Teaching has been unique, to say the least, over the past few months. Whether your teaching was asynchronous, synchronous, packets that were mailed to the students, some blended version of this, or your school is online 100% of the time but you accrued a numerous amount of new students, your teaching situation probably changed in some way, shape or form. When this new way of teaching all started, I wrote a post titled, When You Have To Teach Elementary Music From Home“, where I gave ideas and technology resources for activities that can be done when teaching remotely. I wrote it originally on March 6 and added to it throughout the spring because our teaching situations changed so quickly.

This post focuses on ideas and activities based around technology in elementary general music classes for when we return. I try to approach a variety of scenarios and elementary music approaches. I have categorized them below (Navigate This Post) so you can click on the part of the post that would benefit you the most. Each section contains some ideas for Dr. Feierabend’s First Steps, Kodály, and Orff Schulwerk approaches. Please note that everyone will resume teaching in a way that will hopefully work best for their students. When you read through these ideas, please remember that adapting them to your scenario will be necessary. Also, I will update this throughout the next two months.

Being Proactive Rather Than Reactive

“Be at the dinner table, or at least on the menu.”

Dr. Jedd Tedford from MusTech.Net Live!

If you are in the position to be proactive in how your school will resume in-person instruction, do your best to be apart of the conversation. As I have heard from Jeff and many others, “Be at the dinner table, or at least on the menu.”

  • Read and watch: Read articles and watch webinars on the subjects of the virus and music from reputable studies and authors.
  • Read and watch: Read articles and watch webinars on how other schools have reopened.
  • Ask questions: Ask questions in various music education professional networks like Music Educators Creating Online Learning and E-Learning in Music Education by Music Ed Forward, and communicate with others on ideas about how to approach teaching in the elementary general music classroom.
  • Be apart of the planning: Ask your Principal, Head of School, Music Supervisor, Department Chair, etc, to be apart of the conversations. This could be a committee or a voluntary task force or anything along those lines.
  • Share the knowledge: Send articles that are written by reputable authors and resources to those in charge so that they know that you are researching the topic of music education.
  • Ideas: Formulate some ideas of how music classes will look. Though it is ultimately the administration’s decision, you are the expert on music education. That is why you were hired to teach music at your school.
  • Parent Buy-in: If you are told to teach with a scenario that involves online or distance learning, parent and caregiver buy-in is a must. Therefore, keep that in the back of your mind as you devise what music classes would look like in these scenarios. If a parent or caregiver becomes frustrated with multiple online platforms, multiple passwords, being given numerous items that they must oversee their child to accomplish or have to keep a very detailed schedule that is not structured or does not follow a routine, then there will be problems moving forward with instruction.
  • If you begin on a cart: If they start you on the cart, advocate that this is a phase in a larger transition. For example, teaching on a cart would be Phase 1. As restrictions hopefully lift and more students can be in a classroom at one time, a later phase will involve that the music room is returned to the music educator. Again, be apart of the conversation and advocate as to why that is important for the students (music is a social, emotional need, or music in the music room involves music-making at the highest level that evokes collaboration, confidence, and global and cross-curricular connections).
  • Click here for a thorough list of a compilation of articles by MusTech.Net’s Dr. Joseph Pisano.

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Scenario: Teaching Online Only…

Teaching distance learning from home could be synchronous, asynchronous, or a bit of both. The ideas I suggest are just that, ideas. If that idea would not work for your teaching situation, then you can scroll past it or think about adapting it to your classroom. Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution.

With Only Paper Materials

During this past bout with online learning, there were many schools where the elementary music teacher could only provide paper materials to be sent home. If this is continuing, here are some suggestions:

