How to Integrate Music Into Social Studies Lesson Plans

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Music education is slowly disappearing from the modern curriculum because restricted budgets cannot accommodate the salaries of music teachers and their programs. Many students miss out on the opportunity to learn the basics about music, and they may grow up without ever touching an instrument. Offer your students the opportunity to experience and learn about music by integrating it into your social studies lesson plans. When you select a new subject, think about ways you can include a music lesson in your teaching plan.

  • Encyclopedia
  • Reference books
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Recorded music samples
  • Pictures
  • World map
  • Musical instruments

1 Select a country

Select a country or a region of the world for your class to study. You may choose to focus on a specific country like China or Ireland, or you might broaden the lesson by selecting a continent like Africa or a region like the Middle East.

2 Research

Research the different religions and cultures present in the area you have selected to study. If you have selected a single country, there may only be one major religion and a primary culture present, whereas if you select a continent or region, you may find several different religions and cultures. Consult the encyclopedia, as well as other reference books and the Internet, to aid in your research.

3 Is integrated

Research the ways music is integrated into the culture and religion of the area you have chosen to study. Some cultures and religions use music in a specific way during religious services, like Jews who sing or chant portions of the Torah. Compile resources about the predominant styles of music played in the country or region you have chosen to study and, if possible, recordings of music samples.

4 Learn

Learn about the various instruments used to produce music in your chosen area. Many countries are known for producing and using a certain type of instrument; India, for example, is known for the sitar. Collect facts and pictures about the instruments used in your chosen area and distribute them as a handout to students or present them in a slide show as a visual aid to your class.

5 Determine the time frame for your lesson

Determine the time frame for your lesson. Decide whether you want the lesson to last for only one class period or stretch it out over an entire week. If you have chosen to study a region rather than a country, you might consider spending each class period throughout the course of a week studying a different country or culture in that region.

6 Plan your individual lesson or lessons

Plan your individual lesson or lessons. Begin each lesson with an introduction to the country or region and the culture of the people who live there. Provide basic facts about demographics, religion and cultural practices. Show pictures of the native people and point out the country or region on a world map.

7 Extrapolate

Extrapolate on the cultural and religious practices in the country or region of your choice and teach the class how music plays a role in these areas. If music is used during religious services, explain its purpose. If there is a particular style of music played by indigenous groups, explain the type of music and instruments used as well as the role music plays in that particular culture.

8 Play recorded samples of music

Play recorded samples of music, such as the country's national anthem, a traditional religious song or a popular contemporary song. Ask the students to make observations about how the music is different from or similar to the music they are used to hearing.

9 Bring

Bring in a selection of the instruments played in the area you have selected to study for your students to see and play during the music portion of the lesson. Network with members of the community and with the local center for the arts, if your city has one, to find instruments to borrow. You may even be able to find someone willing to perform a musical demonstration for the class.

10 Wrap up the lesson

Wrap up the lesson by asking the students to complete a project about one aspect of the area you have chosen to study and how music plays a role in that area. Students might choose to study the way music is used in religious services or how teaching songs are used to help children learn their letters and numbers.

11 Ask each student

Ask each student to present their project before the class. If possible, have each student play a sample of the type of music most relevant to their chosen area of study.

Katherine Barrington has written on a variety of topics, from arts and crafts to pets, health and do-it-yourself projects. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English with a creative writing concentration from Marietta College.