Brianne Gidcumb | December 2014

Connecting the Dots: Taking Concepts Across Curriculum Lines

Connecting the Dots: Taking Concepts Across Curriculum Lines

Each month, I feature a Composer of the Month in my elementary music class. We learn about the life of a famous composer and study one of his/her compositions in depth. This month, our featured composer is Vince Guaraldi (of “Peanuts” fame). I taught a lesson on the composition “Linus and Lucy,” adapted from my recent post, Creating Patterns: Mathematical Practices through the Arts. We focused on the concept of form (rondo form, in particular), and my goal was to authentically and explicitly guide students to make connections between music and math.

Five minutes before my first class, the school’s “Word of the Week” featured on the announcements. This particular week, the word of the week was “theme.” During that first class, the word “theme” came into play as students discussed that the A section of the piece was the theme of “Linus and Lucy,”. It caused me to reflect on my planning. I focused so much on making the explicit connection between music and math, and neglected to explore other connections that could have easily been tied in.

This was the beginning of an exercise for me, to think beyond the standards I had originally aligned and find every natural connection that could be brought into this lesson. The purpose of this activity was not to create a full-blown lesson plan incorporating every curricular area, but rather to outline connections that could potentially be explored not only in the music room, but in other classrooms as well.

From my simple, 50-minute lesson plan focused on form and pattern, I brainstormed the following possible “big idea” connections: 

  •   Visual Art: Explore patterns and form in examples of visual art; illustrations and comic strips.  
  •   Media Arts: Looking for patterns in digital media; creating comic strips and/or storyboards.
  •   Literacy: Theme; key details; speaking and listening.
  •   Dance: Choreography; sequence of movements.

Whether or not students actually explored every connection in this particular lesson plan, the power of this exercise lies in having a working knowledge of contents outside of my own. Additionally, having the ability to capitalize on “teachable moments” and make impromptu connections. As well as, be able to advocate for cross-curricular connections with colleagues. By having a roadmap of “big idea” connections for various musical elements, I am prepared to engage in intentional planning. Not only to bring other content into my classroom, but to send musical content out into other classrooms. Thus, maximizing learning for students!

About the Author

Brianne is a former music educator from Chicago and current graduate class instructor with EdCloset’s Learning Studios. She earned her Masters degree in Music Education from VanderCook College of Music and has over a decade of experience in the elementary general music classroom. With her experience in the performing arts, Brianne is dedicated to building connections between the arts and Common Core Standards, 21st century learning skills, inquiry and project-based learning. In addition to her work with EducationCloset, Brianne is a yoga instructor in the Chicagoland area. You can also find Brianne here: