We’re back at it again with a list of books for your elementary music library! This time, the focus is on books that feature stories from music history. These books are great for introducing composers/events to students, and can also be extensions to concepts you are already using in your classroom.
I’m passionate about music history, and all of its weird, exciting twists and turns. I hope this list will ignite that passion in you and your students, as well!
These books are great for in-person class, but also for distance learning. All of these can be used as read-alouds for a virtual class meeting, and each can inspire various stimulating music-related assignments/activities for your students.
Some lesson ideas are included with each book description below. No matter what situation you find yourself in, these five books belong in your classroom!
1. When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky, Lauren Stringer
I will admit, I have a personal soft spot for Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The dissonance, the rhythms, the story, it’s all so captivating! This book really highlights the exciting parts about both the music and the choreography of the infamous 1913 ballet.
Upper elementary students love the idea of a riot (at a ballet, of all places!) and you can use that excitement to jump into discussions on syncopation, dissonant chords, and many other musical concepts!
2. Saint-Saens' Danse Macabre, Anna Harwell Celenza
The music of Danse Macabre on its own is absolutely fantastic. When accompanied by this book, my students loved it even more! It follows Camille Saint-Saens as he is inspired to write the ghoulish music.
It is a great book to use around Halloween time, or any time you are wanting to discuss imagery in music, different roles that instruments play in a piece, or ¾ time!
3. A Band of Angels, Deborah Hopkinson
This is a beautiful book that follows the story of the Jubilee Singers, a group of African American singers, who were also former slaves, who toured the United States to raise money to keep their college open.
It introduces real slave spirituals, including “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” The author brings us along on their journey of hardship and shows us how the singers triumph through the power of music.
Many teachers use this book during Black History Month, but it would also be a great book for introducing or expanding upon the idea of call and response and other concepts related to spirituals.
4. Bach's Goldberg Variations, Anna Harwell Celenza
This book is full of rich vocabulary for all levels of your elementary classes! The story follows young Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, and how he came to live with Count Keyserlingk and take lessons from J.S. Bach.
What I love about this book is that it is rich with concepts and history, while still being accessible to elementary students. Some of the concepts addressed are canons, arias, and variations.
It also includes a more detailed history of the Goldberg Variations at the very end, in case you or your students are interested in learning more!
5. Do, Re, Mi: If you Can Read This, Thank Guido D'Arezzo, Susan L. Roth
This is one book that my students absolutely love! The art style is unique and the story is engaging. It follows Guido D’Arezzo from when he was a young boy with a dream all the way through adulthood.
The book also explores how his idea of musical notation was not accepted at first, which can be a powerful lesson about perseverance for your students. It can be used for all levels of elementary, and is a great starting point for discussing musical notation and literacy.
I hope you found something new in this list to bring to your classrooms! Music history is a subject often pushed to the side in favor of other aspects of music, which is completely understandable.
On the other hand, delving into music history can give students a new perspective on the music they are listening to, and can develop a deeper appreciation for the art of music. What could be better than that?
This post may contain affiliate links. I will receive a small commission on any purchases through these links, but there is no cost passed on to you! Affiliate links help keep the lights on!
This article was submitted by Rachel Ammons, contributing author for ThatMusicTeacher.com. Interested in becoming a contributing author? Email resume and writing sample to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations! You’ve just received that long-awaited job offer you worked so hard for! Now that the offer has finally come, you can hardly contain your excitement -- and for good reason! You are about to enter one of the most fulfilling career fields out there.
But now that you have the job offer in hand… What do you do?
Don’t worry, friend! It’s normal to feel all different types of emotions once you’ve landed an elementary music job. Excitement! Nervousness... Joy! Anxiety... Those are all totally normal, I promise you!
Once you’ve worked your way through the extremes of your emotional rollercoaster, take a look at these recommendations for what to do next:
1. Take care of the paperwork
This one may seem obvious, but make sure you take care of all of the HR/business stuff before you do anything else. Talk to your HR person about the details of your contract, how to get enrolled in insurance benefits, and anything else you may have questions about. They’re there to help, so don’t feel bad about asking questions!
