Reply To: Help! 6th Grade Music Appreciation Class

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If it were me in your situation, I would probably riff off the idea of a world music class as mentioned. You could focus on the music of one country/region/or style for a week or two, and incorporate lots of musical elements into that focus. You could listen to different styles, read about and discuss famous composers from that country, find some YouTube videos to watch dancing or ceremonies from the culture that incorporate music, read rhythms from the particular style and practice drumming or clapping them, learn a folk dance or circle dance, sing some simple songs in harmony that fit with the culture, etc…(as much as some 6th graders act too cool, they can really get into movement activities if presented the right way). Find ways to incorporate holidays or cultural celebrations in your area too…if it were me, I would probably study the music of Mexico during October so I could talk about Dia de los Muertos and teach La Danza de los Viejitos, celtic music in March when they are thinking about St. Patrick’s Day and maybe do some step dancing, China in February when Chinese New Year is taking place. You could study classical British music through Britten and Holst, then move into rock and The Beatles. I love the idea about pulling in references to the Olympics as well, since this is fresh in students’ minds this year.

Things like reggae and Bob Marley, listening to the Soweto gospel choir and learning some similar harmonies, making taiko drums out of buckets and packing tape or djembes out of oatmeal containers…there’s a lot you could do here! I kind of want to start a class like this now…..

I agree with you that just teaching a theory or history class and lecturing at this age group won’t work well. But if you mix things up, some theory and singing one day, some listening and discussing the next, some drumming and dancing the next day, you will be able to teach these important elements without boring your students. Plus if you connect the theory to the song they are listening to/singing/etc, everything has meaning and purpose and it’s not just memorizing facts in their minds.

Have fun!