Spotlight on Quality Music Education


Whatever your particular situation, you are part of a team of music educators blazing a trail into the 21st century.  While music has always been a path to 21st century skills, today’s music educators are more able to effectively bring music into the classroom, school and community.

Teaching Music is a multifaceted job, with goals defined by the teacher’s philosophy and skills, and also the district’s and state’s mandates and requirements.  Spotlight on Music is committed to providing you with high quality tools and efficient organization they need to bring music into students’ lives and learning, tailoring experiences to match your needs.

Music is many things.  It is a language of sound through which humans naturally communicate – it is wired into the human brain.  This language has cultural, historical and stylistic variations and conventions.  Music is an educational discipline – a core subject with unique content that is important in developing the whole child cognitively, emotionally, kinesthetically and socially.  Music learning also is intertwined with broader curriculum goals of developing critical thinking, problem solving and creative skills.  Music prepares students for a range of jobs, and also provides lifetime avocations that make living worthwhile.  In our multimedia world, music is the soundtrack of our lives.  Music is everywhere, and influences our experiences and moods.  Music often brings joy, engagement and motivation to learning.  It is the reason many students come to school.

Music Content
We begin thinking about content with the overall goals, the authentic assessment of students as they work toward those goals, and then the materials and activities that we will use to deliver our objectives.

Teaching any subject and curriculum begins with a set of goals, objectives and then assessments to demonstrate student achievement.  Quality music education, then, is built on a structure that identifies these goals and assessments.  When you are planning for multiple grade levels and classrooms, the organization can become overwhelming.  As you identify those objectives and assessments that you will use throughout the year for each grade level, Spotlight on Music provides a flexible, digital structure to organize a lesson, month, unit, or year for each grade level.  This structure allows you to make the broad choices and set accountability for yourself and your students, depending on resources such as time, space, and expectations.  This efficient and intuitive organizational platform leaves you more time to actually teach.

Materials and activities are the tools a music educator uses to deliver the curriculum’s goals and objectives. You need a rich and varied compendium of resources from which to choose, available with a few clicks of the mouse.  In the Spotlight on Music Studio, you can digitally search for and select content through a range of options and filters.  You can seek authentic folk literature that’s stood the test of time, well-known show tunes or composed selections, animated listening maps with games, dances that are examples of specific concepts, resources with compositional and performance opportunities, virtual instruments (guitar, Orff instruments, unpitched instruments, multicultural instruments, etc.), seasonal selections that address specific content, performance pieces that sequentially develop two-part singing, and so on.  Everything is readily available, from art prints to recordings, compositional activities to group projects.  For those students who want greater exposure, every student has any time, any place access to the resources you select, because they all have passcodes.

Abundant resources are only effective when they are implemented with the student’s needs in mind.  There is no substitute for a teacher’s caring guidance, and positive classroom interactions.  You deliver the curriculum, help students analyze their performances and compositions, and team with students to set goals for further growth.

We begin our thinking about students with relationships and procedures, then establishing a structure for learning, and finally guiding students to become independent musical thinkers and learners.

Start with Management and Relationships
During the first few classes, set a goal of establishing procedures, engaging students in challenging but successful experiences upon which to build, and developing trusting relationships all around.  The time invested at the outset establishes patterns of respect and self-control for the entire year.  Be certain that children’s voices are heard, and they are guided to move safely through classroom space.

Establish Expectations, Flow and Surprises
Organize each class period with the same flow from beginning to end.  Students will begin to understand that one idea leads to another as they move from experience to labeling, then practice, and finally apply their new knowledge by creating something new.  Once this overall structure is in place, you can introduce unexpected surprises, especially during transitions between activities.  Change the direction the class is facing for one segment of the class, or quickly divide into small groups to practice a skill or create something new.  Students will be more flexible learners and thinkers if you mix it up.

Becoming a Musical Learning Community
Over time, students will become comfortable with singing, speaking, listening, analyzing, imitating, improvising, and creating.  They will start making connections.  You’ll increasingly see and hear the children making suggestions based on past activities.  If you intentionally echo patterns and then put them together into larger chunks, they will start doing this too.  If you start by listening to an entire piece, then analyze a specific element such as a motif or texture changes, they will begin listening carefully and predicting what your focus will be.  In the end, the goal is developing musical thinkers who analyze critically, create with intent, and connect music to everything in their lives.

Music teachers are powerful in their classrooms, but also members of a larger education community in the school and district.  You are part of the core curriculum, but also a support for classroom teachers, parent organizations, and the school’s social network.  Performances and concerts are usually expected, and anticipated as the community celebrates its children, their learning, and seasonal events.  You can use performances as end-or-unit demonstrations of progress, as informances to let the community know what students are learning, or as interactive events where students and their families sing, play and dance together.

You are the gatekeeper to music for your students, school, and community.  You deliver core music curriculum in powerful ways, and help teachers deliver their curriculum content through music.  Music helps create your positive school community through singing, playing, moving and learning about the cultures and stories of others.  Music gives students voice and opportunities for expression.  Spotlight on Music is here to support you in all that you do to bring music to students.

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