Music in an Elementary Classroom

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Resource Type: Articles | singing
Topics: Culture | Music | School | Singing

Learning can’t be all fun and games. Or can it? Well, probably not, but when it can be, why not make it that? My students don’t think of music as another class, but an organized recess in which they get to play games and sing. What could be more fun? Sing for Joy has given me so many ways to teach ear and voice training with games that my students love to play.

For example, what can be done with the droning boy (or girl) who is five steps lower than anyone else? Or how can I teach a child to feel the rhythm in a song? With funny songs, chants, and games, of course. Dr. Karyn Purvis, a child development psychologist said, “Scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain — unless it’s done with play, in which case, it takes between 10 and 20 repetitions!” Sing for Joy provides many resources to help you get started making those musical synapses. Jump in! It’s fun, and we are learning!

I would love to have a music teacher in my school who teaches my students all the complexities of music. I would love to have lots of talent as a singer and be able to teach out of my wonderful gift and knowledge. I have neither. I’m just an ordinary teacher who tries to give her students what she can with what God and others have given her.

“But I don’t have time for one more thing.” I can hear the despair in your voice. I recognize it, because I, too, teach in a real school. The ideal day and the real day are often very different. My clock and I are rivals, and we race to be first at the end of the day. Sometimes I win, but most days, it’s the clock.

So how do I squeeze in a music class to my full day? I schedule it four days a week in the last twenty minutes of the day. In these last few minutes, students are often finished with their work and winding down for the day. They tend to get loud and unruly during this time, so a few songs and games help them to move around and relax before I send them out the door to their mothers.

Now, a disclaimer. I don’t always get twenty minutes. Sometimes it’s ten. Other days, it’s time to dismiss before I am ready for music class. Again, I teach in a real school. I have real students, and real obstacles arise. Like most other teachers in the country (or out of it), I’m often trying to cram a day and a half of teaching into one day.

So here is what I do (or mean to do):

  1. Plan in the evening for twenty minutes of music the next day. Unless I didn’t get much accomplished today. In that case, I swing today’s class over to tomorrow.
  2. When I am running late and have only ten to fifteen minutes, I look over my plan, and see what I have time for. Ideally, I do something with pitch and something with rhythm.
  3. If I have no time for class, I like to dismiss my students by singing good-bye, and letting them sing back. For a first-grader who has difficulty carrying a tune, this is huge.
  4. I forgive myself. By holding myself to an unattainable standard, I only frustrate myself. And a frustrated teacher “ain’t no fun and games!”

So gather your students around. Let yourself enjoy the beauty of song and play. And know in your heart that you are preparing them to sing and enjoy music that feeds the soul and worships the Creator of all beauty.

This article was originally shared with subscribers of Sing for Joy, an elementary music curriculum currently under development. Learn more at www.singforjoy.info.

Delores Mast

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