“I Have to Write in Music?”

“I Have to Write in Music?”

Showing School-Wide Support While Maintaining Your Own Program

By NAfME Member Michelle Ewer


Time and Relevance

Have you ever been asked to provide a writing sample in your music class? Do you fight it claiming it takes time away from your rehearsal?

write in music
iStockphoto.com | FatCamera


I do believe that the trend toward making music classes take 15 to 30 minutes a week to write in class is slowly fading away. However, there is still a mindset that all classes will include writing and show samples of it.

Prepared Graduates

  • Are able to clearly articulate individual feelings and emotions about music through defensible criteria
  • Evaluate music according to how well it captures its style and/or genre, or involves an emotional or intellectual response.
index cards
iStockphoto.com | samdiesel

We Can All Do Our Part

Use a ticket out the door, or “Exit Ticket”:

  • Quick
  • Easy
  • Index card or sticky note at the end of class asking two things they learned in class
  • Index card or sticky note naming two items to be worked on before the next rehearsal


Play two recordings of the same piece. List the ways they are the same and different.

student writing
iStockphoto.com | Steve Debenport


Response Starters—great for when you are attending a festival:

As you evaluate another group have a piece of paper with sentences starters such as:

  • I am surprised _______________
  • This reminds me ___________________
  • I question _________________________
  • In my opinion _____________

Talk and Turn

While writing in class have those who are stuck getting started talk and then turn to their neighbor and share their thoughts.

student discussion
iStockphoto.com | Steve Debenport


Levels of Questioning

Level 1: Recall

  • List
  • State
  • Show
  • Name

Level 2: Word List

  • Summarize
  • Compare
  • Contrast
  • Demonstrate

Level 3: Depth of Knowledge

  • Analyze
  • Discuss
  • Evaluate
  • Defend
iStockphoto.com | EzumeImages


Always aim for that higher depth of knowledge. Keep questioning to guide them further.


  • Take it a step at a time
  • Start with a ticket out the door.
  • Have students invite the staff to a concert.
  • Ask students to write what a piece reminds them of. Use it as a PowerPoint for a concert.
  • Be supportive of writing and try not to make excuses.
iStockphoto.com | FatCamera


Learn more about writing in music classes in Michelle Ewer’s NAfME Academy webinar “I Have to Write in Music Class?Subscribe today to NAfME Academy.

About the author:

music clinicianNAfME member Michelle Ewer has been a professional educator for 38 years. She began her career in Westminster District 50 teaching elementary and middle school strings. Mrs. Ewer is currently in Jefferson County Public Schools in Golden, Colorado, where she has been a strings specialist for the past 20 years. During her career she has had three groups perform for the Colorado Music Educators Clinic/Conference. Her groups have also performed at numerous state and local festivals receiving high ratings.

Mrs. Ewer is semi-retired and teaching part-time at Creighton Middle School (CMS). In addition to her working at CMS, she helps out at several high schools in the county. She is the Southwest Division Chair for Tri-M® Music Honor Society, and her Tri-M Music Honor Society group was presented the Wayne Carle Award for Outstanding Contribution to Diversity and Inclusion for 2015. She also coordinates the Tri-M® sessions at CMEA which include more than 450 students from across the state of Colorado. Mrs. Ewer became a part-time faculty member at The University of Colorado Boulder School of Music in the fall of 2018. She helps coordinate placements for student teachers and is support staff to both mentors and mentees.

Mrs. Ewer has presented numerous topics at CMEA and CASTA during her career. Her most recent presentation was “Learning Targets in the Music Classroom.” She is a member of the Colorado Department of Education Content Collaborative, helping to rewrite State Standards and Assessments. In addition, she also hosted the Colorado High School Activities Association Solo and Small Ensemble Festival for 18 years.

Mrs. Ewer was inducted into the Colorado Music Educators Hall of Fame in 2014, and has served as President for both the Colorado Music Educators Association and the Colorado American String Teachers Association. She currently serves as a mentor teacher for all secondary music teachers in Jefferson County.


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The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.

Catherina Hurlburt, Marketing Communications Manager. December 4, 2018. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)