Monthly Archives: January 2015

Music Journal Prompts – Careers In Music


My students start each class with a music journal entry.  It’s a consistent way to start class – everyone knows the routine and it allows for me to take attendance and get everyone settled.  My students keep a folder in our classroom, so they have one journal paper for the week.

Sometimes the journal entries relate to what we’re doing in class – as an introduction to the day’s material or a review of the previous day.  Other times, I use it to cover topics that we might not otherwise get to.  We do a week of related journal prompts and by the end they have an introduction to something new.

The following are journal prompts that cover Careers In Music.  The journal page and rubric I use are available at the end of the post for download.  I hope they work for you!


Topic: Careers in Music

Monday:  Make a list of careers that relate to music.

Tuesday: What does a music producer do? (Watch or a similar video)

Wednesday: What kind of jobs can people have that involve music technology aside from a music producer? What types of skills and experience do they need? (Watch or a similar video)

Thursday: What is music therapy? What does a music therapist do? (Watch or a similar video)

Friday: Is it necessary to be an accomplished performer to have a career in music? Why or why not?

Music Journal and Rubric

National Anthem Mini-Units



Singing the national anthem is something every person should be able to do.  It’s a life-long, functional use of music education. But what else can we do to learn about national anthems?  Here are three mini-units that go a little further into thinking about national anthems – one of which also gets students playing and/or singing.  Each one also reinforces the CC standard of writing an argumentative essay (I know, I know, but if we have to do it we might as well make it musical!)

The first mini-unit is built around the ongoing controversy of what song should be the U.S. national anthem. (Didn’t know it was a controversy?  Google “Should the national anthem be changed” and start reading.  You’ll also find some great opening reads to get the discussion going in your class.)  This series of lessons not only gets students performing two more traditional American songs, it gets them doing some analysis that they then use to help form their opinion.

The second could be a one day lesson or stretched over more time.  If you do music journals with your students, it makes a good ongoing journal theme (after an initial introduction.)  The lesson looks at national anthems from around the world and their musical influence.  I’ve suggested a few, but you can use any country – especially those that reflect the population of your students.  If the timing works, this is great to do during the Olympics or near World Cup Soccer (when we’re hearing a variety of national anthems.)

Finally, another lesson that fits into an ongoing journal theme – comparing national anthem performances.  Look for a wide variety of performances to show your students.  I almost always use Whitney Houston’s Super Bowl performance (listen for the musical change – it’s in 4 instead of the traditional 3!) and just because I enjoy listening to the kids’ reactions I like to use Christina Aguilera’s flubbed performance.  I also use an instrumental version by a service band and sometimes even a Spanish version.  Not long ago, some students asked if men ever sing it and I realized I didn’t have any male examples.  So now I find those, too, along with an occasional vocal ensemble.  It’s really up to you – just try to find a wide variety.  I’m always surprised to read my student’s opinions – they are much more discriminating and thoughtful than I expect!

You’ll find the complete mini-units and materials for download at the end of the post.  As always, share your experiences and ideas!

National Anthem Mini-Units

Student Objectives

I can create and apply criteria to evaluate the effectiveness and quality of a performance. 8.1RE

I can use the elements to compare/contrast music selections. 8.2RE

I can describe how performances and setting affect audience response. 8.4RE

I can apply the elements to support my personal preferences. 8.5RE

I can read the notes and rhythms to perform specific pieces of music. 8.2 PR, 8.5 PR

ELA CC – Argumentative essay

Ohio Music Standards

Mini-Unit 1

Usually one song per day


  • Star Spangled Banner  (I wasn’t able to upload the Finale versions I use of these songs. If you don’t have notated versions of the melodies, there are many available to print online.)
    • History of the SSB, including the ongoing controversy as to whether or not it should be our National Anthem (i.e., difficult to sing, violent subject matter).
    • Play – use keyboards, tone chimes, boomwhackers, sing, uke/guitar note playing
    • Using the Song Matrix, analyze – range, meter, length, melodic repetition, rhythmic repetition, topic (Teacher led to teach how to determine each characteristic)
    • What determines the difficulty of music? Range, meter, length, amount of repetition
  • America The Beautiful
    • History
    • Play
    • Analyze (Teacher assisted)
  • God Bless America
    • History
    • Play
    • Analyze (Individual by student)

Mini-Unit 2

Explore national anthems from around the world.

This could be done all in one day or stretched over several days, examining one anthem per day. It makes a good ongoing journal theme.

  • Do they reflect the culture? If not, what culture do they reflect? (eastern, western, other?)
    • This creates an opportunity to discuss Eastern, Western, African, and mixed cultural influences
    • As a social studies integration, discussion can take place as to why a national anthem may reflect another culture (Colonization)
    • World National Anthem Analysis
  • Assessment- World Anthem Essay
    • Should a country’s national anthem be a reflection of its culture?

Mini-Unit 3

Evaluate National Anthem performances

This can also be used as an ongoing journal theme. Each day’s journal evaluates a different performance, concluding with the argumentative essay comes as an extended journal.

