School's back in session!
The first day of class sets the tone for the whole semester, and it's important to find a balance between engaging students with a touch of humor and making the pace for the course clear. I often engage with colleagues to learn more about their pedagogical approaches and follow pedagogy blogs. I've created two activities that have worked well for my world music survey courses, as they both show students how music can unite or divide us, and allow students to connect with each other through a shared interest that they may not know they have.
Icebreaker #1: Music and Social Media
Students pair off or break into small groups and are given five minutes to see if they follow one or more of the same artists on social media. It is an exception to the no technology rule that many educators may set. This activity gets the students talking to each other in an informal fashion and allows for initial connections. There may be a number of students who are not on social media, or who do not have a device with them, but they can still engage in discussing a favorite artist.
Icebreaker #2: Favorite/Least Favorite Song
Students are all asked during name introductions to name their favorite and least favorite song/artist/genre. It is surprising to see the variety of music styles that students will name, and the influences said selections show. While one cohort may lean towards a disdain for country music, another may overwhelmingly share an interest in the genre. One artist or song may be a dividing topic. This leads to in-class discussion and creates a greater ease in sharing one's thoughts. It also allows all in the room to be exposed to new music as well.
In the words of Madonna, "music makes the people come together."
In a survey class where many students may not read music, a fun way to have students engage with the elements of music is to have them share a video example that they feel exemplifies a specific element, e.g., beat, rhythm, or timbre. The answers may surprise you in their range. I personally have found that "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen is selected every semester (likely pushed forward by the 2018 film of the same name). However, students have also selected a Christian hard rock band, a Korean band's reality contest cover of "Creep" (one of Radiohead's biggest hits), and ... "The Llama Song." Let the earworm commence!