This week’s lesson is an example of what a STEAM lesson looks like in the music classroom, but the truth is, classroom teachers could easily do this as well ~ using a basket of small percussion instruments, a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. My goal is to not only to give you a great lesson, but to also inspire you to create your own STEAM lessons that you can either teach in collaboration with others or share with those that are looking to incorporate a little music in their day!


  • Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics

STEAM experiences: (taken from

  • involve 2 or more standards from these disciplines
  • assessed in each
  • inquiry, collaboration, and an emphasis on project based learning

STEAM Process:

  1. Investigate ~ create an Essential Question
  2. Discover ~ what other subjects can connect to this topic?
  3. Connect ~ choose the areas you would like to connect and look at standards in those areas
  4. Create ~ a lesson that asks an Essential Question and guides students through an investigation of it, making sure to meet the chosen standards
  5. Reflect ~ think critically about your own work, as well as those of your class

SECOND: A sample music lesson beginning with an Essential Question:


  1. ESSENTIAL QUESTION: How do composers let musicians know what he/ she wants them to play or sing?
  2. CHOSEN LINKED SUBJECTS: Music and Technology
  3. §117.112. Music, Grade 3, Adopted 2013
    1. Foundations: music literacy. The student reads, writes, and reproduces music notation using a system. Technology and other tools may be used to read, write, and reproduce musical examples.
    1. §126.7. Technology Applications, Grades 3-5, Beginning with School Year 2012-2013.
      1. Critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making. The student researches and evaluates projects using digital tools and resources.
      1. Pull up your computer on an LCD projector
      2. Ask students to come up with a set of directions to get from one spot to another
        1. Make it fun by creating a sort of obstacle course
      3. List on computer in a word doc
      4. Once finished, ask students how to save it
        1. (click on the “save” button)
        2. Ask them why can’t you just use your words or type “save”?
        3. POINT: if you do not tell the computer EXACTLY what you want it to do, it will not know to do it
      5. Send students off into small groups to create a set of directions on 3 x 5 cards to complete either a task you created or one they did
      6. Have students come together and share their results
        1. How many steps did it take to complete this task?
        2. Which group did it in the fewest steps?
        3. What was your process?
        4. POINT: going through the process exposes just how exact one must be

  5. Now let’s turn to music. Let’s go back to the original Essential Question: How do composers let musicians know what he/ she wants them to play or sing?
    1. Create a simple Sol Mi La 2 or 3 mm melody in your head with a sfortzando somewhere
    2. Sing it to your class
    3. Ask them “How can I get someone else to sing this?”
      1. Write answers on a board (someone will suggest to teach it to him/ her by rote. Ask if this method will work for a piece of music that has several instruments and lasts an hour long, such as a symphony?)
    4. ANSWER: we will need to write it down. How can we do that? (by this point, your students will go straight to notation if they know how to read basic melodies, if not, see how they solve the problem.)
    5. Proceed to follow their method. The point of this is to show that if you want a sfortzando on the third beat of the second mm, you need to write it in. Musicians will not know otherwise.
    6. Send students off into small groups to create a piece of music and write it down so that others can read it and know exactly what to play
      1. This can be in any form you would like. If your students are familiar with Note Knacks or are fluent in music, they can use block or conventional notation, if not, have them invent a way to represent it)
      2. Kids can add dynamics, tempo, orchestrations etc..
      3. As an extra incentive, the piece that is the most interesting wins a prize. Discuss with students what “interesting” means exactly.
    7. Have groups swap pieces and check to see if what was played was what the composers wanted.
    1. Talk about the process
      1. What was easy? Difficult?
      2. Did your group have to revise it after someone played it?
      3. Did you want to add anything in after it was played?
      4. Remind kids of the connection between programmers and composers…. 🙂

FINALLY: How to transform it into a lesson for a non musician:

Classroom teachers could begin the same way, but make it all about computer programming. THEN, as a follow-up fun activity, they could add the music piece ~ the objective being that kids create a short piece of music using the instruments in the basket, their voices and/ or other sounds they can find (science lesson, anyone?). They then need to write it down in a created system other than conventional notation.

The great thing about this is that non-music teachers will not be intimidated because they do not need to know anything about music composition ~ it is an extension on the computer programming idea, as far as they are concerned. (It would also make sense to present it this way) 🙂

If you work with ….not so enthusiastic faculty members….you could collaborate ~ let them handle the computer piece and you handle the music piece.