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Keeping a Musical Interest
The hardest thing I find about teaching music to intermediate (grades 4-6) and middle (grades 7-8) school students is keeping their interest in class and being able to get them to actively participate and appreciate its worth. Often times, many of these students will find music class "silly" and "babyish" (in their words) and to prevent this way of thinking, we as teachers must take into account the fact that they want to be treated as young adults.
So what comes to mind when I am trying to compile a lesson plan for the first day of music class? What music activities can I present to them that will help me to get to know them better...who they are, what they like, something about their culture etc?
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A good way to get my intermediate and middle school general Music students to “open up" is by taking a Music survey on their interests where I present them with a worksheet of a list of questions about various aspects in/of Music and their exposure to it prior to this class. Here is the list of questions they have to write a brief response for:
- Do you play any musical instruments or sing? If yes, which ones and for how long?
- Do you take music lessons right now? If not, have you in the past and what type?
- Do you perform in a musical ensemble right now?
- Would you rather perform on your instrument or sing for the class solo or with a classmate?
- List 3-5 live music concerts you have been to in the past year.
- Name your favorite musical style (s) to listen to.
- Name your 3 favorite musicians or musical groups.
- List suggestions, if any, of songs you would like us to sing in music class at school (reasonable suggestions only-please exclude profane lyrics)
- If you had to select a music profession, what would it be and why?
- If you had to select a country to study music from for one year, which would you choose and why?
There have been occasions in my teaching where some of the students will immediately frown upon having to write so I usually let them work on their questions quietly together in small groups.
When the students are finished with their answers, I will ask for volunteers to share their responses and I will ask them to write some on the board. They really enjoy this and like learning what their peers listen to and what their fellow interests are. I then will take home their responses and take some of the more popular answers and put them on poster board to hang up for the school year.
During free music time, which may happen at the end of some lessons, I will often let my middle school students listen to some of their favorite selections or suggestions. I always try to take their interests to heart and modify some of my lessons to incorporate their suggestions and cultural backgrounds for I know this will encourage them to want to continuously learn and grow through music.
- Author's own music teaching experience.