A LITTLE LIGHT MUSIC
By Irene Light
How To Introduce Music Into Your Classroom Even If You Are Not A Music Teacher!
Music is a natural part of everyone. It creates an atmosphere of fun, interaction and excitement. That is why children are naturally drawn to it. If we nurture this ability, music will provide a lifetime of enjoyment and creativity for our students
To begin a group adventure into music, your students need to have a commonality with each other and you. In my music classroom, no matter what level, I would start with the same song each time. It is usually a “hello” song but it could be anything as long as it is simple. Then the students know that a music lesson is starting and that you are in control.
Next, you must assume that everyone identifies with music in some way. Children hear lullabies, learn songs and melodies from television shows and computer games. If you start by teaching something familiar, your class will respond. At lower grade levels, it could be “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or “The Alphabet Song” (which happens to be the same melody and you can point that out.) At higher levels, “Baby Bumblebee” is fun. You can use “The Wheels On The Bus” or “The Ants Go Marching.” Silliness works!
Any song with repetition will be easier for you and the class. Songs with too many words don't work unless you want to be the soloist. Echo songs such as “Are You Sleeping” work well. You can even get creative and change the words. For example, if it is close to snack or lunchtime, you could sing “I am hungry!” and have the children suggest the foods that should be in the song. There will be so much participation that the song may never end. Even the quietest child will suggest a food or maybe a “silly” food. Have fun with it!
Now that you have them singing, you are on your way to include other songs. You can teach the class your favorite song. Then ask the students to sing their special songs. You will be amazed and amused at the results. I have had students make up songs on the spot or sing very “interesting” rock songs that their siblings have taught them. No matter what, you must applaud and don't laugh!
If you alter activities so that the class never knows what comes next, you will keep them excited. The students need to move. Teaching a very simple dance or just having the students jump or clap in rhythm with a song will avoid any discipline problems. Even tapping a table in time with the music is fun as long as you teach them a sign for starting and stopping.
Some very young children might jump up and move while you are singing. This is a happy and natural reaction to the beat. If you stop them, they might be afraid to respond in the future, so just encourage the rest of the class move to the music and then everyone will be able to sit quietly for the next activity. Remember, since music can be a very personal part of a student, it is very easy to turn them on and extremely easy to turn them off. Always be complimentary in your reactions.
When it is time to end the music lesson, remember to end with a quiet song or maybe a repeat of one of the earlier songs sung in a whisper. Then your class will be calmed down and ready for another subject. After a number of years, I discovered that giving a classroom of over-excited children back to their teacher did not help me to win a popularity contest!
copyright Irene Light 2004
Irene Light is a certified public school music teacher with over 30 years of teaching experience. She has taught classroom, choral and instrumental music from preschool through eighth grade. She was the recipient of multiple piano scholarships from the Henry Street Settlement Music School and graduated from Music & Arts High School in New York . She obtained a B. A. in Music from Hunter College followed by her teacher's license in graduate school.
Throughout her teaching career, Mrs. Light has also been running a very busy piano studio. Her approach to private piano instruction includes providing her students with a multitude of creative contests and performing opportunities. Her Music Marathon © is a piano/sports event that creatively teaches piano technique in a competitive and fun way.