I have taken some of the below material from Tom Anderson’s “A Model for Art Criticism: Talking with Kids About Art”, School Arts Magazine, September, 1997, found at: http://tinyurl.com/243pjf3 and suggestions from arts educator friends. In both cases I have adapted it to the music curriculum. I have incorporated the 5 day process into other activities that I do in the music curriculum.

On the first day of my encounter with new students I want to develop a more critical stance when listening to and describing music. From the very beginning I want to avoid the common comments that students make when experiencing a new situation, especially in the arts. Namely, the “I don’t like this” or “Why do I/we have to do this” comments. So I have the students create a list of items that they should be looking for when listening to a piece of music. These will generate the “elements” of music, e.g., rhythm, melody, harmony, instruments, etc.

On the second day I have the students make a comment about one of these characteristics of music that we found during the first day. These can either be done verbally or to involve everyone, written down or through the use of technology. Some examples will be: “I like to listen to music that is very fast” – this has to do with the Tempo characteristic/element.

The third day involves having the students listen to various differing styles of music. Now we are to the Reaction stage of Tom Anderson’s original process of Art Criticism. I have found that timbre examples are good for 6th graders with some representative examples here: For 8th graders I have found success with excerpts taken from their Top 10 lists that they have created in 6th grade or excerpts from different styles of 20th Century music. Some examples are: "Sing, Sing, Sing" "Iron Man" "Hey Jude" In both cases, I let each student write down their initial reaction on hearing the piece of music. I give them the following statements to formulate their initial reaction: 1) What’s your first response to this work? 2) How does this make you feel? 3) What does it make you think of? 4) What does it remind you of? and 5) What images do you see?

The fourth day involves taking those same excerpts and use the elements/characteristics of music to describe why the like/don’t like the music. I would now talk about the actual element of timbre for 6th graders giving them adjectives/adverbs to describe timbre or go into more detail of the elements of music with 8th graders. I have used the this: very successfully with 8th graders. This is Tom Anderson’s Description stage. I have found out that each and every time that now the students will tell me using characteristic/element terms why they like/don’t like the music instead of just saying “I like this music/video because the singer is sexy”, or “I like the song because the singer uses swear words a lot”. We get beyond those short/curt responses. Yes, the music will “move” them, but now the students are beginning to understand why they are moved.

Finally, on the 5th day, I have taken 8th graders into the Interpretation and Evaluation stages of Tom Anderson’s model. Again, I use the same music that we were analyzing all along and now ask the students 1) What do you think this work means? 2) If you had to change the title of this piece of music, what would you name it? 3) Does the music exhibit a high degree of technical compositional and/or conceptual skill? 4) Why was the music written? etc.

The above steps can easily be adapted to video and art works and of course incorporate technology with the use of netbooks and web based software, e.g., Wallwisher. Using these steps during the beginning classes of music and reinforcing expectations on how we are to analyze/rate music throughout the course provides for a better intellectual study of all types of music.