I firmly believe that the strategies and approaches being described in the activities below are not unique or in some way "belonging" to literacy study.  These are skills of literate people, and being literate is a skill that crosses disciplines.  Literacy addresses the act of being able to obtain knowledge through media, organize that knowledge, and use it for novel purposes.  These are skills that have been attributed to literacy development, but that does not mean they are skills for the discipline of literacy.  These are skills for a learned person and applicable to all areas.  What I hope the activities and strategies below provide you are ways in which to apply them to music.

All materials found on this page were created by Brian N. Weidner unless otherwise noted and are licensed for your use under a Creative Commons 4.0 License.  Feel welcome to use and adapt any of these for your own classroom use and non-commercial use. As a matter of fact, please share them back with me if you create something better so that others can benefit from your work.   If you are using these in publications or presentations, please attribute these materials to Brian N. Weidner and license them as a Creative Commons license to allow others to use and modify them.

To print out a copy of all the materials below,

click here to download a pdf of all materials listed below.

Argument

 
Article Review

Students are asked to read an article pertaining to an issue addressed in class.  These could include articles about technique, history, critical performance, or other issues.  The questions follow approaches similar to those used in the social sciences for critical review of reading.

Concert Review

Students attend a live performance and then critically respond to what they hear.  This activity prompts critical listening, organization, and persuasive writing skills.

Peer Critique (Composition)

Students serve as peer reviewers for musical compositions (the prompt is listed in the composition section as structured composition).  This supports critical thinking and structured argument with supporting details.

Position plus 2
Post-Concert
Reaction
Recording Review

Being able to substantiate an argument is an important skill.  Position plus 2 asks students to state a position and then find 2 points of support from the source materials, which could be a text, a recording, a score, or other materials.

Students are asked to react to their performance in detail and write a critique of it from the perspective of the audience.  This emphasizes point of view as well as strength of argument.

Students are asked to listen to a recording and take a position on the music in regard to the recording quality as well as music performance.  This position then needs to be supported with evidence from the recording.

 
Group Composition

Collaboration

This composition focuses on collaborative work with a narrow field of options (in this case, pentatonic duets).  This approach encourages collaboration and expects students to not only create but also explain and justify their compositional process.

Peer Critique (Composition)

Students serve as peer reviewers for musical compositions (the prompt is listed in the composition section as structured composition).  This supports critical thinking and structured argument with supporting details.

Online Forums

Most classroom management systems (Blackboard, Canvas, etc) have forums built in but other tools can be found through Google, Facebook, and other online resources to allow students to collaborate together and build critical skills for the classroom.

Sectional Inventory

All students are accountable for progress to be made in sectionals.  Each student arrives to sectionals with a list of objectives. Together, the section establishes a plan for the sectional and each member evaluates their progress at the end.

Speed Dating

The ensemble is divided in two groups.  Students are paired up with one another and perform short sections of music for one another.  Each partner critiques the other.  After 5 minutes, one student rotates to the next spot, just like a speed date, and it starts all over again.  This builds critical ability as well as collaboration on growth.

 

Composition

Group Composition

This composition focuses on collaborative work with a narrow field of options (in this case, pentatonic duets).  This approach encourages collaboration and expects students to not only create but also explain and justify their compositional process.

Peer Critique (Composition)

Students serve as peer reviewers for musical compositions (the prompt is listed in the composition section as structured composition).  This supports critical thinking and structured argument with supporting details.

Structured Composition

Providing parameters for writing is commonly found in many areas of literacy.  These parameters include guidelines for content as well as structure.  Music composition can utilize the same structure of criteria for writing and applying classroom lessons.

 

Critical approach

3-Minute Clinic

Three minute clinics place the responsibility of decision making in rehearsal upon the student.  Students serve as mini-clincians, listening to the ensemble and commenting on what they hear occur.

Article Review
Concert Review

Students are asked to read an article pertaining to an issue addressed in class.  These could include articles about technique, history, critical performance, or other issues.  The questions follow approaches similar to those used in the social sciences for critical review of reading.

Critical Response
Position plus 2

Students attend a live performance and then critically respond to what they hear.  This activity prompts critical listening, organization, and persuasive writing skills.

Students are asked to identify issues within a performance/composition, diagnose the error, and then prescribe solutions for these errors.  This develops their ability to respond critically and topically as well as guide their own musical independence.

Post-Concert
Reaction
Primary Source

Being able to substantiate an argument is an important skill.  Position plus 2 asks students to state a position and then find 2 points of support from the source materials, which could be a text, a recording, a score, or other materials.

Students are asked to react to their performance in detail and write a critique of it from the perspective of the audience.  This emphasizes point of view as well as strength of argument.

Progressive Rating

Primary sources provide a perspective on works that are unique as they return to the materials with which the composer or author would have been familiar.  They provide grounds for how to interpret works and how they might be performed.

Recording Review

Recordings are made of the ensemble performing, and each time, students respond with their observations.  The focus is not only upon the students' critical abilities but also their ability to identify change over time.

Rehearsal Structure

Students are asked to listen to a recording and take a position on the music in regard to the recording quality as well as music performance.  This position then needs to be supported with evidence from the recording.

Sectional Inventory

Students critique the progress of the rehearsal as well as learn the structural elements of the rehearsal.  This is a particularly useful tool to keep the student who forgot an instrument or who is unable to sing for a day engaged and learning.

