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No matter what my topic, I am finding that music and visual arts have become an important staple in my ELA classroom.
I have used music more in my classroom this year than ever before. I have used it to each voice, and to teach mood and tone. I have used music lyrics to teach about allusion and other literary devices. I let Eminem teach them about “word bending,” as he calls it, to get the cadence and rhyme that makes poetry so different from other forms of literature. I let them choose song lyrics to analyze for figurative language as a check for understanding. When I showed Schindler’s List, we spent a lot of time talking about how directors and producers use music as cues for the audience.
Visual images from photographs and works of art have also helped me get my students thinking and writing about the topics and themes we are exploring. Using the “Think-See-Wonder” cognitive strategy has given my students not only a new way to connect with visual images, but also with written words. They can now “see” more in the written word because they have honed their ability to look beyond the surface of a work of art for the little things.
Music and other arts are vital to the sustainability of a society. Without providing ways for our children to develop the creative abilities that most display as toddlers and pre-schoolers, we are doing them a huge disservice. In this age when tested subjects like ELA, math, and science are emphasized, the arts are losing out. Programs are being cut and students are pulled from the creative, hands-on classes for remediation. Often the students who need to be remediated are also the ones who most benefit from the classes that they are pulled from.
Our students all need to be able to think, see, and wonder to process and interact with the world around them. Providing them the creative opportunities they need means that we cannot continue to relegate the arts to a position of unimportance in schools without damaging the foundation of society.