Reply To: elementary curriculum suggestions

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I agree with amcastle, start with goals – maybe a couple for each marking period – then figure out activities. One of the most popular ways to plan lessons and units is called Backwards Design, which involves starting with the end product – what you want the kids to be able to do – then working backwards with assessments and age-appropriate activities. Doesn’t work for everyone, of course. Make sure that you use a variety of activities: movement, listening, singing, rhythm, responding in various forms. Human beings need variety to stay focused and interested (which could be why I have trouble studying for more than an hour!!). With PreK – Grade 1 I change activities at least every ten minutes. Grade 2 -5 every 15 minutes. We sing, add body percussion, then get up and dance for a few minutes, play a game, then do a quick cool-down activity.

Instruments: Recycle! Raid your recycle bin and ask colleagues to bring you items: oatmeal containers, juice bottles, salt containers, etc. are great drums!!! I used this in my previous school where we did not have a budget for the Music Department. Kids were confused at first, but excited that I was recycling!! Put uncooked rice inside one of these objects and you have a shaker / maraca!! Let the kids come up with ideas. You can also make your own rain sticks with rice, paper towel tubes, wax paper and tape. (I taught Arts and Crafts during summers years ago – this was a favorite activity. I started off by letting kids draw a picture. We wrapped this over the tape once the assembly was done.)

Ask your colleagues for general unit topics they are doing and try to build off these. Ex: If they are studying the solar system, have the kids listen critically to Holst’s “The Planets”. Discuss which instruments make which sounds and effects. Print out pictures of instruments and play an instrument ID game: make teams. The captain holds up the picture when the group agrees that they hear that instrument. Admins LOVE it when you collaborate with other teachers and it shows the kids that you are unified. And naturally it enriches the learning.

For the money, Activate! Magazine from Lorenz Corporation is a great value. About $65 a year: comes iwth a CD which has audio recordings of most songs and pieces in the issue, some with accomp track, data files of documents both in the issue and not printed in the issue; lesson plans for most activities. For grades PreK-6.