The 4 Cs: Communication and Collaboration

In music, students communicate through performing their compositions, presenting their ideas in their own musical language. By listening, they interpret their classmates’ performances.

MENC member Donna Zawatski videotapes students performing their compositions and plays them again for the class. Students critique each group’s work and share their written comments. “They love this!” she says. “You’d think it was Valentine’s Day and their group was receiving all the valentines.”

The students read the feedback with interest and judge its validity. Zawatski reminds them that the composition is theirs and suggests they take feedback with a grain of salt. However, if several students make the same comment, composers might want to consider it. One group received several comments that not all instruments could be heard. The students determined they had a balance issue and discussed ways to correct it. They performed again so everyone could learn from the adjustment.

Students collaborate when they’re given opportunities to work together to solve problems and benefit from different perspectives. “Students will need to be considerate of other group members’ ideas,” Zawatski says. “Together they need to compose a piece that capitalizes on each group member’s background and skills. Collaborating supports individual learning because it provides immediate feedback. Students are often more willing to accept feedback from peers than from a teacher.”

The 4 Cs

By focusing on the 4 Cs* teachers can show students how to take what they know and teach themselves. When budget cuts threaten, Zawatski says, “How are our programs preparing students to succeed? How are we going to show those making the cuts that music is a perfect example of how to teach children to apply the 4 Cs and create success?”

* Creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication

Adapted from “4C + 1C = 1TGMT,” by Donna Zawatski, Illinois Music Educator, Volume 71, Number 3. Used with permission.

Donna Zawatski teaches teach K–5 general music at Thomas Metcalf Lab School on the Illinois State University campus in Normal, Illinois. She is the JEM (Junior High/Elementary Music) VP for the Illinois MEA.

—Linda C. Brown, August 24, 2011, © National Association for Music Education (