Confessions of a Kodály Music Teacher

Posts Tagged ‘Kodaly

Many of us will run across this dilemma in our careers.  You have moved to a new school, in a new place, and the kids are ALL new to you.  Maybe you just wanted a change, maybe you were laid off from a previous position or didn’t like the climate of your old school, but regardless, you are now in a position of being the ‘new’ music teacher, even though you aren’t a new teacher.  You’ve left behind students who knew your expectations, respected how you wanted your classroom run (hopefully), and the school community had bought into the things YOU did for kids everyday.  Now you are in a new school, with new families, new coworkers, and you feel like a brand. new. teacher.  All over again.  Sure you know how to sequence skills MUCH better now, you had hit lessons that you can’t wait to use with your new students.  Then you walk into the classroom and walk into a brick wall.

“That’s not how <insert previous teacher’s name> did it!”

“We have to watch ballet?  Eewww…”

<Previous teacher’s name> just let us bang on the xylophones!!  Why won’t you?

“You’re new.  I don’t have to listen to you!”

…The list can go on and on.

I was fortunate enough to spend my first eight years in one school district (the last one was in a different building, but I knew about 1/2 of the kids already).  Then, the dreaded Reduction in Force hit.  So back to the drawing board.  50+ applications and a couple interviews later, I find myself moving 1000 miles cross-country for a position in an amazing school district for music education in North Texas. “This is great!” I thought as I set up my new classroom (in a 2-years since major renovation building – awesome).  The staff was welcoming.  Then came the kids.  Kinder through second grade were a breeze – still young and weren’t COMPLETELY attached to their old teacher.  The older kids, well, not so much.

So how does the “new” teacher cope and thrive in this situation?  Well, first, know that the first year will probably not go as smoothly as you expect.  You will run into bumps and places where you will have to change the way you do things, especially with your older students.  Second, know that you CAN still set high expectations for your students, and you should.  Know that your new students might not be as willing to hold hands or have boy-girl partners as your old students, but that will come with time.  Spend time, especially at the beginning of the school year getting to know your students.  Play their favorite games from their previous teacher.  It shows that you are not dismissing their past experiences as unimportant.  But also set up your expectations, especially with your harder-to-reach classes.  I’ve found myself “waiting” quite a few times for students to get to a focus level so that I can teach.

Know that your students may not be where you expect them to be musically – even if you are in a place with a rigorous curriculum.  You will have to spend some time figuring out where the students are and what concepts they did and didn’t get to in the past.  This may mean that you have to finish concepts from a previous year, or reteach skills they should already know.  That is not a bad thing.

Finally, remember that you WILL get there with these students, just like you did with your previous students.  It will take a few years, but you will make a difference and you will be able to build the program you want again.


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.

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.

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