2. Check out your new room!
You have your very own music room now! Whether this is your first job, or you’re coming here from another school, this is one of the most exciting parts! When I first got my job, I couldn’t WAIT to be in my space.
I got a feeling of where my desk was going to be, what kind of storage space I had, and what supplies were already in there. It helped give me an idea of what I had on hand so that I could start lesson planning right away! (After all, it’s hard to do a ukulele unit without ukuleles!) And speaking of instruments...
3. Take inventory
If you’re lucky, this part may have already been done for you. (Even so, I recommend double checking it just in case!) See what types of instruments you have, and what kind of condition they’re in. Do they need cleaning or repairs? Better to take care of that stuff now instead of later when you’ll need them!
Also, I recommend making an inventory of any books or other resources you have in your room. I made myself a spreadsheet of all the books I have, and it has come in handy so many times!
4. Think about your routines
Try to picture what your day is going to be like. What is your schedule? When is your lunch? Not only that, also start thinking about routines for your classes. For example, I start each of my classes with some sort of mindfulness or focus activity and I end my lessons with a recap/cool down activity.
How do you envision your lessons? It’s okay to not have all the answers yet, but definitely start thinking about it!
5. Take a breath and celebrate
You’ve got this! You did the work. You aced the interview. You got the job! Even though there are a lot of things to think about and plan for, please take comfort in the fact that you are now part of one of the most supportive career fields out there.
You have the opportunity to impact the lives of wonderful kids through the power of music! Take some time tonight to celebrate this amazing accomplishment - you’ve earned it!
Congratulations again, music teacher friend! You are going to be amazing! Whether you’ve been in this field for your entire adult life, or this is your first teaching position, a new job is an exciting time in a person’s life. That excitement can also be coupled with a lot of questions and uncertainty.
Want to make sure you start the year off on the right foot? Register for a FREE webinar all about starting the year off strong!
If you’re looking for a community of elementary music teachers who will help and support you every step of the way, you should join the General Music Mastermind group on Facebook! Can’t wait to see you there!
This article was submitted by Rachel Ammons, contributing author for ThatMusicTeacher.com. Interested in becoming a contributing author? Email resume and writing sample to email@example.com.
Let’s face it. We’ve all gotten some pretty terrible advice for how to teach elementary music. On top of that, the majority of this advice is entirely unsolicited.
I asked a group of elementary music teachers on Facebook to share some of the worst advice they’ve ever received, and let’s just say that some of these are pretty… special, to say the least.
1. "The students are only misbehaving because they don't like what you're teaching."
This isn’t necessarily the case. This might be my time in special education showing, but it's often important to think about the function of the behavior we are seeing in our classroom. On top of this, I think we as educators really need to think about what types of emotional baggage our students are bringing with them.
Sometimes a student is acting out because they don’t get attention at home. Sometimes it comes down to a student trying to emotionally cope with an upcoming change. Sure, sometimes a kid is just being disruptive. But I would argue that more often than not, our students act out for a deeper reason.
2. “The ultimate goal of music education is for children to read music.”
I just have to say that I strongly disagree with this. The goal of music education (at least in my classroom) is to create lifelong lovers and participants of music. Reading music might help in this, but it’s not the goal.
Don’t get me wrong, reading music is important. It’s just not everything. Plenty of popular professional musicians and artists don’t know how to read music. Being able to read music is definitely something we should be teaching our students, but I believe that it should be as a tool to experience music.
3. "You're wasting your talent teaching elementary school."
Yeah. That’s not how this works. You wouldn’t call a pediatrician any less of a doctor because they work with younger kiddos. They’ve just decided to specialize in that field. The same is the case when it comes to elementary music teachers. We refine our craft of teaching music in the same ways that secondary educators do.
I’m not really sure where this idea came from, but teaching music at the elementary level is so important. We are often some of the first interactions a student has with music, and we have the incredible opportunity (responsibility) to allow our students to experience music in a way that creates lifelong appreciation of music.
4. “Don’t smile until Christmas.”
No. Just no.
Somewhere along the line, this phrase became a common piece of advice for new teachers. I really hope that we can agree that it’s pretty terrible advice.
You can have control of your classroom without making your students afraid of you. I would argue that students that know you genuinely care tend to be easier to manage because they want to do right by you.
