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Book Review: Teaching Music Across the Curriculum by Valeaira Luppens and Greg Foreman

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Teaching Music Across the Curriculum is designed to help school-based music teachers connect musicality lessons with skills that are being learned in other areas of a student’s education. I initially approached the book with mixed feelings.

As a speech-language pathologist, I understand that multiple and multimodal teaching of skills in any area of the curriculum enhances learning. It helps to build associative learning skills that allow students to see connections between schema.

As a singing teacher, however, I feel there is too much pressure to teach music for the sake of learning something else instead of for the sake of learning music. In a way, the need to connect musicality to other areas of the curriculum is representative of the devaluing of musical education for its own sake.

The battle for teaching music for its own sake is an ongoing one however. Teachers are under the pressure that they are under and publishers must respond. So, I opened my copy of Teaching Music Across the Curriculum with great interest.

The book is organized very clearly, with demarcated sections for Communication Arts, History, Math and Science. Interestingly, I could not find a clear statement of what ages this book is intended to serve. There is one activity labeled for “Primary Grade Levels” and “Intermediate Grade Levels”, but it appears to me the activities are largely oriented toward grades 1 – 5. The authors did include a helpful list of a number of the National Standards for Music Education. This does help the reader to discern what skills they seek to address in the activities presented.

Another feature of the book is that the activities are labeled with the number of the National Standard it is designed to address. Out of nine objectives, only eight and nine were addressed in multiple activities. Objectives three and six were each addressed once. It seems to me that the book is somewhat incomplete if it doesn’t address each objective in detail.

In terms of the activities themselves, there are some wonderful ideas and others that I believe are more forced.

An example of the more forced items was the “Tech It!” activity, which provided information about a number of web sites, but only vague ideas of what types of activities students can engage in. Given sufficient specificity in terms of actual assignments using these resources, this chapter could have contributed not only to Communication Arts, but to the development of research skills. 

I hesitate to comment too completely on the activities I enjoyed, lest I encourage potential readers to implement them without purchasing the book.

My favorites included creative fill in the blank type stories that ask the student to use musical vocabulary appropriately to express the storyline (e.g., “forte” for “loud”). There were some fascinating addition problems aimed at helping kids to quickly discern the value of musical notes. (In a second edition, might we be able to include cut time or 6/8? It would promote development of flexibility of thinking in that a quarter note is not always equal to one beat.) In the math section, I also encourage teachers to explore the Sudoku task. That’s just wonderful!

Overall, Teaching Music Across the Curriculum is somewhat uneven in terms of its implementation, but has a valuable purpose. I believe the book is useful in its current form, but it would be more useful with an expansion of the varieties of exercises to include all listed National Standards and if some of the instructions were more specific.

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