Vygotsky’s Theory in my Music Classroom

I really think that I will use Vygotsky’s theory in my classroom as I teach music. I will use the idea of Zone of Proximal Development as I assess what tasks each student can do (Can Susie keep a steady beat on the tambourine?, Will Ethan be able to sing his part while I sing a different part by the end of this grading period?, How many musical terms should I put on the music theory test for the seventh graders?) Scaffolding can really be a helpful tool when teaching music. When teaching the kids to sing a new song, it may help to play a recording or play piano while they sing. After they have learned the notes and rhythms, the teacher can allow the piano to play its own part and the students to carry their own parts. Eventually, the goal may be to sing a capella in tune. The teacher can then add in some details like dynamics.

With Vygotsky’s theory, language is very important. In music, there is a lot of language that is used to describe what kind of sound is desired. He also placed a lot of emphasis on the role of adults in the education of the children. Often in music, the teacher or conductor makes all the decisions and teaches new concepts that students would not be able to come up with peer interaction.

Benefits of Vygotsky’s theory is that is does not include stages of development. Development is different for each individual, so there is no use in getting hung up on what the student is “supposed to be able to do” because there is a good chance that they are developing fine, just at a different rate. I think the ZPD and scaffolding ideas are also key in the classroom. Some of the weakness of this theory is that language is SO important. There are some things that students definitely cannot learn through language. In music specifically, sometimes a simple gesture from the conductor is the best way to convey a message about the sound. Music teachers use their voices constantly, so we try to conserve our voices whenever possible.

When I am interacting with my students, Vygotsky’s theory will definitely be in my mind as I am constantly assessing each individual ZPD. I need to know what the students are capable of as I am assigning instruments, jobs, solos, or pieces of music. As I assess what they are capable of, I also need to know how to scaffold them as they learn these new ideas. I need to know the best ways to get them to learn a song. Would it be best to start with the words and rhythm or the melody? I need to have the end result in mind (the ZPD) and decide what the best way to scaffold is.

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