Forums

NAfME’s community forums provide a place for music education supporters to orchestrate success together.

We offer spaces for future teachers looking for information on how to become a music teacher, parents looking for help on starting a booster club, and music teachers looking to share tips or lessons. 

  • Jason Simmons

    What is your opinion on curriculum integration of subjects like math, language, science, and social studies into your classroom?

    • Lisa Murray

      Jason,

      Hello! I am a General Music teacher in a Higher Order Thinking (H.O.T.) School where all subject matter is taught and infused through the Arts. As a Music educator, I am responsible for teaching K-5th grades music concepts and skills as well as math, science, social studies and language to all students. Every week we put on a “share” to teach the rest of the school something the kids have learned through music such as memorizing the fifty states through a song, or how the three forms of rocks are formed from the Earth by composing a song about it or learning fractions through rhythm patterns. Currently I am working with the first grade students on farming and Rachel Carson while they are keeping a steady beat and learning high, medium and low pitches. There are so many studies that have been done to confirm that when the body, brain and
      mind are connected, learners can retrieve information using their different
      senses as well as life experiences (Funderstanding, 2011). As a Music teacher you have the ability to reach students that their classroom teachers cannot get to because they need the information in an aural or kinesthetic way. I strongly encourage you to either get to a HOT Schools seminar if you can find one in your area or do a little research on integration as well as using whole body and mind for today’s learners. Make it fun and you will assuredly get great results!

      References:

      Funderstanding.
      (Sept., 2015). Retreived from http://www.funderstanding.com/educators/natural-learning-brain-principles/

    • Lisa N.

      Hi Jason!

      I recently read a book all about how other content areas incorporate the arts into their instruction, which gave me ideas for how to collaborate with teachers. The book is geared towards other teachers, but gave specific examples of how to integrate arts curriculum with other subjects! The book is “Teaching Literacy through the Arts” by Nan McDonald! This can be a good starting point for collaboration, because I think it is so important!

  • Audrey Carballo

    Hello, Jason!
    I teach both elementary and middle school general music classes. How can you not integrate other subjects into music? I always delve into the history of a piece while giving some background as to the history of the time. Language is a natural jumping off point for lyrics explanation. Science is acoustics. Every lesson of mine contains some touch of curriculum integration. I’ve always believed that every subject can be taught through music.

  • Cory Zilisch

    Are you looking for ideas to really excite your kids about orchestra? Check out our rock orchestra!
    Please share and get the word out!

    • Holly Rose

      I really enjoyed the video, thank you for sharing. Such a neat idea!

  • Becca

    I was told today that I needed to make my older classes (4th-6th) more fun, especially for the students who don’t like music at all. I need some ideas because I thought my classes were fun for everyone. I will also be teaching 5th and 6th grade choir next year and would appreciate any advice on how to make that class more fun as well.

    • Ben Morris

      Fun is a four letter word and a dangerous goal to pursue in education. It can quickly devolve into trying to entertain and please a group of individuals that can be extremely fickle. Instead, look at what you have to teach to meet the standards you are trying to achieve in your class. What is the simplest most effective way to achieve that goal? Between the materials and the skill goals what enrichment activities can you add to enhance learning with regards, Allow the students a chance to play within those activities and develop some ownership of the activity.

      Some examples:
      I recently did a portion of a musical with my fourth grade students with an overall theme of rock ‘n’ roll. Using my standard practice of teaching songs to my students, they learned to sing with correct pitch and rhythm. Goal achieved, but it was not “fun”. While working with the students for a more nuanced performance, I notice that most of the songs had something to do with love and relationships. The progression of the songs allowed us to created a story that was then acted out by the students in the final performance. The students thought of that as fun.

      While doing solfege decoding, rhythm exercises and other technical activities I will sprinkle in things that the students will recognize. My students appreciate figuring out things that they recognize as it makes the skill study relevant to their daily life.