Self-Evaluation

All students are accountable for progress to be made in sectionals.  Each student arrives to sectionals with a list of objectives. Together, the section establishes a plan for the sectional and each member evaluates their progress at the end.

Speed Dating

Students are required to independently evaluate their own musical performance and process in a cogent position paper.  The focus on musical ability pushes their musicianship while attention on argument and support develop writing skills.

Test Prep

The ensemble is divided in two groups.  Students are paired up with one another and perform short sections of music for one another.  Each partner critiques the other.  After 5 minutes, one student rotates to the next spot, just like a speed date, and it starts all over again.  This builds critical ability as well as collaboration on growth.

Test preparation is often expected of all teachers.  Finding reading samples associated with class activities and creating basic quesitons around them can serve two purposes: preparing students for tests and providing background for lessons.

 

Reading

Article Review
Introductions
Pre-reading Strategies
Sight reading Strategies
Test Prep
Unfamiliar Vocabulary

Students are asked to read an article pertaining to an issue addressed in class.  These could include articles about technique, history, critical performance, or other issues.  The questions follow approaches similar to those used in the social sciences for critical review of reading.

New pieces bring with them new vocabulary and concepts.  Prepare students for these concepts by both pre-testing what they know but also previewing concepts.  This allows for better sight-reading and deeper grasp of key concepts.

Pre-reading emphasizes paying attention to key structural characteristics and major themes prior to formally reading a text.  The same principles can be applied to sight reading in music to prepare students for the music they are about to play.

The social sciences teach many strategies for pre-reading that can be applied to sight reading by looking for major events, scanning for areas of possible confusion, and anticipating problems.

Test preparation is often expected of all teachers.  Finding reading samples associated with class activities and creating basic quesitons around them can serve two purposes: preparing students for tests and providing background for lessons.

Reading strategies emphasize the use of contextual knowledge to identify unfamiliar vocabulary.  Music can use the same process.  While students can look up terms in music dictionaries, it is valuable to learn how to derive definitions through deduction.

 

Structure

Diagramming
Graphic Organizers

Language study uses diagramming regularly as a method for showing the relationship between various concepts.  Similar diagrams, such as plotlines and sentence diagrams, can be used in musical applications as well to visually organize music.

Graphic organizers are ways to organize concepts in a visual manner to show relationships and similiarities.  They are used commonly in the social science but can be applied well in music study.

Introductions
Pre-reading Strategies
Rehearsal Structure
Sectional Inventory
Sight reading Strategies
Structured Composition

New pieces bring with them new vocabulary and concepts.  Prepare students for these concepts by both pre-testing what they know but also previewing concepts.  This allows for better sight-reading and deeper grasp of key concepts.

Pre-reading emphasizes paying attention to key structural characteristics and major themes prior to formally reading a text.  The same principles can be applied to sight reading in music to prepare students for the music they are about to play.

Students critique the progress of the rehearsal as well as learn the structural elements of the rehearsal.  This is a particularly useful tool to keep the student who forgot an instrument or who is unable to sing for a day engaged and learning.

All students are accountable for progress to be made in sectionals.  Each student arrives to sectionals with a list of objectives. Together, the section establishes a plan for the sectional and each member evaluates their progress at the end.

The social sciences teach many strategies for pre-reading that can be applied to sight reading by looking for major events, scanning for areas of possible confusion, and anticipating problems.

Providing parameters for writing is commonly found in many areas of literacy.  These parameters include guidelines for content as well as structure.  Music composition can utilize the same structure of criteria for writing and applying classroom lessons.

Vocabulary

 
Contextual Definitions

Contextual clues can provide meaning to many of the terms we encounter in music.  Just as reading classes teach to use contextual clues, music provides the opportunity to understand unfamiliar terms and symbols through their context.

Introductions

New pieces bring with them new vocabulary and concepts.  Prepare students for these concepts by both pre-testing what they know but also previewing concepts.  This allows for better sight-reading and deeper grasp of key concepts.

Music Dictionary

Students create a personalized music dictionary with the terms they encounter in your class.  Start with a list of terms that you think are important and then have them include unfamiliar terms and definitions as they encounter them.

Unfamiliar Vocabulary

Reading strategies emphasize the use of contextual knowledge to identify unfamiliar vocabulary.  Music can use the same process.  While students can look up terms in music dictionaries, it is valuable to learn how to derive definitions through deduction.

Writing

 
Article Review

Students are asked to read an article pertaining to an issue addressed in class.  These could include articles about technique, history, critical performance, or other issues.  The questions follow approaches similar to those used in the social sciences for critical review of reading.

Concert Review

Students attend a live performance and then critically respond to what they hear.  This activity prompts critical listening, organization, and persuasive writing skills.

Post-Concert
Reaction

Students are asked to react to their performance in detail and write a critique of it from the perspective of the audience.  This emphasizes point of view as well as strength of argument.

Program Notes

Program notes provide students with the opportunity to research details about music and their background.  Start by providing a prompt for students to write from, and then hold them responsible for providing your audience a glimpse of your classroom experience.

Recording Review

Students are asked to listen to a recording and take a position on the music in regard to the recording quality as well as music performance.  This position then needs to be supported with evidence from the recording.

Self-Evaluation

Students are required to independently evaluate their own musical performance and process in a cogent position paper.  The focus on musical ability pushes their musicianship while attention on argument and support develop writing skills.

Video tutorials

These videos are designed to provide some guidance of how to use these strategies through real life applications.