Winter Motivation Strategies for Your Music Class

Winter Motivation Strategies for Your Music Class

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

By NAfME Member Audrey Carballo


With the kids jingle-belling and everyone telling you, “Be of good cheer!” As music educators, by now the only words we are saying is “Bah Humbug!” If you’re anything like me, I started rehearsing for our holiday shows at the beginning of October. I’ve listened to holiday music far longer than any human should have to.


winter MashaStarus


As our holiday concerts become a distant memory and we go on winter break, how do we continue the motivation and drive we had leading up to the most wonderful time of the year?


Dealing with Disruptions

After the winter break, January brings several days off from school. The semester is closing, which usually brings a workday for entering grades. For most school districts, the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday gives the third Monday in January an additional day off. February has President’s Day, and March and April breeze in with Easter/Passover, spring break, and testing.


grumpy cat Drawkman


These interruptions are in addition to the standardized testing schedule. In the county in which I teach, someone is being tested either from the State level or the District level from January 10th through May 24th, 2017. That’s Pre-K through 12th grade.

Amidst this insanity, we are getting students ready for District Evaluations, Honors Festivals, Spring Concerts, and Final Exams of our own. Dealing with the constant disruptions is part of the job. But, it doesn’t have to be the only job.


motivation Asya_mix


Keep Students Motivated

Keeping students’ attention and focus on moving forward with their practice and playing is difficult. Their regular classroom routine is interrupted and so are their practice schedules. We can motivate by paring down the amount of work we give. Instead of a lesson spanning two or three class periods, make it one class period. You might not see your class for a few days, and by then, they will have forgotten the original concept.

For elementary students, this is a perfect time for some fun, relaxing activities. Since I see my students once a week, I play relaxing music and ask them to draw what they feel. Often, they are so tense and filled with anxiety from test-taking, they welcome the healing effects of music. After they listen, I can subtly turn the lesson into an instruments of the orchestra objective. We play games and have fun. Karaoke is a good option as long as you are familiar with the song and it is appropriate for school.

For older students, they need the relaxation even more so. If you have the time, get creative—send/give students .mp3 files of what they need to practice if you aren’t able to see them due to testing. Keep a positive attitude for your students, and they will reflect one back to you. If they sense you are overwhelmed, they become frustrated also. They look to us as their leaders, mentors, and those who set an example. Be that example.




Lay out your practice/rehearsal plans well in advance. Keep the students apprised of upcoming rehearsals. Let them know that plans could change, but it’s always better to have a plan than not. You should be able to tell your students what is happening this week and next. There are several free calendar programs on Google and the web. Fill in the applicable info, and either email it to them or run it off or post it on your website.

The more you know, the more you know.

Read past articles by Audrey Carballo.


About the author:

Audrey Carballo

Audrey Carballo, a 35-year NAfME member, is in her 35th 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.

Did this blog spur new ideas for your music program? Share them on Amplify! Interested in reprinting this article? Please review the reprint guidelines.

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.

Brendan McAloon, Marketing and Events Coordinator, December 26, 2016. © National Association for Music Education (