Music Teacher Success Toolbox

Maybe you’re just starting out as a music educator, or maybe this is your 10th year of teaching. Whatever your situation, school has begun and you might be thinking, “What do I need in my toolbox this school year? What standards and faithful resources and exercises do I need to add or build into my routine?” If you need a little direction or inspiration, here are a few “tools” to help you succeed.


Begin every rehearsal with a well-planned, technique-building warm-up. This will focus attention, provide a firm foundation for quality singing/playing, and fine-tune your groups’ ensemble skills.

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The time you invest in teaching your students to read music today will save valuable rehearsal time tomorrow. So incorporate a few minutes of dedicated sight-reading practice as often as possible.

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Music Theory

While in school we learn how to read and write English, but when it comes to music, most of us only know how to read it and have little to no idea how it works. That is the point of music theory: to explain how music works, providing a language for composers and musicians to communicate with each other.

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Music History

Foster an understanding of music in relation to history and culture. We can learn so much from studying the past.

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Music Appreciation

Teach your students what to listen for and how to understand what they are hearing in different types of music. Incorporate some music history lessons to explain why people of a certain era liked the music that they did and encourage the “appreciation” of the value and merit of different styles of music. Teach about composers, the instruments and ensembles, and the different styles of music from the various eras and listen to recordings of musical pieces. Or better yet, take your class to hear a live musical performance!

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Rhythm is one of several characteristics of music that allow us to “understand” it. Encourage and enable your students to develop solid rhythmic reading skills by introducing and practicing rhythm exercises in a variety of time signatures. Continue to introduce new concepts to challenge and motivate your students.

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Technology has had a significant impact in today’s schools. The adoption of technology has completely changed how teachers teach and students learn. Teachers are learning how to teach with emerging technologies (Tablets, iPads, Interactive Whiteboards, etc.), while students are using technology to shape how they learn. By embracing and integrating technology in the classroom whenever possible, we are setting our students up for a successful life outside of school.

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For music teachers who incorporate singing into lessons:

Echo Songs / Rounds / Partner Songs

Train singers one step at a time. First, cultivate basic singing and listening skills with echo songs. Next, explore singing in canon. Finally, combine two independent melodies with a partner song. These are the building blocks to singing in harmony!

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Vocal Collections

Establish a library of solid vocal literature, and encourage students to polish their individual technique. Each time a singer makes personal progress, the quality of the ensembles in which they participate will improve in turn. Encourage solo singing at contest, or just for fun!

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General Music

There are many types of learners in a general music classroom and a multitude of skills to teach, so it is important to vary lessons and activities. Start by assembling a collection of strong curriculum-based resources, and then add creative supplements that will enhance core learning.

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