What Are Students Like at This Learning Level?

Middle school students are going through many changes, both physically and emotionally, as they work through puberty and toward adulthood. The first traces of their adult personalitites are beginning to surface, which means they are becoming more interested in the larger world, including a wide range of music and musical styles. Improvisation and independence can flourish during these years, but group activities are very important because these students value peer relationships highly. The following is a quick look at the behaviors you are likely to encounter.

Sixth graders

Sixth graders are energetic and social and place a high value on peer relationships. They may have trouble making decisions and need clear instruction and positive reinforcement. They are starting to become more self-conscious about the way they look and sound. Many boys’ voices start to change during sixth grade. Boys who used to project their voices when singing may now sing softly or make it clear that they want no part of singing. They often don’t want to sing alone because they are afraid their voices will "crack" and the girls will laugh. Consequently, girls who were once cooperative about singing can be influenced by peer pressure and start to withdraw, too. But these students also love to perform for others and can be motivated through formal musical productions or more casual assembly performances. When they are all in it together and are performing for others, their outlooks and attitudes tend to improve.

Seventh graders

Seventh graders may experience emotional highs and lows, and sometimes start to show signs of rebellion. At this time students also begin wanting to communicate sincerely with adults, so opening up a mutually respectful dialogue can help build trust. Those swinging emotions can also become an asset as students relate to the emotional aspects of music. Boys’ voices continue to change and it may be necessary to move students to different sections when singing (baritone, bass, etc.). Students in this grade often want to sing songs they have heard on the radio. If possible and appropriate, let students sing their own selections. They are more apt to cooperate if they feel the teacher values their opinion. But don’t turn class into a radio sing-along; continue singing and listening to songs from other cultures, and compare and contrast musical styles.

Eighth graders

Eighth graders need focused tasks to help them understand larger concepts, but they are also willing to make mistakes and try again. They are less conscious about being "wrong" or making mistakes than they were a year earlier. This is their newfound maturity. It may also be a symptom of being among the oldest kids in school. In addition to singing and playing instruments, allow these students to create and improvise music. This will give them a great sense of achievement.

What Students Can Do at This Level

The learning outcomes below are based on the Scope and Sequence, which builds instruction sequentially across these levels. Keep in mind that students of different ages may be at the same level.
Grade 6 Students Can… Grade 8 Students Can…

sing simple melodies in the treble and bass clef

sight-read melodies and harmonies in the treble and bass clef

play simple melodies, folk songs, and simple accompaniments to familiar songs

sight-read simple melodies using scale numbers or symbols

use standard terminology in explaining music, music notation, musical instruments and voices, and musical performances

describe the basic principles of meter, rhythm, tonality, intervals, chords, and harmonic progressions

compare and contrast a variety of tempos in a musical example through listening

compare and contrast the various textures of orchestral works (monophonic, homophonic, polyphonic, etc.)

compare several cultures of the world and examine functions of music, composers, and historical periods in which the music was created

classify by genre and style aurally presented music representative of diverse genres, styles, periods, and cultures, and describe the characteristics that make it an outstanding work