  • Ideas from my original post, which includes Bingo Boards, websites with free, downloadable worksheets, and ideas for activities that can be done at home with caregivers and family members.
  • Becca F shared Heartbeat Charts and other printable/downloadable gems on the Facebook Elementary Music Teachers. These could be used to send out to students for visuals, music creativity, composition, and more.
  • If the household has a device, which may or may not have internet access, place videos like Musication’s rhythm play-alongs (here is my playlist), recordings to sing along to or perform beat buddy steady beat movements with a stuffy, and listening maps on a thumb drive and send to the students to access some musical activities.
  • YouTube Playlist Tip: Since YouTube now has you classify videos you upload as safe for children to view, this now grays out the “Save to Playlist” button. A workaround is to click the “Like” button, then click three horizontal lines in the top left-hand corner of the screen, and scroll down to “Liked Videos”. This brings up a list of the videos that you like. Click the three dots next to the video, scroll down to “Save to playlist”, and you can now place it in an existing playlist, or begin a new one.
  • Dr. Feierabend’s First Steps: If you are using Dr. Feierabend’s First Steps in Music for Preschool and Beyond with the 8-step program and you cannot see your students and you cannot give them internet-based tools, then I would send a packet that includes a page to draw pitch explorations, a copy of a traditional song for the echo song and the simple song, a page that has prompts for an arioso (like an arioso food menu), and statue cards where the students can play music at home and pause the music to form one of the statues. Here is an example of this packet (the link forces you to make a copy so you can edit it as you would like).
  • Kodály: If you are using the Kodály approach to teach elementary general music and you will not be able to teach with the internet, I would suggest looking at some of the Kodály-inspired websites. These sites have great ideas, resources, and links to their Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) stores: Beth’s Notes, Jenny F’s Kodály Corner, and the Lindsay J’s Kodály-Inspired Classroom to name just a few.
  • Orff Schulwerk: Like using the Kodaály approach, there are already sites and resources created for you to download and use or to purchase on Teachers Pay Teachers stores: Aimée’s O For Tuna Orff and David R’s Make Moments Matter to name a few.
  • Note about using Teachers Pay Teachers: If you purchase the resources to use in a classroom or to distribute for distance learning, please make sure you read the fine print to see if you are allowed to make copies for each student or if you have to purchase more packets.
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Many of us had to teach asynchronously for the past few months. This meant that you were teaching with some sort of schedule, but you never taught the students in a live setting. The platform that you left materials, activities, or assessments was most likely set up by the school. This is not ideal, but when the students responded to your activities, you felt that you were connecting with them on some level. Here are some ideas if your music classes have to be asynchronous:

