Making Music Matters

The Chinese philosopher Confucius said long ago that “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”  Learning to play a musical instrument is great for developing brains. Playing a musical instrument has many benefits and can bring pleasure to those around them.


More qualitative benefits than only listening to music. Passively listening to Mozart, or indeed any other music you enjoy, does not make you smarter. The so-called “Mozart effect” is  now a debunked myth: just listening to certain types of music does not improve intelligence, like you’re not going to become physically fit just by watching sports. It’s important to engage with the music in order to reap the benefits and see changes in your learning. Because it is only through the active generation and manipulation of sound that music can rewire the brain.

Moreover, people with little or no musical training, who represent the vast majority of the listening audience, perceive music in a totally different way than the actual musicians who play or create the music. Each person who hears music is influenced by his or her own individual personality, knowledge, and life experiences that have molded their minds.

This short animation from TED-Ed, written by Anita Collins and animated by Sharon Colman Graham, explains why playing music benefits the brain more than any other activity.

Extract from the video:

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout

Playing a musical instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once, especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices. As with any other workout, disciplined, structured practice in playing music strengthens those brains functions, allowing us to apply that strengh to other activities.

The most obvious difference between listening to music and playing it is that the latter requires fine motor skills, which are controlled in both hemispheres of the brain. It also combines the linguistic and mathematical precision, in which the left hemisphere is more involved, with the novel and creative content that the right excels in.

– See more at: 

Benefits-playing-an-instrument MerceCardus

Anita Collins

The Two Sides of Music

This Is How Music Can Change Your Brain – TIME

Mozart doesn’t make you clever – NATURE

Cooperative Learning: Kagan Structures for English Language Learners.

The teacher no longer is the “sage on the stage” but rather a model and facilitator of learning

Why use this method of teaching?
The 21st century learning skills* require students to build reading, writing, problem-solving and application competencies. The teacher is supposed to teach less content and more skills. Cooperative learning is the perfect teaching methodology to teach students strategies and skills. It also a great model to show students how to apply those skills to study content.

*The 21st century learning skills are often called the 4 C’s: critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating, and collaborating. These skills help students learn, and so they are vital to success in school and beyond.

If you teach your students skills, they will become proficient, adaptable and life-long learners. And this works for ALL SUBJECTS. No matter the content, students who are skilled learners can study any subject, at any time and at any place. Cooperative learning also fosters a student’s ability to work in a team and to regularly reflect on his/her learning.

The teacher* assigns students in groups with specific roles and jobs. After team members are organized into these small groups, usually of four people, and receive instruction from their teacher, students within the team cooperate with one another and work through the assignment until each team member successfully understands and completes it. Ultimately the shared goals are accomplished individually by each team member, and collectively by the group as a whole.
Teacher-selected groups have been proven time and again to be the best method of forming teams because it ensures a good mix and avoids friends from working together, which neglects to achieve the goal of improvement of social interactions among students who do not know each other as well.kaganpresentation

Team members.

Team members are responsible for their own individual learning as well as for their teammates learning. Members benefit from the contributions of the individual team members. Groups are heterogeneous are made up of high, medium and low academic achieving students. Team members acquire new skills and knowledge. Rewards are oriented towards individual and group.
Classroom Management
If cooperative learning is not accompanied with an effective classroom management system, serious problems are likely to occur. (Spencer Kagan)

Teachers usually provide verbal information along with worksheets, outlines and study guides during a cooperative learning lesson.
Students who are unfamiliar with the cooperative learning model will need to be taught about the model and be clear on their roles as well as the teacher’s expectations during this type of lesson
Reflection (group processing) is an essential part of the cooperative learning process. By clarifying and describing which actions and decisions were helpful and unhelpful the group continues the learning process and improves each members effectiveness when contributing to a collaborative group.
The leading researchers of cooperative learning include Robert Slavin, Roger & David Johnson and Spencer Kagan, all of whom have slightly different approaches and emphases

The research of David and Roger Johnson, provides the foundation for how cooperative learning is structured in most of today’s classrooms. Their research shows that merely because students work in small groups does not mean they are cooperating to ensure their own learning and the learning of all others in the group.
Dr. Slavin suggests that cooperative learning is doubtlessly a great tool for handicapped and disabled students. Cooperative learning encourages these students and molds them to work in a professional environment. Cooperative learning of disabled and normal students is another great way of encourage disabled students. According to Slavin, when disabled and handicapped students work in mainstream and heterogeneous environments, they learn in a more productive and skillful manner.

Spencer Kagan has developed more than 100 structures to incorporate the basic principles of cooperative learning. “We are very clear with teachers that they should make cooperative learning part of any lesson,” Kagan says. “Ours is an integrated approach rather than a replacement approach.”

Kagan Structures
Kagan Structures are easy-to-learn and easy-to-use instructional strategies, ideal for promoting second language learning. In classrooms in which the Kagan Structures are used regularly, students for whom English is a second language learn both English and academic content far more quickly and far more thoroughly than when traditional instructional strategies are used. The Kagan Structures also promote language and content learning far more than does group work.