Smile at your kids. Smile on the first day, the last day, and every day in between.
5. “Remember: You’re just here to give the teachers their planning period.”
This is one sentence that gets under my skin. We are not babysitters. We are not a body in a room that fulfills a contractual obligation for the homeroom teachers. We are professionals with specialized knowledge in our content area.
I’ll say it again for those in the back: we are experts in our content area. Not only that, but we have pedagogical knowledge for teaching these concepts with our students.
Remember, you are the expert music teacher in your school. Take the advice of outsiders with a grain of salt and remember that what you are doing matters. Remember that you make a difference in the lives of your students, no matter what anyone else says.
Are you trying to make this year the best one yet? Join me for a free webinar focused on making sure you start the year strong! Click here to save your spot!
For better or for worse, most states' music teacher licensure includes certification in Kindergarten through high school. While this can be incredibly helpful when it comes to job security, it comes at a cost.
For obvious reasons, most undergraduate colleges and universities try to fit their music education degrees into a four-year time frame. With so many different areas and age groups to learn about, obviously there are going to be areas that don't get focused on as much. Unfortunately, this often is the case when it comes to preparing music educators for the elementary realm.
Below are 5 things I learned while teaching elementary music that I wish I could've learned during my time earning my undergraduate degree:
1. You have to be five steps ahead.
I didn't fully understand just how important looking at things with a "big-picture" attitude was until I started trying to figure out my curricular sequence. In elementary music, you are teaching the fundamental concepts that will be used in their music education for years to come.
Being aware of prerequisite skills is something that can make or break you at the elementary level. Take it from me, it is really easy to assume that your students are able to start learning musical notation and then find out that they are still learning how to track from left to right!
2. You'll likely be creating your own curriculum.
While there is a chance your district will have a curriculum map or guide for you to follow, the reality is that you will probably be creating your own curriculum from scratch.
While we talked about learning sequences and how to make sure lessons build upon each other in undergrad, it's one thing to know that learning should be sequential and knowing what to teach when.
3. How to plan a performance without going crazy.
Performance is obviously a large part of what music is and how it is taught in the public schools these days. The thing is, sometimes we as music educators get too focused on the final product and forget about the musical moments along the way.
While I personally think that performance experiences in general music are incredibly important, I also believe that they should be stress-free and demonstrative of actually happens in our classrooms!
I wish I would've learned how to program a concert at the elementary level while I was working on my undergraduate degree. It definitely would have helped me keep my sanity during my first year of teaching.
4. Classroom management is key!
While this is true at all levels of teaching, it's incredibly important at the elementary level. If you've ever tried to get 25 Kindergartners to make a circle without killing each other, you'll understand.
I wish I would've been able to have more experience in undergrad creating a classroom management plan for the elementary. I mean, let's be honest, when you give a class of fourth graders a recorder, you want them to know when not to play.
5. Lessons take hours to plan.
It can take multiple hours of planning and researching when creating a 30 minute lesson. I know, it sounds incredibly overwhelming and impossibly unrealistic.
But if you're new to elementary music and aren't familiar with repertoire, activities, and resources, you can easily spend hours on Pinterest, in books, and online creating a new high-quality lesson.
If you're an elementary music teacher, or will be one soon, I'd like to invite you to join me for a free webinar on starting the year strong! This live webinar will set you up for success so that you can start the year on the strongest foot. Click here to register for FREE!
Don't get me wrong, I love teaching elementary music. I just wish I could've been a little bit more prepared when I came out of undergrad when it came to some of the aspects of teaching general music.
As the COVID-19 pandemic becomes all too real, many of us are transitioning to teaching remotely. This offers a serious challenge to all educators, especially music teachers.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here is a list of some of the resources that I am using in my new online "classroom."
I don't think it's a surprise to anyone that this is going to be at the top of my list for allowing students to explore music technology in my classroom and at home.
I've been using the updated version of my Chrome Music Lab Task Cards to guide my students' exploration. These cards have a Bit.ly link that take students to the experiment they need to complete each of the tasks.
2. Treble Clef & Bass Clef Worksheets
These free worksheet allows students to label the lines and spaces on the treble staff, and also create their own mnemonic device for the order of the lines and spaces!
