Dr. Lodge McCammon, a professional musician, previously taught AP Economics and Civics at Wakefield High School located in Raleigh, NC. Currently, he works in classrooms with various grade levels and subjects in order to help teachers and students integrate music, video, and movement into the course.
At the age of 2, Dr. McCammon began playing the violin at Barrington Suzuki Strings – a music school his mother started. “At two, I was learning to play music at the same time I was learning language. So for me, in a sense, music is more of a language than a skill. My real love of music began to grow in high school when I realized that I was able to figure out how to play different instruments rather quickly,” McCammon explained. Over the past 20 years, the musician has become quite proficient at playing the cello, drums, guitar, bass, piano, banjo, and also has a lot of experience as a studio singer. “While I was growing up, my father was a record producer and studio owner. I spent much of my younger years in the recording studio, around many amazing musicians. The combination of training and environment gave me the language, skill and confidence necessary to move forward with writing, arranging, producing and recording music of my own,” he said.
Dr. McCammon’s passion for music was strengthened after college when he had an idea – ‘What if I took my skills of writing and recording music and applied it to the classroom?’ He added, “I went back to school to get my teacher licensure and master’s degree in education and then got a job teaching at Wakefield High School in Raleigh, NC. Basically, I would write songs about the content that I wanted to teach, like a song about political parties called “The Party Party”, and use the lyrics and music to teach the content instead of lecturing.” He explained that integrating these educational songs into the classroom was more engaging than traditional teaching.
He returned back to school to study the impact music has on motivation for learning and received his PhD. He found that music is engaging for many different students. Therefore, he now incorporates music into his teaching as much as he can because it works. “It is like magic. It is a common language for so many students. As soon as a song comes on in the classroom, the whole vibe changes instantly. Students are more attentive, excited, and open to learning. So, my quest over the past 10 years has been to try and bottle that impact so that any teacher can use music as a magical tool for engagement,” Dr. McCammon said.
When music was present in the classroom, Dr. McCammon noticed that students would naturally move to the beat while sitting at their desks. It wasn’t difficult to get students physically involved in the music. He offers a lesson plan example – “Here is a song about mechanical waves. Students, your job is to collaborate to come up with kinesthetic movements that demonstrate your knowledge of the meaning behind the lyrics.” He explains that this is a challenging lesson plan; however, his purpose for the integration of movement, or dancing, was to make the learning ‘active, engaging, and challenging.’
The musician/educator uses Kinesthetic Lectures as a way to incorporate music in the classroom. “These are short videos that take students through a basic series of movements that correspond with each part of a content song,” Dr. McCammon explained. “This helps teachers and students visualize how movement can be used with music and also gives a structured starting point for using music and dancing in the classroom. Students learn the basic movements to a content song by watching the Kinesthetic Lectures. Then, we can challenge them to come up with their own movements.”
Dr. McCammon believes that most content-based music is meant to be a series of pneumonic devices which are designed to help students memorize a process or definitions. For example, memorizing how a bill becomes a law from “I’m Just a Bill” by Schoolhouse Rock. “My contribution is to take content-based music to the next level by adding student-created movement/dancing and also by adding more rigor to the academic interaction with the lyrics. I try to write lyrics that are more poetic than pnemonic. Poetry requires discussion, explication, and interpretation,” he said. Dr. McCammon desires for students to interpret his songs in order to ‘figure out the big picture’ of the poetry and find a deeper meaning. Then, use their bodies to act out their understanding.
Currently, he is working on the #50StatesAlbum – a 50-song album covering the basic history, geography, and economic structure of each state in the U.S. The goal of each song is to encompass what every student should know about his or her state. The first 12 state songs with lyrics, explanation, and additional materials can be found in Discovery Streaming.
Dr. McCammon adds that if teachers are allowing students to express themselves creatively through movement and music, they should record the students’ performances. “I have seen three huge benefits for students if we do this. First, if students realize that their performance is being recorded, they will step up their work because a product that is recorded is more valid to them and they don’t want to look foolish upon playback. Second, students will be able to immediately evaluate themselves and reflect on their performance by watching the video after they’re done,” he stated. “Reflection is the key to reaching your potential at anything. It’s why sports teams record and review their games. We should always challenge students to reflect on their learning. And third, if the performance is high quality, it can be published online for a global audience. If it is published, students will feel compelled to watch it many times, reflecting over and over, and share it. This creates a learning environment that is more aligned with their life outside the classroom … life where ideas and experiences are regularly published for a global audience.”
He believes that students and educators at any grade level can use music in various content areas to ignite learning. “I think educators should be open to the idea of using music in the classroom, if for no other reason than because it’s a common language for most of our students. I think a great way to start using music in the classroom is to find a content-rich song, challenge students to discuss and interpret the lyrics, challenge them to get up and move to the song in order to kinesthetically demonstrate their knowledge of the lyrics, and record their performance so students can reflect on their learning. This structured and efficient procedure for using music in the classroom is accessible to any teacher,” Dr. McCammon said.
Interested in learning more about Dr. McCammon and the interesting ways that he is integrating music into the classroom? Visit the links below!
Songs, lesson plans, Kinesthetic Lectures, & student-created music videos:
Solar System music/movement lesson plan:
Student solar system performance:
Dr. Lodge McCammon’s Arts Integration – Interview by Ben Mckeown:
Natural Satellites (Solar System) – Girls Inc. Dallas:
(Discovery Education and Girls Inc. Partnership Event)