There is never enough time in the day, especially in our elementary music classrooms. Time is a very precious commodity. That makes it even more important to integrate music reading into every lesson using a strategy that is efficient and systematic with a logical sequence.
But with so little time allotted for elementary music classes, how do you make time for music reading when you are also preparing for programs, assemblies, PTA meetings, etc.? Read on for some ideas and tips that you can implement in your elementary music classroom.
Tips to Integrate Music Reading into Every Lesson
Use a Standard Lesson Plan Template
Students respond better to predictable routines. This does not mean you don’t ever vary from these routines. But, routines help students feel safe and in control. Spend the first few weeks of school teaching and practicing those routines and procedures. It will be time well spent. Music teachers are lucky in that we have many of the same students for several years in a row. This makes it much easier to establish routines in the upper grades.
Use Transition Activities
Start class with some type of welcoming or gathering activity to help focus students’ attention and provide a natural transition. Transitions are hard for many students. For special needs students who have trouble with transitions, try using social stories to help prepare them for class. I have posted a FREE resource, Going to Music | A Social Story for Successful Mainstreaming that you may use as-is or you may customize to your specific classroom.
Using social stories is the subject of a post coming soon.
Start Class Immediately
Begin your welcoming activity as students come through the door. Welcoming activities can be as simple as singing a recently learned song or an activity reviewing a previously learned concept.
Echo songs work well for welcoming activities. You can even introduce a new song or activity in echo fashion. Even rhythm patterns may be used as a welcoming activity. Whatever activity you choose, it should lead students directly to their assigned spots and prepare them to begin the planned music reading lesson.
Schedule Music Reading Lessons Early in the Class Period
Student attention naturally ebbs and flows. Both students and teachers are more focused at the beginning of class. This is when music reading should be the focus of the lesson. Make music reading a priority. Priority items should be completed first.
Music Reading Lessons Should Be Short & Lead into Other Activities
It doesn’t take a lot of time to integrate music reading into every lesson but it does take careful planning. The music reading portion of your lesson should be short, 5 minutes.
Students (and teachers) should have a standard system for reading. I use the following “Steps for Reading Music.” I even have a poster on the wall for students to refer to when needed.
Following these three steps teaches students a simple, concrete method for reading music. You “demystify” the process.
After singing the targeted reading song, the lesson should lead directly into a related activity which reinforces learning. This activity could be a game that goes along with the song, a movement activity, instrumental accompaniments, ostinato patterns, etc.
Again, the actual reading portion of the lesson is very short and should seem like a precursor to an activity. This helps build excitement around learning to read music.
See this post for more on Teaching Young Children to Read Music and Developing Music Literacy.
Repetition and Assessment
Repetition is important for children and adults as well. Every time you teach a lesson, students should need less and less help. Remember, to sing for children, not with them. I confess that this has always been hard for me.
As a general rule of thumb, I teach each music reading lesson three times. Then, the third time we complete the “Take it Home” pages that goes with each lesson. I designed these Take it Home pages as quick observational assessments. These quick, easy assessments help me identify students who are learning to read independently and those who need more practice.
These Take Home pages are VERY short and go home immediately. Although I do record grades for Take it Home pages, they do not create any outside of class grading for me. We use a partner checking system and I simply record an observational assessment as students “sign and sing” the song.
Click to read this post to learn more about using Take it Home Pages as Assessments.
Use Sequential, Targeted Music Reading Materials
The music reading lesson should be targeted. And, lessons should be sequential building one upon another. By introducing only one new element at a time, students will learn quickly and be more secure in their learning. This post provides more info and additional links to sequential Kodály resources.
Use several different lessons (a minimum of three) to teach and reinforce the same concept. For instance, if your targeted element is quarter note/rest patterns, teach at least three separate lessons with this same targeted element. Practice each lesson at least three class sessions, before moving on and adding eighth notes. This gives students who didn’t get it the first time another chance to learn the concept. And it gives all children time to develop and sharpen their skills.
If you are interested in no-prep, ready made music reading lessons, check out these sequential music reading bundles.
The Three “P’s” of the Kodály Method: Prepare, Present, Practice
All elements that you present and practice with students should have been prepared aurally prior to naming and presenting the elements. Do NOT skip this stage.
When children learn to read text, they must have learned oral language first. You should use the same sequence when teaching children to learn to read music. They should have a solid foundation of the sound prior to presenting and practicing the elements. The lessons I am referring to in this post are for the “present” and “practice” stages.
Again, this will be the subject of a future post. Ahhhhh, there is so much to do and so little time.
Have all your materials ready to go and move directly from one activity to the next. Dead time invites disruption and wastes time, even if it is only 30 seconds. If you are using recordings, consider uploading all of your audio files to your computer and organizing your lessons in PowerPoint with each audio file attached. I cannot believe how much more I can get done by organizing my lessons this way. This will definitely be the topic of a future blog post asap.
We are Music Teachers
Finally, we are music teachers. Although our discipline is entertaining, we are not simply entertainment. It is important for us to integrate music reading into every lesson. We owe it to our students to help them develop their music literacy levels to their fullest.
Do you have additional tips and techniques for integrating music reading into every lesson? Leave a comment below.