Just as reading classrooms are regarded as print rich environments in which language is written in as many places as possible, word walls, labeling of classroom items and filled with books, a music classroom should be filled with the language of music. Children must also learn to read the language of music; therefore they need to see music staffs and bars, treble and base clefs, as well as acronyms to help remember notes, visuals of what half notes, quarter notes, and eighth notes look like. The room should also be filled with a variety of musical instruments or visual representations of them from all over the world to give them exposure to a world of music they may not see elsewhere.
Setting the Mood
As civilizations developed in different areas of the world, they also developed their own unique musical instruments. Each month or six weeks, try slathering your classroom in a cultural theme in which real world instruments can be brought in to be touched and experimented with, folk music from each culture can be played, as well as famous musicians from each culture and their biographies posted for students to see. Walls can be covered in the landscape of what that land or country looks like, along with basic information about the region. Posting information about the resources of a certain land can lead students to inference why a certain musical instrument would be made of certain materials or its particular sounds appreciated. Students should be inspired by the sights and sounds of that country and make connections to them. Music comes from emotion. So, whichever theme you choose should be one which provokes a reaction in students; they should be able to find relevance in the decorations.
Students today know rappers, pop stars, and reality stars, but they lack cultural knowledge that spans farther back. Music teachers, like any teacher, must focus on the content and concepts they are responsible for in their state curriculum. There are ways, however, to add to these concepts that allow students to learn even during down time. A music teacher can pick a corner of their room and create a "Composer’s Corner." In this corner, every month or six weeks, a different composer should be featured, including a photograph or poster of the composer, a bio of him or her, a listening center or iPod with a sample of their music, and decor from the era in which they lived. This idea can be extended to include the accomplishments of your music students as composers whether they are being recognized for having written lyrics or created their own song.
Elementary music room themes for decorating should come together in your teaching centers. Basic materials should be available for students to try and create instruments of their own, along with computers to research musicians and their backgrounds or listen to their music. Song lyrics should be available at a writing center, or a key which details how you want lyrics written. Surprising facts of the day can be posted in which students are allowed to respond and add more questions to the surprising fact. For example, one surprising fact is that the banjo was developed in Africa, not the Southern United States.
Everyone loves music. Thus, a music classroom should be a place where all students can shine and show that their emotions, thoughts and opinions are valuable and can be expressed musically in a way that others can identify with. Rock your music classroom together!