasons to support their choice, but this just makes it a better tool for music classroom discussion.  Why do we enjoy the music that we do? Is it because of the compositional techniques? The lyrics? The melody or harmony or bass line?  This year, on the last day of school, students in my 6th grade General Music classes were allowed to bring in their favorite, school appropriate, songs.  We ended up having an awesome discussion about how a lot of music today is too “trashy”.  We then were able to use that as a springboard into a discussion about what makes good lyrics?   We also discussed how much of the popular music on the radio is very repetitive- there are not a lot of chordal or melodic changes, but what is there is catchy.  All of these conversations can relate to popular music, and can then be transferred to other types of music as well.  It can lead to discussion about why some music remains important for hundreds of years while other songs disappear after just a few weeks on the charts.
One final way popular music can be used is to teach across the curriculum.  Songs such as Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and “We are the World” or Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”, which was covered more recently by the Counting Crows, can be used to teach students about environmental or world issues.  American Idol frequently has theme nights where music of one artist or decade is featured. These and countless other songs and music shows can give insight into history, social issues, and many other subjects. 
Using popular music does not mean that a teacher should, or even could, fully abandon other more traditional genres used for teaching music. Folk music plays a very important role in teaching music literacy and gives students a connection to their past that they may not have had if it were not in their weekly class.  However, popular music is a useful tool in the music classroom as it bridges the gap between students’ everyday musical experiences and the folk music and masterworks that are best suited for teaching many musical concepts. Ultimately, this combined music experience would give the students a well-rounded, well-balanced musical education.

Annotated Bibliography: 

 Biamonte, Nicole, ed. Pop-culture Pedagogy in the Music Classroom: Teaching Tools from American Idol to YouTube. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2011. Print.

                In chapter four of this book, “Popular Music in the College Theory Class: Rhythm and Meter”, Nancy Rosenburg offers ideas to use popular music in the theory classroom when teaching rhythm and meter. She first focuses on how teachers can find materials when the subject matter is ever changing, coming to the conclusion that one must supplement teacher chosen examples with student chosen works.  She then moves into popular music rhythmic training citing that one can differentiate between styles by listening to the rhythmic feel of the piece. Finally, she dives in deeper with four more sections focusing on aural based rhythmic studies, hip-hop, beatboxing, and  turntablism, tempo studies and beat matching, and finally asymmetrical meter, changing meter, and polyrhythm.  Rosenburg supplements her chapter with appendixes giving the reader resources on drum kit notation, other online resources, and a song list of selected examples of rhythms and meter in popular music.   The article strongly promotes the use of popular music in the theory class and I found that many of the ideas could be transferred to an elementary general music class.  She even alludes to the elementary class at a few points showing how her ideas can be used across the music curriculum at any level of study. 

                In chapter five of this book, “Teaching Traditional Music Theory with Popular Songs: Pitch Structures”, Heather MacLachlan discusses the benefits of incorporating contemporary pop songs into the theory class, challenges with the approach, general principals on how to use popular music as examples in the classroom, and finally sample lessons on teaching the diatonic scale, intervals, and the three main chords used in songs (I, IV, and V), and much more. The three topics referenced above can easily be applied to the elementary general music classroom. However, the rest of the topics are out of the realm of elementary student’s understanding. In her conclusion she brings up the question of using popular music solely to “bait and hook” students into learning about the classics.  I felt that, again, while many of the specific concepts discussed are too advanced for elementary students the sections on incorporating, challenges, and general principals could easily be adapted for use in an elementary general music class.  I also appreciate the appendix compiled by the editor, Biamonte, of Popular Music Examples for Undergraduate Theory Topics, as a few of the topics, such as modes, can be covered in late elementary general music on a more basic level of understanding.

deVries, Peter. "Listen to the Fans." Music Educators Journal 91.2 (2004): 25-28. Print.
                Peter deVries attempts to outline how a student’s fandom of popular music can be used to enhance their musical experiences both in and out of the classroom in this article.  He does this by first giving an example from his experience in which students were inspired by a Spice Girls song to learn everything they could about the song, and then expand that knowledge into other areas of music. For example, singing in harmony.  He then goes on to state that because many schools in Australia do not have music as a separate class they often go without it for many years and it is hard for new teachers to excite students about learning music. He tells us that one can have a “breakthrough” if a teacher uses music that students are already a fan of and then gives two case studies in which this is the case. There is a side bar which synthesizes deVries ideas into seven bullet point about how to approach using popular music in the classroom, as well as a conclusion which gives a few more ideas about how to utilize popular music for beat, movement, or style activities.  This articles best information is in the sidebar and conclusion.  DeVries gives many thoughts on how to implement popular music into the general music classroom- mostly based on the “bait and switch” approach, where a teacher uses popular music to get students interested and then transitions to other styles or genres. 

deVries, Peter. "Reevaluating Common Kodaly Practices." Music Educators Journal 88.3 (2001): 24-27. JSTOR. Web. 28 June 2011.
                In this article, Peter deVries outlines two areas in which he believes are problems in the application of Kodaly’s teaching philosophy. First, that sometimes one of Kodaly’s beliefs is stressed to the point that it becomes a detriment to the program as a while.  Second that “we live and work in a society that is very different from Kodaly’s Hungary, yet this difference is not always reflected in music programs.”   He starts his article outlining Kodaly’s beliefs and the advantages of the program then moves into how we may be interpreting those beliefs in a way that can make the general music program suffer. deVries challenges these ideas within the article and gives a way to interpret Kodaly’s ideas in the new millennium- focusing on the fact that “the musical repertoire needs to be relevant to the children of today.” Being a Kodaly-based teacher, I found this article very useful in supporting the argument that popular music can, and should, be used in the classroom. There are no specific ideas in this article on how to utilize different genres of music, but rather it challenges the reader to examine their own schools and approaches to find a way that helps students learn while still having fun.

