Teach Creativity Through World Music

I spent much of my childhood listening to music.

It saddens me that school music programs are too often squeezed out to focus on hard sciences and raising test scores. Budget cuts haven’t helped either.

Conversely, in many high-performing Asian school systems, great effort is going toward giving students access to the arts to encourage creativity.

Yet as we consider implementation of the Common Core, there is reason to add the arts back into the daily diet of our students, starting in the earliest grades.

The Common Core calls for students to consume information and build literacy across media and disciplines, to analyze it, and then create their own projects.

For instance, third graders can “recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral,” and “create engaging audio recordings of stories or poems that demonstrate fluid reading at an understandable pace; add visual displays when appropriate to emphasize or enhance certain facts or details.”

But bigger than that, we know music is a universal language. It can be enjoyed and understood despite cultural boundaries. U2′s Bono explained, “music can change the world because it can change people.”

Music certainly contains universal moods and themes that can be explored in classrooms. Before you begin teaching world music in the classroom, you may want to learn more yourself. Listening to World Music is a free online class taught by Carol Muller at the University of Pennsylvania. Learn how to listen to world music and examine how it has entered the mainstream.

Here are my recommendations for world music tracks that for young learners:

Music publisher Putumayo features music from around the world such as: Kids World Party, Brazilian Playground, African Dreamland, French Playground, and many more. The Playground series is especially conducive to the classroom, featuring full lyrics in the original language as well as cultural information for all of the songs.

Rabbit Days and Dumplings is a new all-ages album of folk and children’s songs from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Tibet updated and arranged in a collaborative and personal style by Elena Moon Park. Native languages mix with English, as traditional Asian and western instruments join to create a modern sound with deep roots, respectful, accessible, and inviting to one and all.

A Little Mandarin is a compilation of popular Chinese children’s songs. The website has lyrics in Chinese, both characters and Romanized forms. Music transcends language, but it can also teach it.

Buena Vista Social Club was not only a hit documentary, the soundtrack was a best seller as well. Students can watch part of the documentary to learn about life in Cuba and then listen to the music. There are many resources and lesson plans already available to help you teach it in your classroom.

Sol y Canto is an award winning band performing Latin American roots music. Many of their songs are for youngsters and are available online.

There’s a world of music out there. What are your favorites? And how do you teach and learn with it?

May these, and other tunes, lead to a lifetime of music, global understanding, and heightened sense of creativity.

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