My students always make me laugh with all of the different phrases they come up with to help them remember the order of the notes on the staff.
These reading selections are great for having your students learn about some of the great composers. Each worksheet has a set of questions to help guide the reading and comprehension of the reader.
Dice Composition is an awesome way to have students create their own rhythmic compositions.
Students roll dice to decide what rhythms to create their own eight measure compositions.
This set contains three worksheets of varying levels.
Musicplay Online is an amazing online resource for music education. This site is the creation of the amazing Denise Gagné.
What's even better is that due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, students can log in for free through July. To log in, use username "snow" and password "2020."
Let’s be honest, one of the amazing things about being a music teacher is that we get to see so many students in one school day. By doing this we are able to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of students in a single day, which if you ask me is absolutely amazing.
Unfortunately, we also need to be aware of letting one class’s behavior affect us after they’ve left our classrooms. It can be so easy to let one class put you in a funk and to carry that with you when the next class comes in for their music lesson. I’ve done it for sure. It can be hard to give each class the best of ourselves when we just got done with a particularly rough class before they entered the room.
However, for the sake of our students (as well as our own sanity), we need to make a conscious effort to start fresh at the beginning of each class and not carry the stressors from earlier in the day change the way we make music with our students.
This isn’t easy. I’ll be the first one to say that I’m sometimes not able reset. I’m definitely guilty of carrying over some stress from the previous class, and it rarely goes well.
So here are a few of the ways that I regroup between classes to make sure that I am always in a good headspace for my students.
Write Down a Positive Moment
Even in the roughest of classes, there will likely be at least a couple of moments that are positive. Maybe it's a quiet student that is finally trying to sing. Or maybe one of my students who has experienced a lot of trauma was able to make it through the entire class without needing to take a break.
Even in the worst moments, there are likely gems of magic that are happening too. Not only is this a great exercise after a particularly rough class, but it’s also an incredibly healthy way to view the class as it’s happening. I’ve found that it's a lot easier to make it through a difficult class when you are looking for the positive moments.
After the students have left and the dust has settled, take some time to think about why the lesson flopped. Had the students been testing all day? Were they not in the right headspace for what you tried to do? Was it too simple or too difficult? Did you give your students the tools they needed to be successful?
Take some time to think about whether or not anything was wrong with the lesson itself, or maybe it was just a problem in timing. Look at the entire lesson and see what was successful and what could have gone better. Take a look at the sequencing and make sure that you've given your students the tools that they need in order to have been successful with the lesson.
Take a couple of deep breaths. Take a moment of mindfulness and try to relax a little bit. If, like me, you don’t have any time between classes, you can even have your students join you.
Mindfulness is something that our students need to practice as well. If you need to take a moment and breathe and listen to music at the beginning of class to reset, then have your students join you. This can also be incredibly beneficial for our students as they transition into the music classroom.
There is a great episode of the Music Teacher Coffee Talk podcast that is all about mindfulness in the music classroom. I highly recommend giving it a listen if you want to learn more about how you can implement mindfulness into your classroom.
We've all been there: you spend an hour on a lesson and are so excited to finally get to share it with your students. You prepare all of the manipulatives and resources and jump right in with your students. Then the worst happens: the lesson completely flops.
There's nothing quite as unnerving as realizing the lesson you've worked so hard on isn't being received by your students in the way you had expected. It happens, and it stinks. It can be such a nasty blow to our confidence, and we begin to second guess everything.
Unfortunately, this is all just part of the gig. Lessons fail. Sometimes lessons fail for things that have nothing to do with you. Sometimes the deck is just stacked against you. It is what you do after the lesson that really matters.
Take some time to remember why you teach, and work as hard as you can to leave one class’s behavior stay in that class and not bleed into the next!
So you finished student teaching, and are putting applications in left and right trying to find your first teaching job. As a new graduate, you need to do everything you can to set yourself apart from the other applicants. One easy way to do this is by creating a teaching portfolio.
1. You Should Already Bring a Resume Anyway
Common sense interview etiquette includes bringing an up-to-date resume for the interview panel to read and reference during the interview.
