Disciplinary Literacy in Music

Welcome to the Disciplinary Literacy in Music site.  

You will find resources to better engage students in creativity, communication, and critical thinking, while remaining true to the rigors of music. Like the words in a novel or poem, music notation is a symbolic system of communication.  This system allows people across countries, cultures, and time to engage within the expressive qualities of music.  Through this system of musical notation, learners can both read, write, listen, think critically, and communicate ideas.  Music literacy is a method of communication.  

Disciplinary Literacy definition - 

In Wisconsin, "disciplinary literacy is defined as the confluence of content knowledge, experiences, and skills merged with the ability to read, write, listen, speak, think critically and perform in a way that is meaningful within the context of a given field."


For music this definition supports the continual building of skills, knowledge, and techniques while continuing to focus on the art form's elements.  
Music instruction offers students the opportunity to explore, create, and respond through a variety of multi-sensory modes.  
Literacy is one of many tools that can assist in developing music skills and knowledge.  Literacy tools can assist students in:
  • developing music vocabulary; 
  • deciphering the graphic representation of sound called notes; and 
  • navigating a composition by understanding the musical road maps.
8 Steps to Building Art Knowledge through Literacy (Template)
1. Build prior knowledge. 
2. Build specialized vocabulary.
3. Learn to deconstruct complex visual representation of ideas. 
4. Use knowledge of artistic elements and genres to identify main and subordinate ideas within a piece. 
5. Articulate what the graphic representations mean within a work or ideas to support its main components.
6. Pose discipline relevant questions. 
7. Compare artistic elements of the work to other work. 
8. Use reasoning within the discipline (i.e., what counts as evidence to evaluation claims).

The reconstruction of music knowledge and skills may occur through literacy, physical, verbal, movement, or aural skills. Instructional examples and resources are included within the  Fine Arts Pedagogy site for your classroom use.  

For more examples of application in music education, visit:
  • Videos focused on arts use for each of the disciplinary literacy tools - Click on the box to see each video.
Listening  Performing  Reading Speaking  Critical Thinking  Writing
For questions, concerns, or suggestions, please contact Julie Palkowski, Fine Arts and Creativity Education Consultant, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. 

“I have never thought of writing for reputation and honor. What I have in my heart must come out; that is the reason why I compose.” - Ludwig van Beethoven