To produce a performance or learn meaningful content?

a boy learning how the play the flute from his mentor

Classroom music teachers, I have a great deal of respect for you.

I only occasionally teach classroom music nowadays, and as enjoyable as it is, it has to be admitted to be EXHAUSTING.

The constant change over of music students, the demand to produce a perfect musical product, the never-ending questions about whether or not music is worth the time it demands.

I salute you for persevering through all the out-of-tune recorders.

To my mind, one of the hardest parts of your job is the legacy of classroom music teaching.

To explain what I mean, let’s talk about those recorders.

I had a discussion the other day with a freelance music teacher, who said she had spent 9 hours teaching 6 year olds how to play ONE note correctly on the recorder.

I asked what she thought the point of the activity was (I had explained what it is that I do with my time, and really hope it didn’t sound as rude as it looks written down).

She said, “Well, they get a lot from it. Pitch, beat, rhythm…”

We left it at that.

But I have to ask the question again.

What is the musical learning outcome of that activity?

Students learn recorder because they have always learned recorder. It doesn’t mean that they always should.

I have countless stories from music teachers about hours spent on an activity. Then, at the end of the day, the students themselves didn’t enjoy it, and after all that effort, they were left with very little understanding to show for it.

I am by no means saying that we need to stop teaching recorder, end all ukulele choirs, and never put on a Christmas performance again. All of those activities have value.

What I am saying is that we need to interrogate how long we spend teaching certain activities, when the musical learning content is done and dusted. When you stop and consider, it is surprising how much you can achieve in 15 minutes.

I once got a class transcribing short melodic phrases, independently and accurately, within half an hour. It wasn’t a perfect activity, there’s lots I would change about it, but the point is when I wasn’t focused on a perfect musical performance, the LEARNING flourished.

“But that sounds like a lot more work than my current method!!!”


Well, yes and no. You are a qualified music teacher, and you have this content knowledge ready to go. It’s about figuring out how to use it.

To get you started, it’s classic free resource Thursday! This one is especially for all the classroom music teachers. I have previously shared the Year 3 and 4 resource for free, so now I will share the Year 1 and 2 package. If you want to purchase the whole pack, all the way up to year 6, remember you can always find it in our shop.

Why does this relate to what I’m saying here? Well, this resource should get your students reading western staff notation in a few short lessons, as well as giving you clear learning outcomes in each and every lesson.

Oh no, it looks like you missed out on our free resource! Don’t worry, if you look through our most recent blog posts, you will probably find another one, and it’s always available in the shop.

Hopefully this begins your journey of focusing on the understanding, rather than always on the outcome.

Feeling overwhelmed with the never-ending responsibilities of a music teacher? Us too! Go to our shop to find reasonably priced music education resources designed by experts to make your life easier.

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