Are you a music teacher who loves to make lesson plans? If so, then you are probably excited each time you sit down with some colorful pens and a teacher's planner.
Perhaps you do this once a week and have a once-a-month planning session where you look at overall goals and progress.
Or, maybe you're the type of music teacher who hates making lesson plans. Perhaps you are just more interested in keeping things flexible and loose so that you can take your students wherever inspiration strikes.
No matter which camp you fall into, you could probably benefit from a few helpful tips that will make lesson planning easier, more efficient and more effective.
Let's dive right in!
1. Establish a Routine for Lesson Planning
This is a stumbling block for many music teachers. Planning lessons takes time. In fact, it can take a ton of time, and that is one commodity that is at a premium.
This is why it makes so much sense to establish a predictable routine. Once that routine becomes familiar, it will probably require less time in each planning session.
Some teachers find success by making one afternoon a week their planning time for the next week. For instance, you might spend Monday afternoon after your students are gone planning for the next five to seven days of lessons. Other teachers prefer to do this on a weekend day or in the morning. You may have to experiment a bit to see which time and day work best for your energy levels and teaching schedule.
That once-a-week planning session is your opportunity to really get into the daily lesson planning process on a granular level. However, it also makes sense to have less frequent planning sessions that allow you to focus on the overall scope of a term or unit.
Once a month planning usually works well here, but some teachers may be able to accomplish these overarching planning sessions once a quarter or at the beginning of each school session. Once again, you'll probably have to experiment to come up with a routine that works for you.
2. Write It Down
The smartest thing you can do once you have a lesson plan worked out is to record it somewhere. Some teachers like a paper and pen planner while others have gone digital, keeping notes on a smart phone, tablet or PC.
Feel free to use whatever means is most efficient and useful for you. The goal here is to have your lesson plans recorded so that you can easily refer to them as you teach.
3. Consider Standards
If you are teaching in a school rather than a private studio, then you probably have federal, state or local standards to which your lesson plans must adhere. Use these standards as the basis for your lesson plans. This way, you can be certain that the standards are being met in every school term.
However, music teachers usually have quite a bit of latitude when it comes to the curriculum once the standards are covered. This may mean that you have a great deal of freedom and flexibility to get creative.
Accordingly, you may choose to include activities such as:
- Rhythm games
- Table rhythms
- Music note flash cards
- Practicing conducting
- Examining the connection between music and movies by playing favorite movie clips and discussing how the music enhances the moment
- Having a classroom drum festival
The options are practically endless.
4. Set a Classroom Routine
Here is another tip that can save you tons of time when you're planning lessons. If you decide to set a classroom routine for each class, then you will already have some portion of each class planned before you even get started.
Here is an example of a routine that might be used at the beginning of a music class:
- Stretches to awaken and warm up the body
- Deep breathing exercises
- Sing a welcome or warm-up song
- Do some rhythmic echoes or solfege
- A movement activity
When you have a classroom routine that you use in each session, then there is less other planning that needs to be done. If you don't want to have to re-invent the wheel with each class session, then a classroom routine can really help.
5. Determine a Sequence
When you have established a long-term sequence through which you would like your students to progress, then there is less planning involved. As in the tip above, having a sequence means that you don't have to re-invent the wheel over and over.
Here is a sample sequence from the Holy Names University Kodaly Center for Music Education. Note that this sequence includes major concepts to be covered at each grade level from first through sixth grade.
It can be extremely helpful to look at example sequences like the one presented above as you craft a sequence that makes sense for you and your students. Nonetheless, it is valuable to keep in mind that the example sequence covers many concepts each year. It may not be realistic for you to keep up at this pace.
Try to tailor a sequence that is realistic for your teaching situation. Keep in mind that this sequence is a guide. Use it as a framework when you are creating your lesson plans for the semester or quarter, but don't feel that you have to cover everything. You will probably discover that some students are more receptive and able to cover more concepts than others.
6. Choose Themes and Units
Here is yet another magical tip for making lesson planning much easier for most music teachers. You have made a sequence, so you have a pretty good idea which concepts you are focusing on for each class. Now is the time to choose songs and activities that will highlight these concepts.
To make this task easier, it can be a really good idea to use a unit or a theme. A theme could be practically anything. Music from a certain foreign country, patriotic music, songs with a theme like apples or alligators, jazz or swing music, music from the ballet or opera and pretty nearly anything else can become a fascinating unit.
Themes make it easier to narrow down your choices. Instead of looking at countless songs, you are only looking for music that meets very specific requirements. The result is that lesson planning is easier than ever.
7. Keep an Ideas List
Do you ever have a great idea for a music lesson while you're in the middle of preparing dinner? It happens to everyone. Be prepared when inspiration strikes by keeping a pen and pad of paper at the ready. Alternatively, get comfortable making voice notes or typing notes on your phone. When you have the means to immediately write down a great idea, then you don't have to worry about forgetting it. When you need inspiration for a lesson plan, pull out your list. It probably has many good ideas that you can expand upon.
8. Look for New Ideas
New ideas for lessons are everywhere. You might hear something in a podcast or come across a great new idea in a YouTube video. Perhaps you enjoy reading blogs that are written by other music teachers. Inspiration can strike in unlikely places, like when you're enjoying brunch with a few friends.
The beauty of these new ideas is that they can make lesson planning a breeze. New ideas inspire us, and this can mean that we go into a lesson planning session feeling excited and energized. Doing the same lessons over and over can become tiresome, so it may be necessary to seek out new activities from time to time. This has the two-fold value of keeping both the teacher and the students engaged in the class.
Let Prodigies Inspire Your Lessons
We specialize in making music lessons fun! Whenever you need a little inspiration, dive into our video lessons and supporting materials. We have lessons geared toward kids from toddlers on up. Many music teachers have used our lessons to make their own lesson planning easier or to supplement their existing curriculum. Through our lessons, kids have a chance to learn about the fundamentals of music as well as making some music of their own.
If this sounds ideal to you, then start browsing through our website today. You are bound to find all sorts of ideas and inspiration that will reignite your passion for teaching music and your students' excitement for learning.