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Teaching Classical Music in the Music Classroom Setting
By Ann Eisen, Sneaky Snake Publications, LLC
9/6/2012 11:44:00 AM  

Ideas for this article came from An American Methodology (Eisen and Robertson, Second Edition, ©2010) and From Folk Songs To Masterworks (Eisen and Robertson, ©2010).

Classical music in the classroom setting may be approached in several ways.  One way is through quiet listening, especially with younger children in pre-school, kindergarten, and the lower elementary grades.  Another way is to use classical music with kinesthetic activities that involve the use of movement in different frameworks.  With older children, a composer of the month program, or other theme programs featuring types of music such as symphonies, sonatas, operas, etc. can be utilized to present classical music to lower and upper elementary students.  These approaches are well known to us as music appreciation. 

One of the principal goals of the Kodály approach is to make the great art music of the world available to children through performing, studying, and analyzing music while developing a love and appreciation for all types of music.  The beauty of teaching music to children using the Kodály approach is that it leads beyond itself to the music of the masters. 

Kodály music educators follow a progression called the Three P’s (Preparation, Presentation, and Practice) in planning how to teach a new element.  As new elements (musical ideas) are presented, they are practiced or reinforced in eight different areas.  The final practice area is called listening.  In this listening to great art music, the teacher is challenged to be creative in a concise and sequential procedure.  Classical music is presented as a culmination of reinforcing a musical element and the music example must contain the element being practiced in a way that is obvious within the music itself.  Students are challenged to recall and reinforce many skills that they have previously practiced. 

A short piece of art music that contains the element being practiced is chosen for study.  At times, especially with younger children, the students may only listen to the music example but it is better if they get a fuller appreciation of that music by reading a part of either the rhythm or the melody before actually listening to that music so that their listening becomes active and not passive.  They listen intelligently.  The teacher will be challenged to find a piece of music for listening in which a specific element is applied.  When students have been well prepared in practicing an element in many different ways, they are able to use these skills to go from a folk song example that leads to the new listening of a piece of classical music.  Live music experiences are the best, but many recordings are available (from your text book series and your own collection) as well as on YouTube and iTunes.

Things to consider when planning listening lesson fragments:

  1. The fragment is only part of a complete musical lesson plan.
  2. A listening fragment is not a music appreciation lesson; it is a practice area that reinforces a conscious element by applying it in a chosen example of art or other types of music
  3. Choose song material closely related to the listening example
  4. Try to develop logical and musical steps that lead to the listening objective
  5. Keep it simple; avoid making the procedure too complicated for yourself and your students
  6. Make the experience enjoyable for you and your students—keep it musical above all else
  7. Know the music example well both aurally and visually before using it in a lesson
  8. Lessons may be planned to do over a series of different lessons

Make the time you spend with your students as musical as possible.  We are not only teaching musical literacy, but musical experiences as well.  What a wonderful way to become familiar with music that will last a lifetime and hopefully, become a way to enjoy great music for an entire generation.

From Folk Songs to Masterworks - Ann Eisen

From Folk Songs to Masterworks is a new book that is divided into sections by grade, although most of the lesson fragments can be used interchangeably among all grades. 77 art music examples and lessons are included. The art music examples come from a variety of composers including Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Debussy, Copland, Bartok and others. Background information is given for each musical example as well as abbreviated examples of music scores included for the teacher's benefit.

Each lesson has an art music selection, music element focus, background information, abbreviated art music score and music lesson fragment (folk song score and teaching procedure). If a singing game is used, the game directions are included.

Click HERE to find out more about Folk Songs to Masterworks!

Tags: Classical Music, Kodály, Kodaly, Three P's, Three Ps, Music Education, Classical Music Appreciation, Ann Eisen
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