Isbell, D. "Popular Music and the Public School Music Curriculum." Update: Applications of Research in Music Education 26.1 (2007): 53-63. Print.

                This article is a synthesis of research done on popular music in the public school classroom.  It begins with an overview and background of why Popular Music is important, including information on the music symposium at Tanglewood in which music educators agreed that “music of all periods, styles, forms, and cultures belongs in the curriculum.  The musical repertory should be expanded to involve music of our time in its rich variety, including currently popular teenage music…” The article then looks at many researcher perspectives, practitioner perspectives, pedagogical strategies for implementing popular music into the classroom- both as it’s own class and to augment the standing general music class, and finally specific examples of popular music already in public school music programs.   This article is a great starting point for any teacher looking to incorporate popular music into their classroom.  Many strategies, ideas, and opinions are with-in the article itself and it contains a wealth of sources-four pages of references- for one to do further research.

LeBlanc, A. "Effects of Style, Tempo, and Performing Medium on Children's Music Preference." Journal of Research in Music Education 29.2 (1981): 243-56. JSTOR. Web. 28 June 2011.

                This study “measures the effects of style, tempo, and performing medium on fifth-grade students’ expressed music listening preferences.” The article walks the reader through the study, using charts and diagrams to outline the procedure as well as the results and then finally discussing the findings. It was found that students slightly prefer fast music to slow and instrumental music to vocal.  For one who is not math/ science minded, reading the discussion and conclusions would be sufficient.  While this study did not specifically focus on popular music, it is valuable to my research giving strategies for encouraging a positive listener response to any style of music. 

Minks, Amanda. "Growing and Grooving to a Steady Beat: Pop Music in Fifth-Graders' Social Lives." Yearbook for Traditional Music 31 (1999): 77-101. Print.

                This article illustrates how “media consumption may be a realm of active sociality for some children as they engage with pop music and share music-talk with their peers.”  Minks explores how pop music can play a role in the social environment of children, focusing on one aspect of a proposed broader project, the children studied are from a small city in the united states and the school population is comprised of students who live near the school, as well as students from two housing projects.  Rather than looking at the students’ musical instruction, Minks looks at their talk about music and how it affects their social lives.  According to the study, fifth grade is when students are finding their musical identity- listening to a favorite radio station apart from their parents, but not rejecting parents’ musical tastes. How students may say to each other that they love the current top 40, but reveal to trusted adults that they prefer other styles. While this study does not focus on how popular music can be used with-in the classroom it supports the argument that fifth graders will be more interested in general music if popular music is used because it is such a large part developing their identities.

Randall, Mac. "A Whole Lotta Learnin' Going On." Teaching Music 18.1 (2010): 28-32. Print.
                This article is a synthesis of ideas from many experienced general music teachers who use popular music in their classrooms.  It looks at how to incorporate popular music, what music to choose for both general music classes and instrumental ensembles, how to go beyond the music to address other subjects, and whether or not a popular music curriculum should be standardized- with the opinion of many interviewed being no.  This article dips into many subjects, but does not offer a wealth of information on any of them.  It is a good starting point for a teacher looking to incorporate popular music into their classroom, but one would still need to do more research to get more specific ideas.

Thompson, J. D. "American Idol and the Music Classroom: A Means of Critiquing Music." Music Educators Journal 94.1 (2007): 36-40. Print.
                This article shows the Music Educator how they can use the hit show American Idol to as an educational tool in the music classroom, using it to develop skills for critiquing a music performance which is part of two of the National Standards for Music Education.  Thompson gives the essential questions for critiquing performances as well as discusses how to steer students towards musicality verses commercialism. The article then examines how to use American Idol to teach across the curriculum and other life lessons the show can teach, such as performance etiquette, teamwork, goal-setting, stage presence, etc.  This article provides value to my research because it gives educators ideas on how to incorporate popular music and culture into the general music classroom in ways besides the typical “bait and switch” approach that so many articles focus on.

Woody, Robert H. "Popular Music in School: Remixing the Issues." Music Educators Journal                        93.4 (2007): 32-37. Print.

                In his article, Robert H. Woody looks at how popular music is being used in schools.
                He questions how many teachers choose to use it- as a “bait and switch” in which                             teachers use it as a motivational hook for activities that really focus on other things. He argues that students value of popular music is not based on the theory behind it’s composition, but rather it’s emotional and expressive qualities and it’s relationship to the world of the students. Woody warns teachers using popular music just to appease students, stating that it should only be used if it serves a specific objective in the classroom. In the article learning processes of popular music, and the skills of                                        vernacular musicianship- such as aural skills and improvisation, are also discussed.  In the conclusion Woody challenges teachers to expand the breadth of their curriculum to showcase many styles and ensemble instrumentations- giving students new musical opportunities and attracting students who may not have been in interested in traditional music instruction.  This article was very valuable to my research as it gave a different perspective on using popular music in the classroom.  


  1. Hi Emily,
    I love your blog! I am an elementary teacher and am in the process of writing a paper for grad school about connecting the music classroom with the home environment. I would like to reference your blog and paper in my section about using popular music in the classroom. Can you give me more information about your paper so I can cite it? Thanks much!

    1. I can give you any info you need! Why don't you email me with specifics and I can even send you a word version of the paper if that makes it easier. Email is