At a time when financial cuts seem to be sucking the arts out of every school's budget, we would like to offer the following fun classroom activities that will expose students to fine arts in a way that even the least musical teacher can incorporate.
First, consider establishing musical cues in your classroom. These cues can be used on a daily basis for musical reinforcement, but can also be used by a substitute who travels to a different class from day-to-day, provided a clear explanation is given ahead of time. For example, teach your students that when they hear a specific piece of music, they have a set amount of time in which to clean up their work area and get back in their seat. At three and a half minutes long, something short and peppy like Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee would inspire them to get the job done quickly. For lining up at the door to leave the room, Aram Khachaturian's brief Sabre Dance would be ideal.
Second, consider using music as an avenue for memorization. In the same way most pre-schoolers learn their ABC's to Mozart's famous melody, your students could creatively memorize the presidents in order by singing them to the Early American folk melody known as Turkey In the Straw. Or, for a more detailed number, check out The Presidents Song to the tune of the Rossini's William Tell Overture. Imagine the surprise on a full-time teacher's face upon realizing the memorization progress made in her absence by you having already taught them to sing their U.S. States and Capitols!
Finally, consider how you could incorporate classical pieces into history. Teaching about Napoleon's conquest of France? The cannon fire at the end of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture will wake up the most bored student. (Boys especially will love it!) Discussing the Civil War? Spend a moment pondering the emotions expressed in Ashokan Farewell.
Whether you are a full-time classroom teacher, or a substitute that pops in and out, having a few tricks up you sleeve (and on your playlist) will ensure that your students are learning and retaining information, both musical and educational, for years to come. How have you been able to incorporate the arts into your teaching? If you have ideas for using music in the classroom, please feel free to share!