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Develop Music Advocacy by Building Your Students’ Music Literacy Skills

Discover ways to develop music advocacy and raise music literacy skills in your elementary music class. Take a peek at these teacher-tested strategies.

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Building support for your program is a challenging task that cannot be accomplished overnight. If you haven’t already, I recommend reading the first post in this 3-part series, which introduces 8 Actionable Steps to Develop Music Advocacy in Elementary Grades.

In addition to these foundational steps, enhancing music literacy skills is another crucial approach to promote music advocacy.

Let’s get started!

Increase Music Advocacy by Developing Music Literacy in the Elementary Grades

Provide Evidence of Growth in Music Literacy Skills

Parents usually get a good sense of what their kids are learning in their homeroom classes because they regularly bring homework assignments and activities to show off. This includes math worksheets, spelling tests, reading passages, writing assignments, etc. This “evidence” helps parents understand what their child is working on and builds support for the homeroom classes.

But when it comes to music classes, parents don’t always get the same level of visibility into what their child is learning on a regular basis. I’m not suggesting that we start bombarding students with paperwork and worksheets. Instead, we should teach our students to become independent proficient music readers and provide them with a way to share what they’ve learned at home. This helps parents see and appreciate the progress their child is making in music too.

Create Authentic Music Activities to Share at Home

For my elementary music classroom, I developed a Music Reading Series that includes “Take it Home” pages. Each lesson in this series includes a VERY short “homework” activity. These activities are simple sheet music of our targeted music reading song. Our Take it Home pages are designed to be practiced and completed during class and then shared with parents at home. They also provide opportunities for expanding student learning outside the classroom.

If you’re interested in incorporating similar music reading activities in your own classroom, check out 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/or sing a song independently at home. If they are not adequately prepared, this strategy can backfire.

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

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 and look forward to homework days. My students would often cheer when I told them it was a homework night. 

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

Music Classes Provide REAL Learning

Unfortunately, music classes are often viewed as nothing more than a source of entertainment, a break for teachers, or even just “fluff” by some parents, classroom teachers, and administrators.

However, when students demonstrate independent music reading skills (something that MANY adults cannot do), it can foster greater support for your music program within the school system and at home. This, in turn, strengthens the validity of our discipline.

Standard vs. Stick Notation

I’d like to take a moment to talk about the use of standard music notation in the elementary music classroom. Personally, I’ve always believed that it’s better to start children with standard music notation rather than stick notation, and I’ve had great success with this approach for many years. However, I was reluctant to say that out loud in public because of the potential backlash it could generate.

But then, a few years ago, I heard a national presenter share that she also starts her kindergarten students with standard notation – just like I had been doing for many years! That was a real turning point for me. Finally, I felt validated and confident enough to share my beliefs about the benefits of starting with standard music notation in public.

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

Using Standard Notation Helps Develop Music Advocacy

Why is it important to use standard music notation when it comes to building support for your elementary music program?

Well, for one thing, some of your parents will be musically literate themselves. They may not understand all the exact steps of reading music that your child demonstrates, but they will certainly recognize the outcome. And even if a parent doesn’t have a musical background, they can still appreciate the fact that their child is learning to make sense of symbols that seem foreign to them.

In fact, I’ve had multiple parents tell me that they’re actually learning how to read music through their child’s progress in class. And it’s not just parents – I’ve had paraprofessionals and aides who have worked in my classroom say the same thing. So, by using standard music notation in your teaching, you’re not just building musical skills – you’re also promoting a sense of curiosity and engagement among your students’ families and support systems.

“I never understood how to read music. Now after being in your elementary music classes, it makes sense.”

Paraprofessionals in My Music Classroom

Disclaimer: I am not trying to convince you to start your students with standard notation. I am saying that I personally have had success starting students in kindergarten with standard notation and I believe that this approach actually saves time in the long run and builds greater support for your music education program.

For more on starting children with standard music notation, click to see Rhythm Reading and Young Children | Standard Notation vs. Stick Notation.

Does this Really Build Music Advocacy?

Absolutely! It’s definitely possible to boost support for your music program by improving music literacy levels. If you’re not already teaching your students to read music independently and encouraging them to share their learning at home, there’s no time like the present to start. And if you’re looking for some lesson ideas or resources to help get you started, be sure to check out this Music Reading Series that features no-prep “Take it Home” pages.

Remember, building music advocacy and literacy is a gradual process that takes time and consistency. So don’t wait until next semester or next year to get started. Begin today and take those small steps every day towards greater success in music education.

Let’s get started!

FREE Music Literacy Resources

Looking for a few free resources to get started on your path to elementary music literacy? Subscribe to our email list and get 5 FREE Music Reading Resources! Your first resource is a So, La, Mi Music Reading Song which includes Take Home Sheet Music Pages.

Simply click below and enter your first name and email address. Then, check your inbox for your first freebie. It’s that easy. 😊

Build Your Community

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

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.

More Ways to Connect – Instagram, Facebook, YouTube.

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