Confessions of a Kodály Music Teacher

… the final frontier. Such will be the voyage of this Kodaly-inspired music teacher.  Her new mission: to explore a strange new world, to decode middle school civilization; to boldly go down a new, unknown, scary path.

Yes, I know this is reminiscent of the introduction to a certain space-related TV show.  But it’s the best description of what my teacher-life is becoming.  I have been reassigned to one of our 5-8 buildings to teach beginning and intermediate band.  This is a scary proposition to me, as I’ve taught nothing but K-4 general music for the last seven years.  I’m not looking for sympathy today, just posting the news of the day.

Stay tuned for the adventures of a Kodaly-inspired music teacher’s adventures in band.  I will continue to post elementary-aged thoughts as I complete my thesis/project, but will also include ways I include Kodaly-inspired teaching in a beginning band setting.


I’m working on programming for my spring performances, and came across a website with tons of songs!  As Kodaly-inspired teachers, we are always looking for great folk literature.  I’m thinking that this website will fit the bill – although it seems to be lacking some citations, but I’ll share anyway.

Enjoy, and let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

I woke up Monday morning with the worst migraine, congestion, and allergy junk imaginable.  Needless to say, there was no way I was going to teach.  So, at 6:15am, I put in my sub request on Aesop (our online absence and substitute management system), drive 20 minutes to school, write sub plans, and drive 20 minutes back home.  Stupid, I know.  Why did I drive to school when I wasn’t planning to be at school?  Well, because I don’t have emergency sub plans that go beyond class lists and schedules.  After this drive, I decided this was the LAST time I would ever have to drive to work when I’m sick at the last minute.

Granted, I already have a folder on file in our main office that contains a basic schedule for the day, class lists (probably outdated at this point in the year), medical concern sheets for the most severe needs in the building, emergency drills, and how to operate the computer/smart board/stereo system setup.  Standard, yes.  Extremely useful for a sub, not at all – especially considering that there are only about 3 trained music subs in my district.

Along with my folder, I do have a dishtub labeled “Sub Tub” on a shelf near my desk.  In it I do keep some backup materials (Fantasia 2000 VHS, Lomax the Hound of Music DVD’s) and will fill it, for planned absences, with my plans, teacher editions bookmarked and ready to go, and directions for instruments IF I’m leaving any in my absence.

So the question is, how can I make my ‘Sub Tub’ more beneficial for ME when I’m absent unexpectedly?  And, how do I make sure that there are activities for both a music-trained sub (long-shot) and a non music-trained sub (way more likely)?

My answer – a binder with games all students in a grade level know and can play with little teacher interaction, instructions for Music Ace Maestro (which can be accessed from my student computer login on the SmartBoard) and a handful of DVD’s that are only for use when there is a substitute.

For the 2012-2013 school year, I plan to take the first 3-4 class periods and teach a handful of “fun,” but educational, music games that students can play whether I am present or not.  Instructions for those games will be placed in a binder, tabbed by grade level, and that binder placed in the “Sub Tub.”  Most of these games will also be used sometime during the year to prepare or present a concept – double win!  Also included will be computer login instructions and audio files, in a computer desktop folder, of me reviewing the songs for students (all the sub will have to do is double-click on the song title and students will hear me reteaching the song just how I would if I were present – it freaks students out when I use this.  Subs have told me that the kids look around the room trying to find me and ask where I’m hiding.).

When I went to the MKMEA Conference in Columbus this past October, one of the presenters used Legos for pitch and creating scales.  That got me thinking, “How else can Legos be used in the music classroom?”  Kids love Legos, right?  So I traveled to the nearest Lego store and stared at the bulk Lego wall for about 15 minutes when it finally hit me – use Legos to write rhythmic patterns!

Here’s what you need to make a set for one student:

1 skinny (thin) 2×8 (red)

2 regular 2×4 (black)

2 regular 2×3 (gray)

4 regular 2×2 (yellow)

8 regular 1×2 (green)

Each of these items should be a different color.  The colors I chose are in parentheses.

Here’s how I will use the Legos.

Grades 1 and 2:

Create four beat rhythm patterns using the red 2×8 as the 4/4 measure.  The 2×4’s are then half notes, 2×2’s are quarter notes, and 1×2’s are individual eighth notes.

Grade 3:

Create four beat rhythm patterns for quarter note, eighth note, and dotted-quarter eighth patterns using the 2×3 for the dotted-quarter value.

When introducing sixteenth notes, the 2×8 becomes worth two beats, the 2×4 becomes the quarter note, the 2×2 becomes paired eighth notes, and the 2×1 becomes an individual sixteenth note.

Grade 4 (or wherever you teach syncopa):

The setup for this pattern set is similar to second grade.  Students will see the ‘unevenness’ of this pattern when they create a pattern using a 1×2, 2×2, and 1×2 to create syncopa.


Augmented syncopa: 2×2, 2×4, 2×2

Rests: leave the base blank for the length of the rest.

I love my iPad. There, I said it. In the 6 months I’ve owned this glorious 64gig, 1st generation, WiFi only piece of Steve Jobs’ genius, I’ve found that the iPad can be very effectively used by teachers for many purposes. Slowly, I’ve started scanning and saving as .pdf files my favorite activities and lesson resources so that I won’t have to carry a bag of books back and forth to school. Assessing students has become more efficient by running our grade book in Safari and planning is now cake with (see previous post). My classes also run more efficiently with the addition of iTunes Remote for controlling recordings and Mobile Mouse to control my SmartBoard.

Comment below with your favorite iPad apps for education, and particularly music education.

The two primary keys to a successful teaching day are obviously planning and organization. As technology improves and becomes significantly more affordable, more and more possibilities are appearing to eliminate binders and folders of paper from our already crazy lives.

Recently, I was looking for an online lesson planner or an app for my iPad that would allow me to create the standards-based lesson plans that are required in my school district. After downloading or signing up for countless free trials online, I’ve found what I think is by far the best online planbook available (and they’re actively working on an iPad app to complement the web-based program.


Planbook Screenshot allows you to create a custom lesson plan book, including color-coding, weekly, bi-weekly, and cycle of ___ days schedules, and the ability to share lesson plans with other educators. At only $9.99 for a year’s subscription (plus a 30-day free trial to check it out), is one of the best values in planning!

Other fantastic features include simple copy/paste for multiple sections of the same lesson and click-to-add standards for most states/subject areas and even the Common Core! You can also set it up to grant students/parents/administrators viewing permissions using your email and a separate password you can set up. The folks at are very responsive to emails and suggestions and keep customers up-to-date on recent additions via their Facebook page. works on tablets, although there are some quirks (they’re working on a tablet-native app that will take advantage of the amazing touch features of a tablet.

Up next – PDF readers and ways to eliminate the HUGE bag of materials and teacher resources that we drag around every day.

Welcome to my blog!  I hope to post helpful tips for music educators, thoughts about classroom management in an elementary music classroom, and other relevant thoughts about music education, it’s place and importance in a well-rounded curriculum, as well as advocacy materials for music teachers.

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