      As part of my folk dance activities I will throw in holiday appropriate pop culture dances such as “Thriller”

      I will play “The Banshee” for my younger students as a listening lesson to identify what instrument was being used to play the song as an introduction to timbre. Then have then take the covers off my piano and show them how some of the song was done. Be careful with this one. I got the song banned at one of my schools for being too scary a couple years ago.

      These examples are the salt and pepper of the meal. They bring flavor but don’t replace the overall meal.

      • GlendaleJ

        Fun is very loaded word when it comes to class. I teach 4th graders on recorders and other instruments, American Composers to my 5th graders and I teach opera to my 6th grades (one tragic/one Comedy). Kids seem to like it because each year is different and I do lots of performance in smaller groups.
        Fun can’t happen if they don’t put efforts and how kids reacts to activity as well.
        I have seen teachers collaborate with classroom teachers to come up with projects as well. I did have kids who didn’t like to sing or perform so i had several options other than singing and performing.
        I hope this helps. Fun can be defined differently from kid to kid but as long as you are having fun teaching i think they will catch on..

    • Eden Lee Smock

      Hi Becca,
      I think the best way to help your students have more “fun” in the classroom is to teach aspects of music that would interest them. I know from my own personal experience that when students do the same thing over and over again they get into a routine, and lose interest very quickly. The best way for your students to get the most from the class to consistently change things up. I know that sometimes that can be difficult to do because of your lessons or the school has specific guidelines to follow. Think of other ways to approach activities and get your students involved.

      With the 5th and 6th grade choir, its very easy to get into a routine. So again, consistently work to change up the way you approach things. Instead of always just having a repetoire rehearsal, bring in aspects that will not only help students with the piece but can help them become better musicians!

  • Martina Bergstrom

    I am developing a scope and sequence for middle school general music. This school has never had any sort of music before. What are some unit ideas that you have seen be successful and relevant to students? Thank you!

    • Elisa Jones

      I did a unit with 7th grade general music where we actually made ‘Indian Flutes’ out of PVC pipe. They had to do all the sanding, etc. and it allowed me to teach about how instruments are made, why they create sound, how they modulate that sound, etc. Once they made their instruments, we talked about how to play them, make different tonalities, and how to read notes…you could go on to having them even compose their own pentatonic composition. Here are some links: http://www.phy.mtu.edu/~suits/naflute.html

  • gracegallo518

    Hi everyone!
    I’m a first year teacher looking for advice in all areas of elementary music education! I’ve started a blog in hopes of reaching out to educators across the world for advice and new ideas! Please give it a look through the link I’ve shared below. Feel free to leave your advice/expert ideas in my blog posts, on my home page, or in this post!
    I look forward to reading tips about what first time music teachers should know!

    Here is my link
    http://gracegallo518.wix.com/mmwgrace

    Thanks a lot!

    -Grace

    • Elisa Jones

      What a great idea! There’s so much you just DON’T know starting out. I’ve read a bit of your blog and love it- your sense of humor is enlivening.

    • Eden Lee Smock

      Hi Grace,
      I am currently a Senior Music Education Major at Northern Kentucky University. I start my student teaching next semester and graduate in December! As someone who will be going into the field as a first year teacher, your blog is a great resource to have! I really like how you cover all aspects of what it’s like to be a first year teacher. I am very excited but nervous at the same time. I will make sure to continue following your blog for any tips or tricks I can use in my own classroom!

    • Sydney Allen

      Hi Grace!

      This is a great idea, it is always amazing how little we know in our first year, even after 4-5 years of schooling! I find that in elementary music, it is important to find activities that showcase student imagination. Young kids often make up a lot of tunes to random things that they do. Try to provide them with opportunities to compose rhythmic or melodic excerpts after having taught them the music literacy they need. Best wishes to you in your first year!

  • Heidi

    Hi,
    I teach general music 6-8. Students have music every day, but only in 5 week rotations so I only see students for between 19 – 25 class sessions a year depending on holidays. Students go to other classes such as gym, art when they don’t have music. Does anyone have suggestions for how to organize a class curriculum with this schedule? Thank you in advance!

