New Core Arts Standards

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    At our recent MassMEA there was discussion on the release of the new Core Arts Standards in June. I’m trying to embrace the inevitable of adopting these standards for our school. I’m currently doing some work aligning our old state standards with the new ones and also collaborating with our ELA resources to incorporate Reading and Writing skills and strategies in music. You may ask yourself, “Why?” My reasoning is that I want to place value on our music program and show that we are just as much apart of the Common Core. I feel when cuts need to be made, it would make it hard to cut a program that incorporates Reading and Writing components.

    At any rate…

    Is anyone doing similar work across the country? Have you incorporated ELA standards in to your music classroom? What does it look like? Do you have a great lesson plan you can share?


    My system has done some of this type of work in Middle Tennessee. The new standards are uniform. I keep the CCSS in mind when I created the first version of my essential learning’s for each grade level. We are required to incorporate as many cross-curricular items into our lessons as we can, particularly work pertains to ELA. However, this must be done while remaining true to our own subjects in our related arts classes at my school.

    There are many areas where ELA crosses over with music, such as analyzing the lyrics and doing a close read of the lyrics of a song. This is a very simple and effective way to incorporate ELA into your lesson without sacrificing music. In addition, for lower grades, performing rounds increases reading fluency.

    You can see my essential learning got the following web address:

    If you want more just email me off the essential learning’s web page.


    Sorry I’m late to the party! Hope this can help you.

    I’ve done ELA in various forms with each grade level – easy stuff though. With K and 1st it’s obviously just song lyrics posted on big paper so all can see. Choose students to point to the words; find rhyming words; identify silly / real life lyrics; describe what’s going on in the song; simple comprehension questions. It makes the song more meaningful to them.

    With Grade 2 and 3 we talk more about form and purpose of the song. Ex. story song, folk song just for enjoyment, bluesy song to complain, happy song to celebrate etc. I ask them to predict what would happen if part of the song were changed and comprehension questions. I do this after we sing the song a couple times (usually by rote as they don’t read music yet); it gets them to look deeper into the song and meanings.

    With Grades 4, 5 and 6 I do comprehension questions with composer bios and articles. (For two years in place of a lunch duty they gave me a reading intervention group, half hour four days per week with 4th graders. In this position I learned a lot of questions to ask. I’m sure you could get a list of basic comprehension questions from a reading coach or grade level teacher.) I ask higher-order thinking (HOT) questions (oh man this is a buzz phrase now) and inference questions such as “How do you think Ray Charles developed his own style of music?” “Who do you think was Ray Charles’ most influential friend and why?” Listening questions could include “Which two adjectives could one apply to Ray Charles performance of Blues or R&B music? Give one reason for your answer.” (I just finished doing Ray Charles for Jazz Appreciation Month, so these are fresh in my head!) One could also ask these in a class discussion. Have the kids read the article (round robin where kids take turns reading all at once is now frowned upon; studies show that kids zone out, acc’d to my school’s Reading Coach). Then ask them such questions and ask another student to find the spot in the article where that information came from.

    Good luck!!


    As far as ELA, think of focusing on the four areas of language acquisition: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Also, be aware of the language used in the music room: conversational language and content language. Our district has adopted Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP). You may want to use a chart like this to discuss a folk song.

    Click to access FlowChart.pdf

    We also have an assessment administered to our ELA population to determine the levels of language fluency: beginning, intermediate, advanced, and advanced high. Annually, the district offers online training to bilingual and ESL teachers. As the music teacher, I complete the training so that I am more aware of student responses as my students struggle to communicate in my classroom.

    And most importantly, learn a little bit of the culture and language of your students. They will feel more comfortable in your classroom, free to interact, and willing to teach you a few things.

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