Music Journals

Written by Patti B.

Journaling has been a common practice in Language Arts classrooms for many years now.  I recall its popularity growing during the whole language movement.  More recently, there is an emphasis on the inclusion of reading and writing into all content areas.  There is much research which supports the effectiveness of writing in all subjects.  Writing about content areas provides authentic topics and gives students “the opportunity to analyze, question, synthesize and apply information they have learned that day” (Allen, 2004, p. 23).  This year, I began using Music Journals with my third, fourth, and fifth grade classes.  This tool “encourages students to engage more deeply with their music lessons” (Pearman and Friedman, 2009).  This blog entry will discuss the benefits that I have discovered in music journaling.

First, journaling encourages students to take ownership of their learning.  This begins by simply letting them decorate their cover.  My students enjoyed making their journal their “own”.  Here are some examples of journal covers:


Ownership in learning continues as the pages of the journals are filled!  Students begin to understand their role in the learning process and can see their improvement in their skills, attitudes, or preferences.  Here is an example of a fifth grade boy sharing the growth he has made as a singer:

                Second, music journals, also be referred to as “academic notebooks”, are also advantageous because they can take on many different formats.  Entries can be very structured.  For instance, stem sentences can be used as writing prompts, or a student may write about new vocabulary words, class notes, or a strategy for learning.  In contrast, entries can also be flexible and have an open format.  “The blank pages of the journal await the students’ questions, hopes, and dreams” (Robinson, p. 30).  This flexibility allows students with different learning styles and ability levels to have their individual needs met.   Here are some wide range of abilities and understandings represented in journaling:

                 This fifth grader has demonstrated his great understanding of what we have learned. 

Here is some contrast between two third grade students and their level of understanding of refrain and verse. 

These two students are also different in their attentiveness in class.  The second student is often off-task.  His entry is less detailed, but I am quite pleased that he has demonstrated understanding and that he likes singing refrains. 

Third, a music teacher can use journals as an opportunity to get to know their students better.  At the beginning of the year, the writing assignment could be to write anything they want the teacher to know about them.  I only see these students once a week; I can learn more about my students through this type of writing assignment.  Students could write about musical experiences which may include any instruments they play.  Teachers could discover family members with special talents that could be used as excellent resources for future lessons and projects.  Students can express their musical preferences through their journal entries.  This entry confirms that my students really enjoy a particular song in our music book:    

  Several students have voiced their enjoyment of solfege singing through their journal writing:

                Finally, music journals provide an excellent way to assess my students learning.  These entries show me that these students understand some key vocabulary words that we have learned. 

Assessment is not just for measuring student achievement.  Assessment is used to evaluate my teaching and to guide further instruction.  These entries tell me that I need to clarify and develop a deeper understanding of some key music vocabulary:

Bailey has switched the definitions for refrain and verse.  The second journal demonstrates the common misunderstanding and/or description of dynamics as “high and low” as opposed to “loud and soft.” 

  In closing, I have found my students excited about their music journals.  They are taking ownership in their learning and demonstrating their knowledge of musical concepts.  Students are writing about improvements they are making in their musical journey.  I am learning when concepts have been taught well and where re-teaching is necessary.  Moreover, both of my building principals are thrilled to know that our students are practicing their writing skills in music class which benefits the whole education of the child.  While my main goal is to use writing to deepen our musical knowledge, I will promote, model, and address proper grammar and writing skills as much as possible.  Finally, students are sharing what they have enjoyed about music class, and I have a better personal insight into each individual in my classes. 


Allen, J.  (2004)  Tools for teaching content literacy.  Portland, ME:  Stenhouse.

Pearman, C. J. and Friedman, T.  (2009) Reading and Rhythm: Binding Language Arts and Music in an Academic Notebook, General Music Today, (Volume 23, pages 12-16)

Robinson, M.  (1995) Alternative Assessment Techniques for Teachers:  Are you at a loss for ways to assess your music students? Mitchell Robinson offers some ideas that might help you improve your situation, Music Educators Journal, (Volume 81, pages 28-34)


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. amyfatek
    Nov 22, 2011 @ 15:22:19

    What a great article! I love that you started the journal by having students use their creativity to create “their own” cover. I think by having them start with this they can really embrace that the journal is really about them and their experiences in music. I will love to hear about what students say at the end of the year when they start looking back at all they have done and learned along the way! What a great journey for our students to reflect upon!
    “Students begin to understand their role in the learning process and can see their improvement in their skills, attitudes, or preferences” (Patti B). Students can actually see changes in their learning. They might begin the year thinking one thing and by the end of the year they have changed their minds! Journaling is also excellent for providing evidence to parents about a students’ discipline or attention during class. I love your student samples presented within this post. How lucky are the English teachers in your school! Having all of the extra-curricular classes supporting the core subjects is essential in a school and students’ success! When they can make these connections not only in one class, but to something as fun as music, the probability that you will reach more students has to be greater! Great job!
    This is the perfect way to assess students! Especially when they are as focused on it as your students seem to be. What a great way to shed light on what students needs really are! Do you do this in a notebook that they keep in your room? What are the logistics behind collecting these responses? What a fantastic idea!

    Written By, Amy Fatek


  2. Stephanie K.
    Nov 23, 2011 @ 04:28:48

    Journaling in the music classroom is just another great way to validate music in education. More importantly, it validates music as part of the whole education process. Regular education teachers appreciate it when we help reinforce what they are teaching in the classroom, and journals definitely reinforce the Language Arts. (Administrators appreciate it, too.) Journals in the music classroom help strengthen many areas of learning including reading, writing, and spelling, which really just serves to better benefit our students and help them improve in many different areas. Journals also help teach students to reflect on what they have learned; and, since there is no one correct answer, they can be creative, too.

    I was so happy to read this blog post. Just the other day, I was reading a past issue of Music K-8 magazine. It was a November/December issue from 1999, and one of the first pages I read gave two examples for listening journals. I realize music journals are not limited to listening, but I still believe that any form or type of journal is a good addition to the music curriculum, especially with older students. I liked that you mentioned that journals can be structured or flexible. I think students would profit from a combination of both.

    It is so true that journals can help students take ownership for their learning and see their own improvement. Journals are also a great source of feedback for teachers. They can let us know what we taught well and what we need to re-teach or build on next time. They are also a great way to see if the intended learning has really taken place and assess that learning. Finally, I appreciated the idea that journals are a way for teachers to get to know their students better. I am always looking for ways to better know and understand my students. I believe that we can reach and teach our students better when we know their likes and dislikes.


  3. Patti B.
    Dec 04, 2011 @ 03:07:35

    Amy, I do keep the journals in my room. This is my first year doing the music journals, and I was too late to get a spiral notebook included on their school supplies list. I may do it that way next year. This year, however, I just give them loose leaf paper for each entry. When they are finished, they add the entry into a construction paper folder that we made at the beginning of the year.


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