Threading the Concept: New Book Explores Learning for the Music Education Classroom

In Threading the Concept: Powerful Learning for the Music Classroom, music educator Debra Gordon Hedden discusses a sensory-oriented way to teaching music.

Hedden’s philosophical approach to teaching general music emphasizes that children need to experience concepts in a variety of ways, and learn best via hands-on instruction.

MENC co-published Threading the Concept with Rowman & Littlefield Education. The book offers background information about the learning process, and it includes lesson templates that act as conceptual models for music classes.

Aimed at both preservice and seasoned music educators, the book describes a pedagogical approach, that emphasizes focus on sensory-oriented conceptual.

The author targets one concept per lesson (e.g., melody), and provides learning experiences in singing, listening, performing, moving, reading/writing, and improvising/composing that focus only on that concept.

MENC members receive a 25% discount off the list price. For ordering and other information, visit Rowman & Littlefield.

Hedden is an associate professor of music education at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. She founded the University of Kansas Youth Chorus and she says she works with her students to help them understand the methods she discusses in the book.

Hedden recently discussed Threading the Concept and her classroom work, which inspired her to create the book.

Q: Where did the term “Threading the Concept” come from?

A: I am familiar with the research on curriculum threads, how subjects link. Also I avidly sew, working with threads, creating patterns. In the music classroom there is a pattern. Look at the big picture of philosophy and curriculum, which leads to the smaller picture of delivering specific lessons. Philosophy, curriculum, lesson planning and lesson delivery are all related. Ultimately, though, all of that has to relate to the variety of ways in which students learn.

Q: You offer an anecdote early in the book about being pulled into a classroom to give the teacher a break and discovered that the third grade class was very unruly compared with the way they were in your class.

A: We were working on math problems, division, and it was interesting to see how different they were. The only variable was the content of what they were learning and the teacher involved. It made me wonder why their reactions were different.

Q: You say that if you demand excellence from students they give that back. What advice do offer for new teachers, or perhaps more-experienced teachers who need to establish that kind of atmosphere early in the school year or early in a career?

A: I discovered that I needed to model what I wanted them to do, and they experience learning every step of the way. It is not insanities. They must experience learning how to every step of the way. If you are not consistent, [students] will start looking for loopholes and pick up the cues that are not good. [Students] are good at it in the beginning, but they get better.

Debra Gordon Heddon

Q: What are the primary ways in which students learn music?

A: Through the senses (seeing, hearing and feeling); through performance (singing, moving, reading, creating); through developing an ear for music; and through careful, sequential instruction that enables those concrete experiences to be the basis of abstract, conceptual knowledge.

Q: The lesson plans you offer are based on the National Standards for Music Education. Why do you think it is important to incorporate the Standards into lesson plans?

A: There is great variability among teachers. Some teachers pay a lot of attention to the National Standards, others not as much. The Standards help create comprehensive learning and well-balanced music programs. Teachers can use the Standards and be creative as well.

Q: Why do you think it is important to integrate movement into most learning experiences.

A: Research studies show movement, physical engagement, is the primary way students learn and it has to be a part of every lesson plan… Teachers tend to teach the way they were taught, and that may not be the best way to reach students. We all want to get the best out of students.

Valerie Ann Baker and David L. Gadberry contributed lesson plans for Threading the Concept: Powerful Learning for the Music Classroom.

Rowman & Littlefield Education

MENC Books

Roz Fehr, January 7, 2011 © MENC: The National Association for Music Education