Share the Music Across Disciplines, Part 2

When Lenna Harris heard, “What do you know about real teaching?” she knew she wanted to dispel that fallacy and make music an integral part of the life of the school. She described how she integrated music into other subjects at all levels without compromising the music curriculum in part 1.

Collaborative Projects

Harris has collaborated on several projects with other teachers:

  • Lessons based on “Baba Yaga and the Hut on Chicken Legs” (Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition) developed with the art teacher. The lessons earned a grant from the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
  • A project exploring Native American art and music with another art teacher to win a grant to collaborate with fourth-grade classroom teachers. Students were totally immersed in the project for over six weeks. “The school board was very pleased with their special presentation of the students’ accomplishments,” Harris says.
  • A Civil War Revue (including speeches, poetry, songs, and skits) for fifth graders with the social studies teacher. “It was a great opportunity to watch students use information and grow into understanding that information,” says Harris.

Getting Started

Here are Harris’ tips to start collaborating at your school:

  • Eat lunch in the faculty room and listen.
  • Visit classrooms and study the bulletin boards.
  • Ask for curriculums and review them to know what your students are learning.
  • Look for resources at conventions, in bookstores, and in catalogs. Even on a limited budget, one or two new helpful books a year will make a difference.
  • Use curricular connections found in many music texts as a starting point.
  • Remember to collaborate with the physical education teacher on appropriate movement and dances—another educational element to educating the total child.

Benefits to the Music Program

The music program at Harris’ school is now very visible, “from a drum line at the annual Halloween parade to the themed open house every spring.” Harris’ students also gave a special presentation for their school board. School board members can have a tremendous impact on music education programs—providing resources and funding—so having students perform for the school board advocates for and helps fully fund the music program.

“Go for it! There are no pitfalls, only gains.”

MENC’s Lesson Plan Library, My Music Class, where you can search by subject (math, language arts, science, etc.) to find cross-disciplinary lessons

Lenna Harris teaches general, vocal, and instrumental music and elementary band at Knowlton Township Elementary School in Delaware, New Jersey, where she’s been for 25 of her 37 years teaching.

—Linda C. Brown, November 18, 2009, © National Association for Music Education (