Part Two – 10 More Tips to Make Teaching Music to Children More Effective
Whatever subject we teach, one of our main goals as teachers is to make our teaching effective. If your teaching is less effective, it can make you feel exhausted and unmotivated. Nobody wants to go through a challenging career in these circumstances. By learning to teach effectively you can go home from work at the end of every day feeling fulfilled. As you watch your students blossom with new skills and knowledge, you’ll feel rewarded. Your hard work will pay off.
Did you read our first article "Ten tips to make teaching music to children more effective"? In this article we offer ten more tips on this important topic. These tips cover areas like how you cope with difficulties, the resources you use, and the systems you have in place. They are all designed to help you make your music teaching more effective.
Before you can begin to make your music teaching more effective, you need to understand what effective teaching means. Whether you follow a standard definition or come up with your own version of effective music teaching, it is important to have a starting point.
“Effective” can be defined as successful in producing a desire or intended result. You need to have a clear idea of what your intended results are. You also need a way of mapping your progress as you move towards those results.
So, make lists of what you consider effective in terms of your own teaching and your intended results. If you achieve your teaching goals, then you have succeeded in teaching effectively.
2. Remember that Music is Different to Other Subjects
Music is different in so many ways to subjects such as English, history, math, and geography. Music requires different resources. It can be assessed in different ways. And, of course, it makes a lot more noise! Many music teachers feel that their school administration treats music like any other subject. This can make your music teaching less effective.
One possible solution to this issue is to make it double-clear that music is different. Show your school administration the impact of quality music classes on the students. Regular school performances are a great way to do this. Even arranging a short assembly performance will show the principal that music contributes to the school.
Do you feel that music is a threatened subject at your school? If so, there is plenty of research that you can use to present a case for the continued support of a quality music curriculum.
3. Teach them Music they Already Love
Captivate your students by teaching them to play the music they already know and love. As a school subject, music sometimes has a reputation for being all about “boring” classical music. But, as we all know, there is plenty of good teaching material in other genres of music including popular music.
With YouTube and Spotify, young people now have more access to music than ever before. Combine this with phones and cheap data packages and you might well find that your students are keen listeners to music. Make the effort to find out which songs your students are listening to right now.
Look for educational apps and resources that cover popular music genres. You can use these to teach your students all about the music they love to listen to. Solfeg.io enables you to teach vocals, piano, guitar, bass guitar and ukulele for a wide range of songs. Students can use the app to practice at home as well as in class. They will be thrilled to play the songs they usually listen to!
4. Maximize your Resources even if you’re on a Cart
As school budgets tighten, more music teachers are being pushed out of music classrooms and on to carts. Most teachers are used to having a room to fill with wonderful music resources. So squeezing everything onto a cart that you push from room to room can make you feel particularly devalued.
Make your cart into the best teaching machine with some careful planning to maximize this limited space. Good carts have space for a full keyboard, laptop and speakers. You don’t want to waste time setting up equipment at the beginning of every lesson. Organize your cables so you can plug in and get started quickly. If you can’t access a smartboard in every classroom, consider adding a projector to your cart, which connects to your laptop.
Choose small instruments that can be played by the different age groups you teach. These could be Orff instruments, boomwhackers, recorders/ocarinas, or percussion. Encourage your students to bring their own instruments from home. This is a great way to have a wider range of instruments available while lightening your load.
5. Digital is your New Best Friend
Another way to deal with the increasing lack of space in schools is to go digital. There are so many digital music resources available to teachers. It makes sense to use some of these resources as part of your teaching.
If there is no space for keyboards in your school, use a virtual keyboard in an app. Virtual Piano works on a computer keyboard. Or if you have iPads in school try Virtual Piano +. These apps take up no space and enable you to teach the basics of piano with very limited resources.
Another way to save space is to go digital with your sheet music. There are plenty of educational apps designed to teach songs. These apps include full notation and studio-quality recordings of the songs. Students can learn step by step and play along. Solfeg.io goes further with its chord visualization feature for piano, guitar, ukulele and bass. Students can play along while seeing how to play the chords of the song in real time. Or they can stop the song and try out the chords more slowly. Solfeg.io also has other great features. These include a complete range of minus one settings, a metronome track for every song and the ability to raise or lower the tempo.
6. Track your Teaching and Learning Goals
Your goals could be a successful end-of-semester performance or concert. Or perhaps you want every student to master four basic chords on the ukulele. To teach effectively it is important to know exactly what your goals are, and then map your path to reach them.
Include yourself as a teacher in your goals. Looking after yourself aids effective teaching. One of your goals could be to get through a day without feeling exhausted. Or perhaps you want to practice good discipline strategies. Teaching effectively isn’t just about the students. It is also about you as a teacher and how you cope with the demands of this career.
Keep notes of how you are making progress in moving towards your goals. This will help you to learn from your mistakes. You’ll also be able to look back and see how the whole journey towards your goals came together.
7. Engage in Age Appropriate Teaching
As music teachers we are likely to be teaching a wide range of students, often covering the whole school. Other teachers do not necessarily cover such a wide age range. It takes extra thought and care to prepare age appropriate lessons for every grade.
One approach is to take a cross-curricular view at what each grade is covering in their other subjects. You can take ideas and inspiration from this. It will help you to pitch your lesson plans at the right level. Always look back at what each grade did in music last year. Consider how you can help them to move forward and achieve a higher level of ability in music this year.
8. Have Systems to Deal with Poor Classroom Behavior
How does your school deal with discipline issues? If you don’t know the answer to that question, you should find out. Most schools have a clear system for dealing with poor behavior. Working with this current system will be the easiest way for you to deal with discipline issues. But sometimes the existing system is inadequate. In this situation consider talking to your principal and making suggestions on how to improve it.
If this is not possible, you can create your own system in the music classroom. This could be a traffic light system. Students start on green at the beginning of a class and move to yellow and then red when they exhibit poor behavior. Or it could be a system of warnings before being asked to leave the classroom. Make sure the students understand your system.
Some aspects of discipline are different in music compared to other classes. For example, playing a musical instrument inappropriately (like using drumsticks on a piano keyboard) is unacceptable. Talking while other students are performing is also impolite. Teaching children how to behave in the music classroom will help them in future. These skills will be valuable elsewhere in their lives. It will also make your life easier when it’s time for a school concert.
9. Let the Students Choose What to Learn
When you’re approaching the end of the school year, it can be good to relax a bit and let your students choose what to learn. By this time, you will have already covered a lot of material. Students will have an idea of the possibilities on offer, such as music games, songs or class instruments.
Brainstorm with your students to come up with a list of possible ideas. Then, at the end of the class, use a random number generator to select a number from the list and plan this activity for the next lesson.
This is a great way to make your teaching more effective at the tiring end of the school year. Students love to feel like they have some control over the material covered. After all, they can’t complain it’s boring if they chose it themselves. Plus, you’ll still be covering relevant topics in a student-centered manner.
10. Learn from Other Teachers
There is a wealth of information out there about how to teach music. Thanks to the internet and social media, most of this information is now free and accessible wherever you are. There are two key ways you take advantage of global information resources in music teaching.
First, read articles online. You’re already reading this article so that suggests you’re off to a good start! Make the most of your reading by writing down the key takeaways from every article or blog post you read.
Second, connect with your peers. Facebook groups and other online forums are an excellent way to communicate with other music teachers. Whether they are in your district or on the other side of the world, you will find you have much in common. Compare teaching methodologies, share ideas and get inspired about how to teach more effectively!