    • Elisa Jones

      I would recommend having one objective for each 5-week rotation. Maybe one rotation is all about music history, and your lessons take them from Ancient Music, to Modern music. Another could be about note reading, and by the end they can create a 16-measure composition to play on a mallet instrument- or even with just body sounds. Another could be all about instruments, how they make and modulate sound…. you get the idea!

      Let me know how it goes!

  • Jessica

    Hello,
    I am currently an Integrated Music Education major at Western Kentucky University. I am seeking any advice on how to better my resume, or such to make me more employable. Flute is my principle and I picked up trumpet as a secondary instrument this year as well as singing in ensembles. If anyone knows of any internships, ensembles, ANYTHING for a college student, near or in KY, I would love to hear some advice. Thanks guys!

    • Hannah S

      Hi Jessica,

      I’m also in undergrad and looking around for jobs now is kind of stressful. Look around your area to see if they are hiring any private lessons instructors. I live in Northern KY and I know around here there are several opportunities for teaching lessons to younger students. This is a great way to get going with your own studio and gives you that very valuable teaching experience.

      I also happened to get a job simply from my practicum setting; one of the teachers I worked with hires a student helper every year to assist with classroom management and instruction. A lot of getting jobs is going to be networking, so getting to know the educators and school personnel in your area are very important. Hope this is helpful!

    • Eden Lee Smock

      Hello Jessica,
      I think the best bet for you to make your self more employable is to network yourself. I found that the best way to make myself look more employable is to be involved in the community. Find a school that you can volunteer at and help in their classroom. Teachers are always wanting help, so having an extra set of eyes and hands in the classroom is a big plus. I would also try to help out with District Assessments and volunteering your time. It gives you an opporunity not only to connect and talk to other teachers. But also seeing how the process is done. I hope this advice helps!

  • Elisa Jones

    Just a quick informal poll: If you could wave a magic wand and change any ONE thing about your job as a music teacher, what would it be?

    (Mine: I would make it so I could teach kindergarteners in the GYM, since they act like my classroom is a gym already)

  • mrwonderful

    I’m writing the curriculum for a high school drumming class. This will be a one semester elective class for the “non-traditional” music student and I’m thinking of covering bucket drumming, African drumming, and hopefully other cultures as well. Does anybody have any good resources or examples of this sort of a curriculum?

  • Lisbeth Baker

    I am looking for a fun song to play on the piano and sing for the elementary age. I have been teaching middle school for so long, I am a bit out of touch of what would be a great option. Suggestions welcomed, please. Thank you.

    • MJ in Alaska

      I love the Carnegie Hall Link Up program; our 4th and 5th graders learn the lyrics to Ode to Joy and Simple Gifts as part of this program. The kids love the music, and I hear students singing in the halls, bathrooms, playgrounds….The elementary schools in our district all participated in the Link Up program last year with elementary orchestra, recorder, and voice- it was lots of fun

    • Abby Sparks

      Hi Lisbeth!

      I have used “Some Folks Do” by Stephen Foster with my after-school elementary choir. The students really seemed to catch onto the melody, and I also introduced the importance of folk tunes with the students, as well as Stephen Foster’s impact on the world of music.

    • Jess Schummer

      Hi Lisbeth!

      I have used “Shake the Papaya Down” by John Kane. My elementary choir LOVES it! The melody is repetitive so students will catch on quickly. Overall, the song is upbeat and energetic so that students will be engaged the entire lesson.

      I hope this helps!

    • Sydney Allen

      Hello, Lisbeth!

      I am a huge fan of “I Won’t Grow Up” from the Peter Pan musical. It’s a fun two-part piece that is simple and it’s a basic call and response song. It’s a fun song about why being a kid is great. My kids have always been really enthusiastic about it! There is some part splitting that is easily omitted for younger groups. It’s also adorable for some choralography if you have the time to teach it. Kids tend to pick up the melody and words quickly, and the physical movement is a great stimulant for the students! I hope you find this helpful!

    • Lisa N.

