Teaching History and Science with Music

On the hallway bulletin board as you entered my high school band room was a quote by Plato: “Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.”  The idea is that music is so powerful, it can not only change our moods and inspire us, but it can actually shape our thinking.  We all know that music plants in our memory like nothing else will, and while classical music may not be what you listen to on the radio, it can have a profound effect in your child’s understanding of their lesson.

In our history and science lessons, I try and make the concepts ‘3D’ for my kids.  It’s great to know who the Goths are and their role in the demise of the Roman Empire, but it’s so much more meaningful understand how this people group still affects our lives today through words we use and the architecture of the buildings in our country.  Now when my children see a picture of Notre Dame or some of the buildings in our downtown area, they understand what Gothic means and where it came from.

Nothing makes a lesson jump off the page more than music, especially instrumental pieces that allow your child’s imagination to run wild.  I encourage you to try playing the music after your lesson and then talk with your children about what they felt from the piece.  We often go back and listen again after we discuss the music so they can point out to me the specific parts they liked and understood.  My children often get inspired to act out the scene from the lesson while the music is playing.

Here are my tips to adding music to your lesson:

1. The first few times, play the music after the lesson discussion and tell them what the piece is about.

2. Have your children lay down and close their eyes while they listen. Tell them you want to hear what they imagined after it is done.

3. If you are using several movements from a symphony over a series of lessons, play one of the later movements before your lesson and see if they guess correctly what the piece is about.  You’ll be amazed at how good they become at this!

4. Be sure to tell your children a quick bio on the composer and help them understand when the piece was made.

5. Don’t feel like you have to play the whole movement, 2-3 minutes is usually the length of an elementary attention span.

6. Every so often have your children draw or sculpt while the music is playing to give them a different outlet for their imaginings.


Ideas for music and topics:

Please note that these are affiliate links, and if you choose to download these items I will receive a small commission.  These are some of my favorites that I have used in the past with my children.

These are just a few of my favorites, but with a little research you can find ways to incorporate classical music into your lessons and truly make an impression that will last!

Ideas for auditory learners

Continuing our series on learning styles, let’s take a look at ways to present material to your auditory learner.  Auditory learners retain and understand information best when it is received through their ears.  Music and the spoken word will be your best tools.

If your child is struggling with understanding a book he is reading, consider obtaining an audio copy of the book that he can listen to after he reads the passage.  (You can also have him read the book out loud or read to him). Audio books are readily available these days.  Our local library has quite a large collection, and sites like ITunes and Audible.com offer most any book you can think of! If you find a particular lesson takes too long to get started, try having your child read her directions out loud to you and tell you what she think it says.

If you are using a wordy text, spend more time reading text to your child rather than having him read silently to himself.

Music is by far the most powerful way to present information to an auditory learner!  Today’s market is full of new and old songs that teach everything from science to grammar.  How many of you can still sing “Conjunction junction, what’s your function?” from Schoolhouse Rock?  Music is easily retrieved from our memory, and it can be a wonderful way to help your child learn.

Adding music to your lesson plans will also help your child understand the context of the lesson better, and give him or her a deeper knowledge of the subject.  I like to call it ‘learning in 3D.’  When your child hears Holst’s Mars from The Planets, it makes the red, hostile environment of Mars come alive.  Your child can instantly picture their version of the mythological god of war, and will be much more likely to remember it long after your study is over.

Please note that some of the above links are affiliate links.