  • Platforms: If you are expected to teach asynchronously, then the school must set up a platform for you or tell you what platform they have adopted to successfully teach asynchronously. Such platforms have included Seesaw, Google Classroom, Schoology, Canvas, Flipgrid, Class Dojo, and more. Most of the ones I listed are free, or have a free version that can be used well. To find out more about Seesaw and Flipgrid, check out the webinars on my website.
    • Seesaw is a free, digital learning portfolio that has made numerous updates since the pandemic started. The free version gives a teacher a lot of various tools to have the students record themselves, video themselves, draw and perform rhythm patterns, write or record reflections, and access links the teachers leave for them. In addition, the activities that are included in Seesaw are like a free Teachers Pay Teachers within the app. Seesaw works on numerous devices from iOS, Chromebook, Laptop, Desktop, Amazon Kindle, and Android.
    • Here is an example of a webinar Cherie Herring and I did about Seesaw (this was part 2 in a 2-part series) as apart of the spring’s MusTech.Net Live Facebook Series.
    • Google Classroom is a part of the GSuite for education. If your school has created Gmail addresses for their students (even if their handle ends in .edu or .org, it could be originating from Gmail), then you have access to Google Classroom. Google Classroom has evolved over the past year with now including grading rubrics and forms within the application. Tip: If your school is using this as a platform to communicate with students, ask them if you are to create one for your subject area, or join with the classroom teacher’s Google Classroom. Ideally, you should have your own. However, since the parent plays a large role in making sure their children are logging in and accessing the site, it might be easier to be apart of the classroom teacher’s classroom so there are fewer places for the student to login.
    • Flipgrid: Flipgrid is a free website owned by Microsoft that allows teachers to create “grids” to begin video discussions or assessments. Each grid is like a message board where teachers can pose questions or activities, called “topics,” and their students can post video responses that appear in a tiled grid display. Flipgrid can also screen record as well as you can create “Shorts”, which is another way to create short tutorials or play-along videos for your students.
  • Teaching Videos: In the past few months, many of us have gotten very creative with teaching videos. Rebecca Volk created an amazing series titled “Ms. Volk’s Online Classroom.” These videos range from tempo to the instruments of the orchestra. These are easily shareable for when you want to introduce a topic to your students from a guest music teacher. They can also be included in sub plans for when we are back teaching daily in the classroom. Below is a video from a recent interview we had with Rebecca about creating her videos.
  • Creating Teaching Videos: There are many ways to create teaching videos. A few examples are:
    • Use your device’s camera, such as your laptop, your Chromebook, your mobile device, etc, to record yourself teaching and edit it with an app like iMovie (free on MAC or iOS), WeVideo (free and paid versions and is web-based), Final Cut Pro (paid version on MAC), or Filmora (Windows or MAC).
    • Use Zoom to screen record yourself teaching a class where you can share your screen, use a whiteboard, and source the sound directly into the device.
    • Use Loom or Screencastify to screen record yourself teaching or to create resources for the students to use. This example below, this is me using Google Slides and Loom to create a play-along recorder video.
    • These videos can be uploaded to Seesaw, Class Dojo, Google Classroom, YouTube, or other platforms you are using to relay your activities to your students.
  • Interactive Classrooms: A big hit over the past few months were interactive classrooms. They became as popular as the pictures of our classrooms all set up before a new school year. These interactive classrooms had links that the students could click to access videos, online worksheets, online forms, and more. Many were created in Google Slides because even though there are other platforms out there, Google Slides is web-based, can be worked on offline (no internet), and will work on most devices, from iOS devices to Chromebooks, to laptops.
  • Creating a Website: When teaching asynchronously, you can create a website so that your students can access your activities, videos playlists, forms, interactive classroom, etc. Here are examples that can be included on your website. There are numerous ways to create a website from Google Sites (this is mine as an example of our music program) to Weebly (here is a great one from David Row).
    • On your website you can leave links that promote the students to create music like:
      • Chrome Music Lab: Have the students explore creating a melody with Song Maker, integrating art and music with Kandinsky, learn about meter with Rhythm, explore their vocalizations with Voice Spinner, and more.
      • Incredibox: Have the students create music with the cartoon beatboxers in incredibox. In addition, have them write a poem, or a classroom rules rap, or take a simple chant, and have them create an accompaniment using incredibox.
      • Classics For Kids: Have the students listen to podcasts about composers or play music games like “Play Note Games” to reinforce note reading.
      • More found here in my original post.
  • Using Your Budget to Purchase an Online Music Learning Curriculum or Supplement like Interactive MUSIC (Realize) powered by Silver Burdett with Alfred, Musicplayonline, MusicFirst, Quaver Music, or Spotlight on Music, to name a few.
  • Creating YouTube Playlists: Creating and Sharing a YouTube playlist is a great way to have your students listen, move to, read, and perform various styles, genres, and pieces of music. Here is an example of creating a YouTube playlist of Jill Trinka’s recordings. Also, see the YouTube Playlist Tip above.
  • Dr. Feierabend’s First Steps: If you are teaching First Steps in Music for Preschool and Beyond asynchronously, I would suggest creating a Google Slide Presentation with the 8-step workout. I showed this earlier in the spring and it still applies now. You can publish the Google Slide Show to the web and send the link to the parents and students to view and perform. You can also paste the link on the platform your school would like you to use for learning such as those mentioned above. I would also use platforms like Seesaw or Flipgrid to draw pitch explorations for the students to record themselves singing. Doing this does anticipate that the parent or caregiver will assist the student when viewing the video and performing the activities.
  • Kodály: Create teaching manipulatives in Google Slides and then use them to create teaching videos (using Loom, Screencastify, etc), so you can upload to the platform the students are using to view them.
  • Orff Schulwerk: For this approach, I would create sing-along videos (see below, which features the true atmosphere of trying to teach from home…), recorder play-along videos (or find many on YouTube), and find movement videos to upload to the student’s platform for accessing your activities. In addition, I would use Seesaw or Flipgrid to also encourage improvisation.

This idea came from Katie Wardrobe’s video of creating a follow-the-bouncy-ball video using Flipgrid Shorts. You can see it below.

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Many of us had to teach synchronously over the past few months. This meant that the students logged in on a video communication platform that you invited them to at a certain time of the day, and you taught them music. For some of us, this was normal, as we have taught before in other online schools or summer music ed courses. For others, this was a brand new teaching scenario and took some time to get used to.

