Reply To: General music help!

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Wow! This sounds like quite a fun adventure for you and the students.

First, is there a way you can have a no-cellphone use policy in the classroom? The added distraction of searching on YouTube or checking cellphones will not allow you to have a conducive lesson, especially if these students are easily distracted anyway and need one-on-one attention.

Second, there are a lot of great resources available but first we need to know what the objective is of the class. What standards are you required to teach (if any)? What type of skills do you want them to have when they finish a unit and how will you assess if the students obtained the objective? Regardless of the alternative teaching situation you are in, there should still be clear objectives in the unit and subsequently in the lessons themselves and the students need to be made aware of what is expected of them.

Do you have access to an ActivBoard/SmartBoard? What kind of technology do you have available? What foundation do the students have in music (if any)?

If your objective is to teach the students how to socialize through music while learning to be able to perform in an ensemble setting, then World Drumming is going to be a great ticket in. The lessons in World Drumming (there is a World Drumming Conference that I just received a flyer on last week I think–it runs throughout the nation) are great for getting students actively involved in creating music and really “feeling” the music. They improvise and have to work together as a team. I recommend starting them all out on the drums if you have enough for all of them. Articulating all of the unit into the forum isn’t easy…but there are some great World Drumming resources out there.

If you go on JW Pepper, Hal Leonard, or any other publishing site you can check out a variety of recorder books available–you would need to possibly check out a few of them to find what would suit your objectives. They have some books that are for students who already can read music, others that are for beginners. Again, depends on your objective for having them perform on recorders–is it to be able to read and play independently or as an ensemble? Learn melodic lines or harmony? integrate percussion parts?

Another thought is to have them do a compare and contrast unit with different styles of music. If your ultimate objective is to have the students listen to and analyze music, having them listen to rock vs. opera and articulate the differences in the music using a variety of modalities–that might get them hooked and they can express themselves in a creative manner. I.e. listen to Rock vs. Opera and pull out 100 different magazines and they have to create a poster that compares the styles and how they are alike…and a different poster that contrasts the styles.

If your objective is to have them learn how music relates to the history of the world and can affect people, you can have them interview their parents/guardians and find out what country their ancestors are from. Then research the music from that country. Or research a particular conflict that happened in the world and the music that surrounds that conflict (there are some GREAT books on American music and the wars that have gone on over the years and how it all interrelates). You could have them watch their favorite movie without sound…then have them watch it with sound and listen particularly to the music while they document how the music changes the mood of the show and again connect it to how music can release/connect us to emotions.

There is always the STOMP classes as well that have been implemented into any level of teaching music–ensemble playing using buckets from a hardware store and just regular sticks you’d find at the store as well. Add in some pots and pans and some water jugs and you’ve got yourself an instant band that can be creative. But keep in mind what your objective is–if your objective is to learn social skills any of the above ideas can be integrated but I would also recommend checking out Social and Emotional Learning. When students are given a voice to their way of thinking and they are able to share who they are with the class (rather than being sucked into technology like their phone) they can learn how to socialize and how to work cooperatively. The students begin to have empathy for each other and they begin to work toward a common objective…but they have to have a purpose to the learning. Lesson can’t/shouldn’t be arbitrary–why should they learn music? And what is the overall objective? How does it connect to the world and their life? SEL is a topic that is starting to sweep the nation and it has made a huge difference in my classroom with some students who just needed to have a voice.

I know this is a lot of information but I wanted to give you tons of different thoughts from which you could venture off. Good luck with your adventure and I would love to hear what you ultimately decide to implement. Sounds so exciting!


Bridget James
Western Division Representative
National Council for General Music Education (NCGME)
National Association for Music Education (NAfME)