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Strategies for Teaching Music to High School Students

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Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Music can offer positive benefits to students by improving different areas of their lives. Explore different strategies for teaching music to high school students and learn how to develop a curriculum, use online tools for teaching music, and accommodate students with special needs. Updated: 01/04/2022

Music in High School

Have you heard that teaching music to students can enhance other areas of their lives as well? Some studies even suggest it can enhance a student's creativity and improve test scores.

That's why the National Association for Music Education (NAFME) sponsors Music in our Schools Month (MIOSM) every year in March. This celebration provides a variety of opportunities for a high school teacher to become involved, including:

  • activities
  • concerts
  • lessons
  • sing-alongs, and
  • special performances

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  • 0:04 Music in High School
  • 0:41 Curriculum Development
  • 2:04 Online Tools & Software
  • 3:27 Special Education
  • 4:05 Lesson Summary
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Curriculum Development

One increasingly popular curriculum development strategy for teaching high school music is to blend modern popular music like country and western or hip-hop with old standards such as classical or even Native American music. This allows students to not only to hear the music but also to immerse themselves in the culture of the people.

The six-step teaching strategy is as follows:

  1. Play excerpts of less than one minute of current song favorites that the students recognize; have some students describe or demonstrate appropriate dance steps.

  2. Discuss the differences in the music, including how people living in the city and country may respond to the music, including its articulation, harmony, rhythm, and tempo.

  3. Lead a second discussion contrasting these forms of music.

  4. Lead another discussion about where these various forms of music originated.

  5. Replay the music and have students discuss and demonstrate the dance movements for each type.

  6. Play excerpts of less than one minute of Native American, Broadway, or classical music.

Afterwards, quiz students to see if they can identify and differentiate each form of music. Or, ask them to create and choreograph their own dance or write their own sheet music.

Online Tools & Software

As their primary instructional strategy, high school teachers have turned to online tools such as Music Prodigy, Practice First, and SmartMusic software. For instance, SmartMusic allows the student to slow down or speed up as need be while practicing and provides a sort of instant biofeedback as to whether the student is on pitch or in rhythm.

One teacher in Kentucky found the SmartMusic software to be an invaluable resource. For example, are you aware that most music students love practicing their scales about as much as most math students enjoy practicing their times' tables? Well, she found that one of her students who hated scales loved using the software. The software allowed the student to see how many notes he played correctly, and the teacher received feedback on how many times the student practiced.

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