Allison Doll University of La Verne

A Paper Prepared for EDUC 504 In Partial Fulfillment of The Requirements for the Degree Masters of Education

November 2010


2 Abstract

Music can be incorporated in to a language arts curriculum as a way to provide students with engagement and motivation to want to learn. This engagement is used as a stepping stone to all areas of language arts including phonemic awareness, reading, writing, and poetry. There are a number of studies and articles that address the benefits of music in a language arts curriculum. These studies and articles also provide strategies that can be used to incorporate music into any classroom as a way to increase effective teaching.



Benefits of Music in a Language Arts Curriculum In the Untied States school system today, emphasis is placed on standardized test scores and improving language arts skills because of the No Child Left Behind Act, which leaves little time for teachers to address other subjects such as art and music (D’Agrosa, 2008). Although reading and writing is vital to the cognitive development of students, if you ask any teacher teaching in a school today, they will tell you that students are more invested in their learning when they are able to move, be creative, and use their imaginations while they learn. With this being said, there has to be a way to connect the two ends of the spectrum. This literature review will discuss the ways in which music benefits a language arts curriculum in terms of providing motivation for students, benefits of using music to teach phonemic awareness, ways in which music promotes reading, how music inspires writing, and the parallels that can be drawn between music and poetry. Music as Motivation Music can help motivate students to want to read and be an active learner. In an article written by Towell (1999), she expresses how music helps students connect emotionally to what they are reading. When students are beginning the process of learning how to read, they need to engage with text and teachers can use music to help accomplish this goal. Music will help them connect their aural sense, which they are used to using, to words on a page. Johnston (2000) also expresses this sentiment in a descriptive study she writes about effective teaching methods that help motivate children to learn how to read. In the study Johnston describes effective teaching strategies such as music, culturally diverse teaching materials, and toys and television and how they can be used to promote reading. She provides strategies such as reading picture books made from songs and using music to set the tone for story reading as productive methods for drawing



beginning readers into the world of print text. Johnston goes on to state, “Using music as a means to attain reading skills is engaging and non-threatening for students. Music is a common thread of understanding and enjoyment between children across all cultures” (p. 3). This study illustrates the fact that music is an effective strategy for teachers because it allows them to open the door to reading using the motivational tool of music because all students understand music to be an uplifting and enjoyable experience, and thus associate what they are learning with something that is engaging and exciting. Music is also found to be motivating when used with technology. An experimental study was done with 36 third grade students in an inner-city school in the Los Angeles area to test the effectiveness of the web-based program Reading Upgrade. The researchers, Cole and Hilliard (2006), used the program as an intervention tool for students who were performing at least two grade levels below normal. Music was a major component within the program and was intertwined with multi-ethnic graphics to create a learning environment that was engaging to students and helped them to focus on basic reading skills such as fluency and phonemic awareness, as well as reading comprehension. In order to calculate the effectiveness of the webbased program, a control curriculum was also used. The control curriculum used was a Direct Reading Instruction program in which a reading resource teacher worked with a small group of students in a highly scripted and focused lesson that targeted one specific reading skill at a time. To conduct the study the researchers randomly split the 36 students into either the treatment (n=18) or control (n=18) group and administered a pre-test to measure reading and comprehension skills. The students were also given a motivation questionnaire to gauge their reading motivation and engagement during instruction. Once this was done, each group participated in their assigned instruction type for 60-75 minutes a day, for an eight-week period

BENEFITS OF MUSIC and research assistants were assigned to observe the motivational behaviors of the students participating in the web-based program. Once the eight-week period had ended, the students were given a reading skills post-test and motivational questionnaire and the observations were coded to distinguish the motivation and engagement levels of the students. The data that were collected illustrated that students who participated in the web-based program performed higher than the students using the control curriculum when it came to reading skills and comprehension. In terms of motivation, it was determined that motivation levels of students using the web-based program increased significantly compared to those students who did not receive treatment. In addition to this, the observers’ notes highlighted several occasions in which students were singing along with the music and moving their bodies in response to what they were hearing on the software. The researchers concluded that the enjoyment levels of students who participated in the web-based program remained high throughout the treatment period because of the interactive and engaged nature of the program, and thus the reading and comprehension skills of the students were positively affected. The motivation of music is not just relegated to helping beginning readers and readers who are struggling with literacy skills. Music also plays a major role in motivating junior high and high school students in the Language Arts classroom. Song lyrics are used as motivational text because they contain interesting topics and are culturally relevant to older students. Song lyrics help to engage students in conversations about texts they would not normally think about. They can also be used a teaching tools. Teachers can provide students with the lyrics to songs and ask them to break down the music to find and analyze literary elements such as imagery, theme, setting, and tone all while being engaged because they are focusing their work on contemporary music (Marchionda, 1996). Along with song lyrics, music videos can be




