Making Curriculum Pop

Creative Music and Writing with Shakespeare - A Multiple Literacy Approach Utilizing Garage Band


This lesson plan was inspired by Dr. Kist’s presentation “New Literacies in Action.” His lecture was very animated and fun. It reminded me how much of a difference it makes to be aware of what the interest of students is and use that to keep them focused and engaged during the learning process. As I mentioned in my blog reflection, Kist’s book is full of inspirational examples, but I was particularly impressed with Peacock Middle School, where the music curriculum had the support of so much media and software tools available, and more importantly, integrated well. When asked why students were creating a video production on Mozart instead of just focusing on his music, the music teacher at Peacock replied: “There’s just something about the technology that’s so interactive. It provides such visual stimulus that they really work to make a good product to share with the class.” These two sentences were the starting points for my first attempt at creating a differentiated lesson plan utilizing multiple media and technology to practice Carol Ann Tomlinson's differentiation methods.

The main subject is intended to be music, with secondary subjects including creative writing, computer, and arts. The student level is 10-12th grade.


This multi-integrated lesson is intended to be fun, enjoyable, while encouraging students to learn multiple skills:
• Creative writing of stories(narrative or dialogue) to fit scenes from video clips.
• Reinforce the learning of new vocabularies by incorporating them into story.
• Think up of musical themes to go along with video, using original compositions or favorite songs.
• Learn how to use the “Garage Band” software to create soundtracks.
• Learn how to record story as an audio file and import into “Garage Band.”
• Create soundtracks that match the mood of the story and video, either through original composition or imported soundtracks.
• Know how to create DVD's, combining video, soundtrack and story narration.
• Synthesize learning by combining the soundtracks, stories and video.
• Interpretation of other team's work.
• Value of collaborative, creative teamwork.


Have students watch two scenes from a movie of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, with no audio.

Give each student a sheet with list of vocabularies to be learned and studied.

Divide up students into groups of 4-5. For each group, students may decide what roles they want to play depending on their interests and skills: project leader, musician, writer, software, etc.

Have each group discuss the two scenes and come up with storyline/narrative that best describes what they think happened in the scenes – with the requirement that the words from the vocabulary list be part of the story.

Have the students create music soundtracks (using Garage Band) that expresses what they think happened in the video scenes. They may use original composition or they can import soundtracks from their favorite songs.

Have the students create audio tracks by recording the story and importing it to Garage Band.

Have students create a DVD with the video, music and audio combined at present each team's work.

Throughout each step, teacher to go around and check on each group's progress and get a sense to students' interest and engagement. Based on assessment teacher will adjust activities.


Collect and record just the music of the whole class and burn a CD.

Gather class, listen to CD, and have a reflection session.

Questions for reflection:
• How did you come up with the music?
• Can you highlight aspects of the music that you think was important for telling the story and video?
• Can you describe how you felt when you heard other's music?
• Describe at least one musical idea you liked by other teams.
• Describe at least one musical or technical shortcomings you felt that you needed improvements on from your own team.


Garage Band software is such a wonderful program and is very easy and intuitive to use; so it is perfect choice for a classroom setting. It’s a tool to use for creating film music(soundtracks) for beginners. Find out more at:

I strongly recommend “Introduction to Technology in Music Education” by Dr. Frankle. He covers almost everything you need to know about technology that can be used for music curriculum, such as notation software, Garage Band, MIDI and how to create beautiful school newsletters.

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Comment by Ryan Goble on June 5, 2009 at 8:12am
In response to Caitlin and the project in general - teachers always make this, I think (and I know Bill Kist would be with me on this one), erroneous assumption that kids are "digital natives" they can jump on a computer and just rock iMovie, Garage Band or even a Google search. The teacher's job is to really scaffold the technology instruction. Ms. Lee does a nice job here of asking specific questions that focus kids carefully on the content but alas I would LOVE to see how she organizes the process and gets kids up and running with technology as Garage Band requirers a lot of scaffolding.

Interesting ideas!
Comment by Caitlin Nagle on June 5, 2009 at 12:23am
This is so cool! I worked with some students on garage band and had SUCH a difficult time. I will keep this project in mind next time I dare to venture into the world of multi-modality.
Comment by Jennifer Lee on May 8, 2009 at 12:33pm
This is a great lesson plan. I basically just experienced this whole thing myself in one of my classes (had to be in a Garage Band!) and it really contributes to one's growth as a student. I never even knew there was a program called "Garage Band" until the beginning of this semester (I still use that dinosaur called a PC).

I second the recommendation to investigate Dr. Frankel's classes in Music Technology. Lots to learn...


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