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General Music Today

2014, Vol. 27(3) 6 9


National Association for
Music Education 2014
DOI: 10.1177/1048371314520968
gmt.sagepub.com
Article
As music educators, we are aware that music study
requires oral, aural, and print communication, just as
reading specialists are aware that literacy is about the
development of similar types of communication (Wiggins,
2007). Thus, reading and music specialists are beginning
to work together to help students learn to communicate
more effectively. According to Wiggins, reading and
music share many of the same skills, known as parallel
skills. As Register (2004) explained, parallel skills in
music and reading include phonological awareness, pho-
nemic awareness, sight identification, orthographic
awareness, cueing systems awareness and fluency (p. 3).
Music can enhance many aspects of a reading program.
By enlisting the help of a music specialist, teachers can help
promote and teach vocabulary, articulation, pronunciation,
grammar, fluency, writing, sentence patterns, rhythm/parts
of speech, auditory processing, and prosody (Diamantes,
Young, & McBee, 2002; OHerron & Siebenaler, 2007;
Paquette & Rieg, 2008). Prosody is the rhythmic and into-
national aspect of language. For these aspects of reading to
be helped the most by music, strategies need to be imple-
mented and presented to children at an early age.
Results show that younger children benefit the most
from music instruction in their reading comprehension
and that music interventions usually have a positive and
significant effect on reading skills (Standley, 2008). This
combination of music and reading/language is supported
by the National Association for the Education of Young
Children (NAEYC). The (NAEYC); songs play a signifi-
cant role in language growth, and songs are a primary
way of teaching children their national language
(Wiggins, 2007). Singing is natural for children, whether
accompanied or a cappela (Richards, 2010; Wiggins,
2007). Wiggins also stated that several activities identi-
fied as necessary to literacy development in Phase 1 of
the literacy developmental continuum during the pre-
school years are music experiences and reading aloud to
children (p. 58).
Teachers who are aware of this information are incor-
porating more music into their reading instruction. These
teachers have noticed that students are more motivated,
on-task, and attentive during the activities; are actively
listening; and are communicating with each other while
having fun in this important academic area (Darrow et al.,
2009; Paquette & Rieg, 2008; Register, 2004; Wiggins,
2007). This information should not be surprising, because
music has the ability to engage most children, and it is
the magic of music that can motivate children to learn
520968GMTXXX10.1177/1048371314520968General Music TodayFrasher research-article2014
1
University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, USA
Corresponding Author:
Kathleen Diane Frasher, 1011 Ithaca Circle, Saint Charles, MO 63303,
USA.
Email: kdfvwf@mail.missouri.edu
Music and Literacy: Strategies Using
Comprehension Connections by Tanny
McGregor
Kathleen Diane Frasher
1
Abstract
Music and literacy share many of the same skills; therefore, it is no surprise that music and literacy programs can
be used together to help children learn to read. Music study can help promote literacy skills such as vocabulary,
articulation, pronunciation, grammar, fluency, writing, sentence patterns, rhythm/parts of speech, auditory processing,
and prosody. Using music to help promote reading comprehension and literacy skills is beneficial for young children.
Teachers who include music in their reading programs notice that their students are more motivated to learn. Music
teachers can also help promote literacy within our own programs by using finger plays, singing, singing games, poems,
and stories that include rhyme, rhythm, and alliterationmaterials already part of our music curricula. Having music
specialists, reading specialists, and general classroom teachers working together to promote student literacy can help
make students more strategic readers.
Keywords
comprehension, connections, literacy, music, music/literacy, reading
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Frasher 7
most any subject matter (Register, Darrow, Standley, &
Swedberg, 2007, p. 36).
There are different types of activities that teachers
already use within the music classroom that help with
reading and comprehension, including finger plays, sing-
ing, singing games, poems, and stories that include
rhyme, rhythm, and alliteration (Wiggins, 2007). By col-
laborating with the reading teachers and classroom teach-
ers, we can help students experiencing difficulty with
reading literacy learn more by using many different meth-
ods of instruction. In todays culture, we need to all work
together to help educate our students given that the value
of fostering creativity and enhancing literacy instruction
through music is vital in todays diverse early childhood
classrooms (Paquette & Rieg, 2008, p. 227).
