need advice on length of music classes

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    Can you all please share how often your music classes meet and for how long? We have just been asked to teach K-5 for one hour once
    a week. We are frustrated with the one hour block for K and 1 and are trying to research the benefits of teaching
    a shorter class at this age level twice a week instead.


    In my school K and 1st grade get one class per week 40 minutes long and one class per week which is 30 minutes long (I don’t get it frankly). But Grades 2-6 I see only once per week for 40 minutes. 6th grade’s time is always cut short due to the Middle School’s morning meeting in the cafe starting late. This bugs me; I always end up with under 30 minutes. For the older kids – Grades 3-5 – I actually enjoy the longer 40 minute block because there’s more time to really delve into a topic with different activities. They can handle sitting for longer and have a slightly longer attention span. Once a week is difficult, but I break it up into two or three activities and make it work. If offered two 30-minute classes or one hour-long class per week, I think I’d go with the two 30 minute periods. This primarily for attention levels and exhaustion!! Colleagues who have nearly hour-long classes say that they’re exhausted after one class; the teacher has to be constantly moving to keep kids’ attention.

    One of my colleagues in another school sees her students once every other week for 40 minutes. Hearing this is when I count my blessings!! I can’t imagine expecting retention seeing them that infrequently. Some of my colleagues in other buildings have reported being issued a schedule with 55 minute periods for K and even PreK. They report that this is difficult because this age group needs lots of variety. So each class must have at least 6 different activities (under ten minutes each). It can be done, but two class periods is definitely more ideal.

    One reason is assessment: let the lesson marinate overnight / for a couple days, then when they return ask them about what you taught last class. Another plus of two 30-minute classes is that if you dont’ get somethign done (curricular or a game) it can be done the next class. …. Some of my K and 1 classes meet for 40 minutes one day and 30 minutes the next day. I often run over with a given activity; the kids will remind me that I said I was going to do something else, so I write it down to do the next day. Or I simply bribe them haha: “If we can get through this (long-ish) rhythm activity today, then tomorrow we can play the game for the last ten minutes of class.” Particularly younger children get tired easily (Ks in my district don’t do half day or naps) and after 30 minutes they’re done. They start talking, getting ancy and start bothering each other. ….. In a 50+ minute class period, that’s when you’d go into a sung story or a song with hand movements. But you’re more likely to have cranky kids.

    Middle school in my building (grades 6-8) have 55-minute periods (the bell rings on their schedule).

    That’s kinda scattered, but I hope it give you some info!!


    When I started at my school, I saw each grade twice a week for 30 min each. For my kids, that is JUST ENOUGH for k-2 to sit through. They get antsy and distracted by each other with much longer. I noticed quickly that the older kids in 4th and 5th grade were craving more time. We would get into a topic and be ready to start an activity or debrief after an activity and time would be cut short. I asked my principal to change their classes to 1 hour/week (giving the teachers the same amount of down time) and giving us a bigger block of time. It works great! 3rd grade is stuck in the middle: 30 min is plenty at the beginning of the year and at the end of the year when we are going through recorders, the teacher is nice enough to give me 45 min.


    My schedule is as follows, and I would love to have this problem.

    All classes 40 minutes
    K once every 10 days
    1,2,3. Once every 9 days
    4, 5. Once every 7 days.

    Mine is the exact opposite problem. However, I do have a possible solution. Talk with the other related arts and see if you can trade about 25-30 minutes into the time period. You would see 2 different classes during the time and see them more times during the week. But the class length would be developmentally appropriate. I have do 1 k classes before let me know if this does not work and I will help with other ideas.


    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

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