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June 26, 2017

How to Energize a Music Curriculum with Creative Materials

When I first began teaching music, I was a traveling "overload" teacher. I traveled to four different schools and taught in band rooms, classrooms, hallways and other interesting locations, picking up the extra classes for the home school music teacher. I loved teaching and kept my lessons simple to accommodate the challenges of the traveling teacher. Soon I was able to get my own school and begin the process of decorating, planning and executing my own Music curriculum and "presence".  I didn't get any, and had to come up with all of the teaching and management tools by myself.  I'm sure that's why I felt impressed to create songs, games and decor that would provide the structure for any Music Teacher using any curriculum methodology.


There are so many things to consider. Keep reading to get a clear picture of the things you might need to set up, establish and even embellish your music classroom. And at the end of the post, you'll find a free checklist of Music Class Essentials. Here's just a few questions you might be asking yourself.

What grades will you be teaching?

What is the core curriculum focus?

What Standards will you use for each grade level?

What kinds of sound equipment will you need?

What kinds of technology will you use?

What instruments do you need?

Will you need creative movement props?

How will you establish classroom management?

How will you decorate and organize your room?


 Depending on your training, you'll be focusing on one or maybe a combination of methodologies to use to teach your students. I've garnered Kodaly and Orff teaching skills and also combined them with my experiences as a private teacher and student. Here's how I organize my curriculum.

K-2 Kodaly   
3-Kodaly and Ukulele's
4-Orff  with Recorders 
5-Keyboards and Music History
6-Music Styles and Guitars

There are many dynamics to a music teacher's job. I think it's important to ask yourself 


Songs to teach the rules. I like to use songs to teach the students the rules.
One favorite is my "Criss Cross Applesauce Song". It's perfect for Kindergarten through Second Graders. You can grab it in my store for free HERE:

The BIG RULE? I teach students about their bubble space. And I sing this song with K-3 grades.

"Keep Your Hands Feet and Words to Yourself"

I believe it's important to encourage classroom community and so I also teach my students K-3 this friendship song.

Friendship Song to build classroom community "I Like You"


I integrate a lot of movement activities including folk dances, multi-cultural games and dances along with scarves and bean bags.
I developed units that coordinate with holidays. For example, in March, I do a whole Irish music unit with activities and lessons that reflect learning about Ireland and it's traditional music and instruments.
Since I teach all students K-4, I developed a rotating curriculum of more in depth units that I rotate through those four years so that students have the opportunity to experience each unit at least one time.

Some of the units I've developed are:
Music from the Caribbean
Music from Asia
Music from Around the World
Music from America
Holiday themes

I also incorporate creative movement activities with Composer studies. Classical music provides many opportunities for students to experience music through movement. Here's a post I wrote about using classical music in your classroom. FIVE REASONS TO PLAY BEAN BAG GAMES and HOW TO STRETCH LEARNING WITH STRETCHY BANDS

I've found that it's essential to have:
Scarves-1 for each student
Bean Bags-1 for each student

Before you get too overwhelmed, there's one more thing-


Since I also compose music, I have written many of the songs that my students sing in their concerts. I have also created a set of four core program themes that I rotate every four years. Sometimes I use the same songs, but many times I will change them.
Here's my basic plan:
GRADE 1- Multi-Cultural, Desert, Valentine's Day
GRADE 2- Garden Show, All About Music, Martin Luther King Jr.

One thing that's super helpful is using my Concert Manners poem at the beginning of each concert. Now the whole school knows the poem and it's an easy refresher of how to act during a concert. You can grab this Free Resource at the end of this post.

And then what about your classroom environment?


Something that I think is a necessity is some kind of floor markers for students. I use large velcro that I marked with numbers. Using the numbers and the circle gives me a lot of flexibility to have students in rows or in a circle. "Boys-take a red or an orange spot. Girls take a color in between." Using these simple tools solves a lot of my classroom management problems.
The most helpful thing I found were SITSPOTS (no affiliation).

Using them has made a significant difference in the way I teach and also giving me tools to help manage student behavior. Everyone has a place-in their own space-using sit spots.

I also like to have my Solfege Posters, Note Names and Music Symbol posters put in easy viewing.

I prefer to keep the same decor in my classroom every year but I do change some of my bulletin boards.
That's an important thing you'll want to take some time deciding. Do you like to redecorate?  Do you like to have themes? Then you'll be able to make your teaching job easier. I think it's important to stick to what works for you. And, maybe you'll be a traveling teacher or a teacher on a cart. So many decisions! Hopefully you're getting some ideas and some direction by reading this post.


Here's some of the very basic supplies that I find essential:
Xylophones-Soprano and Bass at least 2 each/with mallets
Hand drums-1 for every other student
Shakers-1 for each student
Wood Tone Blocks 4-5
Recorders-1 each for each class

Once you have the basics you can add in some more instruments.
You'll find a free checklist link available at the end of this post.

I like my students to have many opportunities singing Acapella songs. This is a nice three part beginning round you can use in your upper grades as a "Hello" song.

                     Freebie: Kodaly Song "Come Along and Sing With Me" 2 part round.

The fun begins once you have your classroom decorated and instruments in place. I'll be writing about more organization and set up ideas in another post-but I'm hoping this post kicks off your planning and inspires you to be creative and do what makes you happy as the teacher.
After struggling for several years with accumulating my basic curriculum and management tools,
I created a basic music curriculum which can be found in my Music Class Essential Songs, Games, Chants- with a planner, sheet music, mp3's, which includes resources for you to set up your classroom. 
Music Class Essentials comes with a booklet of all of the songs, games, chants and the planner so that you can put it in a notebook for future reference. 
It also comes with ready made Body Percussion, Kodaly, Choral and Rhythm activities to use at the beginning of the school year-or anytime.
You'll also find a complete Music Classroom Decor set that blends well with any classroom decorations you may already have displayed.

Whether a new music teacher or an established teacher looking for some new "tricks" to put in your teaching bag, I know you'll find the Music Class Essentials packed with materials that will make your music teaching easier, more creative and inspire your students to learn.

Sing Play Create Music Class Essentials

     There are so many things to consider when organizing a music classroom.
Hopefully you've gathered some ideas on organization, methodology, decor, teacher planners and music programs.
Or, maybe just some inspiration to change up your routine.


For updates and a MONTHLY FREE RESOURCE, subscribe to my mailing list and get access to your free resource library.

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I hope you'll share your ideas below.
Happy Planning!

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