      Hi Lisbeth! It depends on what you would like the song for! If you want something for an elementary choir, “A Flea and a Fly in a Flue” is a really fun song and tongue twister for elementary students. If you are looking for songs to use in the general music classroom for activities, I would suggest the song “Pay me my money down”. It’s a short piece but I recently used this in my classroom. The students danced to it, played a game with it, and then played on instruments! They really loved it and you can adapt it for your needs! Hope this helps!

    • Marisa

      Lucky Locket is a great song for Elementary! It is pentatonic and very easy to play on a piano! It also focuses on sol, la and mi pitches!

  • MatthewGoetz

    Question: I am looking to add some sound clips to my marching band’s show for next year (spoken quotes, etc…) Does anyone have a recommended list of “gear” that could accomplish this for me? Feel free to send me an email.

    • Conrad Krieger

      As far as recording and editing the files, audacity does a great job for free if you’ve got a quiet space and a good microphone. As far as playing the recording, I would suggest an electronic sample pad. It could be mounted somewhere in the pit and a each pad can be programmed to have a different recording or sound. The student just hits that pad when it needs to play.

  • Suzanne

    Hi Everyone,

    I recently had my first evaluation and was told that while my lessons are excellent and clearly well planned that I need to improve my classroom management before the next observation in February.

    I am looking for some realistic suggestions from other music teachers. I got 2’s in my classroom management so I need to make some improvements fast.

    I teach grades 3-6 instrumental music. Students in grades 3-4 learn recorder, students in grades 5-6 learn a band or orchestra instrument. Students receive this class once a week for 37 minutes. I travel from classroom to classroom so there is not a lot of time to set-up charts or anything fancy.

    Right now, I have a set of five class expectations that I put in place at the beginning of the year and made sure the students were well aware of. For behavior issues, I usually begin with a verbal warning and reiterating what needs to change about the behavior, the second warning the kids get a “think sheet” to fill out and reflect on what is happening, by the third warning they are required to have it signed by a parent, if the behavior continues to a fourth warning they will need to get it signed by a parent.

    For positive reinforcement I usually just use verbal praise or give out stickers.

    Please let me know if you have any ideas that could work for my situation. Thanks!

    • Lynnea Gibbs

      I started a “Band Bucks” system that worked really well with my students. Students could earn one band buck each day that they were active, engaged and prepared participants in class (you’ll have to go over what that looks like with them). Students who misbehaved or forgot necessary materials did not receive a band buck for that class period. I also provided some options for earning band bucks with tasks or behaviors that demonstrated extra effort on the part of the student (assisting a peer, volunteering to demonstrate a skill, completing extra practice minutes, etc.). Then at the end of each quarter, I hold an Band Buck Auction. The items for the auction don’t have to be expensive. I usually have a couple passes up for auction: free practice minutes, freebie homework pass, teacher-for-the-day, share your favorite song, freshly baked cookies of your choice, you choose the activity, extra-credit points, etc. Then I usually purchase a few candy bars, movie tickets, toys, and/or gift cards. Having an auction rather than a “store” makes it an exciting and engaging event for the students. Plus they’re learning new skills.

    • Lisa N.

      Hi Suzanne! My Classroom Management Plan for Elementary School is rather simple but effective. I have 3 “rules” in my classroom: “Be Safe”, “Be Respectful” and “Be Responsible”. I post these in the classroom, and next to each rule, I velcro a star to the wall. If students are not following one of the rules, I typically give them one warning, and then I pull off a star. If they lose a star, they don’t get a sticker for the day. I make sticker charts for each class. If they get 10 stickers, they receive a free choice day. I find that students are motivated to behave because they want a free choice day!

  • Mary Abt

    Hi
    I am looking to add a playlist to google Drive so my students can learn songs that we are using in class. Anyone out there with experience in getting a play list into Google Drive and then into Google Classroom?
    Thanks.
    Mabt

    • Hello, Mary, you may find some of the articles in our Technology section helpful: http://www.nafme.org/tag/technology-3/

    • Holly Rose

      I personally found these tutorials extremely helpful:

      http://www.gcflearnfree.org/googledriveanddocs/

    • Abby Sparks

      Hi, Mary!

