Teaching music to children can be challenging, especially when your pupils struggle to grasp new concepts. Do you tire of using the same teaching materials repeatedly because you have to follow the curriculum?
Teaching the same topics year in year out can become tedious. It is all too easy for this monotonous feeling to be accidentally passed on to students.
Fortunately, you are not alone!
We have plenty of resources and methods out there for teachers to help kids understand music better. Maybe your students are struggling because they haven’t become interested in studying music. Perhaps they want to learn but find the materials and concepts too difficult to understand.
Either way, there are techniques and strategies that you can use. These ideas will help students find their desire to learn and increase their ability to understand your music lessons.
In this article we present ten tips to make teaching music to kids more effective.
What You'll Learn?
- 1. Let your positive attitude shine through.
- 2. Incorporate practical engagement.
- 3. Keep boredom at bay by using a variety of tasks.
- 4. Teach music your students like and can relate to.
- 5. Technology is the twenty-first-century teacher’s best friend.
- 6. Encourage your pupils to interact with each other.
- 7. Be aware of your students’ differing skill levels.
- 8. Creativity is a powerful teaching tool.
- 9. Perform to an online audience.
- 10. Teaching music through games is more fun!
1. Let your positive attitude shine through.
Every music class is different and the constant planning can be overwhelming. Many teachers complain that they feel like they spend as much time planning as they do actually teaching! But this planning pays off and can make your teaching far more effective. Having a good strategy for planning – planning your planning, if you like – means that your time isn’t wasted. Treat your planning time as time for your own inspiration to come through. You will feel proud of your plans and putting them into action in the classroom will give you pleasure.
If you’ve spent time on your lesson plan and feel well-prepared then I’m sure you are excited about teaching the class. As teachers, we feel happy when we can see our carefully thought-out plans coming into fruition. Let your positive attitude and excited feeling show. Your students will pick up on your mood and learn even more than usual.
TeachHub suggests taking this a step further and going beyond individual lesson plans. The website explains that
"teachers who had a plan, not just for their classrooms but for their personal life and profession, often had greater success with their students"
Having your own plan means you can connect with students. You can meet them on the learning journey, spreading the positivity of having direction and goals. Careful planning means you can develop a positive attitude towards your teaching career. This will be automatically passed on to students in class.
2. Incorporate practical engagement.
Music is best learnt by doing, not by reading and writing. Make your lessons active and add to some energy to them! Even if you are teaching music theory there are ways to include practical activities. For younger children, games such as Magic Feet Follow the Beat present important elements of music theory in a fun way. This makes new words easy to learn.
If you think back to your own time as a school pupil, I’m sure some of your most memorable classes were where you were not just sitting there. You weren't staring at the pages of a textbook or copying notes down from the board. The classes where you had to move around and do something are more likely to stick in your head.
This is great for music teachers because it’s so easy for us to incorporate physical movements and activities into our lessons.
- Clapping out rhythms and singing are simple ways to get moving without any specialist equipment needed.
- Combining listening with making music is a great way to make the connection between aural and kinaesthetic learning processes.
Using one’s body to play an instrument can make learning so much easier as the physical act of doing helps your students to commit the lesson to memory. Remember that even in school, to learn music you must play music, not just talk about it.
3. Keep boredom at bay by using a variety of tasks.
There isn’t much shorter than the attention span of a child today. New technologies are making it easier for us to read and learn in short bursts. It is getting harder for young people to focus on one topic or task for a long period of time. Fit your lessons to your students’ concentration levels.
Mindchamps explains that kids can become overwhelmed when presented with a string of tasks. This makes them get bored and give up. Luckily, it is easy to avoid this scenario in your classroom.
Don't build each lesson around a single lengthy task. Break it down into short activities each lasting 5 to 15 minutes depending on the age group of your students. Teaching kids music can be done through singing, playing instruments, and listening to music. Writing lyrics or composing pieces, and learning about musicians and composers are other great ways to learn. You should mix up activities including
- playing instruments,
Each brings a different feel to your classroom, meaning students are less likely to get bored. Within each larger topic, plan to include a variety of short tasks and activities. Keep an active atmosphere in the classroom. Match the speed of each task to the age group of your students, or to each individual student where possible.
4. Teach music your students like and can relate to.
Engage your students instantly by teaching them their favorite songs or genres. All kinds of music can be valuable resources for teaching and learning. There is no need to stick to the genres that have traditionally been associated with music lessons, such as classical and baroque music.
Our music teaching app Solfeg.io has a massive song library where you can find music that will appeal to your students. Use Solfeg.io to break the music down and choose specific musical elements to teach to your students. Perhaps the chord progressions, rhythm, or melodic patterns would make a good lesson, and one the students are sure to remember.
Teaching teenagers? How about a rap song by one of their favorite artists? Ask them about the music they enjoy to find out what is current and popular in their community. For younger children, you could use nursery rhymes or even theme tunes for their favourite TV programmes. Imagine the look of recognition and surprise on their faces when you suddenly play them their favourite song!
5. Technology is the twenty-first-century teacher’s best friend.
Today’s kids are digital natives, and today’s tech is a great resource for education, like this article you are probably reading on a screen right now. Music is the perfect subject for using new technology in the classroom, and clever use of tech can make your teaching far more effective.
Use apps and YouTube or other video sites. Sometimes watching a video can make a lesson more memorable than listening to the same piece of music without a video. Showing videos of live performances is a great way to teach your students about how instruments are played. It is also a good way to see famous artists performing.
They can learn about what goes into making a concert. Depending on the genre of music this may include elements such as lighting and costume as well as rehearsing the music. MusicEdMagic describes how to use YouTube in the music classroom.
If your school provides tablets, make good use of them. Encourage students to install music apps on their phones. There are good apps for every aspect of music education, from composing and drum machines to theory and playing virtual instruments.
6. Encourage your pupils to interact with each other.
While individual practice can be an important part of learning to play an instrument, the music classroom is a great time for interaction. Academics have described the clear benefits of collaborative learning. ResourceEd explains that collaboration is a significant element of the world of work. It is important to introduce this as part of school-based education. Collaborative learning teaches skills such as decision-making and problem-solving in a group or team context. Employers value these skills, which can be learnt beginning in early childhood.
You can teach children to collaborate with each other while you teach them music. Music is inherently sociable, whether among performers or listeners. Learning together can be far more powerful than studying on one’s own. The material learnt can stay with them when they leave the classroom, and become a topic of conversation with their friends. Meanwhile the children are acquiring useful skills for their adult lives, even if they don’t enter a career in music.
Putting the students into groups can also be a good way to introduce longer, more involving tasks than would be possible individually. Group projects can achieve more impressive outcomes than working alone. Take students’ skill levels into account when forming groups. Change the groups between projects to create a fresh atmosphere.
7. Be aware of your students’ differing skill levels.
Different students have different skill levels and different needs. Make sure the tasks you set are appropriate for each student. Ideally a task should be understandable to the student, not too difficult but not too simple either. Right from the beginning, your students need to feel that they will be able to complete the task. A task that appears too challenging from the outset can make students give up and not try their best. Make a task into a fun experience by giving students the tools for success and encouraging collaboration.
Prodigy describes the concept of differentiated instruction. The website explains how to teach students with a range of skills. For example, you can create learning stations within your classroom. Students rotate around doing a different activity at each station. This is one way to provide learning opportunities for different skillsets.
In the music classroom, learning stations could include
- watching a video,
- writing about what they saw,
- completing a puzzle, and
- creating a short composition.
Tackling different senses such as auditory, visual, tactile and kinaesthetic makes your teaching more effective for the whole class. It’s easy to see how to do this with music, which can be learnt through listening, doing, watching and playing instruments.
8. Creativity is a powerful teaching tool.
Once students begin to enjoy completing tasks, it is a good time to introduce creative projects. Give them a task with no wrong answer, such as a composition project. Perhaps they have been learning about a particular piece or style of music. The next stage in learning is to give them the task of composing their own piece in the same style.
Devoting time to creative projects like this is very important when teaching kids music. At its heart, music is not merely theoretical but practical. The best way for your students to learn music is to be immersed in it as much as possible. Learning a foreign language is most effective through visiting the country. So the language of music is best learnt through maximum immersion. Make your music classroom the place for learning this creative language.
Teaching children to be creative gives them a skill that goes far beyond the music classroom. This is because creativity is highly valued by employers. Furthermore, giving children a safe space to be creative can also help with behavioural issues. It provides them with a safe outlet for their feelings and emotions. Incorporating creativity into your lessons combines well with collaborative learning methods.
9. Perform to an online audience.
Performing is an important aspect of music education. Your students can take pride in sharing their achievements with an audience. They can show their peers, parents and others what they have been learning in your class. New technology has made performing possible for anyone with an internet connection.
As the culmination of a large class project, give a concert together. If a traditional end-of-year school concert is not possible, why not make a video of your students performing and share it on YouTube. If your school has good video or recording equipment, make use of it to produce a better quality video. If such equipment is unavailable, a smartphone can be used to make a reasonable quality video that can be a record of your students’ achievements. If you and your students are feeling confident, you could even stream your performance live. Just don’t forget to announce it to your intended audience in advance!
Besides making a video, you can make a YouTube channel for your class. Encourage your students to share the videos with their friends on social networks. You can continue to add to the channel every term and this will give you and your students a place to look back on their progress over the years.
10. Teaching music through games is more fun!
Make a long-term lesson plan that incorporates games. Divide your students into teams and award a few points in each lesson. Depending on the class and their projects you could award a point to the best student in each lesson. You could give points for correct answers and even for a positive attitude. Decide on a monthly and yearly prize for the winning team. This works especially well with younger children. But even teenagers can enjoy a competition if the prize is attractive.
Being able to compete in a healthy and cheerful manner is a valuable skill for students to learn. It combines well with collaborative activities. But, it is important to make sure that no student feels left out when using a competition as part of your teaching. Keep track of prize winners and try to award a range of prizes so that every student has a good chance of winning at least once.
Bonus Tip: Share your ideas with other teachers online and access new inspiration from your music teacher colleagues.
Just like this article you are reading right now, there is a wealth of information out there for music teachers. The internet has transformed the resources available for educators. It has internationalized resources. Information and ideas from overseas are now as easily accessible as those from your home country. There has never been a better time to add to your stock of teaching methods, ideas and strategies.
However, don’t just consume! Share your ideas with other teachers by participating in music teachers’ forums and checking the website every day. You can become a contributor and give other educators access to your own tried and tested teaching strategies and techniques. Music education can only get better if we learn from each other. Start sharing now and you will be amazed by the creative ideas that you can find to transform your teaching!