For me, one of the most important things a teacher learns in training is “how” to teach. In the majority of cases, the subject matter doesn’t present too many problems.
But, you have to get that information across to others, and that is the tricky part. Music lesson plans for elementary students become a vital part of getting information across.
Lessons Must Do Several Things
- Engage the pupil(s).
- Be structured.
- Be part of a long-term teaching strategy.
- Include a Teaching Phase.
- Impart the information.
- Have a purpose.
All of those things are important in becoming an effective teacher. And becoming an effective teacher is what you need to become.
If A Teacher Lacks Personal Motivation
I have known teachers whom it appeared to me were teaching for teaching’s sake. A means to an end. A job. And, as you get older, you begin to see the good teachers from the not so good.
The ‘good’ ones are the ones that inspire you. They appear to have a purpose in what they teach. And you respond to that. They make sure you understand concepts before moving on. You are learning.
The not-so-good ones are just giving you the knowledge and hoping you will store it away and remember it. They aren’t checking to make sure you have understood what they have said or that you can practice it.
Now, all that we have discussed so far can be applied to every single subject. It is the same process for whatever you are teaching. But then you get what is sometimes called “specialized” subjects.
That is a subject with a particular set of learning requirements. Music is one of those. It is a subject that has a very important practical side. But also has seemingly endless theories to work through and fully understand.
Let’s go back to what lessons must achieve but now apply those elements to teaching music.
You Must Engage The Pupil(s)
Engaging the students is one of the most important parts of teaching music. You will need to build trust, but you can’t be an old “stick in the mud.” Make sure they enjoy the lessons and give them some fun in the teaching.
Your personality will play a big role as you develop the teacher-student dynamic. Most students will have their own musical tastes. But, you have to find a way of ensuring that appreciation extends to other areas.
Because there will come a time when you will introduce them to the technical aspects of Classical music. If they are obsessed with one form of music, they might find that difficult to appreciate. You need to build some bridges to other genres along the way.
They Must Be Structured
You need to ensure there is a structure to the lessons. Move through the points methodically, ensuring you aren’t leaving anyone behind. Each point and item moves conveniently to the next. All points are in an understandable and logical order. In other words, good structure.
A Long Term Teaching Strategy
Each lesson and the points made within the lesson need to fit neatly into a long-term strategy for teaching the individual or the group.
You need a starting point based on where they are at the moment. Then, you need a point where a teaching phase completes. And then a strategy to reach that point, assigning the necessary information on a lesson basis.
A Teaching Phase
This is a period allocated to reach a certain goal. It might be dictated by how many individual lessons someone reserves with you. Or it could be in school time, the length of a school term. If someone is reserving lessons individually, then it is best to make a shorter strategy.
They Need to Impart the Information
You have to learn to be proficient in passing on the information that you have learned. The point of you teaching them is so that they will learn. The reason they are there is to learn. Giving them information is why you are both there.
They Must Have A Purpose
You need to have a clear and defined purpose for music lessons. It is up to you whether you inform the individual or group exactly what that purpose is.
If you feel confident about their success, then it is a good idea to tell them what you want them to achieve in the lesson. It offers a good excuse for praise. If, however, you think they might struggle, then maybe a quieter approach is better for the student.
By now, you should have got the picture. To be an effective tutor, instructor, or teacher, you need effective lessons. Easier said than done? Not at all. Let’s go through the process of building effective music lessons.
Building Music Lesson Plans for Elementary Students
It was impressed on me a long time ago that as a new teacher, you must build effective lessons. They don’t just arrive out of a book. The information might be in there, but it is you that conveys that information. And it starts with your plan for the lesson.
Interestingly, when I was sent out to observe other teachers, some told me they used them, others didn’t. The older, more experienced teachers said they preferred the ad-lib, “see where the lesson goes” approach.
It was also interesting that with those lessons in my report back to my tutor, I could not identify what principle the teacher was conveying to the students. If I could not see it, and I was looking for it, then how could they?
