Strategies for Teaching Music to High School Students

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.

In this lesson, we discuss strategies for teaching music education in a high school setting, including both curriculum development strategies and instruction strategies.

Music and 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 improve test scores and increase a student's creativity.

Did you know March is Music in our Schools Month (MIOSM) each year? Sponsored by the National Association for Music Education (NAFME), this celebration allows many ways for a high school teacher to become involved. These include:

  • Activities
  • Concerts
  • Lessons
  • Sing-alongs
  • Special performances

Many high school music teachers emphasize the importance of reading sheet music

Curriculum Development Strategies

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

The six-step teaching strategy goes as follows:

  • Play excerpts of less than one minute of current song favorites that the students recognize. Have some students describe appropriate dance steps (or even demonstrate them).
  • Lead a discussion on the differences in the music including how city and country persons may view music differently. This would include:
    • Articulation
    • Harmony
    • Melody
    • Rhythm
    • Tempo
  • Lead another discussion contrasting these forms of music.
  • Lead a discussion describing how all these various forms of music originated.
  • Replay the music and have students describe dance movements for each type.
  • Now play excerpts of less than one minute of Native American, classical, or Broadway music.

Later the students can be quizzed to see if they can identify and differentiate each form of music, and they may even be original and create and choreograph their own dance or write their own sheet music.

Instruction Strategies

Online Resources

High school students now use the internet to connect music to their world

Of course, in the internet age, high school teachers have turned to online tools such as Music Prodigy, Practice First, and SmartMusic software as their primary instruction strategy. Many music teachers are impressed by the benefits of these technologies. In fact, this is the wave of the future for many music instructors and is their main method of teaching. For instance, SmartMusic allows the student to slow down or speed up as need be while practicing. The programs also provide a sort of instant biofeedback as to whether the student is on pitch or in rhythm.

Needless to say, there are a myriad of apps the students can access as well. For example, Music Monitor is an app that allows a student to save a particular practice session. Then she can either send it to her teacher or save it to review later.

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

The American School Band Director Association (ASBDA) was founded in 1953 and has a mission of promoting quality band instruction. Members can access a national newsletter online, as well as special award certificates to deserving students.

The educator must show patience when teaching the proper way to play a chord

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