Reply To: need advice on length of music classes

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Kindergarten for me = 30 minutes once a week for 1/2 day, 30 minutes twice a week for full day K
1,2,3,4,5 = 30 minutes twice a week
6 = 45 minutes twice a week

I agree with Jason on a simple solution regarding trading with another related arts teacher. That is the simplest solution. Maria has great feedback as well. It is interesting to hear what amcastle said about wanting her older students only once per week–I can certainly see the advantage of having more time in one period, but for me frequency is vital for retention of content and skill development.

Getting those little ones to maintain for 60 minutes–yes, we do a lot of movement and instrumentation during music class to keep them focused and reinforce certain skills but while it is do-able, I agree with Maria…it is certainly not ideal!

There is a lot to be said about retention of concepts and being able to have students master the standards when you only see the students once per week. If you see them only once per week, they are getting more exposure to music than truly being able to achieve mastery of the standards. I would be curious to know your state has music standards, if you have district music standards and what you are required to assess. If a student is only being exposed to a concept once per week with no reinforcement in between, the retention will be slim to none and thus how would you be able to assess with any validity? How can one teach with rigor if you only see the students once per week? When I student taught in North Dakota (quite a long time ago), I saw the students 4 times per week, 30 minutes each week and we could get through an amazing amount of content and the students engaged and ready for the next skill as we spiraled up quickly through the curriculum. It is amazing the difference between seeing the kids four times a week vs. twice per week, but I certainly do not complain as I know some places have been cut to nothing.

Some teachers in my district have been cut to 45 minutes once per week and they struggle to get the students to remember what they did the previous lesson let alone what the concepts were and they feel horrible assessing students when they know the students have not had time to retain the information when they have only been seen 9 times in 9 weeks. Another strong point to make is what happens to the classes that are on Mondays–when the Monday holiday rolls around those students will be slighted their music education experience by about 30% of the year compared to those students on all of the other days of the week?

Furthermore, music is an academic skill that enhances other classroom learning such as math and reading–it sparks creative writing and utilizes physical movement to re-energize these little students’ brains before going back to class to focus on other academic areas. I would do some more searching to find some solid educational research on retention and length of class–you can certainly look into educational journals at your local university. Much of your approach on this topic with your administration will depend on what is expected of you as a music teacher regarding teaching the students mastery of the standards in your district. If they are simply going for exposure to music–you may have a difficult battle.

Check out the new arts standards–a peek at the drafts will be available for viewing on June 30th but it will only be open for 2 weeks. This would be another good point to bring up to the administration–the standards are on the higher levels of Blooms Taxonomy and we do support the national push for higher level thinking and common core! 🙂 Good luck!

Bridget James
Western Division Representative
Council for General Music Education, NAfME