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Homework in Elementary Music Classes, Really?

Non-traditional homework activities can extend learning at home and build music advocacy for your program.

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Are you kidding me? Homework in elementary music classes? Really?

Yes! But not the homework you’re thinking about. I do NOT advocate traditional, classroom-style homework for elementary music. We’re not talking about worksheets, writing a report, or even note names practice.

We ARE talking about a way students can share what they have learned in class, extend their learning at home, and build advocacy for your music program. Now that’s a triple whammy!

Smiling student playing an elementary music classroom instrument - triangle

Show Evidence of Student Learning

Parents see what their child is doing in their homeroom classes on a regular basis. Students bring home “evidence” of their learning every day or at least once a week. This evidence covers many different subjects – spelling, math, reading, writing, etc. Most of the time parents do not see such evidence from the music classroom.

We’re NOT advocating worksheets or doing massive amounts of paperwork.  We’re NOT even saying you should get pencils and paper out every day. We ARE saying you need a system to develop your students’ skills so they become independent proficient music readers and share their learning at home.

“Take it Home” Pages

For my classroom, I created a music reading activity series with “Take it Home” pages. All the lessons in this series include “homework” pages. These pages are simple versions of our targeted music reading songs and they’re VERY short. They’re designed to be completed and practiced in class, then, shared at home.

Little writing, if any, is required 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 the follow these three Steps for Reading Music.

Steps for Reading Music

Since some of our reading songs are as short as 12 seconds long, I tell my students everyone has 36 seconds to do all three steps of their homework. And, it can be done anywhere, in the car, in the kitchen, as they wait for soccer practice to start, etc.

Frequency of “Homework”

Music reading should be integrated into every lesson. But, this does NOT mean we have homework every music day. We practice each lesson at least three class sessions before we complete the homework pages and I send them home. Students need to be able to read and perform the song independently before you send it home.

Since our students have music 1-2 times per week, they GET to have homework about once every other week. My students look forward to homework nights and even cheer when I announce it is a homework day.

No Grading Outside of Class

This homework in elementary music classes does not create any outside-of-class grading. And, students do not need to return anything.

The best part of this system is I get accurate, frequent checks on the music reading levels of my students. For more about how to use observational assessments, click to see How to Use Take it Home Pages as Music Assessments.

Students take more ownership of their learning when they can see their accomplishments and their growth. They gain confidence in their abilities and build real self-esteem as their music reading skills grow. And, they draw correlations outside the music classroom.

No Makeup Work

Since these activities are completed as a class, there’s no makeup work if a student is absent. I mark absent in the grade book with the comment “not present for assessment.” If a student asks me about a homework 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, one family started this tradition and shared it with other families.

Some kids will never get the “sheet music” home, but the majority of my students do follow through and benefit from this practice.

Handle Take Home Pages as Sheet Music

We call our Take it Home pages sheet music and we learn the proper handling of sheet music.

  • Sheet music must never be folded.
  • Only use a pencil to write on music, never a pen.
  • Keep it in a folder or notebook to keep it nice.

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.

Challenge Students to Perform Their Homework on Instruments

Tons of free xylophone and keyboard apps are available for students to perform their songs on. Once they find the first note, they can easily figure out how to play songs.

Create Sequential Music Resources with Take it Home Pages

Sequential lessons which build on prior learning are essential. Each lesson should only introduce one new element at a time. And, each “new” element should be rehearsed with multiple songs. Each concept should be secure before you add additional elements.

If you’re ready to try Take it Home Pages but don’t have the time to create all your lessons and resources, check out these sequential Music Reading Activity Bundles. Each bundle includes PRINTABLE Take it Home pages and DIGITAL Easel Activities which may also be used for additional practice and/or assessment.

See this post for more on Using Easel Activities in the Elementary Music Classroom. As a bonus, this post includes 2 FREE activities.

Take it Home Pages Help to Build Advocacy for Your Music Program

Music classes are often viewed as fun, playtime, entertainment, fluff, or a break for the “real teachers.” When parents, classroom teachers, administrators, and students themselves see rising music literacy levels, this builds advocacy for your program. This helps build the validity of our discipline.

Homework in elementary music classes? You bet! Some serious and fun learning is happening here.

Pick Up Your Free Lesson with “Take it Home” Pages

Subscribe to our helpful email list and your first free resource will be a FREE So, La, Mi Music Reading Lesson with Take it Home pages. Then watch your inbox for more free music literacy resources heading your way.

Give it a try. Hope to “see” you soon.

Meet the Author

Terri Lloyd is a former elementary music teacher with over 25 years of experience. She holds a Bachelor of Music, a Master of Science in Education, and a Technology Certificate in Instructional Design.

She is currently active in music education through blogging, workshops, and curriculum development. She serves on the music staff at her church and volunteers for an after-school children’s program. Terri is an active musician in the community, performing in a local Big Band, pit orchestras, and various events.

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