Mrs. Maalouf Reinvents Middle School Music Program
If you walked into Ms. Casella’s sixth grade math class recently, you might have been surprised to hear students clapping rhythms instead of answering math problems. The students weren’t confused though! This is because the sound of music isn’t restricted to the music room at Blessed Sacrament School this year. Walk into any middle school classroom and you will find students singing, clapping, and learning about music. Janet Maalouf, Blessed Sacrament’s music teacher, has spear-headed an initiative to eliminate the stand-alone music class, instead integrating the middle school music curriculum into core subjects.
Students in Ms. Casella’s math class were learning about the connections between fractions and musical notation, but Mrs. Maalouf’s music integration stretches across all middle school subjects. In a recent 8th grade science class students explored connections between music, neuroscience, sound, culture, medicine, and learning by viewing and discussing the PBS documentary The Music Instinct: Science and Song. The film taught students about the influence of music in society and personal life as well as sound waves and the anatomy of the ear. Mrs. Regelbrugge, BSS science teacher, mentioned that “students were surprised by just how extensively these arenas intersect and how mutually reinforcing they are.”
Mrs. Maalouf has also worked closely with Mrs. MacKnight, planning lessons around historical instruments and music from different eras, and Ms. Conques, helping students practice rhythm through dance. This integrated effort is the result of careful planning over the summer. Mrs. Maalouf met with each middle school teacher to find aspects of their curriculum that could be enhanced by music lessons while simultaneously tying in the music curriculum. She will push-in several times this year and co-teach those lessons with the core teacher. In addition, Mrs. Maalouf will conduct lessons with the entire middle school during a few house periods.
What motivated Mrs. Maalouf to take on this extra work and make a change to her teaching? It all comes back to what is best for the students. “Music is intimately connected to everything we are and do,” says Mrs. Maalouf, “and it’s important for students to experience music as part of real life, not just some ‘special’ class or amusement.” Integrating music into other classes will help students make this connection and think critically about what they are learning.
Back in Ms. Casella’s math class, students are already noticing how music is part of math. Over the rest of the year, they will discover music’s connections to other parts of the curriculum!