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Title:Elementary general music teachers’ pedagogy for reading traditional western staff notation
Author(s):Paluck, Channing A.
Director of Research:Barrett, Janet Revell
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Barrett, Janet Revell
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Gallo, Donna J; McPherson, Gary E; Thibeault, Matthew D
Department / Program:Music
Discipline:Music Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):music reading
music notation
general music
elementary music
elementary general music
Abstract:Elementary general music focuses on the comprehensive development of skills over a wide range of musical possibilities. Even as elementary general music expands to embrace a myriad of ways of making music that do not involve traditional Western staff notation, teaching students to read staff notation still seems to be common in elementary general music classrooms. It is often included in the range of musical processes that are discussed when one reads through the guidelines set forth in the 1994 National Standards for Music Education (Stauffer & Davidson, 1996) and the 2014 Music Standards (National Association for Music Education [NAfME], 2014), textbooks for elementary general music method courses (e.g., Atterbury & Richardson, 1995; Campbell & Scott-Kassner, 2002), and books offering overviews of general music (Abril & Gault, 2016). Despite these various sources indicating that music reading is an important facet of elementary general music, little empirical research has been conducted to ascertain how elementary general music teachers teach this skill. The purpose of this study was to examine the pedagogical techniques and sequences employed by elementary general music teachers to teach the reading of staff notation. The research questions focused on what pedagogical techniques were used by elementary general music teachers in activities that prepared students to read staff notation, ones that facilitated the learning of staff notation, and those that applied students’ abilities to read staff notation. In this multiple case study (Stake, 2006), three elementary general music teachers from different schools and districts served as participants. Two were observed teaching students in Grade 3, and one was observed teaching students in Grade 5. Data were collected via interviews and classroom observations, and supplemented by photos of traditional Western staff notation and other teaching materials, worksheets, and slides used by the participants during instruction related to music reading. Assertions were generated via a cross-case analysis that was guided by the main research questions of the study. However, other assertions about the participants’ practice not directly related to one of the research questions also emerged. Common elements found in all participants’ practice were the use of syllable systems, classroom instruments, movement activities, and visual aids. The participants also usually focused on the teaching of pitch and rhythm separately. For activities aimed at preparing students to read pitch, teachers led exercises in which students echoed tonal patterns in major tonality, and all participants used movement activities to embody pitch relationships (mostly Curwen hand signs). For preparing rhythm reading, all used echoing exercises with Music Learning Theory (MLT) rhythm syllables. All activities to facilitate music reading were conducted in major tonality. The three participants used a specific sequence for introducing pitches with two using a sequence commonly associated with the Kodály approach and the other creating a sequence to enable recorder performance. Moreover, all three emphasized the link between the solfège taught through singing to reading pitch on the staff. In regard to reading rhythm, the teachers in this study led their students in reading quarter notes, eighth-note pairs, half notes, and quarter rests. The individual rhythmic figures were combined into patterns, sequences, and entire songs; and this was done via chanting MLT rhythm syllables or playing classroom instruments. Applications of students’ abilities to read staff notation included the use of barred Orff instruments, recorders, and other percussion. Two participants also led activities in which students composed rhythmic sequences from previously learned patterns. Finally, all the participants in this study made small adjustments to their teaching of music reading based on their districts’ formal curricula and interactions with music teacher colleagues within their schools and/or districts. Implications include the recognition that teaching staff notation can serve multiple purposes in a teacher’s curriculum and does not need to be the main focus of instruction in order to be engaging to students. Also, teachers can use an eclectic mix of the major approaches to elementary general music (viz., Orff, Dalcroze, Kodály, MLT, and the Generative Theory of Music Learning), and also endeavor to include exercises and materials of their own creation.
Issue Date:2021-10-22
Rights Information:© 2021 Channing A. Paluck
Date Available in IDEALS:2022-04-29
Date Deposited:2021-12

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