Don’t Just Assign Stuff*

Questions to Consider in This Bizarre Time

By NAfME Member Doreen Fryling

This article originally appeared on Doreen Fryling’s blog and is reprinted with permission from the author. *This is not the original title.


Many of us are now suddenly faced with distance learning situations. So, here are some ideas to consider when teaching from home (these work for sub plans or long-term school closures). Fortunately, there are a ton of great resources being generated online and shared out there right now. Join social media groups for your professional organizations to get access to ideas and plans.

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But then, consider these questions to help guide you in choosing what will work best for your own context:

  • What unique needs do I have for this teaching situation?
  • Will this assignment actually help my students learn anything?
  • Does all learning need to look the same for each student?
  • Do my assignments need to be standardized?
  • Does my grading include productive feedback or just numerical assignment?
  • What are some things I always say I wish I had time to do with my students? 
  • Am I creating an assignment that might be done by one student, but handed in by an entire class?
  • Why am I assigning this?
  • Am I giving students opportunities and support to direct their own learning?
  • Am I only providing instruction through one avenue or are there ways to address different learning preferences?
  • How can I frame an assignment to support students to take risks and therefore create learning opportunities?
  • What are my contractual obligations and how can I fulfill them?
  • Have I balanced the quality of the assignment with the reality of workload/feedback responsibilities?
  • How can I honor the teacher/student relationship best with online learning?

These are trying times, friends. Reach out to trusted friends and colleagues to talk through these questions and good luck!

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NAfME members are sharing ideas on Amplify, the online community for music educators. Join the conversation!

About the author:

Doreen headshot

Photo by Arielle Doneson

Doreen Fryling, Ed.D. is in her twenty-third year as a public school music educator. She currently teaches IB Music and chorus classes at South Side High School in Rockville Centre, NY, and has previously taught K-5 general music and middle school chorus. She teaches graduate courses in music education at Hofstra University and frequently serves as a cooperating teacher for student teachers. Doreen has presented on topics including differentiation, the boy’s changing voice, vocal health, curriculum, and politics in education. She is an outspoken critic of high-stakes testing and its negative effect on music education opportunities for students.

Doreen is an active and founding member of the eVoco Voice Collective and teaches eVoco’s Open Door Ensemble (ODE), which aims to help people learn to sing better (even if they think they can’t!). Learn more about Doreen.

Did this blog spur new ideas for your music program? Share them on Amplify! Interested in reprinting this article? Please review the reprint guidelines.

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.

Catherina Hurlburt, Marketing Communications Manager. March 12, 2020. © National Association for Music Education (

April 2024 Teaching Music

Published Date

March 12, 2020


  • Uncategorized


March 12, 2020. © National Association for Music Education (

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