"The Hardest Part was Writing the Songs, but the Easiest Part was Motivation": Music-Centered Pedagogy in the College Composition Classroom

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Language, Literacy & Culture


Language Literacy and Culture

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This qualitative teacher-researcher study examines the benefits of providing students in a first-year English composition course opportunities to use music of their own choosing in two major ways: 1) as the inspiration for and subject of alphabetic texts, and 2) as a major element of multimodal compositions. Through the presentation and discussion of classroom artifacts, student reflections, and field notes, I demonstrate that encouraging students to use music in composing assignments helped instill in them a sense of motivation and confidence that not only translated into a greater sense of self-efficacy in relation to classroom assignments, but also resulted in students' increased desire to engage in self-sponsored composing activities. In addition to exploring the positive effects the integration of music into a composition class had on students' motivation, I reveal how music-centered lesson plans and assignments can be used to help students consider how texts are assembled and organized, and enable them to identify and apply rhetorical terms and concepts. Additionally, urging students to use or create music as part of multimodal compositions can lead to collaborative composing experiences, opportunities for students to experiment with new modes of composing, chances for students to focus more on global composing concerns than on sentence-level ones, and occasions for students to both pose and solve complex rhetorical problems in creative ways. Though I do not argue that incorporating music into a composition course is the best or only way to teach composition, I do suggest that instructors consider the potential benefits incorporating music into composition pedagogy can offer.