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5 Ways to Quickly Boost Your Music Teaching Skills

We all love teaching the subject that touched us the most as we were growing up, but every now and then every Elementary music teacher hits a wall, a plateau of sorts, and they feel like they aren’t improving anymore. The best way to handle this occurrence is to get some new influences in your teaching style. Below are 5 ways to quickly boost your music teaching skills.

Trainings/Workshops/PLCs

Local trainings, workshops and PLC’s (Professional Learning Communities) are perhaps the quickest (and usually the “free-est”) way to quickly boost your skill. This is because your music district or county offers many of these workshops. If you find that there are no trainings or workshops available in your area, request one from your music supervisor or specialist.

The reason that these trainings are so effective is because the presenters usually give bite sized songs, strategies, and techniques that you can quickly implement. Also, presenters usually present there best techniques because they have so little time to make an impact.

Similar to Trainings and workshops, Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are when groups of local teachers gather together and share ideas, struggles, and victories. PLCs are a tremendous source of support as well as new techniques to deal with the daily journey of teaching elementary music. Regular attendance of these is a huge help, especially for newer teachers. If you don’t have a PLC in your area, contact local teachers and start one.

Certifications/Pedagogies

I asked a group of music teachers what things made the most difference for them in their teaching, and the response, overwhelmingly was specific certifications. The top three in order of number of responses were:

  • Orff Levels

  • Kodaly Levels

  • John Feierabend’s First Steps

The greatest benefit of certifications is that they are sequenced based on how children learn music and help teachers really understand how to effectively develop their students.

Observing Other Teachers

One of the best ways to learn how to do something is to watch someone else who does it well.

“Success leaves clues” –Tony Robbins

Observing other teachers gives us several benefits:

  • We are able to learn how to manage and pace a class

  • We are able to learn new systems for everyday tasks

  • We are able to get a different perspective on teaching

  • We are able to learn new techniques and get new ideas to use in our own classes

When we observe other’s teach we not only get good ideas but actually see the ideas put into practice with actual students. We see what approaches help the students understand the content, we see what areas students have difficulty with and how the teacher handles them, and we see how the teacher builds and leverages rapport with the student to affect the emotional climate of the classroom.

It can be tricky to get the time to observe another teacher but with a good school system, and administration in place, you should be able to request time to observe others as training time or what’s known in my county as TDE (Temporary Duty Elsewhere).

Books, Websites and Methods

Sometimes all we need to get a great idea is to open a good book. From songbooks to online resources, music teaching method materials are helpful because they can take what experienced teachers have spent decades learning, and make those techniques available to you in a matter of days (hours, even). And online resources can even bring in what a friend of mine calls “digital presenters” when an informational video is shown.

Method books for teaching instruments like xylophones, recorders, and boomwhackers can be invaluable resources when you are not experienced with an instrument. Student booklets can also give your students an opportunity to practice at home.

Sometimes it is a good idea to revisit older materials. When I first started teaching, I frantically combed through the books I found in my new classroom for songs and other things to teach because I HAD to. Sometimes I like to visit the nostalgia of those early days and sift through those old materials for new ideas or new applications of old lessons.

Conferences

Ah, Conferences. They are like most everything I mentioned earlier wrapped up into one. Conferences usually last an entire day or several days and are a huge boost in almost every area of your teaching.

  • You’ll get new ideas and techniques

  • You’ll get to observe masterful teachers

  • You’ll get to connect and share ideas with other teachers

  • You’ll have opportunities to get new method books and resources

Plus conferences are FUN! You get to test many of the ideas you learn with other people who are there for the same reason you are.

If you have never been to a music conference in you area or it has been I while, I highly recommend that you go to one when you get the chance.

The only downside to conferences is that they can be expensive when you factor in admission, travel, food and other expenses, so it is best to plan in advance so you can go to a conference and still properly manage your finances.

Which of the 5 ways to boost your skills is your favorite? What other ways do you know that I missed?

Leave a Comment and let me know what you think!

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