Christine Eason's picture

At the beginning of the year, most music teachers are (hopefully) flooded with fresh and exciting ideas and new resources to teach.  Maybe you have recently attended a workshop and want to “wow” your students with all of the cool songs and instrumental arrangements that you have learned. Maybe you receive a publication such as my personal favorite, Music K-8 Magazine, chock full of fun, cute, inspirational and show-stopping songs, and you want to teach all of the them, but don’t know where to start.  You may be a beginning teacher, and lug home the back-breaking curriculum guides and pour glassy-eyed over the overwhelming amount of songs and lessons available to you and your head is still spinning.  If any of these people are you, take a deep breath and get back to the basics:  teach toward objectives NOT materials.  

One of the best choices that I ever made as an elementary music teacher was to receive my Orff Level 1 certification.  I felt like I learned how to teach for the first time during this two-week training near the coast of the North Carolina.  I fell in love with music again and finally understood in a way that college did not fully prepare me, how people, especially children learn new things.  The Orff process has three steps:Imitation-Exploration-Improvisation.  Similar to Bloom’s Taxonomy, but much simpler.  Children need to see any new skill and watch a master teacher demonstrate the correct way to do it.  Then they need to simply imitate or match the demonstration. Ex. “Do what I am doing.”  Next, they need opportunities to experiment and room to make mistakes.  Finally, once they have learned the skill, they need freedom to create in their own way with this new skill.  It sounds complex but it is not if you focus on the objectives.  

So it’s Fall and you want to do some songs about Autumn, apples, leaves, squirrels and Thanksgiving turkeys.  Slow down and think about your objectives.  Ask yourself the following questions:  Why am I teaching this?  What skill or element of music will the students learn from this song?  What are my objectives?  If my principal walked in and asked me why I was teaching this, what would my answer be?  

Now, does that mean no fun activities?  No songs about pumpkins and caramel apples?  No way!  Just make sure that you integrate the skill or objective that you are trying to teach as part of your lesson.  Example:  I teach second graders a song called The Apple Song from Music K-8 Magazine, vol. 14 no. 1, and it is all about the different varieties of apples.  But my real objective is rhythm.  Once the kids have learned the vocabulary [observe/imitate], they will use the apple names to create their own apple name rhythms [exploration/improvisation].  Later we will write them in music notation [music notation/literacy]  See where I am going?  There is great freedom in keeping things simple.  Know your objective and stick to it!