I was approached by the reading specialist at my
school to help develop music resources for classroom
teachers to use in assisting students with reading compre-
hension strategies. The reading specialist presented me
with a book titled Comprehension Connections by Tanny
McGregor (2007). The challenge was to create activities
that include music for each of the six strategies presented
in the book. The author provides insights to reading strat-
egies to help build strategic reading skills, which teachers
can and should use in the classroom. She describes how
to build a strategic reader from when the child first enters
the classroom; how to build reading strategies with the
launching sequence of teacher modeling, thinking aloud,
and talking; how to use the concrete experience, the sen-
sory experience, and picture books that contain no words,
and finally, how to read. The book explains metacogni-
tion as the beginning point of thinking about ones own
thinking. Students take what the author has to say (text)
and add it to whats going on in their head (thinking),
which results in real reading; according to McGregor,
text + thinking = real reading. The book then discusses
the six reading strategies of schema, inferring, question-
ing, determining importance, visualizing, and synthesiz-
ing. Comprehension Connections is easy to read and can
give insight into the world of meaningful reading, which
can be applied to help students within the music class-
room as well. These six strategies can be used not only in
regular and music classrooms but in other areas of the
school and life, too.
After reading Comprehension Connections, to develop
the requested strategies, I chose six songs per concept for
each grade level, K5. I chose songs specifically for each
grade level that were developmentally appropriate and
would help students comprehend each reading literacy
concept more thoroughly. Since these strategies are to be
conducted by the general classroom teacher and not the
music teacher, the activities are based on careful listening
to the songs and not singing the songs. I chose mainly
popular music and film music to help develop awareness
of the lyrics in the types of music children hear in their
daily lives out of school. I also wanted the music to be
appealing to the children and teachers during multiple lis-
tenings. For each song, I used ActivInspire software by
Promethean, to create flip charts (Promethean terminol-
ogycomparable to PowerPoint slides), including song
information and questions for students to answer after
listening to the song. In a Microsoft Word document, I
typed out the lyrics to the songs for all grades with the
exception of kindergarten. The students read the lyrics
while listening to the song in order to answer the ques-
tions about what the song was portraying. A list of chosen
songs and discussion questions for each will be found in
the supplemental materials.
It is highly beneficial for the music teacher to work
together with the reading specialist and classroom teacher
to select appropriate songs for the children. These flip
charts and activities created for each of the reading strate-
gies were for use by the classroom teacher and/or reading
specialist primarily, although a music teacher might use
the songs if they met specific music curriculum goals. If
you do choose to use the selected songs, keep in mind
what you want to teach because some songs might not be
placed in an approporiate range for young voices. I have
not used the slides I created personally but other class-
room teachers have, with reported success.
Comprehension Connection Strategies
Strategy 1: Schema
The use of schema builds on students background knowl-
edge and can increase students ability to remember new
information. For each grade level, I chose a song that had a
focus concept students that age could relate to and under-
stand. Examples of the focus concepts are friendship,
looking on the bright side, and bullying. After listening
to each song, students respond with class discussions about
questions included on the songs flip chart.
Strategy 2: Inferring
Inferring is reading between the lines. To make an
inference, there must be evidence to support the infer-
ence; schema + evidence = inference (McGregor, 2007).
Young children do not have adequate background knowl-
edge to make complicated inferences, so the younger the
student, the easier the inference should be. Some of the
inferences that I chose for the students to make are about
losing teeth, what could be considered a home or a fam-
ily, and the loss of a friend or family member. Students
listen to the song and answer the questions either by class
discussion or, for the older students, by writing down
their personal answers.
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8 General Music Today 27(3)
Strategy 3: Questioning
Asking questions of themselves while reading helps stu-
dents comprehend and understand the material. Students
should be asking questions during reading all the time;
before, during, and after. We all know the basic begin-
nings of questions: who, what, where, when, why, and
how. These words should be part of the questioning strat-
egies that students use. To help students understand what
a question is, I selected songs that included questions.
Concepts include the following: What comes first, the
question or answer; what is found at the end of a ques-
tion; and counting the number of questions. As the stu-
dents grow older, the questions being posed become more
difficult.
