Brianne Gidcumb | February 2015

3 Creative Ways to Introduce STEAM Challenges

In this, the first in my 11-month series breaking down the Core Arts Standards for General Music, we’ll be focusing on Core Music Anchor Standard 1, “Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.” Each month, we’ll look at a new music Anchor Standard, highlight big ideas from the content standards themselves, highlight the similarities and differences between these standards and the 1994 National Arts Standards, and make connections.

Core Music Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.

Artistic Process: Creating (Imagine)

Enduring Understanding: The creative ideas, concepts, and feelings that influence musicians’ work emerge from a variety of sources.

Essential Question(s): How do musicians generate creative ideas?

Big Ideas

Pull out your copy of the Core Arts Standards for General Music or take a look at and let’s focus in on Core Music Anchor Standard 1.

Looking at the grade-level content standards under each anchor, while very nicely sequenced and very informative, can be a bit overwhelming at first blush, so in examining this first anchor standard, I pulled out some common verbs that appear throughout the grade-level content standards to help me focus in on what this standard is asking of students: explore, experience, generate, create, improvise, and describe.

Additionally, these musical content ideas are encompassed within these grade-level standards: movement, motives, tonality, meter, rhythm, melody, accompaniment, chord changes, phrase, and form.

Then and Now

This first core standard is not too far a departure from the 1994 National Standards for Music. In fact, I think this standard very nicely encompasses much of what we have taught under the 1994 Standards. Standards 1 through 5 (1994) are particularly nicely aligned. Under the new Core Arts Standards, students will still sing, perform on instruments, improvise, compose, read and notate.

The advantage of these new standards is the common scope and sequence we now share to ensure that we can focus on our students’ achievement on common skills and concepts. Just as with the Common Core Standards, the National Core Arts Standards offer us a spiraling staircase of complexity, ensuring that students use the same skills and processes from year to year, but with increasing rigor as they grow and develop. At the same time, it still gives us some flexibility to determine how we will get our students to this level of achievement, leaving some room for the art that is teaching.

Common Core Connections

ELA: These are a couple of anchor standards for various strands of ELA that might serve as natural points of connection in integrating music and language arts:

Writing 4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Musically proficient students can utilize the organizational features of music to express their musical ideas. Students should be able to generate their ideas within the constructs of particular tonalities and/or meters, and should be able to manipulate known musical concepts (rhythms, pitches, chord structures, etc.) within these constructs.

Language 3: Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Music is a language all its own. Just as in English language arts, students should be able to understanding how musical symbols function in different contexts in order to make effective choices in generating their own musical ideas.

Math: Connections could be made to just about any of the Standards for Mathematical Practice, but these in particular stood out to me as points of entry when looking to integrate Core Music Anchor Standard 1:

Standard for Mathematical Practice 2: Reason abstractly and quantitatively.

In generating musical ideas and putting them into practice, students are making sense of relationships between musical ideas (beat, meter, rhythm, melody, pitch), their symbols, and manipulating them in musical practice. Students are computing musical ideas and applying them flexibly.

Standard for Mathematical Practice 7: Look for and make use of structure.

Just as mathematically proficient students look closely to discern pattern and structure, musically proficient students can utilize their understanding of musical patterns and structures in generating musical ideas. Generating musical ideas of beat, rhythm, melody, form, and accompaniments is made easier when students can draw upon their experiences with patterns in musical concepts.

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: