Tag Archives: Music Education

“Don’t You Want To Be A REAL Teacher?” 6 Ways to Educate & Advocate for Yourself 


I get it.

A student asks if you ever want to be a real teacher.  Another teacher sees you as their planning time.  An administrator brushes you aside for academics.  

It’s demoralizing. Insulting. Hurtful. 

But here’s the thing … we can get angry, resentful, and complain about how we’re mistreated, or we can take steps to change the situation. (Or maybe we get angry, resentful, and complain, THEN we take steps to change the situation.)

So here are 6 steps I’ve found helpful to EDUCATE and ADVOCATE my way to change.

It’s easy to cocoon ourselves in our musician world and forget that we are music EDUCATORS.  Stay informed on what is going on in education and how it might pertain to you. When you can see the big picture it’s easier to figure out how you fit in. 

This is also a good time to remember that ALL teachers find themselves being demoralized these days. We’re not in this alone.


Everyone sees the amazing things your kids do on stage, but do they know what it takes to get to that point? Do they know the musical knowledge that supports what they see on stage?  Social media is a great way to get the word out. Create a Facebook page for your class, a Twitter or Instagram account, and post pictures and short videos of the daily action in your Editclassroom. It’s great PR to give parents, other teachers, and administrators a look behind the scenes.


As I mentioned earlier, it’s easy to stay in our musical cocoon. It’s a nice place to be. But if you listen to conversations and even ask what people are doing, it can be easier make connections.  If you’re proactive with this you can integrate where it occurs naturally and not when a teacher asks for songs about farm animals when she drops off her class. Maybe you can obtain copies of curriculum guides so you know what is being taught and when. I’ve even given teachers a short form to fill out when they meet to plan so I can get a quick snapshot of topics they are covering. Make a goal of making one connection a grading period. Over time, you might accumulate even more.

Hopefully, no one expects you to integrate your music classes with everything being taught, so if you can point to places where you’ve done it (by your choice) you won’t have to do it when it makes no sense – or when you’re deep in concert preparation.  


This goes along with being engaged in your school. Get on committees that plan the direction of building initiatives so that you may have a voice at the table. Most of the time, we’re not left out due to any malevolence- it’s just that everyone comes with their point of view and experiences. Make sure your point of view and experience is included in the decisions that are being made. In addition, you’ll have a better understanding of the why behind decisions. This can make them easier to swallow (sometimes.)


Most administrators don’t create meetings or tasks to be irrelevant, they just don’t have the time and/or experiences to make them relevant for ALL teachers. So help them out! Create your own differentiation and run it by your administrator! As long as the integrity of the original isn’t compromised, I believe most are more than willing to accommodate. (I know, there are those who will not go for this. If you’re in this unfortunate boat, you may have to save this step for another principal.)



This is a hard one to face. Our subject matter and the experiences we provide are important. So important that we’ve made it our life’s work to share it with our students and the world. But you know what?  There are other things that are important, too. We can’t always be #1 on the priority list. It has to be give and take. And if you’re willing to give sometimes, then maybe when you need to take others will be more willing. Does it always work this way? Of course not. But it’s something to keep in mind. And when a student gets pulled from your class for reading intervention, ask yourself what’s going to benefit him/her most at this time? And make a note to yourself to make sure you follow up on getting that student into extra music-making opportunities. 

Examine your WHY. For me, I teach music to make students’ lives more complete. So they can have a LIFE, not just make a living. But being complete doesn’t mean music is the only part. Sometimes I need to help by making room for the other parts to develop. It doesn’t mean I abandon a student. I just accept that at this time he/she may need the help of someone else. 

In my 26 years of teaching elementary, middle, and higher education, I’ve used all these steps at one point or another. And sometimes I chose not to and just stayed resentful. But I can tell you that educating and advocating makes me a much better teacher and colleague than being resentful. Maybe it will be the same for you.

Yes, everyone is busy and finding time can be difficult. Don’t try to do it all at once. Pick one thing that you think you can handle and might make a difference in your situation. What will be your first step?

Teaching the Elements of Music: Texture


Teaching texture to young students (and even older ones) can be difficult. I try to help IMG_2699students create meaning by making sure they have a visual model to go along with the sound.

This year I decided to get students involved in making a visual model by using …. wait for it … PASTA! It worked out pretty well with minimal pasta remnants left on the floor.  At the bottom of this post is the slide show I created with visual and listening examples of Monophonic, Homophonic, and Polyphonic texture.  After several years of teaching texture, I’ve narrowed it down to the basics that I’d like students to understand at this point in their music education.

I made up bags of 3 kinds of pasta – elbow, bow ties, and penne.  Of course, you can use whatever you have available, but I’d advise against any long pasta like spaghetti because it breaks so easily.  We did our models on the floor but you could glue them onto paper to keep as examples. Here’s what my students came up with:

From left to right are examples of monophonic, homophonic, and polyphonic.

Having students create these in “real time” allowed me to correct any misunderstandings they might have had.

Feel free to use the slides in the link below – or create ones that work better for you! There is even an bonus link to a fun review Kahoot!

Texture Slideshow



Sell a Piece of Music!


My students spent the last few weeks learning about the elements of music. We IMG_2851practiced identifying and describing things like tempo, dynamics, pitch, tonality, timbre, and texture. After lots of activities to reinforce their learning, they demonstrated their knowledge by completing a listening analysis of 4 pieces of music (Classic Rock, Jazz, Classical, and a song of their choice) and writing a review of one of the pieces.  To wrap it all up, they used their creativity to create an advertisement to
“sell” one of the pieces of music!

For the analysis, I gave students a choice of 5 songs in each category. To  give students some independence in their listening, I provided QR codes for each song. They were able to preview each piece and pick the one they wanted to analyze.  The review they wrote for one was meant to show their understanding of what they heard and their ability to apply appropriate vocabulary. These activities combined took 4-5 days to complete.

IMG_2859The advertisement  was fun because students got to share about the music and be as outrageous in their ad as they wanted to be.  We warmed up by watching a couple of “as seen on tv” product commercials and clips of infomercials.  We also looked at types of advertising techniques. You can find many websites that have student centered information on this – I used this one. Your ELA teachers might cover this as part of their standards so it may be an opportunity to collaborate! Once you start talking about these kids will come up with all kinds of current examples.

Students created a print ad (on poster or a google slide) or a script for a live commercial. The ad had to describe at least 3 elements of music in the song and use at least  advertising techniques. They had a great time with who could come up with the most outrageous claims!  The ads took about 3 days to complete (including the introduction of the advertising techniques.) You might need one more class period depending on how many students choose to present live commercials. If you have the technology the live commercials could be recorded and played back to the class, too.


We displayed many of these in the hallway with the QR codes so everyone in the school could check out some new music!


Remember that this is how I did things THIS TIME in my classroom. I’m

Here are links to all the materials used in these lessons:

Introduction to Project

QR Codes for Listening

Listening Analysis Grid

Music Review

Review Rubric

Advertisement Directions

Advertisement Rubric