Music for Trust, Focus, and Clarity

My children attended a high school that encouraged its students to listen to music if it helped them focus on their work. Neither ear buds, nor phones, nor iPods were banned.

Do you prefer piano music? (Photo by K.Nollet, 2015)
Do you prefer piano music? (Photo by K.Nollet, 2015)

I like this philosophy of beginning with trust. It shows both faith in a student’s ability to make appropriate choices, and then values the student’s choice.

Do you see the suggestion of raindrops in Chopin's score? (Photo by K.Nollet, 2015)
Note the suggestion of raindrops in Chopin’s score.(Photo by K.Nollet, 2015)

Students who were distracted by music received help or support depending on their needs. The teachers’ overarching goal was to help students learn what worked best and helped them concentrate.

For me, it depends on what the task is, so I adjust my environment accordingly. Favorite musical soundtracks, jazz, or early music are some of what I use. Today, I offer Frédérik Chopin’s (1810-1849) Prelude No. 15 in D-flat Major, also known as the “Raindrop.”  How does this piece work for you?

Buried Treasure: X Marks the Spot

Before students write a story, ask them to draw an illustrated map.  Visualizing, creating, drawing, painting, coloring, and discussing a map stimulates the imagination in ways that words sometimes cannot.

It worked for Robert Louis Stevenson (1854-1894), who spent a rainy day with his son drawing this map, which inspired his masterpiece Treasure Island:

This marvelous text in Treasure Island came to Stevenson after he drew the map:

“The paper had been sealed in several places with a thimble…The doctor opened the seals with great care, and there fell out the map of an island…shaped…like a fat dragon standing up…three crosses of red ink…”Bulk of treasure here  (Stevenson,  p.47).

 

 

Stevenson, R.L., (1911). Treasure Island. Illustrations by N.C. Wyeth. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. (Original work published 1883).

Source for map:

Source for text: OpenLibrary.org: https://archive.org/stream/treasureisland00stev#page/46/mode/2up

 

Ravens and Science: Now or Nevermore?

What makes a science field trip a Do Now for your students? When two ravens are hatching eggs in a few days at Wellesley College.

Go to the Ravencam and leave your computer screen on all day to follow the nesting habits of Pauline and Henry. You’ve just created a field trip in your classroom. The pleasure of doing this will remind everyone you teach that science is part of every day. The raven sounds alone fill me with awe.

Use the following ideas, for all ages, singly or in combination:

  • Individualized Learning 

Observe these birds and notice how calm and focused you become. Then show students how to immerse themselves in watching and listening. This is active, not passive, learning and embodies all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Give your students the gift of time so they can experience what learning feels like when their bodies and minds relax.

  • Student Inquiry

After a period of observation, ask students to write down observations in their science journals. Ask students to turn their statements into questions and choose one or more questions to guide data collecting and research. It’s a perfect short-term inquiry project to travel back and forth from home to school.

  • Mathematics

Create focused discussion opportunities for student brainstorming. What kind of math skills will help them understand these ravens, and why? What kind of data collection–either qualitative or quantitative–leads to the answers they need?

  • English Language Arts

Many of us remember Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” (1845). Follow this link to the Poetry Foundation to get a copy. After reading the poem aloud and learning more about Poe, have students perform readings of “The Raven” that reveal their own understanding of the poem. Encourage alternative versions. For example, does a joyful version of “The Raven” change its meaning?

While writing this, it hasn’t been just the ravens’ croaks and calls that fill me with awe. Pauline does, too, as she shifts position on her huge twiggy nest to reposition her eggs.

This is what a celebration of learning feels like, doesn’t it?

Kathleen Nollet