  • Video Communication Platforms: Three popular video communication platforms that were used in the past few months were Zoom, Google Meets, and Microsoft Teams. For elementary music educators, there were pros and cons to all three. There was a consensus that Zoom had the best sound sourcing so that all you had to do was share your screen and click the box on the bottom of the screen to source your sound directly to your students’ devices. The features of muting all and unmuting all were especially helpful for the younger ages who had challenges doing that by themselves. The virtual backgrounds in Zoom (if your computer could do this), the blurred backgrounds in Teams, the breakout rooms in Zoom, the assignment of the Google Meets link directly with that Google Classroom, the disabling of chat windows and sharing screens when needed, and the numerous add-ons for Meets so it behaved more like Zoom and Teams, helped us teach our live elementary music classes more efficiently online.
    • Tip: The addition of a monitor was extremely helpful when teaching. Once I had a monitor added to my laptop, I could now see all of the students when I shared the screen.
  • Singing or Making Music Together: All music educators had to experience a grieving process of losing the ability to make live music together. The latency issues that all video communication platforms have are not going to be resolved anytime soon. Therefore, we had to grieve this and then brainstorm ways for our students to make music together.
    • Sometimes, we performed call and response or echo songs. Though this didn’t solve the latency issue, it did allow you to hear your students sing or play their instruments.
    • If possible, we could ask the older elementary to record the live Zoom, Meets, etc, session. When you asked them to mute and then play along with the accompaniment, they could send you the recording and you could assess their music-making.
    • Or, we could use the live class to demonstrate how to record themselves singing or performing in Flipgrid (see below) or Seesaw or Class Dojo, etc, and you could retrieve the recordings later.
      • Tip: Internet unstable? Record yourself in advance using Screencastify or Loom, and then save it to your laptop. When showing it live, you will not need the internet to stream it because it was saved on your hard drive.
      • Tip: I noticed early on that some students were embarrassed to sing at home. They were self-conscious about who was listening to them. With synchronous teaching, expect that you will not receive 100% participation when it comes to singing or recording at home.
  • Inviting Guest Musicians: During this spring, numerous professional musicians were offering to visit and perform for music classes, via Zoom, Meets, Teams, etc. I was so happy to welcome Anna Mattix, the Buffalo Philharmonic English Hornist/Oboist, to the grades 2-4 live Zoom music classes. My students were studying rhythm play-alongs and recorder descants to various John Williams’s Star Wars themes. Anna joined us and performed famous solos as well as the Star Wars Themes for the students. They were in awe of her talent and information.
  • Dr. Feierabend’s First Steps: In the synchronous model, I tried to have them sing as much as I could, unmuted. Even though it sounded crazy at times, my shy singers would project more if they all were singing unmuted, as opposed to singing muted with their parents or caregivers are in the next room. I also used a lot of echo songs so that I could hear them. I missed hearing them sing when we went into quarantine. We also performed a lot of movement activities found in the 8-step workout. There are a couple of Move It! videos on YouTube (perform a google search) or create your own.
    • Tip: When performing movements, ask the students to mute themselves. Then, use a speaker connected to your device so that the music can be picked up better by your microphone and the students can hear it better in their devices.
    • Tip: If you are using Zoom, share the screen so that they see your Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Music, etc, click the checkbox on the bottom left-hand corner that sources the sound to the devices, and then spotlight yourself. Now the students can hear the music sourced directly into their devices and can see you so that they can follow along with you.
  • Kodály: As stated above, unmuted singing works for encouraging the students to sing (it will not sync up for them to sing together, but they still sing), especially with echo songs. The exception would be is if there are a lot of people talking in the background of the students’ devices. However, if you can sing the short folk songs found in the Kodály approach, try as much as you can to have the students sing unmuted. In addition, share a digital whiteboard (Zoom has one included, Google Meets has Jamboard, or you can use an online one like Classroom Screen) to draw 1-4 line staves as well as compose and perform rhythm patterns.
  • Orff Schulwerk: With instruments like ukuleles or recorders, I would teach by call and response unmuted as much as we could, then show the music, and then ask them to mute and play along. I created play-along videos as mentioned above by placing the music on google slides, putting slides in Presentation Mode, using the red pointer included in slides, and then using Loom or Screencastify to source the accompaniment track’s sound into the device while recording myself playing with the red pointer pointing at the notes. If you subscribe to a series that has the play-along videos, then you could use those and teach synchronous with them.
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Scenario: Hybrid-Teaching Online and In School

There is a real possibility that we will resume teaching in phases. Phase One could possibly be teaching from home, all online. Phase Two could be a hybrid of teaching in school and from home. Phase Three could be teaching in school and online, to accommodate those who cannot come into school. The reasons a school might transition into a hybrid model could vary from the school cannot accommodate all of the students returning at once to the school gives the parents the option to send their children to school or to login and learn online. This could be a very exhausting scenario as it implies that the elementary music educator is creating two lessons for one class: one for online and one for live teaching. However, for the next year, this could be a very real scenario, and having some ideas that could benefit your students the best is always helpful.

