top of page
  • Writer's pictureJanis Aston

You Want Me to Teach WHAT??

How to include Gen-Ed standards, ELA, literacy, writing prompts, math, science in the music ed classroom.


From Facebook post: Our new principal is wanting us to reinforce the regular ed standards into our lessons (writing prompts included). Have you found it easy enough to find alternative songs and activities for your lesson plans that will tie into their standards and scope of work if the ones already on your lessons don't necessarily serve that purpose, as long as they're covering what we need to cover as music teachers?

We just got hit with this recently and it's extremely overwhelming, especially since it looks like I'll have to modify more things than I thought. I don't know how any one teacher can cope with all of this paperwork, and now we're expected to cover our standards AND theirs?! It's crazy.


It's very common for principals to require that, so don't stress. It's fairly easy. I've always wondered how the regular classroom teachers would respond if they had to incorporate music standards into their lesson plans? LOL Never gonna happen. And that's probably a good thing! However, the more familiar you become with the Gen-Ed standards, the more you'll be able to relate to the kids and their teachers and coordinate your lesson plans with theirs. 

Remember . . .

We are teaching the "whole child."

Children love it when their music teacher knows about things they are doing in other areas of the school.

Music standards align with the Gen-Ed standards.

Imagine that?!? The great thing about reinforcing Gen-Ed standards is that you will not have to change anything you do because you are already doing it. It's just a matter of being aware of their standards and educating your admin about your standards. They usually have no clue because very few have a music background and even fewer an awareness of music education.

YOU are ahead of the game. Don't let anyone make you feel like you're not!!

Take a little time, skim through the reading and math standards and you'll see what I'm talking about. You are low man on the totem pole so admin tends to just throw out these mandates without any guidance and also because they don't know how you will do it. But they will also give you a poor evaluation if they don't see that you are doing what they have told you to do and also see it written into your plans.

Ask your principal for some time at a faculty meeting to demonstrate how you are making these connections with classroom learning experiences. You can have a lot of fun with the faculty by using some of the same activities you use with the students. And you will be a big hit because sometimes faculty meetings can be . . . well, I'm just sayin' . . .

Learn to speak their language even if they do not know yours.

So, let's get specific.

Literacy & Word Walls

Word Walls and vocabulary words (Music Vocabulary Cards and Music Vocabulary Powerpoint Game) are one of the best ways to meet the literacy standards across all levels and subject areas. Start with simple words in kindergarten like listen, loud, soft, fast, slow, and progress to the musical terms that replace those words. This reinforces

the students' reading, spelling, literacy, etc. standards. And in second grade, the classroom teachers will love you for introducing syllables, How to Read Lyrics, one-two sounds to a beat, etc.

Songs tell stories, are sometimes silly, sad. Songs have characters and events. Have your students recall the sequence of events and appearance of characters. Humpty Dumpty is a favorite of mine. Who was he? What do we really know about this guy? What happened? Who was involved? Can we create a better ending?

Some listening experiences require listening for same-different phrases (language arts word!) and sections. Think about introduction, interlude, coda in relation to language arts. These are words your older students are already familiar with so use that to teach their relation to what they are learning in music class.

At the beginning of school, reinforce the parts of a book by using your music books (yes, real books) with your second graders. They are proud of their reading skills. Have them find the Table of Contents, Index, Glossary, etc. Play a game and give them the name of a song or unit title or a word and say "Go" to find that page or definition. Be sure to tell the classroom teachers what you have been doing because it reinforces what they are doing in class.

NOTE: All of these activities are built into my Lesson Plans with more instructions on how to easily include and make the connections between all content areas.

Writing Prompts

If you have been told to incorporate a writing activity into your lesson plans, don't panic. You can do that, too. Just be sure they understand that it will only happen once during a grading period. Do the math and present it in a professional and matter of fact, non-challenging way. Use their language.

Figure out how many lessons you have the students, total no. of hours and compare that with the classroom teacher. If they are doing writing activities every day and for every subject, then you will too. But they aren't so you should not be required to do that either. So figure out the percentage of time teachers spend using writing prompts in math or science and try to match for your classes.

