Homework in Elementary Music Classes, Really?

Homework in Elementary Music, Really? Yes! But it's not what you thinkAre 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 work sheet, writing a report, or even practicing note names. I AM 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!

“Take it Home” Pages

With the exception of one introductory lesson, all the lessons in my music reading series have “Take it Home” pages.  These pages are 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.

Steps for Reading Music. 1. Read the Rhythm. 2. Sing the Pitches. 3. Sing the Lyrics.

  1. Point & read the rhythm.
  2. Sign and sing the pitches. (Solfege)
  3. Sing the lyrics.

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 the song independently before sending the assignment home.

Since our students have music 1-2 times per week, they GET to have homework about once every other week.

The Best Part

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.

Students do NOT have to return anything. Students take more ownership of their own 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 Make Up Work

Since these activities are completed as a class, there is no make up 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 will 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 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

Xylophone Ipad app
Xylophone App

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 the songs.

Creating Sequential Music Resources with Take Home Pages Takes LOTS of Time

Sequential lessons which 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 own lessons and resources, check out these sequential music reading bundles. With the exception of 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.

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