1:1 Classroom

If we transition into a hybrid model of online and live teaching, then one of the first tools we inquire about is what will all of the students have to assist them with learning? If the students all have school-provided or their own devices, then teaching might involve the following:

  • Teaching in the school while some students are in the classroom with you and some students login from home: The teacher, or the school, sets up their video communication platform (Zoom, Google Meets, Microsoft Teams, etc, or possibly a video system that follows the teacher while they teach like The Meeting Owl) and sends out the invite to the students who are not attending in person. In order for that to happen, the school has to know in advance who will attend in person and who will attend by logging in online. The student logs in. The teacher begins teaching and has to make sure to accommodate the students online. The teacher has to address the students and try to make eye contact so that the online students feel connected. In addition, there needs to be an online learning management system or an online music learning format in place, like Seesaw, Class Dojo, Google Classroom, Flipgrid, Canvas, Schoology, MusicFirst, Musicplayonline, Quaver Music, Essential Elements Music Class, Interactive MUSIC (Realize) powered by Silver Burdett with Alfred, Spotlight on Music, etc., so the teacher can share the lesson materials with the online students. This is a challenging scenario. One that could exhaust and frustrate both the teacher and the online student. It will take some trial and error to achieve some version of success. This might include the following.
    • This scenario might begin with the students who login have to be muted throughout the class. As the classes progress, the teacher asks the students to mute and unmute.
    • The teacher assigns a student in the classroom to be the “helper”. This helper repeats instructions to the students online. The student can also answer items in the chat room if you have enabled the chat room and you trust the student to answer questions, and not begin chatting incessantly with the students online.
    • There is either a co-teacher, an administrator, or some sort of adult whose job is to go into each online classroom to take attendance so that you do not have that responsibility. In addition, that person monitors the online activity to make sure the guidelines are followed. These guidelines could be that the online student’s camera stays on at all times (this might prove difficult as internet instability can turn the camera off), they only participate in chat rooms to ask and answer questions, and they stay on the website that the class is using at that time (a system like Hapara can monitor the online students’ web browsers use during the class period).
    • This scenario will also involve restrictions due to masks or shields, social distancing, disinfecting, and more. These are addressed in the final scenario labeled “In School with Restrictions”.
    • This hybrid would benefit from having an online music learning supplement like MusicFirst, Musicplayonline, Quaver Music, Essential Elements Music Class, Interactive MUSIC (Realize) powered by Silver Burdett with Alfred, or Spotlight on Music, in place so students could access music lessons, assignments, manipulatives, and activities from any device. The school would need to provide a budget for this to work successfully.
    • When it comes to playing instruments, if the students are allowed to do this in the music classroom or in their own classroom with kits (see “In School with Restrictions” for more information about this), then it is beneficial to find a way to include the students who are online. There are ways to successfully do this. One is to use rhythm play-along videos where the students in class use percussion instruments and the students online use body percussion or homemade percussion instruments. Another is to make sure the online student has access to the online platform of Google Classroom, Seesaw, Flipgrid, etc, so they can access the materials, websites, and teacher-created manipulatives used in the lesson.
    • Also look into Noteflight Learn, which can be purchased through Noteflight or added to your MusicFirst subscription. We have Noteflight Learn through MusicFirst at our school and the students successfully composed melodies online. I showed them how to compose, the guidelines for the melody, and then gave them time to achieve the task.
    • In addition, look at digital audio workstations like Bandlab (free) or Soundtrap (price per student for the educational version). We used Soundtrap and the students love collaborating and creating music together in person or online. I have used Soundtrap with as young as grade two. It also works seamlessly with Google Classroom. Here is an example from one of my third graders:
  • Teaching in the school with some students while others login at a later time to access the lesson: The teacher creates lessons that will be taught in person, as well as lessons that will be placed in the online platform for those students to access and participate when they are able. The elementary music educator in this scenario is either recording themselves teaching, then editing the recording (because no class is ever perfect), and placing it on the online learning platform, or the teacher creates manipulatives for the live instruction and creates a separate online version of those manipulatives that involve tutorial videos and activities to complete.