motivational for older students because students already watch videos of popular music on regular basis. Teachers can select appropriate music videos for students that “invigorate conversations and facilitate learning,” in order to motivate students to participate in class and use high order thinking skills (Rodesiler, 2009, p. 45). Benefits of Music on Phonemic Awareness When it comes to reading, the concept of phonemic awareness is acutely important because it demonstrates the ability to identify the individual sounds in a spoken word (as cited in D’Agrosa 2008, Gromko, 2005, Yopp & Yopp, 2009). Music can be used as a way to help students learn this important concept. In an experimental study done by Gromko (2005), the effects of music instruction on phoneme-segmentation were tested. Gromko hypothesized that music instruction on how to analyze a simple song into patterns would increase the students’ ability to segment words into phonemes. In order to test this hypothesis she used 103 kindergarten students from two schools in the district in a Midwestern city. The kindergarten students at one school (n=43) received a weekly, 30 minute music lessons that focused on learning to sing folk songs and connecting the song’s rhythmic patterns to the words they were singing from an advanced music-methods students for a sixteen week period. In addition to this, the students also received general reading instruction provided by the kindergarten teacher that focused on letter-naming fluency and initial-sound fluency. As a control for the experiment, kindergarten students (n=60) at a control school only received the general reading instruction from their primary teacher. Both groups of students were given a pre-test that tested phonemic awareness tasks such as letter-naming fluency, nonsense-word fluency, and phonemesegmentation fluency and post-test that assessed the same tasks.



Although the results of the study did not indicated significant gains in nonsense-word fluency and letter-naming fluency, the results indicate the students at the treatment school exhibited significant gains in phoneme-segmentation fluency as compared to those students in the control group. Gromko justifies her finding by stating that phoneme-segmentation is based on the development of the aural skills as compared to grapheme skills, and music instruction helped the students to develop the skills needs to hear the different between the phonemes, and thus increase their post-test scores which will ultimately lead to increased reading ability. Gromko’s findings are supported by a correlational study done by Lamb and Gregory (1993). The study examines the relationship between musical ability and level of phonemic awareness of children in Great Britain. A sample of eighteen children ranging in age from four to five years old were given five tests and then the results were compared to one another using a standard curve. The first test was a simple reading test that examined the children’s concepts about print, word matching skills, letter sounding ability and simple word reading. The second test was a phonics reading test that focused on the children’s ability to blend, segment and read words. The third tests focused on the musical ability of the children. A test was specifically designed to test pitch awareness and timbre awareness. The fourth test focused on phonemic awareness and had the children judge whether alliterations and rhymes began or ended with the same sound. The last test that was given to the students was a nonverbal abilities test which measured the children’s general ability to follow directions and participate in the study. All of the tests were given one session at a time in order to keep the attention of the children. Once the results were calculated using a mean and standard deviation, it was found that pitch awareness is significantly correlated with each of the reading tests given, but timbre awareness was not. In addition to this, the skills needed for phonemic awareness are closely correlated with pitch



discrimination because the children were able to pick up pitch differences among the phonemes in words and thus differentiate between them (Lamb & Gregory, 1993). These findings are significant because they emphasize the fact that musical awareness and ability help children discern phonemes which is the first step in learning to read. Music can also be used to break down the components within phonological awareness. One such skill is syllable awareness, or the ability to break words up into their parts (Yopp & Yopp, 2009). Musical rhymes can be taught as songs and then reread as a story where the teacher can focus on words with multiple syllables that students can break down. Students can clap out the syllables while singing or reading the song to reinforce syllabication. To take this skill a step further, students can use the rhyme scheme found within the song to create new words with the correct number of syllables to fit into the song (D’Agrosa, 2008). Rhyming can also be used to help students learn phoneme substitution. Smith (2000) encourages singing rhyming songs and allowing students to create new words by substituting vowels and consonant sounds into words. Students can also use phoneme substitution to create new verses for rhymes they are singing in class (Towell, 1999). Singing and rhyming is vitally important to students’ phonological awareness growth because it provides them with ample opportunities to use their new skills in a way that does not raise their affective filter and allows them the freedom to be creative. Phonemic awareness can also be taught through a variety of strategies that enlist the use of picture books. Picture books can draw attention to the sounds of language. Students need repeated exposure to letter sounds before they can be able to understand that sounds come from words and picture books provide that exposure. Picture books that focus on sounds use alliteration and substitution to help students hear the difference between rhyming words (Yopp &