      I have found that Dropbox is also a great resource for students and teachers alike. It is similar to Google Drive, but has other capabilities, as well. You may consider checking it out here and even linking it to your google account, as well:

      https://www.dropbox.com/login

      I hope you find this helpful!

    • Conrad Krieger

      Perhaps create the playlist on YouTube and then share the link to Google classroom? Might be a little easier than trying to upload a whole playlist of music files.

  • Sean Harty

    Hello Everyone,

    I am new to NAFME and looking for some advice. I created a Music/Sound
    Production program for Southern Westchester Boces in Valhalla, New York. It is
    a non-profit with 22 programs that caters to high school students for the
    entire district of Westchester County. The students that come in have different needs, some are looking for a different path from the traditional school or for a
    program that gets them started in getting a job. My program has been approved
    by the state, which is exciting, and just started in September. Apparently,
    this program is the one of the only programs that teaches high school students
    on field, post and music production.

    Being a new program and thanks to Boces, we have had the fortune of getting some
    amazing equipment for the start of the program. Unfortunately, we still need a
    lot of equipment and instruments to be able to be at full force and really have
    the students explore the art and science of the industry. We are not able to
    fundraise so I am looking for grants that can help with this. With that
    search, I have been having some problem and wondering if anyone has any ideas
    of grants I can pursue to improve the program. Any other advice or suggestions
    would be amazing as well. Thank you.

    Sincerely,

    Sean Harty

  • Blake Hussey

    Hi everyone

    I joined NAfME back in Spetember and I have a more unique question. You see, I’m in a general secondary methods class right now and one of the big projects is teacher inquiry. I have to present an inquiry project at the end of the semester based off of a wondering that I have, which is a question that you have in where you want to improve your classroom for those who don’t know. My wondering is how to implement different parts of the curriculum into music rehearsal to make it more effective and worthwhile. One of the big things as part of my research is literature. I have to find literature related to my wondering and so far I’ve gotten nothing. What would you recommend in terms of research in this case? Have any of you had to do teacher inquiry? Where are some places that I should go to find more evidence? Your help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Kortney

      Hi, Blake!

      I am a Music Education major and am currently in a course called Reading in Junior and Senior High School. In this class for all content areas, we are looking at incorporating literature into our classrooms. The text has been wonderful and includes a lot of research and strategies! It is called “Creating Literacy Instruction For All Students” by Thomas G. Gunning. I would really recommend looking into this! Good luck!

      Kortney M.

    • Hannah S

      Hi Blake,

      I am also in Kortney’s class of Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum. There is a text out there called Music and Literacy. I’m not sure who it is by, but I know it’s about teaching literacy within music and that would be a wonderful place to start. I also know that there are many published articles over the topic of teaching literacy along with music, as we’ve had to find and present findings on these articles in our classroom. Your school should provide you with access to some interesting articles in regards to this area and other research that has been done in it. Hope this is helpful, happy teaching!

  • Holly Rose

    Hello, all! I am currently a music education undergrad student and have been working on improving my classroom control. I was wondering what your favorite strategies are/what has worked best in your classrooms. (P-12) Thank you!

    • Abby Sparks

      Hi, Holly!

      I am also an undergraduate music education major, and I teach an elementary choir one day throughout the week. I have found a very simple technique that is extremely easy to implement in the classroom, and that is simply walking toward a misbehaving student while carrying on with the lesson. I have found that each time this occurs, the student becomes aware of their misbehavior and will usually self-evaluate and alter the unaccepted behavior. While this sounds very simple, it is a technique that I use each time I teach, and most importantly it does not interfere with class instruction.

