Reply To: Engagement Strategies for Elementary General Music

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I taught inner-city for 9 years. I found that one of the best strategies I could use was echoing: one of my rules was that whenever I clapped or sang something the students were to echo me. There’s the ta ta titi ta clapped pattern which everyone and their uncle uses to get kids’ attention …. but that’s just temporary (at least where I taught) … meaning it doesn’t hold kids’ attention – it gets them to shut up 😛 I (still do) sing my objective and directions to my classes K-5 (they echo each phrase which I sing).
For example: “Please stand up” (sol mi sol) “reach up really high” (sol mi solsol mi) hands by your side (do low sol do)
The fact that they have to echo each line I sing is making sure that they’re generally understanding what I’m saying!!

My other engagement strategy is timing / general “keep it moving” idea. I don’t sit when I teach!! Even in 4th and 5th we do an activity for max 15 minutes then move on. Of course if they’re enjoying it then I let them continue. We always start by standing and stretching; gets the blood flowing which makes people more awake. If we’re singing then we do some movement and vocal warm-ups. I like to have them move their arms in the same direction we’re singing. For example, when singing roller coasters/sirens their hand should move up when they sing high and low when they sing lower notes.

ELL strategies: use pictures!! Copy / paste some general shots which mirror your objectives / directions. Print and laminate them. Use when you’re giving directions. If you have a screen / SmartBoard just pull up appropriate pics to go along with directions / activities. …. Ask their homeroom teacher to identify one rather trustworthy and advanced student for you. You might pull that student aside before class one day and ask them to be your translator. Kids listen to their peers sometimes more than they listen to us so use that to your advantage!!! Don’t use the student constantly, but just when you’re introducing a new activity or concept.

Let them play little games to review concepts previously taught. [concept] Baseball and [concept] TicTacToe are my faves.
Last week was my district’s first week back after vacation. I had my classes review rhythm, visit some notes which they should know but probably forgot… then I split the class into two teams and we played Rhythm Tic Tac Toe. One team was Ta and the other Titi. Rules: in order to EARN the privilege 😛 of putting your team’s symbol on the board the entire team has to perform a given rhythm together! They really got into it, blocked each other repeatedly and asked to play again. (They were focusing on the board; I was focusing on their performance!! Something for everyone.) …. My 4th graders are learning the recorder and reading notes on the staff, so instead of playing a pattern someone from each team had to identify a note on the staff or an element of the staff in order to earn a turn. You could do this with literally anything from composer bio facts to instrument ID.

Rhythm / whatever concept Baseball is pretty like the original. Kids get 3 tries to do whatever you’re asking them. If they don’t they “strike out”. I have used harder questions / longer rhythms to equal a double or triple. 🙂 Good luck.