Yopp, 2009). One strategy is to have teachers pick out picture books that draw on sounds, another strategy is to allow students to select books of songs they are interested in and let them sing the songs as many times as they want and then use the book to teach lessons on a variety of phonemic awareness skills such as segmentation, blending, and identification (Routier, 2003). Alphabet picture books work well with this strategy because they focus on phonological awareness (as well as letter recognition), and can be sung to the popular alphabet song. Teachers can use alphabet picture books to comment on the different sounds each letter makes and invite students to share what they noticed in the book and chant or sing along with the words. The repetitive and rhyming nature of the books helps the students gain a clear understanding of the phonemic qualities addressed, and practice these qualities in an environment that is engaging and age appropriate (Yopp & Yopp, 2009). How Music Promotes Reading The ways in which music promotes reading are numerous. Before discussing the many ways this occurs, one must first understand that students who fall behind in reading have reduced opportunities to catch up to their peers and it is because of this that teachers must use purposeful and strategic methods to help students reach their full potential (Routier, 2003). Using strategies that incorporate music into the curriculum helps teachers engage students in learning and provides students with an assortment of learning opportunities that are more exciting than the every day norm. With all of this said, teachers have to be aware that music activities have to be specific in nature. A descriptive study done by Standley (2008), analyzed 30 studies that use a variety of music interventions to help with reading skills. The purpose of the study was to determine the effects of the music activities on reading skills and which type of activities provided the most benefits. In order to determine this, Standley completed a literature search of



all possible studies, identified and coded the qualities of each of the studies, and then converted the qualities into a coefficient statistics using software. The results of the analysis determined that music interventions need to be specifically designed for the tasks being addressed and that daily activities involving music throughout the course of the school year were just as effective as short-term, intensive programs. When explicit music programs are incorporated into the daily or weekly curriculum taught by classroom teachers, the academic achievement of students was significantly greater than those who do not participate in such programs (Lamb and Gregory, 1993). With this said, one can now focus on the number of reading skills that are enhanced by music and song. One such skill is sound-word correspondence which comes as a child is first beginning to read. Sound-word correspondence is described in the following way: Terry did not understand the difference between letters and words. Her concept of print was very limited. Pat [the teacher] observed this one morning as Terry attempted to read a story in her basal reader. A few days later, during DEAR time, Pat noticed that Terry was singing along with the text in “What a Wonderful World,” the Louis Armstrong song their class performed in the winter program. Terry was pointing to each word as she sang softly to herself, demonstrating sound to word correspondence. This is a magical moment in early literacy, when understanding of voice-print match lead children to grasp the alphabetic principle and finally begin to learn to read. (Towell, 1999, p. 284) This is a prime example of how music promotes reading because it introduces the fact that music is part of children’s schemas. They use songs and music they already know and transfer their knowledge into learning to help them make connections in their reading.



Along with the concept of sound-word correspondence, music can also help students with word recognition. There are several strategies outlined in the literature that focus on helping students identify words and patterns. One such strategy introduced by Smith (2000) is shared singing. Shared singing is the musical equivalent to shared reading. In this approach to word recognition, teachers start the lesson by singing a song or playing the song for students in order to help them familiarize themselves with the melody and words. Second, the teacher displays the lyrics of the song on chart paper and points to the words as she reads them making sure to explain any vocabulary the students might not understand. Next, the teacher and students read the lyrics in a choral fashion while the teacher points to the words and then the teacher has the students recite the lyrics back to her. Once all of this is done the whole class can sing the song for enjoyment and focus on breaking down patterns that are found within the words of the lyrics. These strategies are not only for younger students. Word recognition and musical lyrics are used in the upper grades to help students reinforce comprehension and increase their knowledge of vocabulary. Songs are used for this purpose because the aural act of hearing the words helps students grasp the meaning and think critically about the words they are hearing (Marchionda, 1996). Music also promotes vocabulary development in several ways. D’Agrosa (2008), describes many scenarios in which teachers intertwine music vocabulary with print vocabulary. By doing this the students not only learn words such as intonation and rhythmic notation, but they get to practice identifying the how the concept of the word is used by reading story containing words that are unfamiliar to them. Teachers can actively use musical vocabulary while reading the text and have students discuss the terms that was used by the teacher. At the same time, students are using the unfamiliar vocabulary words from the text to describe the



