This week we peek in on one of our wonderful colleagues, a high school music teacher, who started with this big, conceptual understanding for one of his units of study:

Music is the organization of sound and silence. 

In order to help students deeply understand this, they will be contemplate each concept in isolation in order to gain greater insight into how the concepts are related to each other in this sentence.

If music is organized, what does that mean? How is it different from disorganized? Does the organization have to be purposeful? Replicable? Pleasant?

What is the difference between sound and silence? Is silence also a sound? Is anything ever really silent? Can any sound be musical?

After discussing their initial impressions and ideas about these questions, students are exposed to several examples that help them explore the extremes of each concept. If you’re up to the challenge, take a look at this video of musician J0hn Cage’s piece “4’33″” posted below.

Consider for yourself — how can you pick apart a big conceptual understanding and help students explore each concept separately? How can this help them gain insight into the relationship between multiple concepts?