Yes, you already submitted this with your application, but having extra copies with you not only show that you are planning ahead, but it allows your name (and experiences) to once again be right in front of the people making the decisions.
So if you already need to bring a resume, why not put in a (tiny) bit more effort and bring a music teaching portfolio that has your resume in it?
2. It Allows Your Letters of Reference to be Read Again
While members of the interview panel probably won't be reading all of your recommendation letters word-for-word, they will probably at least give it a skim.
I've had people that were interviewing me tell me that being able to see these letters of recommendation (especially if they weren't privy to them before the interview) allowed them to focus-in their questions to really get to know who I was as an educator.
3. You Get to Show Off Your Lesson Plans
You know all of those lesson plans that you made in student teaching? Yeah, the ones that hardly anyone even looked at other than you? It's time to dust them off, give them a little extra polish, and show them off!
Chances are that you already have so lesson gems in your proverbial toolbox! Now is the time to share these lessons, and the thought process behind your sequence (hint: mention that you have a sequence) and planning.
4. It Gives YOU Something to Reference
Here's a pro tip: If you are able to answer a question and refer back to your portfolio, that's a plus. It shows you have really thought ahead and aren't just pulling answers out of thin air.
This can also be really helpful if you are nervous during an interview, as you know that you have answers (and evidence supporting these answers) already prepared in your portfolio.
5. You Get to Leave Something Behind
Now I'll be the first person to say that I got some disagreement from other teachers and friends that were applying for jobs when I started to do this.
You should be leaving behind a teaching portfolio after every interview. Now you don't need to (and really shouldn't) leave one behind after one of those screening interviews, but if you are face-to-face with a principal and/or an interview panel, leave a copy.
I mean, why wouldn't you? This gives the committee something to reference back to you and your experiences, all while giving the ability to read more when they have more time after you leave. I have had someone that was on the interview committee for my current job that has told me that this totally set myself apart from the others.
Don't spend a lot of money on these portfolios. I just used one of those plastic report covers from Amazon and printed my portfolio on regular paper (in color).
If you are serious about getting a music teaching job, you truly need to make sure that you shine above the rest of the applicants.
Using a music teaching portfolio is an easy and incredibly beneficial way to make sure that you are memorable and professional.
Ready to make yours? Click here to grab your FREE music teaching portfolio template!
One of the hardest things about teaching is trying to make the most out of the instructional time we have with our students. One of the easiest ways to do this in a meaningful way is to create a scope and sequence for each grade.
Starting at the End
There's no way you are going to be able to properly sequence your lessons if you don't have a clear set of goals for each grade to meet by the end of the year.
When I was developing my overall scope, I made a list of all of the rhythmic, melodic, and other concepts that I wanted my students to be able to understand at the end of the year.
Once you've created your end goal, now it's time to work backwards. I divided a piece of paper into each of the months we are in school and then filled in things like concerts and other special things that I know happen every year.
I then worked backwards from the end of the year and filled in the concepts and composers that I wanted to teach spread out across the year.
Make sure that your sequence builds upon itself. For example, if you want your students to be able to notate the rhythm to a known song using Ta, Ti-Ti, and Quarter Rest, then you want to make sure the students are able to have time to work with just Ta and Ti-Ti before adding in a rest.
Let it Evolve
This scope and sequence will change. It'll go through many iterations as the year goes on. But that is totally fine!
You want your curriculum scope to be flexible so that it can be adjusted to better fit the needs of your students. Depending on your students, you might need more time on a specific concept than you thought. Conversely, your students might be ready to move on to the next concept sooner than planned.
This is fine. Let your scope and sequence evolve to best fit your students.
Don't try to force a sequence on your students. Instead, let the sequence ebb and flow in a way that empowers your students to be active music-makers.
A few weeks back I went live on Facebook with the amazing Katherine Miller. We shared a few of our favorite ways to use technology in the music classroom.
Are you trying to implement technology in your classroom, but don't have access to a lot of devices? Don't worry. During the free e-mail challenge, we'll share some great ways to implement technology with whatever devices you have.
There are so many apps that can be helpful for piano students in and outside of each lesson. I've tried a lot of different apps in my own experience as both a piano student and teacher, and I've gathered a few of my favorite apps that I recommend to my piano students.