Amy M. Burns

Elementary Music Technology and Integration

Amy M. Burns has taught PreK-grade 4 general music for over 20 years at Far Hills Country Day School. She has authored three books on how to integrate tech into the elementary music classroom. She has presented many sessions on the topic, including four keynote addresses in TX, IN, St. Maarten, and AU. She is the recipient of the 2005 TI:ME Teacher of the Year, 2016 NJ Master Music Teacher, 2016 Governor’s Leader in Arts Education, and the 2017 NJ Nonpublic School Teacher of the Year Awards.

Integration Across the Grades 4-8 Music Curriculum

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4th Grade Bach Composer Unit

During our composer study of Johann Sebastian Bach, students read a brief biography, highlight important information, and define unfamiliar vocabulary. While watching “Bach’s Fight For Freedom”, [the story of a young boy who helps the rebellious Bach fight for his artistic freedom] students learn how sound was made on an organ during Bach’s time, discover wooden flutes and harpsichords, hear great examples of Bach’s music, and see what life was like for a ten-year old during his time. Students learn to play “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” on their recorder, compare their lives to that of young Frederick, a main character in the movie using a Thinking Map, and demonstrate their knowledge of Bach, his music and life, in a Jeopardy game. 

6th grade lyric project

As a precursor to our lyric unit, students complete a mini-unit on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They explore his life through a webquest, read and listen to both Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” and “I’ve Been to The Mountaintop” speeches, and the watch a video on the March on Washington. Students then must find examples of music about Dr. King or the Civil Rights Movement. We examine James Taylor’s “Shed A Little Light” and analyze the lyrics and how he utilizes instruments and other musical effects to create a specific mood. Working in pairs, students select popular songs that tell a story and present to the class. Presentation requirements include analyzing song lyrics, posing questions about the instrumentation and meaning of the songs as well as leading the discussion with their classmates. 

7th grade builds an instrument project

After students study Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra, they design, and build original woodwind, string or percussion instruments. Gathering inspiration from YouTube videos, in pairs, students sketch their design, determine what materials they will use to build their instrument, and then bring in the necessary items. Using two forty-five minute class periods, students then build their instrument, experiencing challenges along the way.  Students write reflections after each class period documenting their experience, and then make necessary adjustments to their original design in order to achieve success at creating an instrument that can change pitch.  For their final presentation, students share their process, describe how they made their instrument, and demonstrate and explain how sound is made on their instrument.

8th grade MaKey project

In this music selective, students used a MaKey MaKey device, an invention developed by students at M.I.T., to turn anything into a keyboard. Working in pairs, students were given a MaKey, a laptop and given the task of making a musical instrument out of all kinds of objects including bananas, play-dough and silverware. For their final project, students created a MaKey room with five different stations including a giant aluminum foil foot piano, a game controller using pencil lead, banana bongos and a Model Magic keyboard. 

Resources for this page:

  1. SAMR:

    1. Groovy Music: 

    2. Von Trapp, Agathe (2004). Agathe von Trapp: Memories Before and After The Sound of Music. Baltimore, MD: Publish America.

    3. "Agathe von Trapp, of Trapp Family Singers, dies". The Baltimore Sun. 30 December 2010. Retrieved 15 May 2015.

    4. Gearin, Joan. "Movie vs. Reality: The Real Story of the von Trapp Family". Prologue Magazine Winter 2005, Vol. 37, No. 4. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2011.

    5. Rothman, Lily (2015, March). “Behind The Sound of Music: Why the Real Maria Went to the von Trapps’”. Retrieved from on 15 May 2015.

    6. Noteflight 

    7. •Bach’s Fight For Freedom DVD

    8. •Liszt’s Rhapsody DVD

    9. “Shed a Little Light” Maccabeats with Naturally 7

    10. MLK website:

    11. Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra Classroom Kit:


Any info, student examples, pictures, graphics, etc, may be used with permission. Please contact me personally before using any info, student examples, pictures, graphics, etc.