Going back to class can be daunting after a long summer break. Elementary class is filled with miraculous moments of children coming together in beautiful harmony, learning that Christmas concert song just in time, or giving you a fond smile as they hand you a handmade gift with a note that reads, "Best Teacher Ever." But there are also those times when eyes role, children group together to exclaim how much they hate an activity, and one sincere question from a student sends the class into chaos. Let's be honest, you may be hesitating a little on finalizing your lesson plan this year, and with good reason! Will you meet the Music State Standards? Will you end up boring kids with too much theory? Here are ten steps for a successful elementary school year.
1. Procedures, procedures, procedures
Before you roll out your lesson plan, mentally go through every aspect of your lesson time from the first second you see them until the very last student exits the room. You can't decide to have a morning activity if you don't know how they enter the room. Will you set the activity out? Will they form a circle? Sit in seats? Is there a welcome song? What does their homeroom teacher say to quiet them? If there are books or papers, how do they pass them out or collect them?
2. Use positive reinforcement
Create a weekly behavior chart that doesn't single any student out and plan a fun music center day when they finish filling out the chart. Don't worry, after a few weeks, no one remembers which class was ahead because the fun days scatter.
3. Incorporate Kodaly and Dalcroze Methods
This method of teaching was created by Zoltan Kodaly around 1925. He later began including Emile Jaques-Dalcroze's rhythmic movement method. This emphasizes the belief that you must familiarize the young student with musical concepts before notating them. You can use solfege, folk music, rhythmic movement, and rhythm syllables to teach music fundamentals.
4. Sing your heart out!
Kids love singing. Singing is a great way to give students a love for music when they are too young to master an instrument. Keep lyrics appropriate level for their grade level and give the semester or year a theme.
5. Dance till you Drop
Let's face it, children were meant to play. Make sure you get those little ones up and moving sometime during the class period. Use a mirror approach, echo, or Simon Says approach to teach them the movements. Hint: Break long songs up into different weeks.
6. Keep activities short
Stick to 3-5 minute activities. That's right, you'll need a slew of activities to keep these music makers occupied. The older the student, the longer their attention span, but don't push it!
7. Get their hands involved
Don't be afraid to create a paper tambourine together or make notes out of play dough. Most kids love getting physically into their music. (Keep paper towels handy!)
8. Map out the year with your standards
Take a look at the state standards and use that to map out the year lesson plan. You'll get a ton of ideas straight from the standards. Singing with others, composing, performing...
9. Teach composition
Give students a chance to express themselves and create music. Put a basic rule down to give them structure and let them go with it. Accept their creativity. Maybe they'll come up with something you didn't know!
10. Teach 3-5th grade an instrument or harmonize
Don't forget your older kids are very capable. Let them experience music notation. Let them into your music world. Give them a recorder or teach them harmony through learning rounds first. In the end, you want them to be the next generation. So, everything you do should give them the tools to increase not only their knowledge, but their passion as well.
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