Music in a transdisciplinary programme

Music enables students to communicate in ways that go beyond their oral language abilities. Music delights and stimulates, soothes and comforts us; music allows students to communicate in a unique way. Musical experiences and learning begin with the voice. It is important that students are given opportunities to discover a broad range of music experiences including classifying and analysing sounds, composing, exploring body music, harmonising, listening, playing instruments, singing, notation, reading music, songwriting and recording. In creating, students use their imagination and musical experiences to organise sounds—natural and technological—into various forms that communicate specific ideas or moods. In responding, students are given the opportunity to respond to different styles of music, as well as to music from different times and cultures. Individually and collaboratively, students should have the opportunity to create and respond to music ideas. By exposing students to a wide and varied repertoire of musical styles, they can begin to construct an understanding of their environment, their surroundings and structures, and begin to develop personal connections with them.

Music is a part of everyday life. Listening to and performing music can be a social activity. The development of listening skills, an important aspect of all learning, is constantly reinforced. Teachers should be aware that music plays an important part in the language learning process. Through songs and rhymes, students can hear patterns and develop a sense of the rhythm that applies to languages. This can be especially apparent when learning a new language because the meaning of the words is not necessarily understood, and so students concentrate on the rhythms and patterns they hear. Wherever possible, teachers should try to include rhymes and songs in their teaching activities, not just in designated music classes.

In the PYP, the arts are identified as dance, drama, music and visual arts. Each of these is a significant discipline in its own right, but the transdisciplinary nature of music gives them relevance throughout the curriculum. Future revisions of the Music scope and sequence document will be included in a combined arts curriculum document.

Music and the arts promote attitudes such as empathy and appreciation, and skills such as analysis, that help us to see the uniqueness of each person as well as explore the commonalities that connect us. Work in music is a way of conveying meaning, sharing a culture, developing one’s sense of self, and expanding knowledge. It provides opportunity to reflect on aesthetic experience, to engage the imagination and explore what is uncertain. Through engaging with and creating music, learners are encouraged to reconsider familiar concepts and think about issues of culture and identity. By responding to the work of other artists, they are invited to situate their own creativity within a broader context.

How best will our students learn?

Music engages students in creative processes through which they explore and experiment in a continual cycle of action and reflection. Such creative processes are seen by the PYP as the driving force in learning through inquiry. From an early age, students have the opportunity to develop genuine interests, to give careful consideration to their work and to become self-critical and reflective. Reflecting on and evaluating their own work and the work of others is vital, and empowers students to take intellectual risks. Exposure to and experience with music opens doors to questions about life and learning. The process of making and appreciating music is gratifying and will encourage students to continue creating throughout their lives.

Two common strands have been identified to define the critical artistic processes. These intrinsically connected strands are concept-driven and have been designed to interact with each other, working together to support the overall development of the students.


The process of responding provides students with opportunities to respond to their own and other artists’ works and processes, and in so doing develop the skills of critical analysis, interpretation, evaluation, reflection and communication. Students will demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the concepts, methods and elements of music, including using specialized language. Students consider their own and other musician’s works in context and from different perspectives in order to construct meaning and inform their own future works and processes.

The responding strand is not simply about reflecting; responding may include creative acts and encompasses presenting, sharing and communicating one’s own understanding. By responding to their own work and that of others, students become more mindful of their own musical development and the role that music plays in the world around them.


The process of creating provides students with opportunities to communicate distinctive forms of meaning, develop their technical skills, take creative risks, solve problems and visualize consequences. Students are encouraged to draw on their imagination, experiences and knowledge of materials and processes as starting points for creative exploration. They can make connections between their work and that of other artists to inform their thinking and to provide inspiration. Both independently and collaboratively, students participate in creative processes through which they can communicate ideas and express feelings. The creating strand provides opportunities for students to explore their personal interests, beliefs and values and to engage in a personal artistic journey.

The BIS Programme of Inquiry provides a relevant and authentic context for students to create and respond to music. Wherever possible, Music is taught through the Units of Inquiry and supports students’ inquiries and the BIS Vision, Mission and Mandate. The direct teaching of music in a Unit of Inquiry may not always be feasible. However, teachers help students to make explicit connections between different aspects of their learning. Students are provided with opportunities to identify and reflect on “big ideas” within and between the music strands, the Programme of Inquiry, and other subject areas.

The following models provide examples of how to strengthen the role of learning through and about music by:

  • Developing or supporting a unit within the Programme of Inquiry: Whenever appropriate, the music teachers are involved in collaboratively planning to teach, assess and reflect on the Units of Inquiry.
  • Preparing for or following on from a unit within the Programme of Inquiry: The direct teaching of music in a Unit of Inquiry may not always be feasible but, where appropriate, introductory or follow-up learning experiences may be used to help students to make connections between the different aspects of the curriculum. Music teachers may plan and teach activities or experiences that prepare students for participation in a Unit of Inquiry. Following on from a unit, students may demonstrate their understanding of the central idea in a music context. Indeed, a music activity may be incorporated into the summative assessment of the unit.
  • Independent music inquiry: There may be times when teachers will be teaching aspects of music independent of the Programme of Inquiry. At such times, teachers structure their teaching and learning through the use of the PYP planning process. Teachers ensure that the essential elements of the PYP support such learning while maintaining the integrity and character of learning through and about music. If undertaking an inquiry outside the Programme of Inquiry, teachers still recognise that the same philosophy and pedagogy must underpin their planning and teaching of the subject.

It is worthwhile to note that there will be occasions for student-initiated spontaneous music inquiries that are not directly related to any planned Units of Inquiry. These are valuable teaching and learning opportunities in themselves and provide teachers and students with the opportunity to apply the pedagogy of the PYP to authentic, of-the-moment situations.
- (Adapted from the IBPYP Arts Scope and Sequence Document (2009)

How will we know what our students have learned?

Assessment provides insights into students’ understanding, knowledge, skills and attitudes. In accordance with the Lower School Assessment Policy, assessments will be carefully planned and selected both for formative and summative assessments.

Opportunities will be provided for students to self-assess and set their own goals from these reflections. Record keeping will be simple and contribute to the student portfolios.