Happy first weeks of school everyone! Some of you have already started and others will be starting soon. It is a busy time! I have started teaching the children’s choir, but will really get going on September 8the due to initial assessments and “no school” days. In preparation as the Music Literacy Specialist, I have been reading a lot about great literacy programs out there in language arts and have found the information to be quite helpful. In the next few weeks, I will be sharing with you my thoughts on building a great music literacy program in your school with all of the obstacles educators face every day. Like a lot of you, I see my students once a week in a room that is not a designated music room. I have about 20 minutes to teach literacy to anywhere from 6-18 kids at a time. The challenges are many, but I am so very excited!! Our choristers are fantastic!!

In thinking about a great music literacy program, I feel it necessary to start at the beginning. What are the outcomes I wish to achieve? First, students must be able to read and tap out non-syncopated rhythms using whole notes, half notes, quarters, eighths, sixteenths and their corresponding rests by the time they reach the middle of third grade, at the latest. Second, students must be composing throughout the process. Third, this must be a process that gets kids excited about reading and composing music so they will continue participating in music throughout their lives in various ways.
Now that we know the outcomes, what must we believe in order to make this happen? Regie Routman in her book “Invitations: Changing as Teachers and Learners K-12” lists her 15 beliefs. I will not list them all here, but I encourage you to check out this book. It certainly is food for thought! However, I will list a few:

1. Expectation That Learning Will Occur. There has been a lot of discussion around this idea. Do we really think our students, even the challenging ones, can meet the standards or are we just saying it? It is important that the message is clear: I, as your music teacher, think you can learn these concepts and I will find a way to make this happen!

2. Process Orientation. We rock at this one and need to continue our fight to value the process of learning. Too often the product is the only thing that is celebrated in society!

3. Thoughtful “Demonstrations” Taking Place. It is important to demonstrate concepts multiple times and to model how to achieve results. Throughout the first chapter, Routman speaks about modeling good reading and writing skills. In our case, how many times do we actually do this? Perhaps good reading is modeled more that composing, but even still, we limit the experience. As time goes on, I will explain what I mean by this. I am fascinated by this thought!

4. Teacher as the Facilitator and Co-learner. What if we enlisted our students to help teach our classes? That sitting quietly in the back and just “listening” was no longer acceptable? What would that look like? I think to go beyond singing when we say to sing and playing when we say to play could be quite amazing. I want my students to comment on what they sing and play and what they compose. We should be having class discussions on what our young composers have written and how they can improve upon it! Imagine this in an elementary classroom??

We have our outcomes and beliefs, what comes next? How to get there! Stay tuned as I keep you informed with what is going on in my classroom. I am sure there will be some interesting twists and turns, but I can’t wait to get started! Talk to you soon!