In 1979 I remember sitting in the front of the tent at summer camp, with classic rock music from the era blaring from the radio. Many of those songs endure today. It made me ponder the universal reach of classics, from rock n’ roll to Mozart. I have been pondering how to use such creative motivations from my youth to help stimulate creative writing in my classroom.
In recent discussions with professional development communities, we have been exploring the idea that when children are engaged with films, television shows, movies and video games, they are subliminally listening to a soundtrack.
The students make associations are being made to the atmosphere of a scene. With their sudden changes in tempo and atmosphere, film soundtracks are particularly useful. It is important for teachers to review, reflect on and analyze various experiences to see how they can connect them to the classroom.
With symphonies lingering in my head from a recent concert, I decided to use music to inspire some writing. As with a soundtrack, a symphony is filled with sudden changes in volume, tempo, beat, rhythm and mood. I will choose from Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, Mahler, and Mozart.
Such elaborate instrumental compositions are filled with the wonder, grand proportions and varied elements. This week, I will play a symphony in my classroom. To begin with, I will let the children infer what is happening. I will ask the children to write one word that summarizes the overall work of music. We will discuss what they hear and feel, and I will list sample words on the board.
We will listen to the symphony again. Then we will share: did the piece change? How did it change? The words drafted will be used to stimulate further ideas and write stories. I will model some whole sentences for the class to use. The children will have to write their stories based on the music.
I will use the analogy of an old radio. Before the digital age, we found our favorite radio station by carefully turning the radio dial until it lined up with the station’s frequency. As we approached the number, we could only hear static. But when we finally achieved the proper alignment, the music could be heard. I will tell the students that talking, thinking and reading about works of art such as music is a way to align yourself with your own best writing frequency.
After this assignment is done, I will write another diary, reflecting on how it went. Additional assignments that can be drawn from this learning experience can include writing reviews of concerts, recordings, art, and local events.