    • Hannah S

      Hi Holly,

      I’m in undergrad right now but I work with a middle school group three days a week. One thing that I have found to be helpful is looking at the student in question that is having problems and just not saying anything, waiting until they notice me. Typically the rest of the class will be quiet while they also wait for the student to recognize that I have had to stop my thought in order for them to be quiet. This usually works well for my younger students (6th grade). For all grades, to get their attention, I simply sing on an “oo” vowel. The students know that when they hear me sing that “oo” vowel, they are supposed to stop talking and build the rest of the chord (do, mi, sol). This always gets the class’ attention and they all know right away that it’s time for them to stop their conversations and begin working. Hope this helps!

    • Conrad Krieger

      Routines are a must especially at the beginning of class. Student behavior is noticeably better when routines are in place because this prepares them for the new content and tends to calm students. Also, do not be afraid to ask students to separate or to remind to class about respect and giving their best effort. It is a good idea to use consistent language with this, so if your school has phrases or words they use, make sure to use them as well.

    • Emaline Allen

      Holly,
      I am currently student teaching in northern Kentucky! I love pointing out good behavior in the classroom because no matter what age, students want to be the ones that are recognized so they will straighten up. For example, today many of my second graders were acting up but once I said “I love how Lily is sitting up straight and ready to play her instrument” all the kids looked at her and imitated what she was doing. It only took a few seconds and does not bring attention to the bad behavior which is what those students were looking for. I want to show that good behavior gets you more attention than bad behavior!

    • Jess Schummer

      Hi Holly,

      I am an undergrad music education student and I work with preschool and elementary age students. One thing I find helpful is “Call and Response” attention grabbers. For example, I may say “shark bait” and students reply “ooh-ha-ha” (from Finding Nemo). This is a fun way to calm the class back down while re-focusing their attention.

      I hope this is helpful!

    • Marisa

      Hello!
      With high schoolers, I like to put five fingers up in the air and slowly count down to one without speaking. They tend to self regulate once you start getting into smaller numbers. It also saves your voice! Another technique I use is using a hushed voice saying “If you can hear me, touch your shoulders…” and I keep asking for different parts to be tapped until everyone is attentively watching and copying me. Hope this helps!

  • Jess Schummer

    Hi all! I am currently an undergraduate Music Education student and I am taking a course called “Reading and Writing across the Curriculum.” I was wondering how you incorporate literacy into your classroom? (not just music literacy)

    • Sydney Allen

      Hi Jess,

      In elementary music, there are lots of children’s books that you can use to write a music lesson with. You can use “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” to teach rhythms with different instruments. Assign a different percussive instrument to the individual descriptive words in the title, and every time those words are said in the book, have the students play their instrument along with the syllables of their assigned word. You can also use books like “up, up, down” by Robert Munsch to teach the high and low sounds of pitch. You can play along with xylophones or glockenspiels. You can read the books in class so that the students become familiar with the text and then work on the rhythmic or pitch exercises you have planned.

  • Tommy Hartman

    Hello everybody ! I have a question about becoming a teacher at the college university level. I currently have a bachelors in performance from Berklee College of Music, and I’m trying to decide now which to do: either a masters degree at NYU in Music Education, or a masters degree in Jazz Studies (performance essentially) at Queens College. Both are reputable schools, but Queens College less so, and much much cheaper. But my question is, which one of these degrees would more likely make me eligible to teach at the college level ? Intuitively I want to assume that Music Education would get me there, but some say that only makes you eligible to teach in public schools grades K-12, whereas a masters in Performance would be more useful because Performance is what I want to teach at the college level.. any thoughts, suggestions, or recommended readings would be so appreciated. Thanks in advance !

  • Jason

    I am a high schooler and got an assignment to make a song for calculus. If I use the instrumental portion of a song, can I create my own lyrics without violating copyright?

  • Cheryl Fortier

    I teach middle school band. Lately, my district has been into having drama classes instead of general music classes. This first started at the middle school level but is now happening at one of the elementary schools that feeds into my program. They have also hired ‘music’ teachers that have been classroom teachers that like music. Is there any straight forward advocacy material out there that shows how elementary general music taught by a trained music educator benefits elementary school children?