Music and integration with other subjects

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Teaching music in a PYP school is a fun experience for the students and teachers. We are encouraged to integrate with other subjects. It takes process and learning for me to get the whole idea of it. As a music teacher, what I did was to teach songs which are related to the theme of the grades to the students. It’s easy now because you have YouTube, pinterest and other social media that has a lot of material for teaching the songs. At the same time, singing is also a fun way to learn something. It helps the students understand and memorize because it’s fun, it’s musical, and it rhymes.

As the time goes by I found that I can do more than just teach them the songs. I learned a lot from other teachers, books, common planning time or even just casual talk. We can also find a way to integrate through other things. The key concepts of the theme is one of the things that you can integrate because it’s the questions that you will ask when you learn a new concept. It can be applied to all the subjects.

Experience on integration.

I had a fun experience with the grade 3 students during “How the World Works” unit. During that unit they learned about materials. In music, I integrate by teaching them about timbre of the of the music instruments. Using the inquiry cycle, I asked the students to bring stuff from home that they think can produce sounds. So the music class turned into a workshop. They brought boxes, bottles and most of them mix the materials that they have to make a diy instruments. They learned that different materials that can produce different sounds.

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Performing the song using their materials

During the “How the World Works” unit with the grade 4 students they learned about systems. In my class, they learned how music is like a system through music notation. They learned how small parts work together for a bigger function, which is a lot like notes and rests are used in a music composition.

In PYP there are a lot of ways that music can be integrated into student inquiries. All you have to do is to be creative and open your mind with the idea that music is not only about singing. Asking around and attending collaborative meetings will help you to get ideas on how you can integrate. Always be curious about exciting learning activities that you can share to your students. Try to understand the unit as deeply as possible and don’t be afraid to try new things, even if they don’t seem to fit in at first. The PYP is a lot more fun when teachers are having fun, too.

Tamara Nilla

Music Teacher

Mentari School Jakarta


A transdisciplinary start to the year

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Year 1 – A transdisciplinary start to the year!

As an introduction to our first unit of inquiry, Who We Are, about friendship, we read the book Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, about a girl with a long name being teased by her friends at school. After reading the book, the Year 1 students wondered who had the longest names in their classes. They decided to use small squares of origami paper to write each letter of their name and stick them onto a large piece of paper to make a bar graph. Once they had completed the graph, they used their numeracy skills to count the number of letters in their names and found out who had the longest name.

The students used so many skills to complete this inquiry – they used their listening skills; speaking skills; writing skills; numeracy skills (both in counting and in creating a graph); they demonstrated cooperation by taking turns with materials and waiting patiently for their turn to paste their names.

Transdisciplinary Learning in Early Childhood – contributing to international-mindedness

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Leading up to our Unity in Diversity Day and as a part of our yearlong Who we are unit of inquiry; our current inquiry into How we organize ourselves; and our language focus Writing to Instruct/Explain, we read Jon J Muth’s version of Stone Soup. This is a story about three monks who try to understand what makes one happy. During their journey, they visit a village with frightened villagers, who keep their doors and windows locked. When they cleverly entice the villagers with making soup from stones, the villagers discover how much they each have to share and what they can gain in return. The story ends with a big feast and offering the strangers a place to sleep.

Our initial reading session focused on creating curiosity about the story (and print in general); using  illustrations to  predict  and  respond to  the  story;  making links  to  the  students’ own experiences; the structure of the story (how information is presented); the information shared (e.g. how to make Stone Soup); and the big question ‘What makes one happy?’ BIS 1.png

In order to address our inquiry into how information can be gathered and sorted and how it can be documented, we introduced a new graphic organizer. We explained that T-charts can help us to examine two facets of the monks’ inquiry into what happiness is? The students were invited to use Post-it notes to brainstorm about happiness. They made ‘draft’ drawings and in a quick personal teacher-student interview, comments to these drawings were documented, before the students sorted them using the T-chart. The students had a lot of ideas about what makes them happy, e.g. “Thinking about school”; “Playing together” and “She is at the playground. She is so happy”. Although they concluded that there were less ideas posted about what doesn’t make them happy, they thought that these few thoughts matched their personal experiences very well, e.g. “She pushed the boy” and “Somebody doesn’t want to share”.

With the older students of this combined Early Childhood class (4-6 yr.), who stay after lunch, we read a much older version of Stone Soup by Ann McGovern. After revisiting the Chinese version we read in the morning, we compared the content of the story, the message and the symbols used by the illustrators. The students noticed the bright yellow color of the little girl’s dress versus the poor clothes of the young man. They compared the black cat with the black bird. And they thought that the young man had taken advantage of the old lady (old version), but that the monks had brought happiness by teaching how to share.

After reading these stories, the students initiated to use elements of the Chinese version of Stone Soup for their play. They collected stones from our Sensory Path and started a lovely cooperative play elaborating on the books’ ideas. Their play expressed the desire to make real Stone Soup.

Our upcoming Unity in Diversity Day, with a focus on Food Sustainability, offered an excellent opportunity to make this cooking activity a more meaningful experience while including all the Early Childhood students. As a provocation, we took all the food items from the home corner and asked the students to think of criteria to sort them. Two sorting circles were formed one for possible Stone Soup ingredients and one for ‘others’. The students were invited to think about ingredients they might be able to find at home and using this sorted ‘data’, the students created a visual reminder to take home. We discussed and compared the pros and cons of each student bringing something from home, which helped the students to understand sustainability. It was fantastic to observe how the students’ thinking  evolved  into thinking about  “pollution if  you  go  shopping  by  car”  and comparing it with more sustainable ideas like “you have to take your bicycle” (Dutch student) to “using an electric car”.

We invited the parents to collaborate by respecting the children’s thoughts re. shopping and our intention to focus on foodstuffs that do least harm to the planet. The children concluded that they should all “bring just a little bit” so there “we don’t waste food” and that “we need to share if a friend brings no food to wash and cut”.BIS 3.png

The morning of the Unity in Diversity Day, the students proudly presented their ingredients. After  the  flag  parade,  assembly  and  photo  shoot, we started  with  addressing the  expected learning outcomes for the actual cooking activity:

  • personal hygiene
  • fine motor skills
  • food choices can affect our health
  • cooperate with others (share and take turns)
  • celebrate the accomplishment of the group
  • understand the impact of their actions on the environment

We  labeled  the  ingredients  and  discussed  how  to wash  and cut  them. We  revisited  the instructions on how to cook Stone Soup and explained which areas to use for their cooking activities. We included the youngest Early Childhood students and together they created a very rich, sustainable Stone Soup which they ate together with their teachers.BIS 2.png

Here are some comments the EC3 students shared about our ‘sustainable’ community vegetable soup:

JA: “We made our own ‘to do’ list.”

All: “We made the soup together … EC1, EC2, EC3.” LE: “Eating together!”

CH: “Everybody (brought the ingredients).” LE: “We don’t get pollution!”

JO: “It was fun, we could cut our own food.”

JA: “It makes us happy, because it is so yummy when you make it together.” LE: “Happy, because your heart is GOOD!”

LE: “IF you go to the shopping (mall), the smoke (of the care) is not good for your heart or your body.”

JA: “Or you can go on your bike.”

LE: “If you want to go shopping, you need an electric car … no pollution!”


Nicolette Brata-Coolen MA Childhood Studies & Early Years

SENCO & PYP Early Childhood Teacher

Bandung Independent School