National Anthem Unit Outline

Song Matrix

National Anthem Argumentative Essay

World National Anthem Analysis

World Anthem Essay

National Anthem Performance Essay

The Blues … and Ukes!


This is one of my favorite units because it’s such a great mix of history, theory, and performing – and the kids love it!  I do this unit with 8th graders but it would work down to upper elementary.  The combo of learning to play the blues as you learn about the blues makes it all come together.  Of course, you could also do this unit without the ukes and just stick to to blues styles.

I use this unit to introduce ukulele playing.  You’ll see that by the end of the first day with the ukes they are playing the ukesblues (well…most of it.)  My approach is to teach them what they need as we go.  This gets them playing and making music immediately – which is what they (and we!) really want to do!  It also makes it easier to introduce new concepts.  “You want to play your favorite song? Great – you just need to learn one more chord.”  “Oh ok, show me.”  Voila!  As my mentor, Dr. Timothy Gerber, likes to say, “Create a need to know.”

One more thought on using ukuleles in the classroom:  I like for my students to use their ukuleles as a tool for learning.  Of course, I have to teach them to play.  But we’re always learning something else in the process – like the blues.  This allows me to embed all kinds of other musical knowledge while they work on their playing skills.

I’ve included everything that I use for this unit for download except the extra choice songs.  These really depend on what your students like – try to find songs they love so they will be motivated to learn them!  Some tried and true songs my kids always love are The Sponge Bob Fun Song and Lean On Me.  Look for anything with three chords (C, F, G).  For students who are ready to do a little more you can add Am and you’ll have many more options.

As always, take what you need and add what makes it work for you!  And please share any thoughts, additional ideas, and experiences!

Blues Unit

Student Objectives

  • I can explain and aurally identify the 12 bar blues chord progression and lyric form in written and musical examples.
  • I can aurally identify various blues styles (country, classic, city) and explain the identifying characteristics
    • 7.1CE, 7.2CE, 7.3CE, 8.1CE, 8.2CE, 8.3CE
  • I can finger the C, F, and G, chords to play the 12 bar blues chord progression on the ukulele (4/4 time, quarter note strum pattern) using correct posture and technique. 8.1PR, 8.2PR
  • I can compose my own blues lyrics using the AAB lyric form. 8.3PR, 7.1CE
  • I can play at least one song of another style that uses the 12 bar blues progression. 8.1CE, 8.2CE

Link to Ohio Music Standards

Day 1

  • Start with class discussion on music that expresses emotions. Brainstorm songs that express a particular emotion. Lead into Blues songs lyrics – for the first hearing of Buddy Guy, identify the emotion it seems to express. What happens in the music that helps express this?
  • Listen to Buddy Guy’s “There is Something on your mind”
  • Dictate lyrics, ID pattern (AAB) – Blues Lyrics Worksheet
  • Create own blues lyrics following AAB pattern (once this is completed, save it for later!)

Day 2

  • Using the same Buddy Guy song…
    • Play root on keyboard or tone chimes
    • ID chord roots
      • Lead students in singing the roots on do, fa, and sol then transfer to C, F, G/I, IV, V
    • Map 12 bar blues progression – Blues Grid

Day 3

  • UKES! – Uke Playing Intro
    • Playing position, frets
    • C chord – Practice strumming 4 beat patterns and other variations
    • Play 12 bar blues recording and play C chord at appropriate times
    • Assessment: C exit chord

The following days are split between learning the history of the blues and practicing Ukes.

Day 4

  • Blues History
    • Blues Styles Powerpoint
      • Country Blues
      • Ukes
        • Review C
        • Add F – explain how to read a chord chart
        • Play 12 bar blues adding F
        • Isolate shift
        • F exit, shift exit

Day 5

  • Blues History
    • Classic Blues (Powerpoint)
      • Analyze examples: AAB pattern? 12 bar blues?
  • Ukes
    • Review C, F, add G7
    • Isolate shifts
    • Play 12 bar blues; Divide chords among students or shift when ready

Day 6

  • Blues History
    • City Blues
      • Analyze examples: AAB pattern? 12 bar blues?
  • Ukes
    • Individual practice playing 12 bar blues patterns
      • Master smooth shifting between chords

Day 7

  • Blues History
    • Review styles key identifying characteristics
    • Compare/contrast styles
  • Ukes
    • Individual/pairs practice

Day 8-10

Day 11

Day 12-14

  • Practice choice songs
  • Optional: Accompany blues lyrics composition from day 1
  • Teacher assessment of choice songs (uke assessment)
  • Make-up/Completion of 12 bar blues playing assessment, brochure, and/or styles assessment

Materials For Download

Blues Unit Outline

Blues Lyrics Worksheet

Blues Grid

Uke Playing Intro

Blues Styles Powerpoint

Blues Styles Pamphlet

Blues Styles Pamphlet grading

12 bar blues assess

uke assessmentblues styles quiz