Making Music Matters
Making music is good for students and for us all in so many ways. Singing gets us breathing deeply, releasing stress, connecting with others, and expressing feelings and ideas to one another. It’s also a lot of fun! Playing guitar and ukulele gets us moving in rhythm and harmony. It connects our hands, hearts, bodies and brains, and unlocks our musical thinking and creativity. Playing a guitar or ukulele contributes even more to this feeling of well-being as it vibrates gently against our bodies when strummed, giving us a sort of sonic embrace. The steady movement of strumming releases brain calming hormones and sends our worries away. Many scientific studies show how experiencing stress reduces learning. Adding music naturally has the opposite effect!
As if all that were not enough reason to integrate music at school, co-writing and playing songs for learning with peers can help us develop what are called “21st Century Skills.” These include cooperation, communication, critical reasoning and creativity. These “soft skills” are what business leaders tell us they are looking for in new employees. They determine one’s ability to engage successfully with coworkers and thrive in the workplace.
When students practice a song together, they must truly listen and attune to one another. When deciding how the song should be sung and played, they are expressing themselves thoughtfully to each other. Preparing to perform a song for the class together requires utmost cooperation and a willingness to apply themselves- to practice! Put to practical use in classrooms, the GITC approach to music integration helps children feel good, learn lots, and love school even more. By adding academic content to songs and singing to lessons, and students engage more fully, pay attention longer, achieving better grades and higher test scores. They remember the lesson content and vocabulary. And they can sing the song to themselves to activate these memories long after the lesson has ended. Decades later in fact!
What music integration does for teachers is equally important, giving them inspiration and rejuvenation. Most GITC teachers have never had a music lesson before – but that doesn’t stop them from jumping into learning in adulthood! Our free classes create a regular time in their busy lives to gather weekly, develop brand new understandings, skills, strategies and tools for educating students in artistic, meaningful ways. Teachers stay with the work for years, reaching on average 86 students each week with free musical learning.
A GITC classroom teacher might be more excited about learning to make music as an adult than any child. Most have longed for a chance to pick up a guitar or ukulele for years. In childhood they were not given the resources or opportunities to learn. Or they were overshadowed by a super-talented sibling or parent. Or they took a few lessons from someone who didn’t understand their learning style. But GITC is a musical do-over. The teachers start with us because it’s welcoming, pain-free, guilt free, and yes, even gluten free. Everyone is really nice.
By sticking with the learning over time, that teacher might become the first person who opens the music door in students’ lives. They will probably also be the first to bring it into general academic learning.
Why is learning to strum and sing better than working with recorded music? Unlike playing a boom box and a CD or an mP3, teachers can modulate the pace, the timing and the dynamics of music to respond to their students. They can tone it down to engage those who are shy or sound sensitive. They can pump up the volume to get kids moving, energized and motivated to learn. They can stop a verse in the middle to ask students for a lyric-change idea or offer them a solo. They can also teach their students to strum instruments! GITC provides excellent resources for procuring classroom guitars and ukes thanks to our sponsors. All of that sure beats playing a sing-along recording.
When do teachers find the right time to strum and sing at school? ALL DAY LONG. Teachers set the tone for a good day with a morning song. They introduce a lesson with topical song. They strum and sing students to and from their desks, or out the door to recess and lunch. They sing again after lunch to bring the energy in their room back up. They also sing at special times to improve social skills, reduce anxiety and refresh students’ memories before taking tests. They integrate songs in every kind of lesson.
GITC classrooms make music for literacy and language learning because songs give students the chance to use and practice spoken language in the orderly and repetitive context of simple lyric lines and memorable melodies. Math songs help students memorize math tables, terms and operations. Science songs drive understanding of the parts and processes involved in everything from plant biology to the water cycle. Social Studies has always been taught with songs from different cultures, movements and time periods. Simply put, music in the classroom touches and helps each person in a very individual way and also promotes the well-being of the whole class.
GITC or “git-see” for short exists to make it possible for anyone working with children in an educational setting to learn ways to include music making in daily instruction, both inside and outside of the classroom. We focus on delivering services to public school teachers and staff, but we don’t turn anyone away. Our songs are focused on the elementary grades but middle and high school teachers are welcome to join us.
Everyone learns to play simplified ukulele and acoustic guitar and to sing comfortably. They learn how to teach students songs with confidence, lead them successfully in singing together, and also how to facilitate collaborative student songwriting and instrument playing as part of academic lessons!
We want our classes to be a place teachers can get everything they need to learn to make and lead songs for learning… and more. Our work exists to encourage them to discover, trust, and grow their artistic teaching skills through music and unleash the power of learning through embedding lesson content in unforgettable, fun songs.
Teacher training classes are a stress free learning environment. Our trainers are warm and non-judgmental people with lots of classroom experience. The curriculum is paced to match the abilities and needs of each group of teachers.
Many wonderful new friendships emerge between teachers and participants in GITC classes. We encourage a musical buddy system so teachers have another teacher with whom to team up for co-leading music times. Teachers from several schools in a region can participate together in the same class, and this really builds a sense of belonging to the larger teaching community, a neat extra benefit of participating.
Truthfully, many teachers refer to their weekly GITC class as their “music therapy of the week.”
Are YOU a teacher? We hope this will be your experience too because heavens knows, you work hard. Having a relaxed, supportive, creative place to go once a week after school can feel pretty good. Especially when it also boosts student motivation to learn together while doing something you and they enjoy.
GITC works hard to make training and supplies free for you. We are committed to providing you with a guitar you can borrow and a uke you may keep while you are learning to play, and musical supplies you can use at no charge and keep forever.
Sometimes we need your help to start a program. In the instances when we don’t have enough charitable funding in place but enough teachers want to start a program- and if everything lines up, we can set up a donation program to make it fly with local support. All donations are tax deductible and we are constantly raising money to bring the programs to more teachers without charging tuition.
We run classes in 6-8 week courses that avoid holidays, vacations, testing, and parent teacher conferences. Within the first six weeks, you may well be playing three and four chord songs, singing confidently, and sharing music with children. Most teachers take 1-2 GITC courses in a single school year. You can study with us for a year, take a year off, and come back. We’re always glad to see teachers return!
You can also study guitar anytime with Jess online at www.jamplay.com/gitc or watch our free ukulele instruction videos on youtube. The website for teachers at GITCteachers.org is currently under construction but will soon be the best place for you as a teacher to get all the resources you need!
From all of us with GITC to you, welcome to our musical family! Please drop a line anytime to let us know how we can be of service.