Using Music to Stimulate Children’s Writing

what is rock n rollIn 1979 I remember sitting in the front of the tent at summer camp, with the music of Boston blaring from the radio.  Since their songs endure today, 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.

Recommended Reading: What Is Rock and Roll? (What Was?)  by Jim O’Connor (and Gregory Copeland.

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 the Boston music “Longtime” in my head from a recent concert and on the radio, I decided to use it to inspire some writing. As with a soundtrack, the piece is filled with sudden changes in volume, tempo, beat, rhythm and mood.

“Foreplay” is a progressive instrumental prelude. It features rapid triplet keyboard arpeggios, while the band joins with synthesizer-like swoops, complex bass and drums, and lead guitar at the end. The song flows naturally into “Long Time,” with its three epic guitar solos. “Foreplay/Long Time” is a perfect marriage of electric and acoustic sounds.

This week, I will play the song 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 “Longtime” again. Then we will share: did the song 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.

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