The Week in Early American History

TWEAH

We’ll start the roundup this week by pointing readers to the recently revamped Teaching United States History blog, which featured a slew of posts over the last seven days. Be sure and check out Ben Wright’s post on teaching students the differences between academic, public and popular history and Blake Ellis’s thoughts on teaching US history in a diverse classroom. Of particular interest to (at least some) readers of The Junto will be Drew Bledsoe’s taxonomy of Civil War history studentsContinue reading

Shall We Listen to That Again?

I’m working on my syllabus for next semester. This is a new class at a relatively new job, and I have spent approximately 1,000 hours agonizing over the structure of the class and the difficulty of the readings, tweaking the language of the course description, and trying to find the most fair and opportune balance for the assignments. But mostly, making this syllabus has made me reconsider the role of listening in the classroom. Listening to music, that is.

Since I teach at an elite conservatory where all of the students are training to be (or already are) professional performers, we listen to music in every class meeting. This particular course, on representations of the “exotic” in western music from c. 1600 to today, features approximately 30 pieces of music. I treat these pieces like primary sources. The students are expected to listen to the assigned piece in advance, and in class we listen to excerpts in order to ground our discussion. I introduce other musical examples to illustrate points or guide the discussion in new directions. Sometimes the students draw on their own experiences as performers, making connections between the course materials and music they’ve encountered elsewhere. Continue reading