Interdisciplinary Approaches to Music Education

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Music Education

By NAfME member Sarah Inendino



The Rhyme and Reason of Meaningful Integration: Integrating Common Core and Music Standards in Multiple Disciplines.

Presented by Sarah Inendino and Laura Zerull
Friday, November 11, 1:30-2:30pm

In education, music can be put in a secondary role to other subjects as a justification for its importance in the curriculum. This mindset can make true integration enormously challenging. In response to this challenge, we often resort to thematic connections between subjects, instead of looking for deeper and more meaningful connections for student learning.

An example of this is when a teacher picks a topic or event and does a separate activity with students that may or may not be related to what a teacher of another subject is doing in the school. There is no communication of what is happening in other classrooms and no discussion of what students should be learning or their individual growth. Time is never made to reflect and students are not systematically discussed across disciplines. I would not consider this to be true integration.

As a music educator, I have had the privilege of seeing the positive impact music education has on my own students. I have also seen the power and importance of integration for students, the exploration and discovery when students first make a connection between subjects, and the way they are able to transfer skills and develop deeper levels of inquiry. Most of us as music educators see our students for an hour a week or less. Having the ability to collaborate and have musical ideas reinforced throughout other parts of a student’s school day deepens their understanding and investment.



Meaningful collaboration is difficult. It is a skill that needs to be learned and takes time to develop. There are many different strategies, approaches, and resources for successful collaboration. One resource that is commonly used within my own district is the Seven Norms of Collaboration from the Adaptive Schools Seminars. 




Many times within a staff meeting, we will choose one of these norms to more deeply develop, and make it a goal to focus our attention on becoming more proficient and effective at using that norm within our time together. We are all pressed for time, and having effective and efficient meetings will not only move work forward but our relationships with colleagues as well. More detailed information on the Seven Norms of Collaboration can be found on the Thinking Collaborative website.


Integration Obstacles

Although the Seven Norms of Collaboration provide a nice framework for collaboration, they do not address all of the challenges that we as educators may face everyday. These challenges can include:

  • Time to collaborate
  • Understanding of curricula
  • Desire to collaborate

Sometimes it is difficult to figure out how to start interdisciplinary conversations with colleagues. Educators of completely different subjects do not always have a clear understanding of the learning occurring within another classroom. I have found that taking a little time to look at the standards of another subject can have a huge payoff in the end. Once I have a better idea of what a student’s whole day looks like, I can approach my colleagues with a more informed understanding of what our integrated learning experience could look like in both classrooms.

It is also important to be upfront and clear of the expectations and philosophy behind your approach to integration. We are not just trading a vocabulary list, and it is not just the other subject being supported within the music classroom. Many general education teachers may feel uncomfortable reinforcing music concepts because they do not feel they have a clear grasp of the content. It is our job as music educators to help give suggestions and deepen everyone’s understanding of music education.

As educators we have to be savvy about how we use our time. Finding the time to integrate and plan can be a process within itself. My colleagues and I have found that technology has been a great resource for organizing and constructing a more seamless approach to collaboration. This has allowed us to meet at non-traditional times and has made sharing and accessing data quick and available to everyone on the team.


Interdisciplinary learning Rawpixel Ltd


Throughout the presentation, we will address these challenges from the perspective of a general classroom teacher and music teacher and show how we designed a shared learning experience that transferred between multiple classrooms. We will specifically look at the natural crossovers between English Language Arts and General Music and give ideas and tools that other teachers can implement within their own school.



Norms of Collaboration Toolkit (2016, May 03).


About the author:

Sarah Inendino bio photo

NAfME member Sarah Inendino is originally from Northern Michigan, where she graduated with high honors from Interlochen Arts Academy. She then attended Northwestern University and earned a Bachelors of Music in Music Education. Sarah most recently received a Masters of Arts in Music Education from Columbia University in New York City. Her specializations include General Music, Choral, and Voice Pedagogy.

Sarah currently serves as the General Music Teacher and Chorus Director at Pleasant Ridge School in Glenview, Illinois. In her position, Sarah instructs 3rd-5th grade general music classes with an emphasis on student creativity, interdisciplinary curricula, and technology integration. She also directs the annual school musical, choral concerts, and community outreach performances.

Sarah also serves as the District Seven General Music Representative for the Illinois Music Education Association. In this role, she co-coordinates the General Music and Elementary Chorus Festival for the north and northwest suburbs of Chicago.

Connect with Sarah Inendino on Linkedin.


Sarah Inendino will be presenting on her topic ”The Rhyme and Reason of Meaningful Integration: Integrating Poetry and Music Standards in Multiple Disciplines” at the 2016 NAfME National In-Service Conference this November in Grapevine, TX! Register today!

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Join us for more than 100 innovative professional development sessions, nightly entertainment, extraordinary performances from across the country, and tons of networking opportunities with over 3,000+ other music educators! Learn more and register today: And follow the hashtag #NAfME2016!

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The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.

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