Strategy 4: Determining Importance
Determining importance is the skill of figuring out what
is most important from an array of information. In
todays society, we are constantly bombarded with a lot
of information. Sorting through the information to find
out what is important is essential. If people are unable to
do that, they experience information overload which
results in the brain taking longer to process the informa-
tion. Learning how to sort out the unimportant informa-
tion is crucial. I chose songs to which the students will
have to listen carefully in order to figure out what impor-
tant message the song is stating. There are questions to
be answered on the flip chart about each song, and this
strategy works best as a class discussion.
Strategy 5: Visualizing
Visualizing is being able to picture what is being heard or
read in ones mind, including imagining taste, and smell.
Visualizing makes reading and listening more interesting.
The songs I chose are vivid in their imagery. It will be
fairly easy for each age-group to visualize what is hap-
pening. This reading concept would be best evaluated by
having the children create their own pictures or having a
class discussion on what they saw in their imaginations.
Strategy 6: Synthesizing
According to McGregor (2007), Synthesizing is think-
ing at its best. How interesting to note that the term syn-
thesis is used in virtually every discipline, including
biology, technology, physics, music, and business!
(p. 103). Synthesizing thinking is like a spiral, it builds on
each layer, and many childhood songs and rhymes are
structured on a spiral, where each new verse builds upon
the previous one (p. 108). Based on that idea, I chose
songs that spiral/circle for synthesizing. The higher the
grade level, the more in-depth the song spiral. To check
for understanding, the students draw a picture of each
new item in the song, and they can also discuss if the
items are getting larger or smaller. Some of the songs are
action songs, which require plenty of room to move. The
movements are culumlative, so by the end, the childrens
entire body should be involved. The students should have
plenty of room to move.
Issues to Consider When Choosing
Songs
When choosing songs for the students, it is important to
consider the grade level of the children who will be lis-
tening to the song. Some of the song matter may be too
mature/immature for certain grade levels or the concepts
in the song may be too easy/complex for the students.
Another issue to consider is that the words of the songs
should be at an appropriate reading level. A reading spe-
cialist and the classroom teacher can be a good reference.
If you choose to use the strategies created as part of your
music curriculum, keep in mind what each grade level in
your building/district is capable of musically and devel-
opmentally. Other helpful hints can be found in this arti-
cles online supplemental materials. I chose some music
that would be familiar to students and the regular class-
room teachers who use them, to make them feel comfort-
able, but also selected music that would be new to them
in order to expand their musical horizons.
Format Used
The presentation format that I used is what is available in
our school district. We have Promethean Boards, which
run on the program called ActivInspire. This uses flip
charts, which are in essence like PowerPoint slides, and
any comparable system can be used (e.g., Smart Board
technology). I put a background or pictures on my flip-
charts and made sure to include a link to the sound record-
ing to play from each one.
Reading Specialists, Classroom
Teachers, and Music Specialists
Working Together
When reading specialists, classroom teachers, and music
specialists work together students can make gains in their
learning. Students are learning how to be a strategic
reader from the reading specialist and their classroom
teacher, but the addition of a music teacher who under-
stands how music can enhance reading creates a great a
team to assist the students. Each teacher can learn from
the others and find new ways of reaching the students
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Frasher 9
who are struggling through integrating the areas of liter-
acy and music.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Note
The online supplemental materials are available at http://gmt.
sagepub.com/supplemental
References
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W., Standley, J. M., et al. (2009). Enhancing literacy in the
second grade: Five related studies using the Register Music/
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Diamantes, T., Young, K. M., & McBee, K. (2002). An analy-
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music instruction. Reading Improvement, 39, 114118.
McGregor, T. (2007). Comprehension connections. Portsmouth,
NH: Heinemann.
OHerron, P., & Siebenaler, D. (2007). The intersection
between vocal music and language arts instruction: A
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Author Biography
Kathleen Frasher has been teaching for six years and teaches
elementary music at Discovery Elementary School in the
Orchard Farm School District in St. Charles, MO. She received
her EdS degree in May 2013 in Music Education from the
University of Missouri, Columbia.
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