Teaching the brain and the heart through music education – Muleshoe Journal
Deedee Smith, music and fine arts teacher at Dillman Elementary School
Supplied by Muleshoe ISD
The basics of reading, writing and math will always be with us. But music trains the brain in ways that facilitate learning in multiple ways.
“Music is one of the only skills that uses both the left and right sides of the brain. It’s both analytical and creative,” said Deedee Smith, music and fine arts teacher at Dillman Elementary. “A student may not be successful in reading or math, but music gives them the opportunity to grow and find their skills.”
Smith, who holds a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance and a master’s degree in elementary education, taught at Dillman Elementary for five years. The MISD music program begins with kindergarten and continues through elementary school and beyond. Kindergarten has music three times a week, and kindergarten through second has music every day.
The Dillman Music Program works in conjunction with Susan White, music teacher at DeShazo Elementary.
“The moment they leave me, they’re basically ready for her to challenge them, move them forward,” Smith said.
Music is fun, but it’s also a discipline, and a lot depends on good classroom management.
“That’s where we create, but you have to have that line,” Smith said. “There are a lot of processes.”
The Elementary Curriculum uses two different curricula, Kodály and Quavers, as well as pieces that teachers have learned over their years of experience.
“English learners benefit because of the amount of audio-visual used and the fact that the program is tailored to Texas TEKS and Texas culture,” Smith said. “Learning music theory (the tones of the scale) is huge for language acquisition.”
Special education students arrive with general education teachers or are removed from stand-alone classes for music.
Students gain a broad perspective of geography and history through cultural dances and folk songs of all kinds from around the world.
“They’re as diverse as they can get,” Smith said. “Susan especially brings in different songs from different cultures whenever she can.”
By the time students leave second year, they are able to write their own compositions in treble clef. They are also preparing to learn how to harmonize by singing rounds. The students begin to attune to DeShazo.
Rhythm instruments and Orff instruments, such as the xylophone, are introduced early. By the time students reach fifth grade, they are ready for recorder band, which prepares them to play instruments in middle school and high school bands.
A good music program needs the support of the community and school officials.
“We have a great school board and administration that support us in what we do,” Smith said. “Whatever we need, they say we’ll find out how to get it. We greatly appreciate them.
Part of the music program is the opportunity to learn performance skills.
“Susan does three shows a year, and I do at least three performances,” Smith said. “In grade one we’ll sing at the senior center, in grade two there’s the Christmas program, and kindergarten will sing three songs at their upcoming graduation assembly.
“Because the music takes place in an interactive and cooperative environment, it’s great for a child’s social and emotional learning.
“Music is not just about what it teaches the brain, but what it teaches the heart.”