    • This scenario needs an online platform to ideally work. The school needs to dictate the online platform, whether it is Seesaw, Class Dojo, Google Classrooms, Canvas, Schoology, or others, so that there is consistency across the subject areas. This past spring, one parent told me that for her child’s school, she had to use six separate platforms for all of the subjects the middle schooler was taking and turning in assignments. That ended up frustrating the student and the parent. Ideally, having one to two platforms across the curriculum decreases the frustration levels all around.
    • YouTube: If you are allowed, and with the school’s written permission, live stream your class through your or your school’s YouTube channel. This does need written permission from the school as you will be showing your students and the parents also need to give their permission for their children’s faces to be on your or your school’s YouTube channel.
    • Editing apps: This scenario also requires the teacher to be able to edit their videos. The teacher will need an app like iMovie (free on MAC or iOS), WeVideo (free and paid versions and is web-based), Final Cut Pro (paid version for MAC), or Filmora (Windows or MAC) that the school needs to provide for the teacher. This also requires the teacher to have the time to learn the platform, whether they take an online course, attend a webinar, or have to search YouTube for various videos on the topic. Whatever the premise, the teacher needs time and a budget to accomplish this.
  • Dr. Feierabend’s First Steps: In this case where you are teaching live while some login to attend your class, and understanding what restrictions might be in place for your classroom, I would suggest singing to be done using a platform like Seesaw or Flipgrid, with your school’s permission. You can play a recording of the song and then have them sing along at home using one of the platforms utilized by the school. If you need to assess their singing, these platforms have the recording capabilities so the students can record themselves singing. As stated in a previous scenario, a student can become very self-conscious when singing at home. Expect that not all students will record themselves at this moment in time. As for movement activities, in this scenario, the students logging into your classroom can move along with the students and you in the classroom. Using your platform for them to login live to your classroom, spotlight or pin yourself on the screen, and have the speakers for the music playing close to your device so that the students at home can see and hear you when they access your class video later.
  • Kodály: The circle games that involve holding hands, partners, and passing objects, will have to be adapted. Whether your students have to stay 6 ft/2.5 meters from each other and you or the students have to be “arms-length” from each other and you, the games will have to be adapted to accommodate these restrictions. My idea will be to look at the circle game, find the musical objective, and teach that as the goal. This, unfortunately, leaves out how well these activities naturally incorporate social emotional learning (SEL) as students have to work together and collaborate to reach the musical goal. However, if I were teaching them Bow Wow Wow, then I would look at the song and think about teaching the rest as the objective. I have taught this where the students form a circle, face their partner, and do the following (Original):
    • Bow wow wow – Clap their partner’s hands three times
    • Who dog art thou? – Wag their finger at their partner
    • Little Tommy Tucker’s dog – Take their partner’s hands and circle to change places with their partner
    • Bow wow wow – clap their partner’s hands three times and jump a 1/2 turn so they face their new partner on the quarter rest.
    • (Adapted) I would use a recording for the song, remind them to hum (if allowed) if they feel inclined so that they do not sing (if they are not allowed to sing at this moment in time), and perform the movements in their “own bubble”. Then, introduce the quarter rest as the point where they jumped in the song. Though this takes out the social interaction, which I temporarily grieve, it does focus the goal on the musical concepts. I feel that we will have to do that accordingly throughout the year and possibly beyond.
  • Orff Schulwerk: I approach improvisation with some liberty as if I can play a bordun and the students can speak a song or rhythmic chant (I am aware that some music teachers were told that the students are not allowed to chant, which is sad…), then they can improvise new rhythm chants. You can give them ideas about creating a food chant. For example, “french fries, tacos, sushi, rest – ti-ti ti-ti ti-ti rest”, and then you keep the beat in the bordun and they tap the steady beat while they improvise a new chant. We then can also decode the rhythm of their improvised chant. When it is time to ask the students who have logged into the class to improvise, the beat might be off due to the latency issues, but focus on the musical elements, like improvisation, and not what the technology can and cannot do. An example of a fruit improvisation menu can be found here.
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What If The Students Don’t Have 1:1 Devices in School or At Home And You Are Teaching in The Hybrid Scenario?

