Are you kidding me? Homework in elementary music classes? Really?
Yes! But this is not the kind of homework you are thinking about. It is NOT traditional homework. We are not talking about completing a worksheet, writing a report, or even practicing note names. We ARE talking about sharing what students have learned in class, extending learning at home, and building advocacy for your music program. Now that’s a triple whammy!
Show Evidence of Student Learning
Parents regularly see what their child is doing in their homeroom classes. Students usually bring home evidence of their learning every day. This “evidence” covers many different areas – spelling, math, reading, writing, etc. Parents do not usually see such evidence from the music classroom on a regular basis.
We are NOT talking about doing worksheets every day. We are NOT talking about doing massive amounts of paperwork. We are NOT even talking about getting pencil and paper out every day. We ARE talking about developing a system where your students can become independently proficient music readers and share that learning at home.
“TAKE IT HOME” PAGES
For my classroom, I created a music reading series with “Take it Home” pages. Except for one introductory lesson, all the lessons in this series have “homework” pages. These pages are simple versions of our targeted music reading songs and they are VERY short. They are designed to be completed and practiced in class, then, shared at home.
There is very little, if any, writing on these Take it Home pages. And the “homework” only takes seconds. Students’ homework consists of sharing our targeted music reading song with someone at their home while following these three Steps for Reading Music.
Since some of our reading songs are as short as 12 seconds long, I tell my students that everyone has 36 seconds to do all three steps of their homework. And, it can be done anywhere, in the car, in the kitchen, waiting for soccer practice to start, etc.
Frequency of “Homework”
Music reading should be integrated into every lesson. But, that does not mean we have homework every music day. We practice each lesson three class sessions before completing the Take it Home pages and sending them home. Students need to be able to read & perform a song independently before sending it home.
Since our students have music 1-2 times per week, they GET to have homework about once every other week.
No Grading Outside of Class
This kind of homework in elementary music classes does not create piles of papers to grade. The best part of this system is that I get accurate, frequent checks on the music reading levels of my students and I have no grading outside of class. For more about observational assessment, click to read How to Use Take it Home Pages as Music Assessments.
Students do NOT have to return anything. Students take more ownership of their learning and they can see their growth. They gain confidence in their abilities and build real self-esteem as their music reading skills grow.
No Makeup Work
Since these activities are completed as a class, there is no makeup work if a student is absent. I simply mark absent in the online grade book with this comment “not present for assessment.” If a student asks me about a page they missed, I send it home with them.
Create Excitement Around Take it Home Pages
Hype it up! My students love homework nights. They like to share what they have learned. Some of my students have created notebooks with all of their Take it Home pages over multiple years. In fact, it was one family that started this tradition and shared it with other families.
There will always be those kids who never get the paper home, but the majority of my students do follow through and benefit from this practice.
Challenge Students to Expand Learning Beyond the Classroom
Many students have small keyboards, toy xylophones, or other instruments on which they can play their music reading songs. Many more have iPads or other tablets and they can perform their songs on digital instruments. There are tons of free xylophone and keyboard apps they can use. Once students find the first note, they can easily figure out how to play songs.
Creating Sequential Music Resources with Take Home Pages
Sequential lessons that build upon prior learning are essential. Each lesson should only introduce one new element at a time. All elements should be rehearsed and the concept secure before adding additional elements.
If you are ready to try using Take it Home Pages but don’t have the time to create all your lessons and resources, check out these sequential music reading bundles. Except for one introductory lesson in the Rhythm Reading Bundle, all of these lessons include Take it Home pages.
Take it Home Pages Help to Build Advocacy for Your Music Program
Music classes are often viewed as fun, playtime, entertainment, fluff, or just a break for the “real teachers.” When parents, classroom teachers, and administrators see rising music literacy levels, this builds advocacy for your program. It helps build the validity of our discipline.
Homework in elementary music classes? You bet! Some serious and fun learning is going on here.
Do you use any sort of “Take it Home” pages? Leave a comment.