When I first began teaching elementary general music, I realized quickly that there was a misconception that an elementary music program consisted of playing “fun” musical instruments, singing songs, dancing around the music room, and preparing for concerts. Every elementary music educator will tell you that their elementary music curriculum consists of so much more, including achieving all of the National Association for Music Education’s (NAfME) nine national standards; meeting individual state educational standards; creating a musical atmosphere where students experience success; and teaching numerous basic musical concepts. An elementary music educator intricately plans goals and outcomes for each lesson every day in order to produce a successful and musical learning experience for students. In addition, he/she integrates core subjects while keeping the musical concepts intact.
The challenge lies in how best to communicate this to administration, parents and the community.
Utilizing Technology to Showcase Your Curriculum
Many schools require their educators to maintain a webpage to showcase their classroom. This is an excellent opportunity for elementary music educators to promote their curriculum and classroom activities. Some important items to include on a music classroom webpage are:
Goals/Standards: Goals/Standards that the students will be reaching throughout the year.
Events: Events and rehearsals that will occur throughout the school year.
Dress: Concert dress code
Students’ Works: Display students’ musical creations through pdf files, audio files, or video files.
Expectations: Reference your expectations on your website and refer to them when you present a progress report for each child.
Downloads: A downloads section for permission slips, newsletters, etc that parents would need hard copies.
Music: You can display sheet music if you are not infringing on any copyright laws.
Accompaniment Files: You can display accompaniment files for students to practice along if you are not infringing on any copyright laws.
Links: Display websites and other links that would be beneficial to the students’ progress. Mention that these links are to third-party websites where you cannot control the site’s content, i.e. advertisements, etc.
News: At least twice a month, update this section with current activities taking place in your music classroom.
Photos: A photo gallery of students learning in your music classroom, if you have the school’s permission to post student photos.
If your school does not offer a program to set up your website, Wikispaces is very user-friendly. You can make a protected page that can be seen by all, but can only be edited by you. I have used this in my summer graduate courses and all of the music educators have been able to successfully set up a music website using wikispaces. If you feel that parents will not check your website, I have sent a bulk email to parents with a short note and a link for them to check the music website for the most current updates. Some examples of elementary music educators’ websites are:
http://mrsmuench.com/ - Brenda Muench is a Kindergarten through third grade music educator. Her website is amazing as it not only keeps parents and students informed and showcases their works but, as a music educator, you can find numerous ideas for your classroom by going through this site.
http://www.klsriley.com/ - Kelly Riley is an elementary music educator in Ohio. Her website has separate sections for students and for parents. It is nicely geared for both audiences and gives a clear definition of her classroom.
Recording Your Students’ Musical Creations onto a CD:
Though my younger elementary students are tech-savvy and can run my iPod and iPad better than I can, they still love to hear their own musical creations on CD. When I assign my students to compose or create musical pieces and then record them onto a classroom compilation CD, my students adore taking the CD home and asking their parents to listen to their songs. Many times I will hear from parents about these CDs because their child was so proud of his/her piece and asked to listen to it at least ten times in a row. Here’s an example of a grade 2 project that results in a CD:
Use Finale Notepad or Noteflight and create a four-measure composition with one note.
Group the students and have them work together to change the notes to the notes you chose that they could use. My second graders are using the notes to a C pentatonic scale.
Once they have composed their song, ask them to title their compositions and type their names onto the score.
Export their composition as a .mid (MIDI) file and open it up in GarageBand or Mixcraft for PC.
In GarageBand, assign the students a style to create an accompaniment for the melody they wrote. I guide them to use a drum, guitar and bass as the accompaniment.
Once they have listened to it and like it, save the song, share it to iTunes, create a playlist in iTunes, and share all of the groups’ songs to this playlist.
Once this is complete, burn the compilation onto a CD and burn a copy for each student. Although this takes time, it is well worth it because when the parents receive the CD, they have a portion of your curriculum in their hands.
In my blog, I wrote a post about New Year’s resolutions where I resolved to communicate more with my parents. We all communicate with the parents when there are concerns or issues in the classroom, but how often do we communicate when our students do something positive? I am now a parent of a pre-schooler and she had a rough transition at the beginning of the school year. My heart would sink when I got a call or a note that described the difficult day she had. However, she worked through it and I now receive very positive notes. As a parent, these positive notes mean the world to me. This year, I am making more of an effort to email parents when their children do something very positive in music class. When I have done this, I have received emails back from parents with responses ranging from “Thank you Mrs. Burns! This made my day,” to “Wow! I am so proud of my child!”
I hope that these suggestions encourage you to showcase your elementary music curriculum so that administration, parents, and the community take more notice of all of the wonderful things you are accomplishing in your elementary music classroom. Communication is the key to a healthy music education program as it strengthens and protects the program so that students now and in the future can benefit from music in the schools.
-- Amy M. Burns is an elementary music educator, clinician, author, parent and musician. She teaches pre-K through grade 3 general music, grade 5 instrumental music and grades 4-8 instrumental band at Far Hills Country Day School, NJ. Learn more about technology integration in the classroom at http://www.amymburns.com