Saturday, March 13, 2021

Teaching Music in a Pandemic part 1

The Problem

In March 2020, my school went virtual. I was in a panic, just like every other teacher. I had no idea how I was going to teach and what was expected of me.

My school re-opened in September 2020 for both virtual classes and face-to-face classes. After a week on a cart, I set up my room in a new design to keep my students safe during this time.

My 24 chairs are spread out 6 feet apart so I don't need plexiglass (truly grateful for that). I stay at the front of the room usually sitting. This was awkward at first because I use proximity as part of my management system. But I was learning that this was a totally different world (and way of teaching) so I needed to embrace it.

In my district, we wear masks all the time. We are not allowed to sing. We cannot share materials – so no drums, hand percussion, recorders or xylophones. We must stay 6 feet apart so there’s no folk dancing or movement with partners. All those things were the meat of my music program.

The Plan

What did I do? I went old school. I had already incorporated music history and rhythmic reading into my lessons so that’s where I started. That evolved into full 45 minute lessons. Here’s what they look like.

1.    “Would you rather…” group discussion ending in a vote

2.   Group Greeting followed by a brief “brain hookup”

3.   Songs for Humming – we can’t sing but we can hum

4.   Rhythmic reading

5.   Body percussion

6.   Read aloud book

7.   Instrument of the Week

8.   Musician in the Spotlight

9.   A fun “bonus video”

So this post doesn’t drag on, let me expand on the first three in this post and the others in future posts.

The 1st 3 parts

Using my Promethean Board, I have a slide presentation on the screen and the 1st slide already showing as the kids walk into the room. It reads “Would you rather…?” I started by using Rachel Lynette’s freebies and branched off from there. This is a great way to connect with my students. I love how this gets so many students engaged and I get to see a different side of some of them.

During our teacher meetings that occurred before the kids came back, we were told that the district wanted us to do more SEL (Social Emotional Learning) with our students. I feel beginning my lessons with kids sharing opinions and feelings is fulfilling this.

After discussion and voting on the question, we greet each other with “hello” in a different language. Before Covid, I used give my kids fist bumps when they came into the room. This is my substitute for that. So far we have used greetings for France, Spain, India, Germany and Africa. Many students get excited when they already know a language or a greeting.

We follow up with a few breaths while our bodies are in the brain hook-up position. (Here’s a very quick clip of what that looks like. brain hook-up ) I explain to the kids that this gets both parts of our brain laser focused on one thing AND relaxes us. This is a great strategy to use when someone gets nervous right before a big test. We definitely need some chilling out after the excitement of the Would You Rather question and this does the trick.

The next part of our lesson used to be singing BUT as I mentioned before, we are not allowed to sing. So… we hum along to songs. Most of my songs come from Music K-8 magazine. I’ve created powerpoints that show the lyrics of the songs while we’re humming. We usually have 2 songs per class. (Music K-8 magazine/ is a huge resource for me. They even include powerpoints now.)

Hopefully, this has given you some ideas for your own lessons. In my next post I will cover the next 3 parts of the lesson: rhythmic reading, body percussion and a read aloud book. If you have any questions, please reach out to me. We’re all in this together.

Hang in there! Ellen


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