In this scenario, school has reopened but the school is allowing those who want to attend, can, and those who do not, will be accommodated with packets, due to lack of devices or internet. In addition, this scenario could imply that the school does not have 1:1 devices, so the elementary music educator is teaching with one device and a lot of restrictions with singing, sharing of instruments, cleaning surfaces, and more.

I am going to tackle the teaching in person with restrictions in the next heading, “In School with Restrictions”. However, the scenario of an elementary music educator who has to teach live as well as provide packets for students who can no longer attend is a real one. In this case, the teacher will use their one device and restricted music-making materials in their allotted space at school. They will also make packets that pertain to the content being taught, or comes similar to the content being taught, and have them sent to the students who are not attending school in person (see “With Only Paper Materials” above).

This scenario is challenging, to say the least. It lends itself to those who can come to school, will learn more content than those who are receiving packets at home. My hope is that there will be some money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act that will be used to bridge the gap of the digital divide. However, looking at this article addressing this topic, not every state can or will use the money this way.

“When it is time to ask the students who have logged into the class to improvise, the beat might be off due to the latency issues, but focus on the musical elements and not what the technology can and cannot do.”

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Scenario: In School with Restrictions

This scenario has many challenges, yet there will probably be a point when this will become the reality for most music educators. The first set of challenges come with the fact that the scenario of “in school with restrictions” might turn the position of elementary music educator into one of the following:

  • Elementary music educator who teaches in their music classroom with several restrictions.
  • Elementary music educator who teaches on a cart (if not done so previously) in the students’ main classrooms. The music room was given to a classroom teacher in order to reduce the class size.
  • Elementary music educator who now co-teaches with a classroom teacher in the classroom permanently or every two weeks changes classrooms and/or grade levels.
  • Elementary music educator who now mainly teaches all subject areas to one grade level.

Elementary music educator who teaches in their music classroom with several restrictions.

In this scenario, school resumes with most to all students attending in person. It is highly possible that this is occurring in phases where the previous scenarios were earlier phases and this phase is a later one. The restrictions that occur in your music room might include some or all of the following, along with many more that we cannot predict yet:

