Moving to Music Discussion Strategy

By Karla Hilliard

Classroom noises come in all varieties, and we teachers know the good from the bad. We teachers are freakishly attuned to clicking and clacking, to chattiness and cattiness, to confusion and concern, to excitement and epiphany.

And there’s nothing quite like the sound of learning. Here’s a quick and easy strategy to get your students walking, talking, and most importantly, learning.

What it is: Moving to Music Discussion Strategy


How it works-

Step 1: Build a thematic playlist for the text you’re studying.

This is my favorite step. Over the years, I’ve curated some sweet tunes for Hamlet, Othello, Merchant of Venice, The House on Mango Street, Lord of the Flies, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. I’ll spare you the embarrassing details, but just know that my playlists span genre and generation, and it’s…hilarious. I’m talking Biggie to Bowie to Black Sabbath.

Step 2: Have students create discussion questions.

Margaret Atwood said, “The answers you get from literature depend on the questions you pose.” Who am I to disagree with the masterful Margaret Atwood? Asking good questions is essential to discussion, and I believe classroom discussions are most powerful when the questions come from the students — when they’re asking questions they’re genuinely curious about and interested in exploring.

There are a few ways I usually go about this:

  • Question Flood: Give students 8 minutes to ask as many questions as they can about the text.
  • Why/How: Have students create why and how questions and anchor each question to a page number or passage.
  • David Theriault’s Socratic BRWAL template in my slightly revised version – seminar question template


Step 3: Distribute discussion questions to students.

Based upon the students question-asking activities, I build a master list of questions. I try to include a rich variety of questions dealing with a myriad of topics and themes. I also try to make sure each and every student will have something they are excited by or can connect to.

After questions are in the hands of students, you have some options. You could ask each student to claim one question as their own, so by the end of the discussion they have a deep and insightful answer to their question. You might let students guide and direct their own discussions as they see fit, bouncing from question to question. Or you might assign a few questions to each student, depending upon your particular group of students.

Step 4: Get moving!

Here are the directions:

  • Move to the music and take a walk around the classroom.
  • When the music stops, find one partner and discuss the text.
  • When the music begins, get moving.
  • You must have a new partner at each pause.

After directions and expectations are set, press Play! It is SO FUN watching the students connect the dots between your playlist the the text’s themes. They laugh, they roll their eyes, they sometimes cringe, they wait for the hook — it’s fantastic and it’s fun.

I give my students at least 5-8 minutes with each partner. It’s important to me that their conversations have depth, that they refer to the text, and they’re working toward a common goal: uncovering meaning and building deeper understandings.

Step 5: Share out

After you’ve spent adequate time in discussion, bring the class back together. I ask students to share out the best insight they heard or greatest “ah ha” during discussion. It’s a perfect cherry on top to a fun, active, and meaningful day in class.


WVCTE is wondering…

How do you encourage discussion in your classroom? How do you get your students moving? Leave us a comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook!

I’d love to hear from you! — Karla 


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