Planning for Success! by Susan Brumfield
One of the most challenging aspects of Kodály-inspired teaching involves instructional planning. Teachers new to the approach often overlook the layers of complexity involved in this multi-dimensional, developmental, spiral way of teaching, which is at once both sequential and holistic. Armed with puppets, flashcards, manipulatives, a handful of songs and a list of elements to prepare, present, and practice, they are eager to jump in and “do Kodály!” Most soon discover that this philosophy can appear deceptively simple! They quickly learn that putting the principles into practice requires a great deal of preliminary work and preparation.
In a Kodály-inspired curriculum, planning for teaching occurs on four levels:
1. Long range plan: (often referred to as a curriculum guide). You can find a model scope and sequence in First, We Sing! Kodály-Inspired Teaching for the Music Classroom.
2.Concept plans: (or teaching strategies). Teaching strategies provide a comprehensive overview of procedure from the earliest stage of preparation through late practice and assessement of skill mastery within the context of the newly-learned element. Suggested strategies are in First, We Sing! Teaching Strategies for Rhythmic and Melodic Elements.
3. Mid-range plans: (also known as syllabi or yearly plans). These documents portion out the preparation, presentation, and practice of concepts and elements across the school year.
4. Short-range plans: (weekly or daily lesson plans). Lessons are generally conceived in a consecutive series, one through which development of both concepts and skills can occur sequentially.
Effective planning provides a logical sequential flow from one lesson to the next in terms of the unfolding work with each element (horizontal planning). Additionally, it is absolutely essential that each lesson be aesthetically satisfying and enjoyable in and of itself (vertical planning). As Kodály said: “Every lesson should be built in such a way that at its end the child should feel his strength increased rather than any sense of tiredness; moreover, he should look forward to the next.” From the students' viewpoint, lessons should be enjoyable and balanced with a variety of activities. From the teacher's viewpoint, the lesson should contain segments that accomplish multiple pedagogical goals.
* Zoltán Kodály, “Preface,” in Musical Reading and Writing, Erzsébet Szonyi, trans. Lili Hapály (London: Boosey & Hawkes, 1954; English edition, 1974), 8
A Checklist for Lesson Planning
Think your lessons are ready to go? Good! Before you jump in with both feet, you may want to have one more quick look at your plan. The more you can anticipate and eliminate potential trouble spots, the more you can ensure success and enjoyment (for yourself as well as your kids!).
- How many songs are in the lesson?
- Are there enough? Too many? Too few?
- Is there a variety in mood, style, tempo?
- How many games did the children get to play? Too few? Too many? (Not likely!)
- Do I know the music well enough to perform it convincingly?
- Do I know it by heart, understand the style, and perform it stylistically and musically?
- Have I determined the appropriate tempo?
- What are the appropriate keys for reading, writing, singing?
- Where should I check my pitch with a tuning fork? (Have I made a note in the lesson plan to remind myself to do it more than once?)
- How long does the work in each part of the lesson really take?
- Can we complete an activity in 5-7 minutes without rushing? If not, should I consider taking smaller steps over the span of more lessons?
- What are the action verbs in the lesson?
- Which musical skills are the students able to develop and practice today?
- How much extraneous talking am I doing?
- Should I communicate non-verbally more frequently?
- Could my questions be more concise?
- Come to think of it, who should be doing most of the singing, playing, reading, writing, moving, describing, discovering, etc.?
- Who actually ends up doing it most of the time in my lessons? (Be honest. If you’re not sure, try videotaping your teaching.)
- Will this lesson provide a musically satisfying experience on many levels?
- Is it fun, touching, thought-provoking, relaxing, stimulating and magic?
- Is there enough MUSIC?
There’s no doubt about it: this kind of planning takes a lot of time, and it’s tough to manage with K-5 classes twice a week! But it gets easier with practice, and the better your planning skills become, the more your students will enjoy the time they spend in music class. Focus on the most important things: make music, touch lives, and love what you do! The rest will fall into place.