About A World In Music Series and Book 1 “West Africa”

A World In Music Series

This series is a set of activities designed to help elementary teachers bring music of particular cultures into the classroom.  It is for all teachers who will teach music and culture – you don’t have to read music, audio examples illustrate and help teach. Cultural information is included, and worksheets and teaching strategies are all here. Activities build on one another, so some work well with beginner classes while others will challenge and interest more experienced learners – whether the music is an adjunct to another academic topic area, or is part of a dedicated music class.  Though teaching and learning the material do not require music reading, notation is included as an alternate way to teach and to illustrate different ways of thinking about musical notation in general.

There are six units in each book, and each unit contains a number of activities related to the general unit topic.  Activities are arranged roughly from simple to complex, and they expand as students’ understanding of a topic area grows.  Some of the more complex activities are suitable for early high school, while others work for younger children.

Each book lists of materials needed for each activity, explanations, teaching strategies, notation for optional use, and suggestions for extending activities or student research.  An audio CD (sold bundled or separately) provides illustrations for teachers to use as they prepare the lessons, and some examples to use in class.  Though the focus of the series is musical, it uses these musical ideas help students understand cultural and social concepts in other societies, as well as providing a new lens through which to view topics such as language, stories, history, and science concepts such as acoustics.

The first book released is “West Africa” is now available.  Forthcoming volumes include Japan and First Nations topics, and will be available on this website.


A World In Music Series – Book 1 – “West Africa”

ISBN: 978-0-9939830-0-9

ISBN (CD): 978-0-9939830-1-6

This first volume in the series deals musically largely with Ewe culture, and sets up several levels of percussion, song, and dance activities.  It uses ideas from other groups in West Africa too, to help students to become aware of sounds and to use instruments as part of sound creation in various applications – tonal languages, children’s rhymes and fingerplays, a Yoruba story.  It also uses musical ideas as a springboard to teach about culture – for example, ideas about food responsibility, the value and contribution of children to society, cooperation in musical performance, the value of memory in identity.  Learning is done by steps, with some activities building on skills learned in earlier ones.  Performance is encouraged as a participatory activity, with movement and instrument-playing incorporated as activities are combined.

Some activities are for musical participation/performance, but all fit in with other areas of learning. The tonal language activity, for instance, is a way for students to extend the idea of the Yoruba pitched language into an understanding of pitch in English and how it is used – and a chance to imitate it with high and low drums. A fingerplay lets young children extend their experience by imitating sounds such as frogs, cows, ducks as spoken in other languages. A call-response shout helps focus extra energy before starting something new. One activity analyzes instrumental sound and changes it, while at the same time helping students’ listening skills and focus. All give other ways of looking at the world and at music in particular.

As in forthcoming volumes on other music cultures, the book has detailed directions for teaching, sample worksheets to copy, and audio CD examples and notation for teachers to use in their own learning, and in demonstrating to students.  It suggests sources for other print and audio music resources, and the website contains links specific to activities and units in the volume.