Plans Are The Guide, Not The Result
Lesson plans should be the guide for the lesson, not the result of it. That is my opinion anyway. Let the goals you are trying to achieve guide the direction and the effectiveness. Not stopping the lesson to debate whether Beethoven or Bach contributed more to music.
So, let’s take a look at what a music lesson plan could look like. But, before we do, let’s just briefly consider some other issues.
Your Method Of Teaching
There are various ways of teaching music. Some prefer the Hungarian “Kodaly” method, which has proven to be very beneficial in some environments. Others prefer the “Orff-Schulwerk” system, which is a more exploratory way of teaching. Or, you may just want to stick to tried and tested ways.
They all have great benefits, and one is not better than the other. It is more to do with how you want to teach. But, having decided on the approach, it should guide the creation of your lesson plans.
What Should You Include In Music Lesson Plans For Elementary Students?
This takes us back to something we have already looked at, engaging the pupil(s). Finding the right material and the right approach to teaching music is not easy.
Set your targets, but make sure some fundamentally important topics are included. These are just a few suggestions of what you might consider using:
- Keys and what they are.
- Scales and what they are for.
- Contemporary music.
- Traditional music.
- Classical music.
The Lesson Plan
These are just ideas of how you might organize and implement your lesson plan. There may be other elements you may wish to include.
The first thing to do is to give the lesson plan a “Representative Title.” This should include what it is, and what it is for. The reason for this is that you may want to use it again. You need to know exactly what to look for when you search it out.
Inclusions in your plan might be:
- What are the learning objectives?
- If there is a practical element, use demonstration.
- Topical procedures.
- First Q and A session
- Topic reinforcement.
- Any associated elements to the topic being taught?
- Second Q and A session.
- Open student discussion on the topic.
- Closing demonstrations using students if possible.
- Post-lesson assessment.
Also, you will need to:
- Ensure you have all the materials you require.
- Ensure you have downloaded any music you may require.
Let’s just clarify those inclusions briefly.
What Are the Learning Objectives?
Consider your overall strategy, which will also include consideration of the curriculum. Ideally, you will have established a ‘map’ of what you plan to achieve over some time, possibly a school term.
This will just be one of the lesson plans that make up your strategy. And will include a defined lesson objective as outlined in your overall teaching strategy.
And ask yourself the question, “What is it I want the student(s) to learn?” If there is a practical element, demonstrate it. And, if you need to demonstrate something, then perform that at the outset, so the students know exactly what they are trying to achieve.
Include procedures. That is the procedure for working through the lesson in a logical order.
First Q and A session
After the initial stages and after all the topical procedures have been covered the first time, ask questions. Always ensure that everyone is included. If a student is “hiding,” it may mean they haven’t understood. Get them involved.
Go back again and re-evaluate the topics you have covered for learning reinforcement.
Are there any useful elements that can be associated with the topics taught? If so, cover them, but only briefly. Don’t get sidetracked.
Second Q and A session
Once again, a few topic-based questions to the students to ensure they have grasped the context of the lesson.
Open Student Discussion
If you have time, then include student opinions and any questions they may have regarding the topic.
If there has been a practical method involved, then some student demonstrations will be useful.
When the lesson is completed, and the students have left, an assessment of the lesson is useful. You might want to adjust the time spent on each section.
Likewise, you might want to reconsider how the topics were approached and taught. Basically, any changes to improve the lesson plan for the next time you use it.
Concentration Levels Of Children
The amount of time you can get decent concentration levels from anyone can be quite small. This applies to children in particular. You cannot sit there and lecture them for an hour. If you do, you will lose them quite early on.
You will note that there are questions and answer sessions, and other student participation sections. These break up the lesson and reduce the amount of time that concentration is required.
This is important to maintain the interest levels. A burst of concentration and learning and then participation involvement break it up into manageable pieces.
Part Of The Big Picture
This lesson plan is just a part of the bigger picture. It is just one step on the journey that takes them towards their ultimate goal.
The Materials Used
I ought to make some comments on this subject because the materials you use can have a big impact on students.
