Middle school instruction in a band classroom is unique in comparison to that of other subject areas. As a “related domain,” music—and specifically instrumental music—is a subject that provides middle school students with choices and opportunities to do things they would not in other classes. Though it certainly is not true for everyone, band is often a favorite class for many students. The classroom setting is a bit different, with arrangements of chairs and stands instead of tables or desks. Students are able to complete hands-on, artistic work, instead of the pencil-and-paper assignments they often work on in math or social studies. Finally, students partake in intensely individual work (no two flute players will progress at an identical pace or sound the same) that leads to improvement as a large group. Because music classes are so unique and because middle school students are so diverse, middle-level music teachers, like my cooperating teacher, face special challenges when planning what to teach, how to teach, and how to best manage their classroom.
The band class in which I completed my clinical experience did not incorporate interdisciplinary curriculum. When students entered the room, they focused mostly on music, and the topics they worked on in their other classes were not referenced while they were in band. Generally, students just played their instruments during their sectional time, though sometimes they played music-related games or learned lessons about other music topics. For instance, one day was dubbed “Beethoven Day,” and instead of working on band music, the student saw a presentation about Ludwig Beethoven’s life and music.
While the band director did not teach topics that related to what the students may have been learning in their other classes, he did attempt to integrate other academic skills. On “Beethoven Day,” the teacher encouraged students to calculate how old Beethoven would have been based on his date of birth and date of death. He also encouraged geography and vocabulary be asking students the capitol of Austria and the definition of “tyrannical.” The teacher was still having students apply other knowledge in his class, even if it wasn’t directly what they were working on in their core classes.
Interdisciplinary curriculum also involves the collaboration of teachers from different subject areas. Just as I did not see an overlap in instructional material from other subjects, I did not see my cooperating teacher communicating with teachers from other subjects. I did, however see this teacher working with the other teachers in his department. The music program at this middle school had three different teachers who taught sectionals and two who directed the bands. The teachers worked collaboratively in choosing the music and then teaching it to students. This was effective because there were several adults available to the students to help them understand the music. Additionally, the teachers had...