Many students regard music education in schools as that of just being in the band, choir, or orchestra. But music has much more to offer students than meets the eye, and though they may not understand the many benefits that musical education can give them – advanced academics, improved confidence, and social skills – just like any other subject, music can also be somewhat boring.
The key to any subject that doesn’t peak interest from students is to work to make it more engaging and find things that do interest them. Students of any age can easily tune out if they don’t find themselves absorbed in the material they are learning. Music educators across the globe have developed various strategies to assist their students in ‘finding the fun’ when it comes to learning.
First Thing’s First: You have to love music and teaching.
This may sound like a given, but let’s be honest here – you really have to love your craft in order to share it effectively. Students are more apt to be engaged and learn from someone who really cares about the things they are teaching. It’s easy to see when you care about something because they feed off of your excitement.
This can be difficult as an educator because sometimes, certain aspects of music class might still be boring – but it is your job to try to relay it in the most motivating and positive way. One way you can help to make it meaningful for students so that they can relate – find a common connection that can help to intrigue and maybe even reach them on a personal level.
Sometimes just sitting in a chair for a long period of time can make students zone out. Even the most interested students can get bored when listening to long lectures. One cure for this? Get moving!
This tactic is especially easy to do in a music class since you can easily have students learn rhythms and patterns through movements together. Having them do some handclaps, finger snaps, even getting out of the chair and performing some simple step moves if you can to get in the groove can be a great way to focus a lesson. By having the students become more involved this way, they are also more likely to retain the information they learn.
BE ORGANIZED AND PREPARED
Nothing will be quicker at having students become less interested than a teacher who is fumbling around and seems unprepared for the lesson. Take the time to set up your schedule and coordinate activities to break up your class session.
Not only will this succeed in helping to keep students engaged, but it gives you a better reputation as a well-respected teacher since you will always come prepared with plans for your day. It also can help you (in the case that you can’t do your initial daily planned lesson) to have even more than one activity or curriculum created.
Now, developing plans around an arsenal of routines and activities does mean planning on your own time, however, the payoff is very much worth the effort. By building up your activities you won’t ever find yourself void of having something to pivot your students’ thinking and keeping them on their feet.
INCORPORATE MUSICAL GAMES
Games are always more engaging, and you can disguise lessons as games in the classroom. If you need some inspiration, you can start with the adventure right here – keys and kingdoms, to get you started. But any kind of musical activity can be turned into a game, and the best part is – the students won’t know that they are learning while they play.
Some other ideas for musical learning games might include a musical notes/symbols matching game with cards, or a songwriting activity where students partner up or break up into smaller groups to create their very own composition.
In some cases you may want to utilize outside resources altogether, and you can find music schools that offer various programs for learning instruments such as pianos, guitars, or just the music that may help you both in the classroom, or even to recommend to students to help them take their music education to the next level from home.
FIND LOCAL ROLE MODELS
Aspirations are great, and your students very well might have dreams to be in the music industry someday. Speak to that culture and reach out to a local musician, someone who they can relate to that has actually made a career out of it.
Some examples might include someone who plays classical music who can help with learning professional drum lessons in NYC to start with, or maybe even someone who has headlined for a famous artist. There might even be someone that you can reference to who is a well-known popular artist that came from their same hometown/music classroom.
Take it a step further and see if you can have that person come in to discuss their career and answer questions pertaining to their musical education. Having people that can provide insight into the many facets of what music entails will provide a cool takeaway for your students. It demonstrates how much more music can be involved and enrich our lives.
Do some involved research and explore the other possibilities within the music industry where you can provide musical education and show your students more specific areas throughout, such as conducting sound design, obtaining music composition for films, or how to construct catchy music jingles for commercials.
INVOLVE YOUR STUDENTS
Engagement is not just about the teaching aspect, but also involving the students. Welcome your students’ opinions and innovative ideas while allowing them to absorb and understand the activities at hand. When a student feels you care, you are fulfilling that innate need for connection and belonging. They will only appreciate the encouragement and support, which results in building upon their confidence to further excel in class.
Make music education more about the love of the activities and less about obtaining a good grade. Celebrate wins and encourage creativity, and you’re sure to have a classroom full of engaged students, ready to learn as much as possible about music.