Reply To: 2nd Year Help!!!

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I do plan thematic units that usually range from 4-8 weeks, and try to make those unit plans fit with holidays and scheduled performances. For example, for 3rd grade general music, my first unit was 4 weeks based around community building/friendship, I did a month of autumn songs and Native American music in October/November (fit with their social studies curriculum), December was winter and holiday songs leading up to the Winter Sing, then in the spring I did units on Oceans/Rivers, Chinese New Year, weather, and a big World Music unit. When we performed in May, I chose the songs or arrangements that the kids connected with most and were able to perform best, and worked those up for the concert.

For class time, I always start with an intro/warm-up where we do some rhythm and solfege exercises, and I usually turn one of those into a hello/name game type of situation because I have so many students I often need a reminder! Then from there I usually sing a few familiar songs or take a movement break, teach a new concept, then apply that new concept to a new song/game/dance/activity etc.

Someone once gave me a great rule: never spend more minutes on one activity than the age of the children. So if I’m working with Kindergarteners, I’ll plan lots of 5-6 min activities; we switch modes a lot. The activities can all be connected, but you’ve got to keep them moving and changing. 5th graders can spend 11 minutes on one activity before you should switch the modality or song, etc. So although it seems like I’m squeezing a lot into a lesson, usually many things are related, we are just moving locations or activities or response types.

I have an amazing unit planning chart that was given to me at an Orff certification course that I’ve adapted and I would be happy to share, although I can’t seem to find a way to attach it or send you a direct message with my email address if you want it. I’ll keep trying to see if I can figure out a way if you are interested. But basically it’s an excel spreadsheet with different elements of music across the top: voice, instrumental, music focus (ie rhythm, theory, note reading), games, drama and stories, movement and dance, history culture and arts, and work habits. The idea is that within each thematic unit, you should hit each category at least once, and then I will list every song/activity/focus/lesson under each column and see what I’m missing that I should try to include. Some of the categories are definitely harder to get and so maybe for a shorter unit I’ll miss one or two, but it really really helps me to be organized! It’s also a great tool to go back and quickly see what students have already done, so that when I see them for music the next year, I’m not repeating songs or activities (unless it’s intentional).

I hope that helps a little – at the beginning of the year, or over the summer, I’ll usually take my laptop and planning materials to my local coffee house and just sit and get everything written out over a few afternoons. It saves me TONS of time during the school year, and I really feel organized and focused in my teaching since I’ve started doing it.

Good luck!