Any writing activities that you include should flow naturally from the students' learning experiences. Also ask if they are furnishing pencils, journals, writing materials, etc. You, I'm sure, do not have a budget to furnish those items for all of the students in the school. Some schools require all students to have a journal which they take to each area—music, art, PE, etc. If yours does that, I promise, just go with the flow because it will not last. It's a huge headache and no one likes it.

Second through fourth graders can write on any given "prompt" in your room once or even twice during a grading period. I even had kindergartners illustrate songs and put their papers out in the hall. You can take any nursery rhyme like Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill, etc. and have your 2nd-4th graders create new words, a different ending, add music using Orff instruments, etc. Be creative and let your students be creative. Just have them write it down and you have satisfied the "Writing Prompt" requirement. A fun writing/creating activity is included in my Unit 4 plans for 4th grade. Great for 3rd-6th grades. Students create their own raps. Writing prompts are included—Rockin' a Rap.


You are teaching math in almost everything you do. Kindergartners keep the beat in almost every activity, song, dance, and game. Be sure teachers are aware that this is how you prepare students for learning about meter. You are introducing the division of rhythms into equal sets of beats—meter at this point without labeling it for the little ones. By 2nd-3rd grade, you will be using terms like meter, measure, measure bar. (which will also go on their Word Walls). First graders learn to identify quarter, half, and eighth notes, and quarter rests. Math skills are huge when teaching music and our standards align with the math standards.


Kindergarteners and first graders learn about body parts ("Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes"), butterflies, bees, bears, other animals, etc. and their songs in music class reinforce what is happening in their classrooms. Third graders study the science of sound. So you can incorporate that into your plans. Maybe your classroom teachers can partner with you to make instruments and learn about how the sound is made, pitch is changed, science of vocal sound—Four Voices: whisper, speak, shout, sing.

Social Studies

To me, this is one of the most important aspects of what education is all about—the inclusion and study of the many cultures around the world. Today's unrest and demands for justice in societies across the globe show that we are not doing a good enough job of helping our students develop respect and appreciation for the many cultures around them.

And I have been convinced for many years that it MUST begin in elementary school. Children, for the most part, have no pre-conceived ideas, beliefs, and opinions. It is our responsibility as educators to guide students into discovering the joy of learning about and living alongside others who may not look like, think like, act like, talk like them.

I loved finding out what countries, regions, cultures students were learning about in their classrooms and incorporating those into my lesson plans. The developers and publishers of music textbooks (yes, real textbooks) have done the research and the songs are already available and presented as sequential learning experiences. Kindergarten learns about families and neighborhoods and your songs and activities reinforce those concepts. First Graders learn about their city, town, and the community. Second and up learn about states, countries, world. Once again, the textbooks for the Gen-Ed grade levels align with the music textbooks. (See also my Elementary Music Lesson Plan Bundle).

Character Education

There are so many songs in my lesson plans where you can discuss and reinforce acceptable behavior and respect for others. Many songs have something that you can turn into a "lesson" for your students. Look for those teachable moments. They are so much fun!

Cooperative Learning

Any time you tell students to find a partner or create a hand pattern together to a given piece of music, that's cooperative learning. Small group activities where you have given students an assignment/rubric to follow are great for addressing cooperative learning skills. Rain Song Project is a great one to use with 3rd-5th graders.

Higher Level Thinking Skills (HOTS)

Music education addresses all of the higher levels of thinking skills. Post your lesson plans outside the door to your room. Be sure you have highlighted where you are making all of these connections!

Make copies of Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning (FREE download) and post in and outside your room. An envelope attached to my door that contained my lesson plans also had a note directing anyone entering to take a set of my lesson plans and enter quietly to observe. People were always welcome but I also explained that it was best not to interrupt students during a music class. Children are easily distracted and interruptions can destroy an activity, especially with the little ones.

FINALLY . . . 

You are teaching children a new language along with the skills to be able to communicate in that language. AND your students are having a ton of fun in the process! That's learning at its BEST and music teachers have been doing it this way for decades!

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page