Stronger Together – Working as a Team in District Curriculum Writing

2014 Music Standards Implementation in Your District, School, and Classroom

Stronger Together – Working as a Team in District Curriculum Writing


By NAfME President-Elect Denese Odegaard


Have you been asking yourself how to implement the 2014 Music Standards into your own classroom or perhaps how to write a district curriculum? The 2016 NAfME In-Service Conference session, “2014 Music Standards Implementation in Your District, School, and Classroom,” will address the steps to writing a district-wide, standards-based music curriculum. Learn how one district tackled this very issue and receive template samples with which to do your own writing.




Teachers in my district are no strangers to writing curriculum and we created a list of curriculum work to be done over a three-year period of time. We used Professional Development days, Professional Learning Community (PLC) weekly meetings, and summer curriculum writing hours to complete the writing project.

Below is the list of tasks to be completed by your staff over time:

  1. You will be provided a template with which to work that includes all of the standards pre-loaded for the areas of K-12 band, choir, orchestra, and general music. If you are working with theatre and visual arts in your district, those can also be provided.
  2. The unpacked versions of the template can also be shared for some of the areas. This can be done by a small team of teachers prior to the full staff working together to complete the curriculum. With a smaller team, there is more consistency, and it is easier to manage.
  3. Determine what performance tasks or instructional strategies are already used in the district to teach the standard. Teachers may come back to this to complete at a later date if new strategies need to be developed. By addressing what is already in place, teachers will not feel overwhelmed working with the new standards. Each Artistic Process has four to five components which may or may not be new to teachers. If there are some components they haven’t previously addressed, they can now develop those performance tasks together.
  4. Write the unpacked standards statements in kid-friendly language for “I Can” statements to be posted in classrooms. These statements will later be used to post as targets. A template will be provided for creating these targets.
  5. Complete the knowledge, skills, and vocabulary portion of each standard by using the NAfME developed knowledge and skills charts or creating your own based on specific district needs.
  6. Return to the performance tasks portion to create new tasks to address components of the standard that may be missing from the first round of writing performance tasks.
  7. Determine what assessment tools (checklists, rubrics, etc.) your district already has in place and update to address the new standards. Write new assessment tools for components that are missing. Note that these assessments will drive your instruction and personal classroom curriculum.
  8. Determine what 21st Century Skills are used with each standard. Music addresses all of the 21st Century Skills, and it’s important to link our work to these skills.
  9. Create a complete rubric for assessing the 21st Century Skills in music. Portions of this rubric can be added to creating, performing, and responding rubrics or assessments as needed.
  10. Collaboratively create a yearly plan or pacing guide which includes everything taught during the year and when you cover it by quarter or trimester. By having a pacing guide, teachers can give assessments around the same time and analyze student work together. Teachers who analyze student work together calibrate their assessment across the district and have rich discussions about how to change teaching strategies for optimal results for students.
  11. Create units and lessons based on the pacing guide. Note that not everything will need a lesson plan. In performance classes, teachers may want to create lessons for composition or responding to music or to teach certain music concepts.
  12. Analyze student work based on a collaboratively developed lesson. Once the assessment and lesson have been determined and the lesson taught, teachers administer a common assessment. Student work is brought to a meeting where teachers all score to test the assessment tool for reliability and validity. Teachers have rich discussions about why they graded as they did which calibrates teacher scoring across the district. The assessment tool may be updated based on how it worked for teachers during this process. Teachers also have an opportunity to share teaching strategies that worked for their students. Protocols for analyzing student work will be shared.
  13. Save exemplar student work for future assignments. Teachers can determine what work best represents each level of proficiency and save it to a website, such as Google. These examples can then be shared with students the next time the lesson is taught.




It’s important for all of the music teachers in a district to work together from the same standards-based curriculum plan. The plan ensures that all teachers are covering the same material but gives teachers the flexibility to teach the standards using their own preferred strategies. This process of writing curriculum is an opportune time for teachers to share teaching strategies resulting in elevated student growth.


About the Author:

orchestra director
2016 Copyright Mark Finkenstaedt/ All Rights Reserved

Denese Odegaard, NAfME President (2016-2018), is currently the Fargo (North Dakota) Public Schools Performing Arts Curriculum Specialist, and has taught orchestra for 33 years. National service includes board member for both the American String Teachers Association Board (ASTA) and the National Association for Music Education Board (NAfME). While on the ASTA Board, she was chair of the Committee on School Orchestra and Strings and received the ASTA Citation for Leadership twice.

Her involvement in NAfME includes serving as North Central President, Research Advisor for the 3-5 grade standards writing team and past member of the National-State Relations Task Force. She was Executive Director of the North Dakota Music Educators Association for ten years.

Odegaard authored Curriculum Writing 101: Assistance with Standards-based Music Curriculum and Assessment Writing for Band, Choir, Orchestra and General Music (GIA), co-authored the ASTA Curriculum (Alfred), and has contributed to several GIA, NAfME and Corwin publications.

She has presented curriculum and assessment sessions at international, national, and state conferences including Midwest, ASTA, TMEA, TODA, AMLE, and three Symposiums on Assessment in Music Education. Odegaard has been trained in instructional coaching through NSDC, mentoring with the New Teacher Center (CA), Backwards Design with Jay McTighe, Curriculum Mapping with Heidi Hayes Jacobs, and Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning with Jan Chappuis.



Denese Odegaard will be presenting on her topic “2014 Music Standards Implementation in Your District, School, and Classroom” at the 2016 NAfME National In-Service Conference this November in Grapevine, TX! Register today! 

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Join us for more than 100 innovative professional development sessions, nightly entertainment, extraordinary performances from across the country, and tons of networking opportunities with over 3,000+ other music educators! Learn more and register today: And follow the hashtag #NAfME2016!

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