Well THAT Didn’t Last Very Long……

Retirement, that is.  I’ve had a lovely year off.  I taught voice and helped out with rehearsals at the High School in the district I retired from.  Little did I know I was being prepared……


On Monday I will begin a new school year, in a new school with a new room…..and students, K-12.  Now, anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while knows that there are no 7-12 lesson plans on it.  That’s because I’VE NEVER TAUGHT 7-12!  AHHHHHHHHH!  So, Tuesday Music is about to become very interesting….lesson plans from a rookie.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how I will greet my new, older students.  I don’t know anything about them, except that the 11th and 12th graders haven’t had music since 5th grade.  Actually…that’s a little bit comforting.  It makes me feel a little less “in over my head.”

I’ve started 2 notebooks…one for the k-5 students, which I’m not nearly as nervous about, and one for the 6-12 students.  I think it will help me stay organized if I can keep the two separate.

So here’s what I’m planning for class number one, for all of my non-elementary students.  I would love comments and suggestions.  Help me!

I am all about relationship in the classroom.  I want to get to know these kids, and I’d like them to get to know me as well.  I think that rapport goes a long way in being able to get your lessons across.  Students who know that you like them and want them to do well, and are not going to jump down their throats if they don’t understand will try hard and ask questions.  I guess I’m trying to create a safe environment.  So, the first thing I’m going to do is tell them a little bit about myself:  I taught music in public school for 30+ years, I’m married to a man that some of them know, since he teaches guitar at the same school, I have 3 sons, all grown and gone, and 2 wonderful Golden Retrievers.  Reading is my favorite hobby.  Since I’ll be teaching at a small Christian School, I’m also free to tell them that I’ve been a follower of Christ since the age of 17. Hopefully, there will be something in there that each one can relate to.  I plan to ask if anyone has any questions for me, just in case.

Then, I’ll need to start getting to know who they are of course.  I’m going to ask each one to tell me their name, and somethings they would like me to know about them.  It’s not music, but in this situation, I think it’s time well spent.

As I do with the elementary students, I have a folder for each of them for papers, music and student work.  The first thing that will go into the folder…which will stay in my classroom, so that I can look at them….is a questionnaire.  I’m hoping that it will give me some idea where to start.  So, here it is…my very first non-elementary activity.


Name_____________________________________   Grade_______

1.  What is your favorite style of music?  *Pop  *Rock  *classical  *Jazz  *Broadway       *Hip Hop  *Christian Contemporary  *Country  *Bluegrass  *Celtic  *Other

2.  To what radio station do you most often listen?

3.  What was your last purchase on iTunes?

4.  Do you play any instruments?  If so, please list them.

5.  Do you enjoy singing?  If so, at what level?  *In the shower.  *In church.  (As part of the congregation).  *On a praise/worship team.  *In a choir.  *  I’ve had voice lessons. *I know my voice type: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass.  (Circle the one that best fits your voice, if you know.)

6.  Circle one:

*I can read music.

*I can read music to some degree.

*I cannot read music.

7.  In your opinion, why is it important to study music?

8.  Name something besides a musical instrument that can keep a steady beat.

9.  What is the difference between beat and rhythm?

10.  List as many musical vocabulary terms as you can think of.  (Example: treble clef, staff, tempo….)

11.  List all of your musical experience:  (Example: Praise Team, Cherub Choir, Band…)


That’s as far as I’ve gotten.  As you can see it progresses from personal information, to  an assessment of what they do or do not know.  After I’ve given them some time to fill it out, we’ll discuss it.  I get to know them better, and there are a few good conversation starters in there.

But what else should be on here?  What else do I need to know?

Thanks in advance for your help!



Jane Rivera  

All Rights Reserved

August 2013

24 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ActiveFingers
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 13:00:27

    Good luck on your new adventure! I am about to start my third year teaching K-12 vocal music and I love the variety in my schedule. It keeps me on my toes and in the long run, I know the strengths and weaknesses of each grade level the longer I teach. My first year I focused on singing scales with my HS choir and then last year focused more on sight reading. This year I hope to build off of that and add in sight reading and more scales to my JH choir and possibly 6th. My elementary lessons are similar year to year with adjustments and additions as I get new ideas but my choir plan changes week to week. Have fun!


    • Jane
      Aug 16, 2013 @ 07:25:24

      Thanks! Your comment is so encouraging! I’m anticipating loving this new step in my career, but a little nervous. It’s really great to hear someone say, “I love it!” :0)


  2. Debra
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 13:19:17

    I teach K-8 in a Catholic school – it is such a blessing to be able to speak about your faith in the classroom. One thing I always ask my older students is “What do you want to learn in music this year?” I put a disclaimer on it that I’m not doing hip hop/ rap/ or any other inappropriate music for our school. I also remind them that while I would LOVE to, I don’t have 25 guitars or trumpets or pianos, but if they’d like to learn an instrument, to please tell me – and I will be happy to help them on that path. I usually get some interesting responses – from styles of music, to careers to what all those things on the paper mean (argh – I’ve TAUGHT you that!!) to singing/ broadway to movie music/ and they have even been interested in the Kodaly chart I have for the younger kids. They will help you in deciding what to do.


