Be Prepared Use unit and daily lessons to get ready for class and determine which standards you will teach (See pages 62-65). Make sure all necessary sheet music and/or lyric sheets are printed out before class. If there are different parts to a particular piece of music, make sure the parts are predetermined and you have a good idea about which students will perform which parts. If instruments are required—whether they are simple percussion instruments or recorders—make sure they are clean and ready to use.
If recorded music is on the agenda, make sure you have a working CD player (or other playback device) and the necessary recorded music. Be sure to set up materials beforehand in such a way that you (or the students) may easily retrieve what you need during a project.
Make it Fun and Educational at the Same Time Your goal is to instill a knowledge of music in your students, but learning can and should be fun, too. You are serious about teaching music but you don’t always have to make the material serious. Music is enjoyable. Strive to make learning about music enjoyable, too. Your enthusiasm can be contagious.
Repeat, Repeat Students, especially younger children, thrive on repetition and even enjoy it. Having students perform a piece they learned in an earlier class gives them an opportunity to practice and to show what they’ve learned. Introduce new material as appropriate, but remember to circle back, too.
Stay Active Students learn by doing. To young students, music means movement. Integrate "action songs," in which students perform gestures that correspond to music. At the high school level, have students notice how their positions and movements affect their technique and how audiences might react to these physical cues.
Be Your Own Critic If a lesson or activity isn’t working the way you intended, think about how you might change it. Don’t get stuck in comfortable habits. Music is about creativity, and good creative thought is constantly evolving.
Praise Often As students get older they become more self-conscious about how they appear to others—how they look and sound, how they perform on instruments—so make sure to praise students when they make progress. Encouragement and positive reinforcement help children learn and appreciate what they are learning, in every grade and at every skill level.
Promote Self-Expression Choose projects that help students reflect on who they are as people and as musicians, and when possible, let students make choices themselves.
Require a Music Folder Have students use one folder to hold their classroom notes, music notation, work sheets, and other information. They should think of the folder as an important and necessary resource.
Create an Inspiring Classroom An interesting, attractive classroom environment will motivate and inspire students. Be creative. Have music playing on a CD player as students enter your classroom. Visual or other stimulation is also effective. Display an attractive bulletin board or posters both with visual references for class and inspiring images related to musical performance.
Introduce Various Genres of Music Expose students to different music genres and styles using recordings, live performances, and presentations by visiting teaching artists. Help them understand that each genre or style has its own properties, and discuss how different musicians use those properties to their advantage. Consider your students’ diverse cultural experiences and introduce them to music that reflects and celebrates those experiences.
Encourage Family Involvement Communicate with parents and guardians regularly to create a partnership that reinforces the importance of learning.
Incorporate Themes Develop projects that connect to engaging themes appropriate for your grade level. Choosing themes that connect to student experiences helps motivate them and supports critical thinking.
Provide Performance Opportunities Give your students ample time to perform their music for others, whether simply in your classroom or in a larger setting, such as an assembly. Encourage students to participate in non-school performances, through community organizations and in less-formal settings with their peers, friends, or family.
Teach Students How to Listen to Music Students often have trouble engaging with the music they hear because they don’t know how to respond to it. To help students appreciate and evaluate music, give them the vocabulary needed to describe what they hear. Encourage them to listen actively. Also, prepare a set of questions that students can ask themselves every time they hear a work of music.
- Is the music simple or complex? How do you know?
- Which features of the piece stand out?
- Which instruments are being used?
- Which instruments are being featured more than others and why?
- How does the music make you feel? What mood does it create?
- If you had written or performed this piece, how would you feel about it? Would you change anything about it? Would your changes change any of your answers to the questions above?
Keep it Simple Activities and assignments should be challenging, but be careful not to cover too many concepts at once. Teach one thing at a time and the learning will stick.