How to Use This Guide

With your guidance, Musical Explorers develop habits of active and engaged listening through a process that includes using recurring prompts, follow-up questions, modeling, and short, repeated listening.

Prompts: As students encounter new songs throughout the curriculum, ask them questions about the music. We have included some scripted suggestions, which appear in italics. These prompts are purposefully very open to help familiarize students with the process of noticing and articulating specific aspects of the music.

  • What do you hear in this music?
  • How would you move to this music?
  • What words can you use to describe this music?
  • How does this music make you feel?

Follow-Up Questions: Here are some examples of questions that might be used in addition to the above prompts to further expand your students’ ideas. Young students may need to be offered some choices until they develop more confidence in their own vocabulary and abilities. Follow-up questions may include:

  • Can you tell me a little more about that?
  • Can you show me that with your hands by clapping or tapping, or by moving your body?
  •  Can you sing it for me?
  • What do you think the musicians are feeling? What makes you think that?
  • What are the instrumentalists doing? What is the singer doing?
  • Is the music busy or calm, loud or soft, high or low, smooth or bumpy?

Modeling: At the beginning of the year, it may be helpful to model responding to your own prompts. Modeling can also be facilitated through appointing student leadership roles in the classroom, allowing students to learn from their peers.

Repeated Listening: As you facilitate listening and discussion, it will be helpful to remember these tips for the “What did you hear in this music?” prompt:

  • Play examples more than once and spread listening across many lessons. Unfamiliar music takes time to absorb, process, and respond to.
  • Play back short excerpts of the music by pausing the song after each section.
  • Ask the prompts while listening to a song, since it may be more difficult for students to recall a musical detail or observation when the music exists only in memory.

Making the Invisible Visible: To help our young students actively listen to and engage with music, we look for ways to make the invisible world of music visible, and whenever possible, kinesthetic. In Musical Explorers, these methods include:

  • singing melodies
  • clapping and tapping rhythms (body percussion)
  • counting rhythms
  • finding contour by drawing sounds
  • connecting narrative ideas with music
  • dancing
  • connecting cultural images with music