Band teacher to add classroom music in Sept.

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    I am a band director with 30+ years in my field, and I have been informed by that instead doing all the band in 3 schools, I will be staying in one school and teaching all music classes for K-6: general music, recorders, band, chorus and pre-school special ed. classes. I do play piano very well, so I am not worried about that, but I am nervous about the other vocal-general duties. Has anyone who has been through this have advice for me? What are some things that helped you in this situation. PS: the vocal/classroom teachers have to start teaching band.


    If you can do I would recommend taking an Orff or Kodaly class this summer. These will give you the tools to successfully teach the elementary classes.

    If you can I would suggest the following videos.

    First Steps in Music: The Lectures (5 DVDs)

    First Steps in Music: In Action

    There is a DVD coming out any time now on Conversational Solfege.

    These are basically in service in a dvd packages.


    I agree that the First Steps materials will help a lot! I use the First Steps for Preschool curriculum for my Kindergarteners. Also, if you haven’t taught younger elementary before, or in a while, I would try to squeeze some observation in those classrooms if you can, it will help to see how those teachers approach that age. I would definitely try to arrange a planning session with the other music teachers that are being reassigned, so that you can all help each other!


    Elementary General Music – John Feierabend has amazing stuff, but it’s $$. Here’s a basic out line of a lesson for PreK – Grade 1 in my classroom:

    Come in, walk around the carpet and sit down in a circle. At my signal, sing the “hello song” (on sol-mi “he-llo, how are you, I’m fine, thank you,”” [sol, do re mi fa sol] “he-llo, hello hello” [fa mi re do] “he-llo to you”) Early in the year we practice tapping the steady beat and doing motions to kiddie songs, but by the second week of school and onward I start with a Mother Goose poem or a song with a simple melody (chanting first – I sing a phrase, they echo me) phrase by phrase, create hand motions to it. We go through the poem/song about three times. (10 minutes approx)

    Movement: Stand and stretch. If there’s a melody for the song we just learned, I’ll play it on the piano and have the students march in place (first, in a circle later) while listening to it. This is sometimes hard for them, but I explain that I want them to listen to the melody. If they are having a hard time with this, I let them sing the melody on “la”. If I taught a poem, I have them march in place or move their arms (Dalcroze) while I play variations on a children’s song on the piano. Sometimes I take a song that’s in 4 and play it in 3 to encourage fluid movements. (5-8 minutes, give or take)

    Cool down: If I think they got the song which we sang earlier, I’ll do some listening – have them tap the steady beat to music, which is fast or slow. If I don’t think they got it (this happened today) we return to the song. If I think they’re bored with it, I speed it up and have them tap their knees while singing; makes it more exciting. Sometimes during this time I do a fingerplay from one of John Feierabend’s books or let them play a game. (8 minutes give or take. My classes are 30 minutes, but factoring in …. well stuff happens, it’s never 30 minutes)

    The hard thing is to NOT have them sing with a recording because it’s hard to tell if the kids are really singing. A capella singing is very good for young students. They are used to background music in society, but hearing themselves sing alone and with others (as the standard goes) is very important for vocal development. Ideally you would have a piano, pitch pipe or something nearby from which you could get/give notes. I bought a little 2-octave keyboard from Goodwill last summer for this purpose. The pitches are not fabulous, but it’s close.

    Grade 2-3 are good for folk songs, cultural references and explanations, of course rhythm reading and singing rounds. Much of this you can get online or in your local library. Check for a Scope and Sequence for your district (a list of the skills each grade should be able to do by time the year is over).

    Grade 4-6 I do a lot of music theory, history and listening exercises. If your district will buy you a magazine subscription, consider Activate! by Lorenz corporation and Music Alive. Activate is a teacher’s magazine with reproducibles and a CD with performance and accompaniment tracks, for K-6. About $100 for the year; fabulous deal! Each issue contains a few songs (one for each grade level + an Orff arrangement), a cultural song, a folk dance and worksheets about music theory, composers, etc. I got this for a few years and use the materials repeatedly! Music Alive magazine is individual magazines each month which contain articles on a variety of topics both current and historical. There’s a teacher’s guide and CD. Conceivably each student would have a folder containing the magazine and a response journal where they answer questions and/or write about the article they read.

    Older kids don’t think we understand them and their music. (I teach inner-city, but I’m sure it’s similar elsewhere.) Hence current materials are a help. If you have no budget, get creative: purchase mp3s of current pop songs on Amazon mp3 downloader and create lessons around the song. I did this some years ago with a Christina Aguilera song “Beautiful” and one of my favorites, Bobby McFarin’s song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” I edited info from the web I found about each style (pop and a capella), then wrote comprehension questions. I also asked them their opinion and why (gotta substantiate a claim, especially inthis age of common core). I asked them if they ever heard something similar to this and where; where they thought this music would be heard; about the texture of the sound. From this you can have a discussion about the styles or put the kids in pairs/groups to complete a Venn Diagram to compare the styles and performances.

    I’ve never gotten Grades 4 and higher to sing freely. By this age they are self-conscious, pre-hormonal and rather uncomfortable (except when it comes to acting cool of course). Re: choir, take only the kids who want to be there, if at all possible. If they schedule a choir rehearsal during the day, you may not have a choice. Then you really have to be creative regarding repertoire and motivating them. Also you’d have to be firm with rules. (You’re stuck here, no excuses. You will try, you will participate. Your grade depends on it! If you do what I say, you’ll sing beautifully. If not, you’ll embarrass yourselves.) I’m a bit of a toughie 😛 That’s how I’ve survived.

    One thing about upper elementary choir – they love anything pop-sounding. Get an arrangement of a pop tune (and something classic / al to balance it out), have them create choreography or clapping to it. Aim for two part music, but see where they’re starting and go from there. Partner songs and rounds are your friend if they’re beginning to sing in two parts. Teach them how to stand and sit straight, breathe properly. (hands on lungs, feel them expanding, feel the diaphragm moving; do not take short breaths with shoulders!) See the choral boards for warm up ideas and such.
    Congrats and good luck!!


    Thanks to all of you to take the time to post on this topic! I have signed up for Orff Level I training this summer; I figure that’s a start. I will also check out the materials mentioned here.


    Since you are doing Orff this summer, I love the Game Plan curriculum – it’s very Orff based and has tons of songs, choreographed dances, listening activities, etc! Not sure if you’ll have money to buy curriculum sets, but if you do, that’s a great one.

    My biggest piece of advice for general music is to have a very set routine and a clear and consistent behavior plan. My classes always start in a circle, do some rhythm patterns, sing some solfege greetings, and then jump into the lesson for the day, and we conclude in a quiet line and do a quick reflection about the class (one compliment, one thing we can improve on for next time) before being excused to the teacher (because sometimes after singing/playing/dancing the energy level can be very high and this brings it back down). Routines are great for kids to know what to expect, how to behave, etc – that’s probably the biggest difference going from ensemble rehearsal set-ups to general music, is thinking through every transition so that behavior stays where you want it.

    Good luck! I’m sure it seems daunting, but as someone who thought of herself as a “band person” too, I’ve found I really love the creativity of general music and the fact that there are SO many ways to tie into class curriculum, holidays, weather, world events…its fun to find new ways to teach all those important musical concepts that they will need later in band!

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