5 Tips for Teaching Music without a Room

How can you make every minute count in music class without your own classroom? Here are 5 tips from the general music forum:

1. Get a Big Cart. The more that’s on it, the more prepared you’ll be. Keep most-used items on your cart and use a checklist.

  • Think small: An MP3 player and docking station use less room than a CD player. Try a recorder, small electronic keyboard, or autoharp for accompaniments, or sing without accompaniment. Use the overhead instead of books.
  • Organize: Hang drums on hooks. Use baskets for rhythm instruments, xylophones, handbells, props, puppets, etc. Keep a box for school supplies. Use color-coded folders for each class.


2. Dance Around the Desks. Adapt movement activities.

  • Use activities that don’t need lots of space: singing, hand-clapping, and passing games.
  • Play guessing games at students’ desks with the guesser up front or at a desk with eyes closed.
  • Do body percussion with students standing by their seats.
  • Plan circle and partner dances or movement activities that move around the desks (chairs pushed in) or up and down the aisles.
  • Try Phyllis Weikert’s “chair folk dances.”
  • Use scarves for free movement between seats.


3. Make Room for Movement. Move desks creatively:

  • Make a plan for moving desks: Know where desks go, who moves what, and how to do it safely. Then drill until it’s routine.
  • Create desk-moving activities: Students can sing songs or echo patterns while moving desks. Half the class can play instruments while the other half moves desks, then switch.


4. Find Space to Move Freely. Every few weeks, arrange to use a larger space. Maybe the art room is empty Fridays, the library reading room certain afternoons, or the language lab other mornings.

5. Collaborate. Get help from colleagues and students.

  • Push for schoolwide classroom rules and only teach your own rules for using instruments, etc.
  • Ask classroom teachers to move desks and give bathroom breaks before music class and arrange the room for your cart.
  • Ask students for ideas.


Robert Amchin, an MENC online mentor, said, “Don’t give up movement activities. They are essential to real music making and understanding (and kids love to move)!”



Robert Amchin is a professor of music education and head of the division of music education and music therapy at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

–Linda Brown, August 6, 2008, © National Association for Music Education (www.nafme.org)