2nd Year Help!!!
September 18, 2012 at 9:52 am #12385
I’m returning as a second year teacher this year. Last year I spent most of my time “feeling my way through” what the students know and being bombarded by so many performances that were expected by the students (Grandparent’s day, christmas/spring concerts, spirit week, etc.) I felt like I spent lots of time preparing for performances and not a lot of time teaching.
So now I’m back again and I feel like I’m not using my time effectively. I know the skill levels each of the grade but I don’t know where to go from here. I guess what I’m looking for are strategies for planning lessons. I try to use lots and lots of activities with my classes and stagger my movement activities to help with behavioral issues, but I don’t feel like I have a clear direction and I’m just “playing games and singing songs.”
I purchased Conversational Solfege last year and am completely intimidated by it. I’m not sure I’m an experienced enough teacher to be able to get the students excited about all the details!
How do you structure your class time and plan units??? I should be planning units… right?September 18, 2012 at 1:31 pm #12408
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!September 19, 2012 at 11:12 am #12436
You may find NAfME’s General Music Curriculum Framework Document helpful:
Linda Brown, NAfME StaffSeptember 24, 2012 at 10:46 pm #12668
Your dilemma is very common of a new teacher. When facing many performances for different events, turn some into a class demonstration, where you show what you actually do in a music class. Grandparents love seeing how children learn and it is a great way to build respect for the content of your program beyond the final song product. Your students also value more the work accomplished in your class.
Get to your state music conference and network with other teachers in your region and state. They love to share insights with new teachers. The sessions at conference can inspire some great discussions over coffee about how the activities learned in a session can be put into a larger unit and branch off into other lessons. Seek out music mentors in your area. Best of luck.
Christine Hayes, Chair
Council for General Music EducationSeptember 30, 2012 at 11:42 am #13070
Yes, unit planning is time consuming, but in the future you’ll have these wonderful units already planned – just pull them off a disk or file! You will continue making new units in your future years teaching, but everything you do can be repeated in future years, so it’s all worth it!! Worksheets I made my first and second years teaching I still use and modify year after year. One student last year caught me in this: I needed an activity for a small group, so I printed a worksheet off my disk which went with a current unit. He did a bit of the worksheet and then said “wait a second – didn’t we do this last year??” 😛
Don’t be afraid to try new things; just be conscious of learning from everything you do. If you plan an activity and with one class things don’t go well, reflect, make notes and tweak the plan. It will go well ultimately!
I’m finding the same thing this year – I’m spending most of my planning time on concert planning and less on my lessons. I get in about an hour before school starts and use this time to set up and organize myself. I plan lessons usually Sunday afternoon.
I would advise you to consider the amount of time it would take to teach students all of the songs for these several performances and then decide if it is feasible / doable. YOU are the expert – remember that!! Yet at the same time you need to please the parents. Make your decision about amount of performances and explain your reasoning to your principal. If the parents want to argue, they can speak to the principal. If they speak to you, explain that you want the students to have a positive experience performing and cramming their little heads full of songs — with little time for other musical instruction — is not good. You want them to love music and not be scarred. The principal should support you in your decision.October 1, 2012 at 5:52 pm #13168
My response refers to when I was in the classroom prior to my curresnt position. I liked for my students to be able to sing together at assemblies and even in the bus queue. I spent a lot of time teaching common songs across grade levels to ensure we had a community of singers. This simplifies some of your planning and resource gathering.
I often put my lessons for a whole day on one PowerPoint to help facilitate smooth transitions during and between classes.
Don’t forget to enjoy the process as well as the product.
Deborah Barber, PhD
Arkansas Tech University
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