Strategies for Teaching Music to Elementary Students

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  • 0:04 Music in Elementary School
  • 0:55 Curriculum & Goals
  • 1:38 Ears, Eyes & Hands On
  • 2:36 Continuity in Instruction
  • 3:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Teaching music to elementary school students can not only be exciting but also filled with challenges! This lesson offers you some strategies that will help you succeed as an elementary school music teacher.

Music in Elementary School

Have you always loved music? Whether you're interested in learning about its history and theory, listening to it, or performing it, becoming an elementary school music teacher is an exciting decision. As a music teacher, you'll help students learn to appreciate, or admire and understand, how music works. You'll also help them find themselves as emerging musicians, and teach them to critique and love music from a variety of cultures and historical periods.

Teaching music in elementary school isn't always easy. Often, you'll only meet with your students once a week, so it can be hard to develop a sense of continuity. Additionally, students might be in very different places in terms of their prior musical knowledge and willingness to engage. This lesson will give you some different strategies that will help you make the most of your job as an elementary school music teacher.

Curriculum & Goals

One of the first things you need to think about as a music teacher is how you'll plan your curriculum. To begin, make a map of the different units you'll cover over the course of the year. As you plan, think about the following general domains of musical knowledge, including:

  • Music theory and literacy
  • History and culture as they relate to music
  • Instrumental and vocal performance
  • An appreciation and critique of music

For each grade or class that you're teaching, decide on a set of goals for each of these domains. Use a curricular strategy known as backward design, or what you want your students to know by the middle and end of the year, and design your units and individual lessons accordingly.

Ears, Eyes & Hands On

In elementary school, the best way to keep your students engaged is to make sure they have plenty to do all the time. Keep in mind that some of your students may be entirely new to the world of school, and that even your oldest elementary school students are still developing self-control and regulation.

This means that as you plan each unit and lesson, you should build in as many opportunities as possible for students to be active and work with all parts of their bodies and minds. For instance:

  • Have students listen to music, instead of just talking to them about it.
  • Have students play with a variety of instruments.
  • Have students watch videos of musicians from different cultures.
  • Show pictures of historical musicians as students listen to their work.
  • Provide students with lots of opportunities to sing and dance. Ideally, they'll also benefit from and enjoy opportunities to perform.
  • If students get a little wild, build in opportunities to stretch to different kinds of music.

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