Elementary School Music

Lesson Planning

Posted in Lesson Planning by P. Conrad on October 12, 2010

Components of an elementary music curriculum or planbook:desk

  • Single lessons
  • “Units” or sequences of lessons
  • Expected outcomes for the year (by age group or grade)
  • Repertoire (performance, listening)
  • Resources (available space, materials, time)
  • Standards (The Blueprint)
  • Assessments (rubrics, assessment formats)

In New York City schools, the first four components are typically determined by the teacher, working alone or with a mentor. Resources depend to a great extent on the physical plant, the budget, and above all on the awareness and commitment of the principal; these can vary widely from one school to another. The standards in place for music teachers in the Department of Education are represented by the Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts.

A good digest of the Blueprint can be found in the pages on “Hallmarks of a Good Music Lesson” in the Department of Education’s pamphlet Viewing, Assessing, and Supporting Effective Arts Instruction.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the Blueprint reflects an ideal. The Benchmarks it proposes are a practical guide only if the administration in a particular school can ensure continuity of resources from one school year to the next. In other words: the Blueprint and its benchmarks function at the mercy of decisions about scheduling, staffing, and classroom space (if any).

Another factor that complicates effective teaching and learning in city schools is the rate of “student mobility” (admissions and discharges during the school year) and “stability” (student longevity in the school). For obvious reasons, lesson planning for a highly unstable community requires a certain amount of flexibility.

Skilled planning for teaching elementary-grades music is similar to planning for math or emergent literacy: it involves an on-going sequential process that keeps children continually moving from the known to the unknown.

You can see excellent examples of how this process might unfold in practice by looking at one of the Kodály methodology introductions, in particular Lois Choksy’s The Kodály Method I and II (3rd edition, Prentice-Hall, 1999). Whether the Kodály approach is best-suited for conditions in NYC’s public schools may be debated. Basically, a Kodály program continually prepares children for explicit learning about each melodic or rhythmic concept with lots of experience in singing and playing musical games, so that the new concept has already been internalized, when it is presented. As a result, each lesson in a grade sequence has to include repertoire that can provide that preparation, as well as lots of opportunities for practice, in reading, writing and performing.

General Music Curriculum Framework Document
an interesting guide to planning by Prof. Debra Hadden, University of Kansas (MENC)

Into Music 4 is the music curriculum in the New Zealand Schools. A lot of interesting material can be found and downloaded from their website. Be prepared to explore and be prepared to “translate” into American terms.


Print-able worksheets for music

Posted in Lesson Planning by P. Conrad on October 11, 2010

Teachervision.com includes a collection of printable music education worksheets that can be downloaded for free (but drawing while listening to music should probably be filed under visual arts). Thanks to David Ephross, jazz bassist and teacher at P.S. 304 in Bed-Stuy, who provided the link.

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Trade Books for Teaching Music

Posted in Books for Teachers, Lesson Planning, Repertoire by P. Conrad on May 22, 2010

Trade Books for Teaching Music:  Click the link for a list of  illustrated books for use in the classroom.

The list provides only titles, authors’ or illustrators’ names, and ISBN numbers for research and shopping.

Most of the books are read-alouds (or sing-alouds) to present traditional folk songs with contextual illustrations.  The titles are listed in categories:

  1. Folk songs

  2. Read-alouds in which the subject has to do to music, or music-making — or where the non-music subject offers a good visual and narrative context for listening to recorded music.

  3. Illustrated biographies of composers or performers that are short and written for younger readers or listeners.

Many of the titles can be found in used editions on amazon.com. The information will be updated as often as possible. Comments and suggestions are welcomed.

Teaching Music Without a Music Room

Posted in Lesson Planning by P. Conrad on December 3, 2009

Teaching music  in the same classrooms where your students work each day with their own teachers is a challenge met by many city teachers in buildings too crowded to allow a separate music classroom. One approach is to load teaching materials and instruments on a rolling cart that serves as a base of operations.

Seven Atlanta-area music teachers contributed to Music ŕ la Cart , a 71-page paperback guide to set-up, management,  and delivery of your cart-based music lessons in schools where there is no music classroom.

In addition, Jane Rivera’s “TuesdayMusic” website has ideas and suggestions for people who work this way.

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Year at a Glance Lesson Planning

Posted in Lesson Planning by P. Conrad on November 21, 2009

In Jefferson County, Colorado teachers are guided by “Year-at-a-Glance” lessons plans that organize each year’s music learning into three trimesters. These are keyed to the district’s standards, but can easily be adapted for use with NYS Arts Standards or with the five strands of the Department of Education’s Blueprint.

The documents are worth looking at as an example of macro planning in music education. Their language suggests that the curriculum writers are familiar with Kodŕly methodology’s organizing concepts (“prepare” / “present” / “practice“).

..First Grade ….. Second Grade …..Third Grade…..Fourth Grade …..Fifth Grade

Jefferson County Schools Music Curriculum

Assessment of Music Learning

music-assessment-bk-cover1In 2008-09 the NYCDOE Office of the Arts & Special Projects chose assessment as the focus for its year-long series of professional development events for music teachers. Following the most recent meeting in the series, participants received copies of a 42-page booklet published by Hal Leonard, The Ultimate Music Assessment and Evaluation Kit. The book isn’t an academic discussion of issues in assessing music learning, but provides a lot of examples for teachers who want to explore formal tools for assessing and evaluating their students’ work. There are a lot of examples of rubrics and grade cards, and there’s a fairly up-to-date bibliography of articles from MENC publications, and some things by Howard Gardner.

Teaching the Groove

Posted in Band / Orchestra, Lesson Planning by P. Conrad on June 19, 2007

Two related websites present valuable resources and reading for music teachers. These are both creations of a veteran music educator and ethnomusicologist, Charles Keil, who worked for a long time in the Buffalo NY schools system, and now lives in Connecticut. Music Grooves describes itself as “an adventure in scholarly and personal dialogue.” Born to Groove is a full-length on-line book by Charles Keil and Patricia Campbell, with accompanying discussions.

Do not be put off by terms such as “groovology” or chapter titles like “From Wombdrum to Earthdance”: the book contains a great deal of very valuable material for teachers.

Some of the chapters in Born to Groove (which open as printable PDF pages on your computer) are heavy in philosophy and statements about the power of music and dance to heal the world’s wrongs. But if you’re looking specifically for teaching methods, you won’t be disappointed by “Section 4: Show Me How to Do Like You Do.” Or this audio segment on teaching Simple Samba by Charles Keil .

Keil and and his colleagues have worked extensively on the concept of the “groove” and on ways to teach salsa and samba rhythms to young people. The two websites contain a great deal of reading as well as audio, video and teaching resources, along with the discussion forums.

In Buffalo, Keil was a founder of an organization called Musicians United for Superior Education (MUSE), which (inevitably) also has a website.

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