Go ahead; Jump Right In!

Overheard at a Keeping Score workshop: “I love classical music, but my students are just learning the basics. It’ll be a while before they know enough for me to use a complex symphony in the classroom.”

Have you ever hesitated because, like this teacher, you were worried that your students didn’t have enough knowledge to learn from a work like Beethoven’s 5th? It’s only natural – after all, we generally think about curriculum as a step-by-step process in which simple materials gradually build a platform for more complicated ones. That’s true in many subjects – but the great thing about classical music is its ability to reach children at all levels. Sure, we know that there are complexities that need time to learn, but you can still make effective use of classical music right from the beginning! Here are some ways to get started:

  • if your students are learning to count, have them clap along to a piece of classical music
  • use a piece of classical music as a writing prompt
  • use a piece of classical music to build vocabulary by asking your students for descriptive words
  • use a composer’s biography to get students interested
  • use the families of instruments to teach concepts such as comparisons, proportions, acoustics, voice

But don’t take it from me – take it from KS teachers. Fourth grade teacher Tasha Guess: “I realized that although Beethoven's 5th symphony is one of the most familiar pieces in the world, I might be the first one to share it with my student. They look forward to hearing the piece everyday.” Kindergarten teacher Clare Andrews writes: “I am so shocked and surprised at how much writing I got from my kindergarteners in the second month of school!!!!!! Also how much they were interested in the music and in Beethoven!”

Denise Heredia sums it all up: “Children are not afraid like their teacher. They take it all in.”

So relax, pick the piece of classical music you love the best, and take a great journey with your students!