Music Room Ramblings

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Be Careful! Don't Throw the Baby Out with the Bath Water!

Textbooks & CDs—Keep or Toss?

Many new teachers walk into their first music classroom and are confronted with a collection of textbooks and CDs (maybe even LPs and cassette tapes). The dilemma is—what to do with these?

Warning! I'm old school. Well, let's just say, I'm old. And retired. But I used the books and CDs long before iPods, and actually long before CDs.

Yep, I used records. For those of you who are not familiar, those are the black circuluar vinyl disks that are put on another circular contraption that goes 'round and 'round when turned on called a turntable and you pull an arm thing over that has a needle on it so it will play. Imagine that?!! 


I moved right along with progress and was the first in our school to have and use a computer. A little Apple Plus, I think. After that, I was thrilled when the iPod came out, purchased one, and immediately loaded all the CDs into iTunes and used a very nice Bose speaker doc and remote (most of which I paid for myself). I had a SmartBoard, projector, and all the bells and whistles. 


But, I always used the books. I feel it's very important for children to have their very own book in
class, in a well-lit room (not darkened to see the screen). They can learn how to follow the lyrics to a song which is so different from how they are learning to read in their gen ed classroom. Second graders are very excited about their reading skills and love showing you. They learn how to find measures and notes, rhythm patterns, with their fingers/eyes and show me while I walked around the room. I knew who was understanding and who was not. 

Peers helped each other. They could find the Table of Contents and the Glossary. They learned how to use the Index. They pointed out the meter signature and also the key signatures. By the end of 2nd grade, I could say, "Raise your hand if you can tell me the kind of note, third measure, second line." And hands would shoot up all over the room. 

There was one song in particular, "Stoopin' on the Window," for 2nd graders. There was a wonderful piece of art on the facing page. I would give the students 60 seconds to study the painting and then close their books. I asked a series of questions—What time of day was it in the painting? Season of the year? Day of the week? Present day, future, or past? What kind of neighborhood? City, country, or suburb? Great activity. If they had been looking at the screen, in the dark, their engagement would not have been nearly as good because you lose momentum, walking back and forth to turn the lights on/off. After that discussion, I would say, "Open your books and let's see if we got it right!" Then we learned the song and played "Wind the Ball." (I wrote up the activity and have provided links for the artwork. This is a great activity for teacher evaluation because it addresses so many standards, questioning, and integrating the arts.)

This is a great example of using the books and putting your own spin on what is there. That idea just came to me during one class and it was so successful and took the students to another level of using HOTS that I repeated it every year. The music on the CD is great for "winding the ball" which I learned in a workshop.

I did not use the books every class and only grades 2-4. I used the Big Books for K-1st. The people who publish these textbooks have done the research, know the standards, and put together a wealth of material for music teachers in a sequential and age-appropriate plan. As a new teacher, many moons ago, I was so thankful to have a great, solid plan at my fingertips and did not have to reinvent the wheel. As I gained confidence and experience, I was able to plug in other resources but still maintain the correct sequence.


I also used the CDs. LOTS! Every class. I also used the records when I first began and boy, was that a pain to organize. And then went to cassettes. But the music is high quality, for the most part. Using the CDs will save wear and tear on your voice. Elementary music teachers find themselves singing and instructing 5-6 hours every day and vocal problems happen frequently because of this.

As I said, the iPod was the invention of the century for me. It took a while to load everything but oh, my goodness, was a wonderful change to my classroom.

Using recorded music, in whatever form, allows you to move with the students instead of standing behind the piano playing. You will be able to listen to their singing while exposing them constantly to the correct sound of the child's singing voice. Songs are in their range. I am an alto and many times could not sing the higher notes. 

So I loved having the CDs to help teach songs. And now there are so many songs from the many cultures in our communities, in native languages. I will never forget the child whose face lit up when I played a song from her country and in the language spoken in her home. I asked her to tell her class what the words meant and to help me teach the song to them. What a wonderful experience for everyone!

Advice from someone who's been there . . . 

Eventually you'll develop your own method and personality in the classroom but lean on what has already been provided. You will reduce your stress and you can be assured that your students are receiving a good foundation. 

Many people don't have what you have and have to start from scratch. If you have a set or even more than one set, you're very lucky. Take advantage!!

Final Words . . .

My students loved my class. We danced, moved listened, analyzed, created, composed, improvised, etc. I had my own standards before there were Standards—LOL! I had computer stations around the room for special days, small group projects, and Free Choice days. But I used the books! I think it's very important to teach children to love books, ALL kinds of books.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your insight, experience, clear explanations and high standards for teaching!