    • Jane
      Aug 16, 2013 @ 07:28:12

      Thank you Debra! I will add “What would YOU like to learn” to my questionnaire. That will be another good discussion question, and they may get some ideas from each other. Maybe I’ll even let them discuss certain questions with each other. :0)


  3. JoBeth Smith
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 20:16:10

    I KNOW you will be so awesome with all grades. Congratulations ! They are lucky to have you. Look forward to your new posts.

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Judy Fauss
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 20:20:49

    You are indeed on the right track! Remember your students don’t care how much you know until they know you care. As a retired teacher of 34 years, I still get excited each fall as a new year begins. I pray for all teachers to have a blessed and joyous year with their students.


  5. Heather
    Aug 16, 2013 @ 13:44:16

    What a fun adventure! You will love it. I usually add some funny questions like favorite food sport etc. and they always love what wold your superpower be?

    Best of luck!


  6. Rich
    Aug 17, 2013 @ 16:31:51

    My suggestion would be to create just one lesson and teach it to every grade level. Of course you would make modifications for higher grades but keep the music presented uniform. Next year you teach the lessons created this year just to the sevenith graders and create a new set of lessons for everyone else. Have fun!


  7. Melanie
    Aug 20, 2013 @ 13:00:24

    I just recommended you to a friend. I told her to check out this blog to help her get some ideas for K-2 general music. 🙂


  8. Chris Mullin
    Aug 21, 2013 @ 16:12:02

    The only other thing on my questionnaire is what kind of technology/music instruments do they have at home. Do they have a computer? A tablet? A smart phone, a piano, banjo etc..I also ask what their parents do because I like to have an assembly with real people playing real instruments and you can use the parents as a resource. They can play in the assembly or I can see what job they have. For instance- if they are in construction guess what? They are my new set builders!!! Moo ha ha.


  9. sarahfardmusic
    Aug 25, 2013 @ 21:04:05

    I just recently discovered your blog as I was scouring the internet for resources, and can honestly say that this is by far one of the most helpful sites I have found! Thank you for taking the time to compile this. I’ve been teaching middle school for the past few years, and am now beginning a job in elementary music. This website is SO helpful!


  10. Karen
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 01:40:11

    I hope you don’t want your materials back that you’ve already sold to some of us?!!! (not that I’d be adverse to parting with them…) Meanwhile, best of luck and thanks for the idea – I’ll be drafting my own questionnaire along the same line as yours…if you don’t mind(?!)


    • Jane
      Aug 31, 2013 @ 07:39:51

      Silly bean…of course I don’t mind! That’s why I posted it! :0)

      No, I don’t want any of the stuff back. I’ve been doing exactly what you all did…buying it used. As I go along I’ll look for what I’ll be needing in the month ahead. If I can’t find it, I ‘ll figure something out.

      By the way, I loved my upper grades this first week! I came home completely exhausted, but it was a good exhausted.

      Good to hear from you, old friend!

      Sent from my iPad


  11. Holly
    Sep 04, 2013 @ 09:06:56

    Hi Jane~ I wanted to thank you for your posts. I am starting a new year tomorrow with K-8 in a SMALL Christian school and I’ve NEVER taught music! But they need someone to fill the gap for 1 year so I’ll be giving it my best…with LOTS of help form your BLOG!!
    Thank you again!


    • Jennifer Anderson
      Aug 12, 2014 @ 17:46:36

      Holly, I just read your post on a blog about never teaching music. I happen to find myself in the same position this year. I’m a home school mom who has been drafted to teach a music class for a small christian school. I’ve had my children in music for the past 20 yrs. but I do not play or even read music fluently. Any advice would be AWESOME! I’m teaching pre-k-8th 🙂 Thanks in advance!


  12. anna mckinzie
    Sep 06, 2013 @ 22:18:43

    Jane – I am in a similar situation – teaching for a small Christian school – but I am there after years at home (homeschooling/caring for elderly parents). This is my second year and it is going much smoother. 🙂 My question for you is this. How do you teach parts on Orff instruments? I generally have classes of about 17- and only a handful of instruments. Of course all the children want to play – even though most of them still do not read music well. I find that even the very simple accompaniments given in our songbooks or supplementary materials are too difficult to really pull off well. They LOVE to play – but I am not sure how to go about really teaching them how to play so that we are able to accompany songs. Any input would be greatly appreciated! Thanks -hope your year is off to a good start! Anna


  13. Seth
    Sep 16, 2013 @ 17:34:48

    I just want to say “thank you!” I taught band for many years, but when I went back to grad school last year I started teaching elementary music. I needed lesson plans…fast! I’ve learned so much from your blog! I can’t thank you enough! I spent hours on the phone with friends trying to pull together lesson plans, and then I found your blog. The kids enjoy these activities! And I have to admit I enjoy them too! 🙂 Learning is fun and easy! Thank you so much for taking the time to write this blog!


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