Tag Archives: lesson plan

Integrating Music into Your Course

I cannot remember when I did not try to integrate music in some way into my history, ethics, or political science courses. Music can enliven a course in more ways than one. In addition to providing a change of pace  during classes, it can get the attention of students who are drifting, light up a different part of the students’ brains, and help to reinforce important learning outcomes.

While it was quite easy to find the opportunity to play music in a US History or Modern European History course, I had a genuine challenge when I began to teach early Western Civilization, a course that began with homo sapiens and ended with the Black Death of the 14th century. After all, we have only about 40 fragments of music from the entire ancient period. This would be a challenge.

The ray of light came as we were marching through Ancient Greece. (My course text was These Were the Greeks by H.D. Amos & A.G.P. Lang.) We covered “People and the Land,” “Homer,” and “City-States;” “Sparta,” “Wars with Persia,” and “Religion;” “Imperial Athens,” “Constitution and Law,” and “Every Day” society.

The Ah-Ha moment came as I was preparing my lesson plan for the next lesson on “Education.” We compared the educational systems of Athens and Sparta and then addressed the role of the paidagogos, corporal punishment, and rote memory. Greek boys studied not only “academic” subjects but also had required physical training, to develop their own bodies and also to prepare to defend their city-states.

The insight came when we covered the important role music played in the education of Greek boys. The Greeks believed that music was important for the character development of the boy, who was expected to learn to sing and to play the lyre and also perhaps an instrument similar to oboe. They also believed it could balance the body, promoting an inner harmony. The Iliad and the Odyssey were generally recited with such music accompaniment.

I took this material and transformed it into a question: Can music develop character? In the first instance, this demonstrated to the students the higher order principle that education is not simply the acquisition of facts.

I then played Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer.” I let it play until the words: “I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains.” After stopping the music, we explored the song’s meaning.

I then held up a copy of Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea and discussed my initial experience with it. I related how I thought it was a pleasant little story until I hit the simple but very powerful statement which jumped off the page at me: “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

I then with my Power Point showed several famous individuals and their quotes: Maya Angelou-“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.” Frederick Douglass-“The soul that is within me no man can degrade.” Napoleon Bonaparte-“Death is nothing: but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.” Abigail Adams in referring to her husband John- “…he is made of oak instead of willow. He may be torn up by the roots, or break, but he will never bend.”

As the buzzer rang, I challenged the students to find pieces of music that might develop character. Throughout the remainder of the course, we played selections of music—songs as well as instrumental pieces. These I played either at the start of class as a warm-up and attention getter, or latter as a pace-breaker.

When I encounter former students, it is very gratifying to hear them speak so fondly of the music we played in class. Give it a try.

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Advice for New Teachers: Lesson Plan Format

In my last post I described the most important issue a teacher must face when organizing a course. In contrast to that strategic advice, Jacob and I met today to discuss the format of a good lesson plan. This year we are both teaching courses within the general field of Humanities and Religion.

I began  by repeating what I had already told him. A new teacher is often so concerned about preparing for every possible question in class that midnight may come , and yet he or she still has not formulated a lesson plan. Eventually the background reading must come to an end, and the teacher must decide on the specific activities for class the next day: how the teacher will use the class time.

This is the lesson plan format I have developed over many years which I gave to Jacob.  The main components:

Aids (What things do you need to bring to class, such as, a Power Point, visual aids, maps, music selections, and books)

Admin (Such as quiz and test reminders, general info announcements, classroom procedure)

Next time (Briefly remind the students of the next lesson; highlight any important info)

Review (Review the key points from the last lesson. Ask some pointed questions. Clear up any fuzzy areas on key points.)

Overview: (Preview the important points, concepts, and themes of the lesson. This component of the lesson plan should be prepared after the entire lesson plan is prepared, not at the beginning. Look at the entire lesson plan and ask: If I had only five minutes to teach this class, what would I say and do?)

MAIN BODY: If a Power Point is to be used, place prompts in the appropriate places in the lesson plan to synchronize your plan with your power point.



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