actions of the teacher, and thus use critical thinking skills to help facilitate the point they are trying to make. Vocabulary can also be taught through song lyrics. Students can listen to the lyrics of a song and then the teacher can directly teach the meanings of the words or have group discussions about the meanings of the vocabulary by brainstorming, analyzing the structure of the lyrics or even using context clues from surrounding text (Marchionda, 1996). Marchionda (1996) also makes a strong case for the importance of music in terms of helping students with their reading comprehension. Once again song lyrics can be used to help junior high and high school students discern meaning from the overall lyrics of a song based on the targets vocabulary. Student participate in small groups to discuss the song’s meaning making sure to justify their interpretation, and then the small groups come together to share their ideas as a whole group. This strategy also requires students to reflect on the song they have listened to and interpret the song on a deeper level than they ever thought was possible. Music as Inspiration for Writing Although people might think of a language arts classroom as a place to focus on written text, scholars and teachers alike know that in order to have a well rounded classroom, students must also learn how to be effective writers. Music can help bridge this gap and provide inspiration to students for writing. One form of music that can help students with their writing is music videos. Music videos of popular music may not be the first thing that comes to mind when teaching students effective writing techniques, but they are in fact great tools that any teacher can use to help get the creative juices flowing for students (Rodesiler, 2009). Music videos address social worldviews and provide a launching point from which students can begin to examine lyrics and imagery found within the videos. At the same time, music videos can also be used as writing prompts for narrative, creative, and figurative writing. Teachers can have



students watch videos with the volume muted to help them focus on imagery and theme. From this, the students can be prompted to write how the musicians use the literary devices in their music or they can be asked to create a reflective piece that helps examines the underlying themes within the lyrics and video (Rodesiler, 2009). Music can also be used as inspiration to help students write about books they have been reading. Tanner-Anderson (2009) reports on a creative and effective writing project that incorporates literary elements such as main idea, theme, and point of view with music lyrics. The project starts by having students read a book of their choice and then having them find specific quotations that illustrate the use of the literary elements within the book. Students then find music lyrics that represent the examples from the text and write explanations for their choice. This project reflects the idea that music can help teachers think outside of the box and make the learning and analyzing of literature exciting and relevant to students. When this occurs students are more willing to put in the effort needed to think critically and gain a deeper understanding of how to write about a piece of text. As it turns out, writing is just not reinforced in the language arts classroom, but all elective classes as well. All teachers, no matter what subject they teach, are being asked by school districts to focus on literacy ( Hansen 2009, and Pearce 2000). In order to help with this request, Pearce (2000), conducted an action study to test how students would respond to writing a response to an article that focused on some aspect of music. He used all of the students in the band and orchestra from a middle school in suburban Denver as the sample. To conduct the study he had them find articles that related to music in some way, read the article, summarize the article, and write what they found most interesting about the article. In addition to this, he also had the students focus on three or four key vocabulary words from the article and required them



to use the words in their writing. Pearce determined that while the students took a few weeks to adjust to writing in the music classroom, they took to the assignment right away. This occurred so rapidly that he created more complex writing assignments for students that focused on creating thesis sentences for the articles that changed its viewpoint and opportunities for students to challenge the position taken in the article. Through this assignment, students were gaining valuable practice in both critically reading and writing in response to text which directly transfers to the language arts classroom. Writing in the music classroom can also help students with exploring narrative writing, factual writing, and persuasive writing. Music teachers can use students’ own performances or performances they have viewed to help prompt students to write. Narrative writing can be addressed by having students tell a story based on a song or movement they have played or listened to. Students can also use their experiences to analyze and describe music in factual writing and use appropriate music vocabulary to convince the reader of a specific viewpoint in persuasive writing. The incorporation of writing into a music classroom is very important because it allows students to practice their writing skills with topics that are not normally addressed in a typical language arts classroom. The Parallels Between Music and Poetry Poetry and music work well together because of the fact that poetry plays with conventional rhymes and sounds (Towell, 1999). In order to help students become familiar with and enjoy poetry, teachers need to provide students with repeated exposure to poems in either an auditory or print form. For younger students, the focus should be set on oral sharing to ensure enjoyment. Teachers can encourage students to learn short segments of the poem they can recite as the teacher reads the poems aloud, or they can make their own versions of the poem and the



