Thursday, February 27, 2014

Interview with an award-winning educator: Incorporating music into the Common Core

photo of Jill DeVilbiss
Jill DeVilbiss
Jill DeVilbiss is an Edith Bowen music teacher who was recently named Outstanding Elementary Music Educator by the Elementary Music Educators' Association. She agreed to share her expertise about integrating music into the common core in this interview. Cue up the Saint-Saens and read on!

Q: What does music add to a child's experience at school?

JD: Music gives children a chance to express themselves. It adds beauty and fun to their day. It teaches them how to problem solve and how to work collaboratively. Arne Duncan said, “The arts can help students become tenacious, team-oriented problem solvers who are confident and able to think creatively.” I agree with that assessment! Music gives children a well-rounded education. Music education develops cognitive skills while helping children to be sensitive to others and to the beauty around them.

Q: Edith Bowen Laboratory School is following the Common Core. What does that mean for music? Has it changed how you teach?
JD: Edith Bowen has always been a school that uses best teaching practices. We know from research that using different learning modes helps children to make connections and reinforces the learning. For that reason we have been integrating the arts into other academic areas for a long time. The adoption of the English Language Arts and Math Common Core State Standards hasn’t changed how we do things.

Q: Can you give me an example or two of how you have integrated music into the Common Core? How can you tie it in to math or science?
JD: I try to integrate music in as many other academic areas as I can, while still teaching my own core curriculum for music. I have yet to find a subject or concept that I cannot integrate into a music lesson. 
One Core objective is to have a student identify who is telling the story at various points in a text. We sing call and response or question-answer songs that have more than one “voice.” I ask the students to identify who is singing at various points in the song.
boy plays a tambourine
Photo courtesy of the
USU ArtsBridge Program
When we learn about rhythm, I am really teaching about syllables. I tell them the rhythm is how the words go in a song. In the English and Language Arts Common Core, they need to be able to decode words by separating them into syllables.
Math and note values go hand in hand. We have two eighth notes that equal the same amount of time as one quarter note. When I teach note values, we do Musical Math. We cut up apples into half, quarter, eighth and sixteenth pieces and relate it to the note values.
Telling time is part of the Math Common Core. We play singing games that reinforce telling time and listen to music that was inspired by clocks.
Tomorrow, we will listen to Fossils by Camille Saint-Saens. They are studying fossils in their science class and I’ll reinforce what they have learned by adding words about fossils to his composition. We also listen to traditional songs that he quotes in the piece and discuss why he included them.
As they study rocks, I use Igneous, Metamorphic, and Sedimentary to create rhythmic ostinatos that we add to mining songs.
It’s easy to integrate into social studies. We sing songs of different cultures and people. When they discuss slavery and the Civil War, we sing African American Spirituals. When they study the railroad, we sing railroad songs, westward expansion-pioneer songs, indigenous people-Native American songs, United States-patriotic songs, etc.

For even more examples, you can go to my website and see the lesson plans I’ve presented to teachers on integration. They are mostly music lessons that integrate other core areas.

Q: Is there still a place for fun music at school?
JD: I think it’s all fun! We play a lot of singing games in my classes that also teach music literacy. One of my goals is to make sure our class is joyful and “trick” the students into learning. Sometimes they think we are just “playing” in music and having fun. But I can show them and their parents exactly what they have learned and what skills they have mastered.

Jill DeVilbiss teaches music at Edith Bowen Elementary School.

1 comment:

  1. Jill is such a skilled educator. The students and teachers and parents she works with are all so lucky!


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