Increase Music Advocacy by Developing Music Literacy

Developing support for your program is not easy and it does not happen overnight. If you haven’t seen the first post in this 3-part series, you may want to start here – Steps to Build Music Advocacy in the Elementary Grades. In addition to these foundational steps, another crucial factor is to increase music advocacy by developing music literacy.

Increase Music Advocacy by Developing Music Literacy in the Elementary Grades

Provide Evidence of Music Literacy Growth

Parents regularly see what their children are doing in their homeroom classes. Students usually bring home evidence of their learning every day or at least weekly. This “evidence” covers many different areas – spelling, math, reading, writing, etc. Seeing what their child is learning builds parent support for the classroom.  

Parents do not usually see such evidence from the music classroom on a regular basis. I am NOT talking about doing worksheets every day. I am NOT talking about doing massive amounts of paperwork. I am not even talking about getting pencil and paper out every day. I am talking about developing a system where your students can become independent, proficient music readers and share that learning at home. 

For my classroom, I created a music reading series with “Take it Home” pages. All the lessons in this series have “homework” pages. These pages are copies 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. To learn more about using Take it Home music reading lessons in your classroom, click to read this blog post – Homework in Elementary Music Classes, Really?.

Every Day is NOT a “Homework” Day

Music reading should be integrated into every class session. But, that does not mean that you should send a “read and sing” song home every day. Students need time to practice and become independent readers before they are asked to read and sing a song at home. If they are not adequately prepared, this strategy can backfire. Since students in our district have music 1-2 days per week, they would GET to have homework about once every other week or so. 

Did you notice I used the word “get”? Hype up this homework and sharing thing! Your students should love home days. My students would often cheer when I told them it was a homework night. 

I would often challenge students to extend their learning at home as well. You can read more about extending learning in this post – Homework in Elementary Music Classes, Really?

Music Classes Provide REAL Learning

Music classes are often viewed as simply 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.

Developing Music Advocacy for Elementary Music Classroom by Increasing Music Literacy Levels

Standard vs. Stick Notation

Here I would like to insert a word about using standard music notation. I have long been an advocate for starting children with standard music notation instead of stick notation. I have done it for MANY years. I was reluctant to say that in public for the backlash that can sometimes follow.

About 8-10 years ago, I heard a national presenter say that she started her students in kindergarten with standard notation as I had done for many years. I finally felt validated and able to say that in public. 

Teaching Young Children to Read Music | Stick Dictation vs. Standard Notation

So, why is that important to developing music advocacy? Some of your parents will be musically literate. They may not understand the exact steps of reading music that your child demonstrates, but they will understand the outcome. Even if your parents are not musically literate, they will know what standard music notation looks like and they will be impressed that their child can make sense of the symbols that may seem foreign to them. 

I have had more than one parent tell me that they are learning how to read music through their child. Without fail, almost every paraprofessional or aide that I have had working in my classroom has said something like this to me. “I never understood how to read music. Now after being in your classes, it makes sense.”

Disclaimer: I am not trying to convince you here to use standard notation. I am saying that I have had success starting students in kindergarten with standard notation and I believe it actually saves time and helps to build advocacy for your program. For more on this topic, click to read Rhythm Reading and Young Children | Standard Notation vs. Stick Notation.

Increasing Music Advocacy by Developing Music Literacy

Yes! Increasing music advocacy by developing music literacy is possible. If you are not teaching your students to become independent music readers and sharing that at home, start today. If you want to create your own resources and need some lessons to model, see this music reading series with no-prep “Take it Home” pages.

Don’t wait until next year or next semester. Like music advocacy, music literacy does not happen overnight. It happens little by little, each and every day. Start today.


Another way to build music literacy is by involving others and “building your community.” Click to read the next post in this 3-part music advocacy series below.

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