In writing my earlier posting, I put the cart before the horse and wrote
before I read Louise Bohr's article in the Journal of College Reading and
Learning that was nicely reported by Martha Maxwell to those of us on
this list.  Now that I have read the article (research report), I'd like
to add some observations.

I was excited, and not at all surprised, to find that courses in music
supported the advancement of reading skills.  Before becoming a
developmental educator I was an elementary school music teacher, and one
of my first research interests during my "transition" period was the
effect of music instruction on reading and writing skills.  I conducted a
study where a group of 4th grade students' oral reading expression and
fluency was improved through classroom singing.  A colleague and I also
used singing to teach limerick writing to 5th graders.  Results in both
studies were significant in comparison with the gains in the control
groups.  Other studies have shown significant gains in reading
comprehension for students receiving instruction in music.

Why would producing music make someone a better reader?  The literature
suggests that reading music has some correlation to reading words, and
certainly the flow of music is connected to the flow of language and
patterns of speech. (Does anyone remember the Bill Martin elementary
school series of language arts books called "The Sounds of Language?)
But if one looks at how music is taught, some additional ideas surface.
Students of music are actively involved in their own learning.  Learning
to sing a song or play a composition requires physical involvement.
Music is also interactive as musicians work together to produce.  If this
isn't cooperative learning, what is?  Musicians produce a product:  the
performance (public or not) of a composition.

If we use these attributes of music and music instruction to guide our
teaching of reading, we will actively, even physically, involve students
in reading.  Piaget said that learning is rooted in action.  Why then
would we want students to be sitting in a reading lab filling out
workbooks?  We will also have students working together to produce
pleasant results.  And perhaps we need to have students produce a
product.  Reading is a process, but writing produces a product and so
does a presentation.  I find that my students make a leap in their
reading after giving a presentation, just as my instrumental music
students made a leap in their progress following a concert.

As usual I've gone on too much.  Forgive me.  I'm just excited about
Bohr's findings when I put them in the context I've just written about.

Lonna Smith
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