top of page

Spark Curiosity to Empower Music Learning

In this article, I aim to provide four constructive ideas on how to ignite students' curiosity in the music classroom. These strategies are not only applicable in the music classroom but can also be implemented in any other educational setting.


The Dream

Every teacher dreams of students remembering and understanding the content taught in the classroom, but it's important to recognize that this is an ambitious goal. Numerous studies on memory have shown that the capacity of our brain's memory is finite and influenced by various factors. One of the significant factors that can influence memory is emotions. When students are engaged, excited, or involved during a lesson, it increases their chances of understanding and memorizing the content. As teachers, our goal is to spark their curiosity, as it significantly enhances the probability of meaningful engagement. Throughout my years of teaching, I have experimented with various approaches, and I would like to share four of the most useful strategies I have discovered to achieve this.


Student with headphones in front of a laptop completing work

1. Music Learning through Context

Music has the remarkable ability to resonate with students on a personal level, making it one of the most powerful allies for teachers on their mission to engage and inspire. Students encounter music in various forms every day, even when it's not explicitly part of the curriculum. By integrating the teaching content with elements from students' real-life experiences, we can tap into their curiosity and encourage them to explore and understand more deeply. In my own classroom, I have discovered several effective strategies to achieve this. Allow me to share a few examples.


#1 example (instrument performance)

In my classroom, I often leverage the diverse musical talents of my students to enhance the learning experience. For instance, if I am teaching about musical elements such as texture, I invite students who are currently learning instruments, particularly piano, to perform a piece they have been working on. By showcasing their musical abilities, we create a connection between the teaching content and real-world examples. In the context of a lesson on texture, I encourage the students to analyze the piece and identify the type of texture being applied. This approach not only reinforces their understanding of the concept but also allows them to actively participate and engage with the content in a meaningful way.


#2 example (favorite band)

Another effective strategy I employ is to ask students about their favorite music bands or songs. By delving into their personal preferences, we can explore various analyses and establish connections with our teaching content. This opens up a world of possibilities, whether it's exploring different music styles, dissecting music elements, or discussing various instruments used in their favorite songs. The key here is to leverage their personal interests and create a bridge between their beloved music and the content we are teaching. For example, when teaching the concept of rhythm, incorporating their favorite songs allows them to internalize the content within a familiar context, leading to better comprehension and retention. The beauty of this approach lies in its endless potential for customization and personalization, making the learning experience more engaging and memorable for the students.


Context is everything


In each unit I present, my main focus is on providing context for the students. I have realized the immense value of creating an enriching experience by connecting the content to real-life situations and personal interests. By anchoring the learning material within relevant contexts, students are able to make meaningful connections and better understand the subject matter. By weaving context into the fabric of my teaching, I aim to create a dynamic and immersive learning environment that sparks curiosity and ignites students' passion for music.


Two hands holding iPad with GarageBand app opened

2. Technology

In the three-year middle school curriculum that I have developed at my current school, technology plays a central role. As a passionate advocate for technology, I embrace its use in every lesson, leveraging its potential to enhance student engagement and learning. With access to 15 iPads for student use in pairs and a MacLab equipped with 30 iMacs for individual use, my students are able to harness the power of these devices to conduct research, complete projects, compose music, and record their musical creations. The students thoroughly enjoy utilizing these devices, channeling their enthusiasm and creativity into meaningful educational pursuits rather than engaging in passive entertainment.

I understand that not every music classroom may have access to an abundance of iPads, iMacs, or other devices. However, even starting with just one iPad can make a significant impact. By demonstrating the value and potential of technology in the music classroom, you can help school leadership recognize its importance and encourage investment in improving the technological infrastructure. Convincing them of the positive impact that technology can have on student learning and musical development will pave the way for acquiring better equipment and resources in the future.


Close up on djembe drum with visible hands of the performer

3. Hands on experiences

Music is a subject that offers abundant opportunities for hands-on experiences, and I strive to incorporate these opportunities into every lesson. Whether it's through playing different instruments or leveraging technology, I aim to create a win-win scenario for my students. Even a short 5-minute activity that allows students to apply musical concepts in a practical way can make a significant difference, transforming a potentially dry lesson into an engaging and memorable experience.

I also encourage my fellow department members to embrace this approach and integrate practical experiences into their own lessons. The value of hands-on learning in music cannot be overstated, as it not only enhances understanding but also ignites students' curiosity and passion for the subject. While the extent to which you can implement practical experiences may depend on your available resources, keeping this idea in mind and seeking opportunities to incorporate hands-on learning will undoubtedly elevate the quality of content delivery and create a more enriching musical education for your students.


Two direction boards pointing Option A and Option B

4. Freedom (of choice)

Integrating freedom of choice into the music classroom, alongside contextual and technological approaches, adds another layer of engagement and empowerment for students. By allowing students to make choices in their research topics or task executions, you create an environment that fosters their individual interests and preferences, keeping them actively involved in the learning process.

Implementing freedom of choice does require flexibility and additional preparation to ensure that the initial learning objectives are still met. However, the benefits of this approach are significant, as it encourages student ownership and investment in their work. For example, during a Jazz unit, you can ask students to research their favorite Jazz musician, allowing them to explore their personal interests within the broader context of the curriculum. Similarly, when composing music to a picture, you can give students the freedom to use their favorite instruments and sounds to express their unique musical creativity.

By incorporating freedom of choice into the classroom, you create a dynamic and student-centered learning environment that encourages creativity, critical thinking, and active engagement. It empowers students to take ownership of their learning and fosters a deeper connection to the subject matter.


 

In conclusion, igniting students' curiosity is not an easy task, but by implementing these strategies, we can create a more engaging and meaningful learning experience for our students. By providing context, leveraging technology, creating hands-on experiences, and offering freedom of choice, we can help our students to develop a passion for music and a love for learning that will last a lifetime.


I'm interested to know your perspective on the four strategies mentioned and how you have addressed the challenge of inspiring students' creativity in your own teaching practice.


In the future I will be sharing more resources on implementation of music-tech in the music classroom in order to enhance teaching. Subscribe to my newsletter here and stay updated.

Comments


bottom of page