Music Room Ramblings

Monday, July 31, 2017

YIKES! Got a New Job . . . First Day!! Now What Do I Do?

Yep! You gotta write those lesson plans.

After 30 years, I never went into the classroom, "winging it." NEVER!! Teaching without plans? Recipe for disaster!

Ah, but the ones I wrote for that darn methods class are not very practical for the classroom. You know, Really? Four pages, explaining why I'm doing what I'm doing. And I can't even quickly find WHAT I'm supposed to be doing! 

So, how do you do it? And make it look so easy?

Great question!

Where to start?


Your plans must be based on the standards. Your district should have those available for you. If not, check your state's department of education website. Now, most of the music textbooks include the standards in their lessons. But you still should be posting these in your room as well as the Student Performance Indicators (SPIs).

At the top of each grade level lesson plan, I created a box where I put the standards that I was covering during the 9-week grading period. I used red to indicate which ones would be addressed in that lesson and black for the ones I still needed to work on. Sometimes I even used blue for the ones to be assessed that day. Administrators were very impressed but I did this for myself—accountability.

Pacing Guide

Our district has a very thorough Pacing Guide based on the Standards. However, there were certain things listed in our district's Pacing Guide that my students were not ready for. As long as you can explain that to your principal (should you be asked, which you probably never will be), you'll be fine.

For example, when I taught at a school in the suburbs where families were upper middle class, the students were exposed to more music at home before coming to school. I was able to teach sol-mi, sol-la-sol-mi, and mi-re-do in kindergarten. When I moved to an inner-city school where 99% of the students were on free-and-reduced lunch and from low income families, I had to eliminate mi-re-do from my expectations for K and bumped that melodic pattern to 1st grade. It wasn't because they were unable to sing/sign the pattern. They could. But I made the decision that these children needed a good solid year of matching pitch using sol-mi-la before moving on.

Elements of Music

As music teachers, it's our responsibility to provide a solid, sequential music education for our students. We use age-appropriate skills to teach the elements of music—

Melody, Rhythm, Harmony, Form, Expression

Skills Used to Teach the Elements

A good rule of thumb to follow is to incorporate the following skills into every lesson plan. It's not always possible, but you probably are doing it automatically without realizing what you're doing. It just helps to be able to verbalize, label, and know what you are doing and why.
  • Singing
  • Movement
  • Playing Instruments
  • Creating
  • Reading Music
  • Listening
  • Analyzing 



Create a lesson plan template using Word or your favorite word processing program. Write your first lesson plan, tweak after you've used it, and then "SAVE AS" and start writing Lesson 2! Then next year it won't be so hard.

Number your activities and songs. I used bold face so I could quickly glance and see what was next. The page numbers and CD locations were against the right margin so I again, could glance quickly and find them without losing the students' attention. Finally, a brief description of what the students were to do, what I was going to say, etc. followed each selection.

The minute you hesitate, fumble through papers, or seem unsure, that's when the class will take over for you. And it usually is not pretty!



Your district may already have provided you with curriculum, books, CDs, and other resources. If you are a first-year teacher, PLEASE do not try to reinvent the wheel! The people who write these textbooks are very intelligent people who have done the research and know what your students and in what sequence. Really!

Follow the books. They have the lessons already done for you. Read as much as you can and be prepared when you go into the classroom. Learn the songs. As you gain experience, you'll begin substituting material and developing your own "personality" in the classroom based on what you enjoy teaching.


Keep everyone informed. Post a copy of your lesson plans outside your door. I attached an envelope to the wall right beside my door with the lesson plans inside. I also had a note on the envelope—"Welcome to Music Class! Please enter our room quietly to observe. If you need to speak to the teacher and it's not an emergency, please wait until after class or if an emergency, indicate by calmly saying, "Excuse me, Ms. Aston, but may I speak with you for a moment."

I did that to eliminate unnecessary interruptions. It's difficult to maintain children's attention, especially younger children, and even more difficult to regain the momentum of a wonderful activity after an interruption. Guard your time with your students!! It's precious!

    A few more tips—

    • Pace yourself. 

    • Keep water handy all day and use recordings to save your voice. When you do lose your voice (not, "if"), gargle with apple cider vinegar. It's nasty but it works!

    • When planning a playing activity using barred instruments, plan for several grades and keep the songs in the same key. Then you won't be frantically trying to switch the bars for each class.
    That's all I can think of for now. I hope that helps. Take a deep breath and RELAX!!!!!

    You can do this!! You are going to be fine!


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