It is very important to use quality materials in the teaching process. High-quality recordings of good music, or dance, if appropriate, will be far more impressive than poor-quality materials.
Local Or Regional Significance
What might also be important is to include music that has regional significance. That could be in the form of folk music or music with a cultural heritage. If that is possible, then the student is going to feel an association with the music. That will help the learning process.
But, a little word about that. It would not be a good idea to use updated or “pop” versions of cultural songs. You may find that it could be construed as an insult to the culture. Far better to use the original cultural recordings if possible.
You will usually be able to find music that assists in the lesson plan that they will be familiar with. They may not be able to sing it, but they will have heard it. That sort of familiarity helps.
When dealing with certain elements of music, possibly composition or subjects like Counterpoint, try to choose a piece of music that emphasizes those elements.
Where Do You Find Good Music?
There is a range of sources these days. You can take recommendations from people you know, or there are plenty of websites. Music can be downloaded from sites like Amazon that won’t cost a fortune.
One very good way of making sure what you are getting is good quality is to ask other experienced music teachers. They will often have a list they can help you with.
Make Sure The Music Is Appropriate
It has become noticeable in recent years how some music is being deemed inappropriate for use in schools.
To give you an example…
I recently discussed this very topic regarding Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.” It revolved around how appropriate the song “Summertime” was for children as it represented slavery.
My argument was that it was a great piece of music that didn’t “represent” anything. “Porgy and Bess” is a tragic tale indeed. And it also reflects poorly on American history and culture. But, that is no reason to exclude it.
In fact, it could even be turned into an educational tool. And the more we understand our history, the better we are for it. But some songs might be considered in poor taste for you young people. These might include:
- Songs that might be insulting or intolerant towards a particular group of people.
- Music with bad, offensive, or threatening language.
- Music that has a clear sexual connotation.
It would be sensible to choose wisely.
The Classical Connection
For the serious music teacher wanting to convey the beauty of music to their students, the Classical connection will occur at some stage.
There has never been another period like we had from the Baroque to the Romantic period. Never will be again, and these are pieces essential to understanding music.
There are enough pieces from these composers to make good choices. And that both serve the lesson plan and are recognizable to students.
Understanding The Complexities
I am not decrying the intelligence of students or anyone else when I say this. Classical music is more complex than what most people listen to today. It is longer, and we need to learn how to understand what is going on and why.
One of your roles as a music teacher will be to help students understand and learn to appreciate the technicalities and complexities.
We can all sit and marvel at Mozart’s Symphony 40 or Beethoven’s 5th or 9th Symphonies. Or, for that matter, dozens of other pieces. But, to learn to understand them for what they are and what goes into them is another thing.
Resources are available…
The theory is possibly the most challenging aspect of teaching music. Here is some material that might give you food for thought:
- Music Theory and Composition: A Practical Approach
- Music Theory Essentials
- Practical Approach to the Study of Form in Music
- Music Theory: From Beginner to Expert
Need Some Help Teaching Music?
We can help with that. Take a look at our detailed articles on A Complete Guide To Major Scales, The Minor Scales, What is Melody in Music, What is a Refrain in Music, and What Is a Major Chord for more information on music theory.
If you need some music for children, check out our handy articles on the Best Sing-Along Songs, Funny Songs to Sing with Kids, and Fun Music Activities For Kids for great songs and ideas for teaching music.
And, for those budding music students, don’t miss our comprehensive reviews of the Best Student Flute, the Best Student Violins, the Best Beginner Saxophones, the Best Student Trumpets, the Best Digital Pianos For Beginners, and the Best Beginner Drum Set you can buy in 2023.
Music Lesson Plans For Elementary – Conclusion
Someone once pulled me aside and said something I didn’t fully appreciate at the time but later became a profound statement. She said to be a good teacher; you must almost be a child entertainer. Teaching the kids when they are having fun and enjoying it is so much easier.
Keep it serious, of course, but make it enjoyable as well. Great words of advice. So at the top of every music lesson plan for elementary students, write this in big letters… Make it Fun!