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  • Writer's pictureJanis Aston

Making Lemonade?

Feel like you've just been handed a bag, or even a crate, of lemons?

Are you desperately looking for activities that will work for online/remote learning? For the 2020 in-building music classroom? Teaching on a cart?

I saw a video on Facebook that contained the statement, "The way students learn has changed." I'm not sure I agree with that. The way we teach has changed dramatically, but the way children learn has not. I have always felt that children learn best through activity-based learning experiences—online, in classroom, or wherever.

Children learn by doing.

Do NOT scrap your well, thought-out plans from last year! With a little creativity and preparation you can still have a strong, viable music program for your students. You can still build that foundation of solid concepts that students need You can provide your students with great learning experiences that are sequential, fun, and yes, standards-based!

You may find yourself fighting just to keep music in the school! We have worked too hard and too long for music (and other arts) to be the first to go. You may have the unique opportunity of going in the classroom, teacher is still there during class, and you can demonstrate what it is that you actually do!

Make that lemonade!

Standards, Units, and Lesson Plans

What is your mission?

Teach with a purpose, objectives, and goals. Read my post about the importance of developing your Mission Statement—Who's Driving Your Car?

You need a PLAN!!!

End Goal in Mind

The temptation this year will be to provide as many fun, engaging activities as you can find for your online classroom or the "socially-distanced," in-building classroom. Or you may find yourself depending on one of the really good screen-based music curriculum programs. And then you roll into a classroom and the teacher does not have a projector, screen, your laptop is out of power, you forgot your charger, or . . .

With some hard work and creativity, you can build your own units and lesson plans with an end goal in mind, sequential and standards-based. Begin with the National Standards for Elementary Music. If your district does not have Pacing Guides or Curriculum Maps, then make your own! Standards printout available—National Standards Posters.

You Do Not Have to Reinvent the Wheel! Who even has time to do that?

If you don't know where to start, I've been working very hard on revising and re-designing my Curriculum. I actually began working on this before March 2020. But in a random kind of way. No urgency. When the Pandemic hit and teachers were frantically trying to figure out what to do, I started looking at my plans with different "eyes." Could I adapt them for the Covid-19 classroom? How?

As I was reading through the lessons, I realized how really good they are. Yes, I'm going to say that. Over my 30 years, I taught on a cart, in a portable classroom, had to change rooms 4 times (in one year!), in an affluent neighborhood, and an inner-city school. I have had 30-minute classes and hour classes. I even began as a PTO-paid teacher and then was hired to teach art and music. Art for the first half of the week, music for the second half. That's another story for another day. I say all that to say, These plans have been tweaked and re-worked until they will work in every situation.

And they will work for you! Even during a Pandemic!

A few years before I retired, I was known to comment that I could do my lessons in my sleep. While not entirely true or even wise, my lesson plans on paper were pretty skimpy at best. All I had to do was look at the title of a song and I knew why it was there and what needed to be done. That's the beauty of 30-years' experience. 

These lesson plans are sequential, beginning with the first day the kindergartners walk through your doors until the 4th graders (or 5th) move on to middle school. If you follow a sequential, standards-based curriculum, mine or any other, and are consistent, your students will be prepared for middle school band, strings, chorus, or any other music activity they wish to pursue. And they will have an appreciation, respect, and love for the music from all cultures and genres.

You can make lemonade!

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