Ideas for an Awesome Music Classroom
Creating a Space for All
By NAfME Member Audrey Carballo
If you search Google for a music classroom image, you will be inundated with so many different images. Everything ranging from elementary to middle and high school settings, to band, orchestra, and choral configurations, and pictures of everything in between. What I do know is, the number of waking hours we spend in our classrooms far outweigh the number of hours we spend in our actual homes. We want to make our environment as comfortable and functional as possible without breaking the bank.
Here are some ideas for a classroom that works for everyone!
Let’s start with your bulletin boards. Every classroom has them. I use fabric in a music pattern to cover the boards. Using bulletin board paper is time-consuming and after a year, it looks horrible once you take papers down and put up others. Using fabric makes this job a “one and done” deal. You only need to put it up once.
Measure your board and get an appropriate amount. Fabric stores might even have scraps or end of roll remnants which are the size you want. Start at a corner and use LOTS of staples around the edges. Don’t worry—you’ll cover those with a border. Stretch the fabric so it’s taut. Get a neutral border. I like black because it goes with almost any color fabric. Once you finish putting up the material, use the border to cover up the staples. Now, you’ve got a great looking bulletin board that will last for years to come.
What to Display
Now, you have a blank canvas on which you will display . . . what? There is a myriad of choices from which to choose. You can display posters of famous musicians, music history timelines, a weekly or monthly plan of action that includes rehearsal dates, a countdown to a performance, or anything of that nature.
Personally, I stay away from highlighting a “musician of the week or month.” We all have students who excel in our class and everyone knows it. Maybe you want to feature a “most improved” student or some other designation that is more inclusive of all levels of musicianship.
- “Do you share a birthday with a famous composer or musician?” This can be easily adapted to an ensemble setting where you have the same students all year long.
- A calendar countdown to a concert, evaluation, or field trip is always a hit. Students will constantly look to that board for the latest information. Some teachers include pockets where field trip forms or permission slips can either be taken by students or turned in to you.
You decide what goes on that board. Try to make the items timely. In our world of instant news and information, no one wants to see news or papers that are out of date. Once you have the basic bulletin board in place, when Back-to-School night rolls around, parents will be impressed with your creativity and admire your ingenuity.
Don’t think these ideas are just for your classroom. If you’re lucky enough to have a bulletin board in the hallway, the same concepts apply. Feature upcoming concerts or student achievements. Place information about music scholarships and news about future auditions or shows. Don’t forget to include your contact information as the header of your bulletin board.
Contests and Charts
I have two classrooms. One houses my middle school Exploratory Music class. I share this classroom with our band teacher. The other classroom (in a completely different building) is designated for my elementary classes. As an incentive for my 4th and 5th graders, I make a recorder chart. Its title is “Pizza Challenge.” When I begin teaching recorder to my 4th and 5th graders, I promise a pizza party to the class that successfully completes the highest number of pages out of our recorder method books. I list the individual classes in the order I see them each week. I use dry erase markers to fill in the pages numbers. Every time classes walk in, they rush to the chart to see where their class is in relation to the other classes. The fourth graders compete against fifth graders. Every class from both grade levels are in it to win it. Most often, it isn’t the higher grade level that always wins—it’s the class that is most motivated.
If you personally don’t have money for the class pizza, ask your PTSA for help. Take the money out of your fundraising efforts. Spend your own cash and write it off as an expense. There are several ways to do it. You don’t have the moolah to fund this challenge? Have them work for movie time or free time at the end of the school year. I also invest (only once) in charts featuring the instruments of the orchestra, voice classifications, and music history periods. If you include famous musicians, highlight musicians or composers of the pieces you’re working on.
Another way to add life to your classroom with a minimum amount of effort and cost is to invest in wall decorations. For as little as $20, you can buy stick-on wall decorations to match any ensemble, inspirational words, or manuscript. These are inexpensive additions to your class and, boy, they look great. Your administration won’t get mad because they come off without stripping the paint from the walls.
Check out Amazon, Etsy, or just Google music wall decorations. You can purchase a frame and DIY. Make your own posters. Try to use themes that will stand the test of time. The last thing you want to do is change your bulletin boards every month. If you’ve got creative students, ask them for help or let them decorate. They will be more likely to take care of the classroom decorations if they are invested in their creation.
About the author:
Audrey Carballo, a 37-year NAfME member, is in her 37th year as a music educator for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system, the fourth largest school system in the country. Her teaching experiences include general music, exploratory music, and chorus to regular and exceptional students in elementary, middle school, high school, and exceptional student settings.
She has been an Assessor for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and currently serves on the National Education Association Member Advisory Board Panel and as the Union Steward and Chairperson of the Educational Excellence School Advisory Board Council at her school. Recently, Audrey was the Children’s Choir Director for the Miami Music Project, which is an El Sistema program spearheaded by the world-renowned conductor, James Judd.
One of her most rewarding experiences has been with the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In addition to teaching Broadcast Journalism classes, and giving private lessons in voice, composition, theory and piano, her duties included being the Vocal and Advanced Theory instructor for their Better Chance Music Production Program. Audrey was one of the co-authors of an article published in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness titled, “A New Synthesis of Sound and Tactile Music Code Instruction: Implementation Issues of a Pilot Online Braille Music Curriculum.”
Audrey collaborated with Jin Ho Choi (another instructor at the Lighthouse) for nine months, creating their Braille Music Distance Learning course.
Follow Audrey on Twitter @scarlettfeenix.
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