Implementing the English Language Arts CCSS in My Classroom

We are in the midst of the second of a three week look at implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) into the music classroom. Last week, we looked at Unpacking the Common Core and their relation to the habits and skills developed in the music classroom. This week, we are focusing specifically on the English Language Arts CCSS.


After studying the CCSS for countless hours, I have come to realize that they are about making richer connections and deeper meanings out of what we are already doing in the music classroom.

The goal of this assignment is to get you to think of ways to incorporate the ELA Anchor Standards into your teaching and students' learning.

If you need more ideas for this assignment, the New York State School Music Association was kind enough to supply us with their Crosswalk document that align selected learning goals from the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics with music. 

Using the music that you are preparing for your next concert, create a lesson or assignment using all four of the ELA Anchor Standards or any combination of lessons and assignments using any combination of the ELA Standards. (You may also use music selections that you have performed in the past.)

The lesson(s) or assignment(s) must demonstrate the use of Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening and Language (English or music vocabulary) in your music classroom.


Der Traum des Oenghus - Rolf Rudin

I conducted the Waterloo West Wind Symphony performing The Dream of Oenghus in December 2012. Not only was the piece an excellent way for my ensemble to grow expressively, but it provided a wealth of resources for integrating literacy and math strategies as was required in our district as a precursor to the Common Core State Standards.

Reading Using several sources, I compiled a narrative of the original Irish legend which inspired the composition. After reading through the narrative, students were asked to identify where they believed different aspects of the legend occurred within the music. Some aspects are quite easy to identify (the flautist as the object of love) while others are open to interpretation. The composer states, “The piece is no musical retelling of the legend; in a way it rather invites reading the story, as there are only single phases and atmospheres of the legend serving as extra-musical sources of imagination…”

Writing The duration of this piece is quite a bit longer than the typical repertoire we performed at concerts. As such, the students were asked to develop program notes that would explain the story to our audience. Prior to this writing experience, the students had done research on preparing program notes for a professional program (composer’s biographical information, setting the piece in context, highlighting things to listen for, etc.). For these particular program notes, I wanted them to consider their specific audience. What would this audience need to know to better enjoy the piece? I took snippets of several of the students’ program notes to create an insert in the actual program.

Language This piece contains ample amounts of German: instrument names, expressive text, technical instructions, and more. Some translations were quite simple (Klarinette) while others were a bit more complex: (etwas nachsinnend). Students were first asked to develop a list of all of the German printed in their part and attempt to define any that they could without help. They were then given several resources for finding translations to the words they did not understand. Students had to submit a completed vocabulary list with correct translations.

Speaking & Listening I used this Anchor Standard to tie the other three together. For the first class after the performance, we used the identified aspects from the Reading assignments as listening material. Many of these aspects included some passage where German musical vocabulary was used (Language). Students discussed the effectiveness of their communication of the story (Writing).

The length and depth of this piece allowed us to do some real work outside of a typical rehearsal of notes, rhythms, and expressions. At first, students were unhappy about this “extra” work, but as they grew to understand the story, and thus, better understand the piece, they began to truly enjoy their newly informed performance. The students also understood the need to educate the audience on the piece to prepare them for its length and depth. It took some serious preparation ahead of time to identify all of these different components for the piece, but the overall experience for my students was well worth it.


Burton Hable

Burton Hable is an instrumental music educator from Central Iowa. In 2013 he helped open Centennial High School in Ankeny, the first time in forty years that a school district in Iowa expanded to two high schools. He served there through 2018 as Assistant Director of Bands: conducting the 10th Grade Symphonic Band, directing the varsity Jazz Collective, co-directing the Centennial Marching and Pep Bands, teaching music theory, and providing individual and small group lessons to brass students in grades 6-12 at Prairie Ridge Middle School, Northview Middle School, and Centennial High School. During his tenure in Ankeny, enrollment in band grew from 450 to nearly 700, the jazz program expanded from four to seven ensembles, and ensembles under his direction were invited to perform at Iowa State University, Harper College, and the Veterans Day Parade in New York City.