Developing Music Literacy | Sequential Lessons

Just like learning to read and write language, developing music literacy requires sequential lessons which build on prior learning. Current elementary music textbooks do a good job of providing quality repertoire but they do not have any kind of sequential curriculum to teach music reading. At best, music reading skills are addressed in a haphazard fashion.

Beginning band and string method books do a great job of introducing elements logically and sequentially. Instrumental method books provide guided practice to build skills and proficiency before additional elements are introduced. The sequence is logical and elements build one upon another.

Developing Music Literacy in the Elementary Music Classroom | Sequential Lessons

During the early days of music education in the elementary schools, often there wasn’t even a written curriculum and many teachers didn’t know where to start. The implementation of  the Kodály method with sequential lessons building one upon another has made a huge impact on elementary music education in the United States.

However, not all of our universities and colleges are giving their graduates a strong background in Kodály, Orff, Dalcroze, or any of the other elementary music methodologies. In addition, many elementary music teachers did not originally plan on teaching at the elementary level and they find themselves unprepared to help their students develop music literacy skills.

Kodály Method Provides Sequential Lessons Which Build on Prior Learning

If you are not familiar with the Kodály approach, the Organization of American Kodály Educators (OAKE) provides a great simple, succinct summary of the Kodály concept.  Here, I will simply say the foundation of the Kodály approach is singing which should be taught in a natural environment as a child would learn to speak.

The repertoire consists of high-quality folk songs (my favorite genre) taught in a playful manner using games and engaging activities. The foundation of the Kodály method is carefully crafted, sequential lessons that build on prior learning.  One of the main tools of the  Kodály method is solfege.

Movable Do

Kodály was a proponent of teaching movable Do. Even today many teachers shy away from teaching movable Do because they lack the time to prepare lessons and ready-made classroom resources are not easy to find. When you consistently teach movable Do in the elementary grades, key changes become commonplace. Thus, playing in various keys is not “scary” when students are learning to play instruments.

Kodály Resources

The Kodály Center – The American Folk Song Collection hosted by Holy Names University is a fabulous FREE resource for finding Kodály songs & games. Search their collection of over 500 folk songs.

If you are considering building your library of Kodály resources, check out a few of these American standards below.

There are MANY more books available to expand your Kodály knowledge base and repertoire but these are a few of the staples.

The Kodály method provides a great template for sequential learning while teaching beginning rhythm using stick dictation. Check out this post for more thoughts on beginning rhythm reading with young children, stick notation vs. standard notation.

Develop a Plan

Developing music literacy in the elementary grades does not happen by accident. It requires sequential lessons that build on prior learning. If you use PowerPoint projectable lessons and you do not have time to create all of your own, check out some of the NO-PREP resources below. These music reading songs and activities are available in bundles or separate lessons.

More Music Literacy Bundles Coming Soon.


It takes time to build students’ music literacy skills. And, performance-based music activities and games make learning FUN. Develop a plan to make time to Integrate FUN Music Reading Activities into Every Lesson.

Pin for Later Reference

8 thoughts on “Developing Music Literacy | Sequential Lessons

Share your thoughts . . . .