Educator of the Week shares Global Sounds project

Mary Ludwig teaches at Carolina Forest International Elementary in Jacksonville, N.C. She has been an educator for 27 years and is currently lighting up her K-5 music class through cultural exploration.

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Activity: Global Sounds
Grades: K-5

“Global Sounds” is a mini-lesson I share with my students at the beginning of music class. It began three years ago when our school partnered with the VIF program (Visiting International Faculty). Our visiting educators came from around the world and my goal that year was to share the music of their home countries with my students. I created Prezi presentations that exposed students to musicians from South Africa, England, Philippines, Jamaica, Canada, and Australia. These presentations included biographical information alongside audio and video clips, providing  a holistic view of music from around the world.

The next year, Global Sounds spotlighted instruments. I created monthly presentations showcasing instruments from Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Ireland and Scotland, Africa, South America, Trinidad and Tobago, North America, Australia, and China. This year the Global Sounds mini-lessons are all about different genres of music, including original American styles such as jazz and blues.

Some of the countries, cultures, and musical genres featured in Global Sounds. Photograph by Mary Ludwig.

Some of the countries, cultures, and musical genres featured in Global Sounds. Photograph by Mary Ludwig

How did this activity impact your students? Did students change an aspect of their behavior or way of thinking?

Students experienced styles of music that they had never heard before and some discovered that they really liked the new sounds! Finding these new musical interests motivated students to research outside of the classroom, and they often came  to class sharing information on bands, songs, and instruments they had looked up on their own.

When I brought in several of the instruments that were featured in the mini-lessons, Global Sounds became more meaningful once the students actually played the dundunalso known as a talking drum—the darabukah, steel drum, mbira, shekere, and guiro.

Students began making  personal connections to the music and cultures from Global Sounds. When we were looking at England and discussing Andrew Lloyd Weber and Elton John, students suggested that we see a Broadway musical. Others shared their experiences at the Grand Ole Opry and connected it to our larger class discussion about the history of country music in America.

Mary highlights famous jazz musicians during a mini-lesson for her 2nd graders. Photograph by Bailey Collins.

Mary highlights famous jazz musicians during a mini-lesson for her 2nd graders. Photograph by Bailey Collins

What is one simple activity that any educator could do with their students to get them thinking about the world?

Even as an elementary music teacher, I make a habit of researching a song’s background before presenting it in class so I can hook students in with the back story. You can point to its origin on a map, or give definitions to non-English phrases in the lyrics. This opens the door and helps students to be globally aware of sounds and words.

For a look at Nat Geo’s resources on music and musicians around the world, check out this collection!

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The Educator of the Week series features inspiring activities and lessons that educators are implementing with their students that connect them to the world in bold and exciting ways.

One response to “Educator of the Week shares Global Sounds project

  1. Pingback: 11 Things We Learned This Week | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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