All of the Kagan Structures are very carefully designed. They are carefully structured to implement four basic principles of cooperative learning, PIESPIES

P  = Positive Interdependence
I  = Individual Accountability
E  = Equal Participation
S  = Simultaneous Interaction

For example, Kagan instructs teachers to use a “Timed Pair Share” structure. In this exercise, the teacher divides the class into pairs of students and poses a question. Within each pair, Student A talks about his or her answer for one minute, then Student B does the same.

The following examples illustrate a few of these instructional methods used:

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“Which Kagan Structures should I learn and use first?”, and “Where do I begin?”

Inside-Outside Circle: In concentric circles, students rotate to face new partners and then answer or discuss teacher questions.
Rally Table: In pairs, students alternate generating written responses or solving problems.
One Stray: On each team, one teammate “strays” from his or her team to a new team to share information.
Rally Robin: In pairs, students alternate generating oral responses.
Rally Coach: Partners take turns, one solving a problem while the other coaches.
Showdown: One teammate reads a question or problem aloud. Students work independently to solve the problem, then show their answers when a teammate calls, “Showdown!” They then celebrate the correct answer or coach to get the correct answer (Kagan 1994).

For more details about Cooperative Learning

On Kagan Institutes, workshops and conferences go to and

The “Round robin” technique

What is cooperative learning? SlideShare

Cooperative Learning Lessons Starter Kit

The Essential 5: A Starting Point for Kagan Cooperative Learning


Kagan Structures for English Language Learners

The sky’s the limit

There is no limit to what someone can achieve. LWL from the research to the ideal school

The Learning Without Limits (LWL) project is based on the idea of transformability and by the concept of learning capacity that is very different from the concept of ability.

Transformability is a firm conviction that there is the potential for change, that things can change and be changed for the better, sometimes even dramatically, as a result of what people do in the present.bookcover1small Learning capacity is transformable because the forces that shape it are, to an extent, within teachers’ control. In contrast with the implied fatalism of ability labels. Teachers who built their pedagogy around ability labels influence negatively in young people’s self-belief, sense of personal competence, attitudes, expectations and hopes for the future. Ability labels explain differences in young people’s learning and attainment due to fixed differences in intellectual endowment. A young student with ‘low ability’ now, in the present, is assumed to have more limited potential than others who are judged to be ‘average’ or ‘more able’ and the expectation is that these differences will persist and be reflected in comparable differences in academic performance in the future: the self-fulfilling prophecy (achieving fulfillment as a result of having been expected or foretold).

bookcover2_smallCreating Learning without Limits (CLwL) builds on the Learning without Limits study by exploring the wider opportunities for enhancing the learning capacity of every child that become possible when the educational community work together to create an environment free from the limiting effects of ability labels and practices.

CLwL was set up to explore the process of whole-school development driven by the core idea of transformability: the conviction that all children (not just some children) can become more powerful, committed, successful learners given distinctive supportive conditions and generous opportunities for learning.

Wroxham classroom

Mr Davy at Wroxham school

CLwL builds on the Learning without Limits study by exploring the wider opportunities for enhancing the learning capacity of every child that become possible when a whole staff group works together to create an environment free from the limiting effects of ability labels and practices.

The Creating Learning without Limits project was based at the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education, in collaboration with colleagues at The Wroxham School, Hertfordshire. Dame Alison Margaret Peacock is co-author of Creating Learning without Limits, and Executive Headteacher of The Wroxham Teaching School. 


“Dame Alison Peacock” by Lee Allan – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The following short passages are taken from an interview with Dame Alison on The Guardian on March 29th.

The headteacher [Alison Peacock] says she never set out to get rid of ability labelling at the school. It grew from conversations with staff, and when it worked the idea was developed. Pupils are never set tasks by ability. Topics are taught to the whole group and students are then chosen from a range of activities of varying complexity. If they begin a piece of work and think they could try something more difficult, or need something easier, they can change”… “The assumption that you can reliably put a number against what a child is capable of is flawed and dangerous. Potentially, it leads to the individual and the people around them having a very limited set of expectations.” She believes it is detrimental even if the student is given a high grade, pointing to research by Carol Dweck from Stanford University to illustrate this. When two groups of children were given a complex mathematical task, the group that was told they had good problem-solving skills progressed much further than the group that was simply told they were very good at maths…. “If teachers feel constrained, judged and labelled, then they can’t lift the limits on pupils,” she says. Extracts from

Taking inspiration from the book Creating Learning without Limits, the University of Cambridge Primary School (UCPS) is the first primary to open as one of the government’s flagship university training schools and was set up as a free school. The UCPS will be governed by a charitable trust, UTS Cambridge. The school will be a mixed-ability co-educational school for children aged three – 11 and it will be highly inclusive where pupil diversity is welcomed and children will be encouraged and enabled to excel.The school will focus on exemplary teaching, high-quality governance and innovative learning practice. The Trust is delighted that these plans have been approved. They are high-quality, innovative and inclusive, reflecting the planned character of University of Cambridge Primary School.Uni Cambs primary school 01 site plan

The three-form entry primary school will open in phases from September 2015 and will serve the development site and a local catchment.

The information used in this post is excerpted from the following sites with non-commercial purposes: