Date of Award

Spring 1998

Project Type


Program or Major

Reading and Writing Instruction

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Jane Hansen


After a personal description of the traditional role of music education and its relationship to the overall curriculum of an American elementary school, this dissertation asks: What do grade 4/5 students do when their classroom and music teachers integrate music more deliberately into classroom life? Set in a classroom in a small New England town, the dissertation describes how a collaboration between a classroom teacher and a music teacher brought the music curriculum into the daily lives of students in a school where scheduled music class occurred only once per week.

Viewing music as a valid means to represent thought and express it, the teachers explored ways to weave aspects of the music curriculum into the general classroom's language arts, science, and social studies units. Their desire was to blur the boundaries between classroom and music room experiences and make music more available to their students for learning and showing what they know.

Descriptions of three thematic units show that the children first needed to play with the tools of the new literacy, namely musical instruments and sounds, to gain familiarity with them. As they learned the potentials and limitations of the instruments in a way described as aural scribbling, they came to make informed choices of musical instruments to illustrate events and set moods in stories they had written.

A science unit on the physical properties of sound showed that some students chose music as a way to demonstrate what they knew about the topic. A social studies unit on cultural ways of celebrating holidays showed the students choosing music to symbolize certain elements of their celebration. Throughout the semester of the study, students also selected music spontaneously to satisfy various personal and interpersonal purposes such as recreation, problem solving, memory assistance, motivation for writing, and as a means of personal expression.

The study shows the importance of music specialists for adding breadth and depth to an integrated curriculum. It also suggests further research into music's relation to print literacy, into alternative evaluation methods, and into methods of including arts in collaborative approaches to instruction.