Musicals Foster Habits of Mind

 

By Kevin Mason

The Habits of Mind offer much to teachers because the Habits are so versatile and can potentially impact learning in so many subject areas. The Habits of Mind framework is a series of 16 problem-solving strategies and dispositions that can help an individual throughout life. In January 2017, Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda published Students at the Center: Personalized Learning with Habits of Mind. If we picture our classrooms as stages or movie screens, we can allow the curtain to rise by exposing our students to musical plays and musical films while fostering the Habits of Mind.

Musicals by composers and lyricists such as Rodgers and Hammerstein, Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Lerner and Loewe, Stephen Sondheim, Frank Loesser, the Sherman Brothers, and others can be powerful resources for student learning. Dozens of musicals are available to utilise with students. I consider each musical a gem that can potentially impact student learning through its themes and musical score. Audio tracks from cast albums and soundtracks and video clips and full films are rich resources for reinforcing the Habits of Mind. Classic Broadway and film musicals such as The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, The Music Man, Hello, Dolly! and Oklahoma! as well as more recent musicals like Hamilton, La La Land, and Moana can enrich student learning. Because musicals include a blend of arts, the reinforcement of Habits of Mind can focus on music, dance, visual art, language arts, and drama as well as other subjects depending on the particular musical.

Two main questions can frame lessons and units:

  • How can Habits of Mind be fostered using musicals?
  • How is using Habits of Mind for musicals similar to using them for literature?

Musicals can serve as stimuli similar to literary works because of the dialog, sung dialog, and song lyrics. Instrumental songs can also be included in analysis. Even without lyrics, names of instrumental songs evoke meaning, emotions, and even character development.

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