Music Room Ramblings

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

4th, 5th, and 6th graders

What do you do with the older grades? I've had several people ask me for help with those grades through the years and especially for the 5th-6th graders.

Many school districts have K-5th grades in their elementary schools. Mine did not until 3-4 years ago. They added 5th grade to a few of the elementary schools. It was not successful. So now the district in Nashville is back to K-4th for elementary, 5th-8th for middle, and 9th-12th for high school.

That explains why most of my items posted on TPT are for K-4th grades. At one point,
the last 3 years that I taught, 5th grade was added to our school. But because these students were so far behind my other students due to lack of a solid music program in their school, I just used the 4th grade curriculum. There is so much in each grade level, it's impossible to include everything in one year. And that worked just fine. That's what I would recommend for any 5th grade class if there are no 5th grade books available.

I did teach 5th and 6th grade music a long time ago at my daughter's school as a volunteer. Half of these students had not had any music in their elementary school and the other half had had me. I had been volunteering to teach music to all the classes in my daughter's school since she was in kindergarten. So when she moved up to middle school, so did I. However, the other feeder schools did not have music teachers.

I discovered that 5th and 6th grade students are not very receptive to general music if they have not had it before. And, instead of the students who had music experiences rubbing off their positive attitudes on the others, it worked just the opposite.

I did not have any curriculum, CDs, instruments, or sound equipment. So I was faced with huge challenges. After personally investing in a quality boombox and some good CDs, I overcame these with two main emphases in my classes at the beginning—dance and musicals. We began by "chair" dancing. LOL Those boys who would not stand up and do anything would actually move their feet while sitting down. I never insisted that girls be partners with boys and for the most part the folk dances we did were either free-form or two double circles where the inner circle moved to a new partner in designated places in the music. There are many wonderful things you can teach through dance—form, phrase changes, tempo, beat, rhythm, etc.

Once students realized that we were going to have fun in music class, I was able to get them to do other things, like sing. That was a very difficult thing for this age student to do because not only are they very self-conscious at this age, but they had not come from a singing foundation in elementary school. That was huge! I also engaged students in small group activities and projects. If your older students have had good music experiences, then they are ready for advanced recorder, keyboard, and guitar.

The main advice I can give is to have fun at all times. You can joke, be sarcastic, and enjoy these middle school students until they realize that they don't have to take themselves so seriously all they time and participating and being in music class becomes something to look forward to.

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