Common Core and the Elementary Music Classroom

We had training today in conjunction with our implementation of the Common Core standards.  Today’s training was a continuation of what we started in November looking at the English Language Arts (ELA). I've been trying to think of things I already do that support these new standards and things I could add or change in my current classroom.

In November, I went to the training for the 3rd-5th grades and my big take away from that training, besides having students justify their answers and give them more moments to describe and compare/contrast music, was to start including nonfiction texts in my music classroom where possible. All of my current book-to-music selections are fiction works.  While I am not going to get rid of all my books I’ve used in the past as I strongly believe that story and imagination is a very important part of child development and play in the music classroom, I have been looking at different books that I could add to enhance our music learning experience.

When I have a more comprehensive list and have tried the books in the classroom, I will gladly share! :-)

In today’s training, I decided to go to the K-1st session. The session was focused on Speaking-Listening-Writing.  The presenters felt like students were not getting to speak enough in their classes, and some are not doing enough active listening.

As I thought about this, I think that my students do get to do a certain amount of speaking as we do group work where students have to work together in groups, we do think-pair-share ALL the time, they, of course, are speaking rhythmically to all sorts of poems, and we answer questions about music all the time as well.

I have also had students doing some active listening where they must listen to what other students say, whether it’s in an answer to a sing-song So Mi “What did you do this weekend?” or what Christmas present did someone share after we performed a poem about sharing a favorite gift. The key to this is that it could not be their own answer.

One part I think I need to work on in my classroom in the lower grades is having more experiences for students to see written words.  Common Core states that the teacher can do the writing in the lower grades, and students can draw pictures or speak to satisfy their writing standard.  In my class, we’ve generally shared things orally and students have had aural experiences as well BUT I have not provided as much written word as I think I could.  So that’s one thing I’m going to work on in the lower grades.

Also, I decided I need to provide more opportunities for students to describe in music.  When doing listening activities, I usually have students move to the music in some way.  In free movement to music, my K/1 students have shown me what they hear by moving fast/slow, high/low, etc. but I’ve never had them speak about why they chose the movements or justify their moving.  That could be an easy enough addition to activities that would enhance students' abilities to talk about and justify their ideas.

So my big take aways for my students (youngers and olders) from this session:

-have my students see more written words to go with our oral and aural experiences (especially adding to the younger grades),

-have my students describe, compare/contrast and justify answers in music more often than I already do (in both younger and older), and

-have my students do more activities where they justify their free movements to music and what they hear or prefer and why.

If your states/schools are starting Common Core or have been doing Common Core for a while, I'd love to hear how YOU support these new standards in your music classroom!  I love new ideas! :-)

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