First Thoughts on Teaching Music

In one year and  3 months I will be a retired Elementary Vocal and General Music Specialist.  In that year+ I hope to make available here the lesson plans and activities that I use from cycle to cycle.  Since my district operates on a 4 day cycle, hopefully new plans will appear every 4 to 5 days.  It is my hope that these lessons and ideas will prove to be useful to music teachers new and not so new.  I’m not sure what form this blog will take.  Sometimes it may be written as a formal lesson plan, other times as a log of what I’ve done that day.  I welcome comments,contributions and  discussions of activities and methods that have worked for other teachers.

In my district I have been fortunate for many years to have some budget money available to me.  Still, “Music Teacher” is not just what I do; it’s a big part of who I am.  So I’ve spent  my own money over the years, filling in what gaps I could in order to help make myself the best music teacher I could possibly be.

Several years ago I was contacted by a new teacher who had recently been hired to a large city school district.  To carry out his job he was given a piano and a sixth grade teacher’s manual.  No curriculum, and no budget.  Wow.  I advised him to spend some of his own money on some basic items: MusicK-8 Magazine, available from Plank Road Publishing, an iPod and an iPod speaker. (MusicK-8 magazine comes with recorded cd’s of all of the songs it contains, and permission to copy songs for your own students.) He already had and could play a guitar. Those 3 core items plus some creativity and ingenuity can get a fledgling music program off the ground.

At the end of next year my replacement will inherit  a great deal more than that.    In recent years I’ve been fortunate to receive a laptop computer with an iTunes account, yearly subscriptions to Musick-8 Magazine and Music Express Magazine, A set of Xylophones, Metallophones and Glockenspiels , totaling 11 instruments, and the MusicPlay series complete with recorder materials and many other extras.  I will take with me a library of over 300 books that I purchased myself, an extensive collection of puppets,  my own personal VCR/DVD player, my own iPod and Bose speaker,  and many additional resources that have  made my job easier and more fun to do.

So, my first word of advice to a new teacher would be to establish a professional yearly budget from your own pocket to supplement whatever budget you may have.  When you find a resource that would be helpful to you and your program, buy it.  You get an automatic $250.00 credit on your federal income tax for money that you spend on your classroom, and, should you spend significantly more than that, you may be able to deduct even more.

In future posts I’ll address setting up a classroom, should you be fortunate enough to have one, or the alternative of working off of a cart.  For now, on to some lesson plans.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Elaine Cooper
    Apr 22, 2011 @ 21:36:50

    Thank you for your willingness to share. I saw your post on K8 and have been teaching almost three years but still need ideas and resources. I noticed in your picture that you are reading the Magic Flute. Do you have any lesson ideas? Seattle Opera is doing this in May and I would love to introduce this to my students. I am also doing a Broadway revue in June and bought Broadway beat from Hal Leonard but would love the Disney medley for my younger students and am considering purchasing this volume along with K8 next year.


    • Write Every Day
      Apr 23, 2011 @ 02:53:11

      Hi Elaine! The book in the picture is the story of the Magic Flute, and comes with a cd. It’s quite detailed, (some might say wordy), so you’d need to use it in small doses over several class periods. When I get back to school next week I’ll check the author and the ISBN, and take a couple of pictures to post so you can see close up what it looks like and whether it might be worth our while to look for. Another resource I’ve used is part of the “Classical Kids” series. It’s called “Mozart’s Magic Fantasy,” and is based on “The Magic Flute” and its music. These are stories based upon composers lives or compositions, which use the composer’s own music as a soundtrack.I checked iTunes and they have the entire album available for download, so if you wanted it immediately it would be easy to get, and then you could burn your own back up cd. I use it for quiet listening at the end of class. I generally give them several questions to think about as they listen, then play 6 to 8 minutes of the story, depending upon where a good cutoff point is. The older kids write the answers in their listening journal. Sometimes I might have them draw a picture from the portion of the story they’re listening to. Again, I have materials at school that I use in connection with this resource, and I’ll look for them next week. The last thing is a 45 minute animated film of “The Magic Flute.” It’s based on Mozart’s opera and story, but is obviously a very condensed version, and the music has been adapted to more of a musical type of format. Honestly, the “Queen of the Night” aria is barely recognizable. I’d recommend using this only as an introduction to the story or for younger kids.
      So, look for a post next week with pictures and a few more details.
      Thanks for reading, Elaine! :0)


  2. LisaA
    Aug 11, 2011 @ 23:03:26

    Wow! You are a very special person to be doing this. Talk about leaving a legacy….not only will a permanent impact stay with all the students you have taught over the years, now the legacy will grow exponentially with a legion of your blog followers passing on the impact to their students! You are a role model for generations to come. Best wishes in this endeavor. I am proud to be a colleague.


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