By Stephanie Arnell
Distance Learning Packs: Musical Ways to Engage Your Students
Virtual reality, virtual gaming, virtual TV shows: These are terms we are familiar with, but how about virtual education? The closures during the COVID-19 pandemic have led many school systems to find innovative ways to reach and teach their students. One of the primary ways this is being done is through virtual or online education. Face-to-face learning in a classroom is no more. Teachers will have to create content that is meaningful and relevant to whatever topic or topics are to be covered during this time.
As an educator, the worst thing you can do is present boring content. Now more than ever, your students need to be able to connect with one another and with you in whatever way works best. What creative methods can keep students feeling engaged from behind a computer screen? What social outlet makes your students tick?
For my students, it’s music. When it comes to navigating the path of life, or even the halls of high school, music in and of itself is an outlet many students use to relieve stress from the everyday ups and downs of life. Whether it be country, rock, alternative or rap, all genres of music work the same, no matter how different the actual music is. Not only does music allow for an outlet into emotion through lyrics, it also acts as a physiological function that works to relieve stress and provide comfort.
Distance Learning Packs with TeachRock
I have always used the TeachRock curriculum in my fifth-grade classroom and feel that students can identify with the lessons now more than ever. The DLPs (distance learning packs) are the perfect medium to motivate students, and provide the ideal opportunity to keep curriculum standards while offering students an approach to guide their own learning. The lessons are structured to minimize frequent teacher and adult support and help boost students’ independence while giving parents, guardians and older siblings a chance to breathe and focus on other things. Students are able to make personal connections that motivate them to think critically and relate material to historical events and current times through lessons such as:
- Math with the Beatles
- The Historical Roots of Hip-Hop
- How Earth Day Began with Music
- The Indigenous Roots of Rock and Roll
Educators don’t just teach subjects and material from textbooks. Let’s not forget the social and emotional learning that occurs in a classroom. Through SEL lessons, students develop a sense of self and explore how to express their emotional connections to develop the skills they need to be successful in life. Because students relate through music, what better way than to connect with the artists they love and respect? Knowing that Camila Cabello is an artist my students admire, I wrote a lesson about her coming-to-America story. Students resonate with her story as she immigrated to Miami from Cuba when she was 6 years old with her mom, leaving her father behind. My students can connect to the emotions she may have felt because many of them have been in her shoes, and how her Cuban-Mexican heritage is a natural part of her life that subconsciously influences her music. Check out these DLPs that you can use for SEL lessons with your students:
- Lean On Me: Expressing Gratitude and Care with Music
- “Who is Camila Cabello”
- Celebrating Community with Poetry
COVID-19 has physically separated us from our safe, snug learning community, but we as educators are still emotionally attached. I know I miss the giggles, laughs, hugs and normalcy my students bring me. As educators, we took an oath to teach through difficulties, challenges and unique opportunities in order for our students to learn. Let’s turn our online classrooms into the academic-creative-emotional outlets that our physical classrooms are. As they say in High School Musical: “We’re all in this together.” And as an educator, that statement couldn’t be more true.
Explore more ways to creatively engage with students and sign up for this free, on-demand webinar.
About the Author
Stephanie Arnell has been teaching classroom music and chorus, grades pre-k-5 at the Atkinson School in Freeport N.Y since 2002. A graduate of the Crane School of Music-SUNY Potsdam, Stephanie holds a BA in Music and Special Education. Stephanie earned a Master’s degree in Music Therapy from the University of Kansas and also has a TESOL advanced certificate from St. John’s University. Ms. Arnell’s choral ensembles have performed at many festivals including “Music in the Parks” and “The Long Island Music Festival” where they have received superior ratings. Most recently, the 5th Grade Select Choir was asked to perform “Share the Land” with The Guess Who at the C.W. Post Tilles Center in Brookville, N.Y.
Stephanie has presented various elementary and middle school classroom music workshops at conferences including the NYSSMA Winter Conference, The Balanced Mind Conference, NMEA (Nassau Music Educators Association), the ED X ED Conference in NYC, and for the Austin Independent School district in Austin, Tx. In addition to presenting, she has also written lessons and articles for TeachRock. Stephanie was honored when she was chosen as 2017 Freeport Teacher of the Year. Stephanie’s classroom learning environment promotes fun, growth, and success through meaningful relationships and music.