teacher can write the poems on posters or compile the poems into a class book of poetry (Yopp & Yopp, 2009). These activities promote students’ understanding and writing of poetry because it allows them a creative way to generate their own poetry without the constraints of highly structured forms. The rhythm, rhyme, and cadence of poetry also lends itself to a creative outlet that children can use to explore poetry (Towell, 199). The musical form of rap is also a great motivation for older students when it comes to learning the mechanics of poetry and deepening their understanding of the art form. Teachers in classrooms today can use rap music to parallel how rappers and poets use the same literary devices such as similes, metaphors, imagery, rhyme, and thematic concepts such as social injustice and love, to get their points across. Rap music is used to introduce these ideas because students are more familiar with the beat of the music and are more receptive to what contemporary rappers are saying (Clark, 2010). In addition to this, rap music is a great medium for introducing students to the idea that poetry does not have to rhyme. Although there are countless numbers of songs and poems that include rhyming words, rap illustrates to students that the message is of greater importance than having each line or verse end with a rhyme. To help demonstrate this point, teachers use rap music that paints vivid imagery and uses spoken words rather than singing. Students can transfer this understanding to help them interpret poems and write their own expressive poetry (Clark, 2010). Conclusion Music is a very beneficial part to any language arts curriculum. Teachers can use music to design specific and strategic lessons that engage and motivate students to learn. Explicit lessons that incorporate music into learning the concept of phonemic awareness can be beneficial to students when in comes to learning phonological elements such as blending, segmenting, and



identification. Music can also play a vital role in helping students with their reading skills because it encompasses so many aspects of reading. From using rhymes to help students with word identification and vocabulary to using song lyrics to help student with reading comprehension, music strategies can fit into all aspect of a reading curriculum. Along with this, music also helps inspire students to think critically and using many forms of writings throughout their day. Lastly, the medium of poetry is also greatly influenced by music because they parallel one another in so many aspects. These parallels help students to understand the literary elements of poetry and how to distinguish them within a poem.


17 References

Clark, P. (2010). Teaching poetry through rap. Retrieved from Cole, J, & Hilliard, V. (2006). The effects of web-based reading curriculum on children's reading performance and motivation. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 34(4), 353380. doi:10.2190/H43W-1N3U-027J-07V5 D'Agrosa, E. (2008). Making music, reaching readers. General Music Today, 21(2), 6-10. doi: 10.1177/1048371308317042 Gromko, J. (2005). The effect of music instruction on phonemic awareness in beginning readers. Journal of Research in Music Education, 53(3), 199-209. doi: 10.1177/002242940505300302 Hansen, D. (2009). Writing in the music classroom: educators can--and should--encourage their students to give music a written response. Teaching Music, 16(4), 28-30. Retrieved from Johnston, J. (2000). Examination of Effective Teaching Methods with the Purpose of Motivating Children To Learn How To Read. Retrieved from ERIC database Lamb, S, & Gregory, A. (1993). The relationship between music reading in beginning readers. Educational Psychology: An International Journal of Experimental Educational Psychology, 13, 19-27. doi: 10.1080/0144341930130103 Marchionda, D. (1996). Reading to a Different DRUM: The Directed Reading Using Music Strategy. Retrieved from ERIC database Pearce, M. (2000). A model for improving reading through music study in band and orchestra. Reading Teacher, 53(8), 649-651. Retrieved from



Rodesiler, L. (2009). Turn it on and turn it up: incorporating music videos in the ela classroom. English Journal, 98(6), 45-48. Retrieved from Routier, W. (2003). Read Me a Song: Teaching Reading Using Picture Book Songs. Retrieved from ERIC database Smith, J. (2000). Singing and songwriting support early literacy instruction. Reading Teacher, 53(8), 646-649. Retrieved from Standley, J. (2008). Does music instruction help children learn to read?: evidence of a metaanalysis. Applications of Research in Music Education, 27(1), 17-32. doi: 10.1177/8755123308322270 Tanner-Anderson, S. (2009). Creativity through multimodality: cultivating the adolescent imagination with literature, music, and art. Virginia English Bulletin, 59(2), 12-16. Retrieved from Towell, J. (Dec. 1999/Jan. 2000). Motivating students through music and literature. Reading Teacher, 53(4), 284-287. Retrieved from Yopp , H, & Yopp, R. (2009). Phonological awareness is child's play. Young Children, 64(1), 1221. Retrieved from


several occasions in which students were singing along with the music and moving their bodies in response to what they were hearing on the software. The researchers concluded that the enjoyment levels of students who participated in the web-based program remained high throughout the treatment period because of the ...

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