  • All students must wash or sanitize their hands before entering the music room.
    • If you have taught as young as preschool, this is pretty standard, especially if you had access to a bathroom where handwashing was preferred over hand sanitizer for this young age.
  • All students and teachers must wear masks.
    • This could be tricky as who will provide the masks? How often are the masks to be changed throughout the day? Do we turn away students who do not have a mask, lost a mask, or cannot wear one due to conditions out of their control?
    • If all teachers must wear masks, is that helpful for our voices? Can we invest in the face shield and a headset with mic to amplify our voices so we do not speak too loudly?
  • All students must sit “arms-length” or 6ft/2.5 meters from each other.
    • This will take some time to basically reformat your classroom so you can clearly mark zones for them to sit, spaced apart from each other.
    • Movement can occur in their spaces within their zones.
  • All students must have their own instruments to play/ Instrument Kits:
    • These can be instruments that are sectioned off in your classroom for your students to play. For example, if you have enough hand drums, you can designate that 2R will play the hand drums for today. After they leave, you remove the hand drums so you can clean them at the end of the day.
    • The students only play that instrument that was assigned to them for that class time on that day. They do not share instruments.
    • You can order instrument kits for each student to own. There are some offered from Sweet Pipes, West Music, or you can make your own. Denise Gagne showed how to do this in her webinar. In addition, get creative. Use a coffee can to hold two pencils as drum sticks, two pool noodles as sand blocks, a plastic egg with beans sealed with tape as egg shakers, a small scarf for movement, the coffee can doubles as a drum, and paper or a white erase board (probably won’t fit in the coffee can though) so the students can compose, create rhythm patterns, etc, if they do not have a device that can do that.
    • Here is a great YouTube video about the $3 music bag from Tyler Swick.
    • Inexpensive Instruments, like recorders, could possibly be purchased for each student, or the parents and caregivers can purchase one for their child.
    • Artie Almeida’s Kidstix would be wonderful for this scenario. I recall her showing us how to create the instruments in a workshop and the activities in the book are excellent.
    • Add items for instruments on their “back to school” list like pencils, paper plates, pipe cleaner (for pitch exploration), etc.
  • Students have 1:1 devices.
    • Use websites like Chrome Music Lab to create melodies (song maker), explore meter (Rhythm), and more.
    • Explore Incredibox to create music with cartoon beatboxers in certain forms or to accompany poetry, rules raps, and chants.
  • Cleaning the instruments
    • When the class ends, if the students used instruments that are not their own, then time will be needed from the classtime to clean the instruments.
    • After the instruments are cleaned, the students must disinfect their areas and sanitize or wash their hands.
    • If they brought their own instrument kit to class, then they pack it up and take it with them.
    • For young, early childhood students, having their own instrument kit would be ideal as they should not be responsible for having to thoroughly clean the instruments in the music classroom.
  • Timing
    • If music is a 30-minute class, then you will need to give 10 minutes at the end of class to disinfect the instruments, their area, and to wash or sanitize their hands.
    • You can ask for more class time to achieve this, but with the strain on the schedule to adhere to the guidelines, you will most likely need to end your class after 20 minutes so you give your students enough time to clean and disinfect.
    • Due to this, I would recommend not sharing instruments throughout the day as the cleaning time-so that you and/or the students can thoroughly clean the instruments effectively-will take up a good amount of time.
    • As everything will happen in phases, hopefully, this phase will ease up or that you and the students will become accustomed to cleaning and disinfecting in a short amount of time.
    • Assembling homemade instrument kits for each student will take some time. Unfortunately, this might mean some days from a break or a weekend to assemble them. As time-consuming as this is, the result will be students making music together again.
  • Budget
    • Cleaning supplies are not cheap. The school should supply them and the masks for the teachers. The school should also supply additional masks for those students who lose them or forget to bring them to school. If that is not possible, then plan accordingly, whether that means using your own funds to increase your budget or adapting your lessons, materials, and curriculum to fit these new guidelines.
    • Instrument kits are not cheap. Music budgets are very limiting. Therefore, do the research and the math to see if this will work for your teaching situation. In addition, if you can, add some of the items to the school supply list given to parents and caregivers at the beginning of the school year.
    • Subscriptions to online music programs can vary, but be very worthwhile if active music-making in class is strictly limited.
  • Curriculum
    • Singing with masks might not be allowed at this time. Humming might be a possibility. Or using some class time to show the students Flipgrid or Seesaw or Google Classroom so that they can login from home to sing and record themselves. These videos can be used later to create a virtual performance or assessment purposes.
    • If singing with masks is allowed, via “soft or gentle singing”, and you feel comfortable with the students singing, then please encourage them to sing. This is a great time to introduce and reinforce the term “piano”. Again, they can also login from home and record themselves singing in full voice using various platforms.
    • Due to some of your class time devoted to cleaning and disinfecting instruments, chairs, mallets, etc., be okay with the fact that your curriculum will be adapted. The content might decrease or you might choose the concepts or standards to focus on most.
  • Dr. Feierabend’s First Steps: If singing is not a current possibility, adapt the eight-step workout to involve humming (if that is possible), rhythm chanting, arioso with words rather than singing as you keep a steady beat on an instrument, performing songs on pitched percussion instruments, and movement. In addition, add visuals like listening maps, movement statues from Artie Almeida’s site, and paper/dry erase board/devices to compose short melodies or rhythm patterns. If they compose a melodic pattern in Seesaw or using Flipgrid’s whiteboard, they can go home, login to those platforms, and record them so you can hear them sing and perform.
  • Kodály: If singing is limited or not allowed at the current time, have the students use their devices or dry erase boards or paper to write and perform rhythm patterns. Perform circle games within their own zones as single movement games. It is unfortunate to lose the social emotional learning that naturally comes with circle games and movement activities, however; find the musical goal in the circle game and focus on that. I used Bow Wow Wow as a previous example. Another example is Let Us Chase the Squirrel. I would normally teach this as a musical game with solo singing and group movements. To adapt this, the students would be in their designated zones, a recording of the song would play, and they would create movements in their zones that represent the melodic direction of the song. You can have them perform their movements all at the same time, or ask those who want to solo, to showcase their movements and the rest then copy them. Once they are home, give them the musical challenge to login to Flipgrid to sing the solo. Create a grid, invite them through a link or connect it to their Google Classroom or Microsoft 365, and show them how to record themselves singing the song.
  • Orff Schulwerk: If recorders were allowed to be played, with students distanced and in their designated zones, I would encourage a lot of small group work. I would reduce the number of students that would play recorder together and create smaller ensembles to learn new songs. Then, when they are home, they can login to Seesaw or Flipgrid or an online music program and have them record themselves playing the song. I would then take the recordings and layer them together so that the students can hear what they sound like as a large ensemble. An example below if my fourth graders performing Yankee Doodle separately, but mixed together in Soundtrap.
  • Reflection from Taylor Schaeffer: Taylor, from The Treble Classroom, works in a STEAM school in Missouri at the John Thomas School of Discovery (JTSD), where they returned to school for two weeks during June, before leaving for their summer break. Taylor advocated for music (yay Taylor!) and instead of being placed on a cart, he was able to negotiate the use of the cafeteria, since students were eating lunch in their classrooms. It is a great first-hand reflection from an elementary music educator!
  • Reflection from Emily Cannady: Emily teaches in a private school in NC and started in-person teaching in mid-July. She gave a very encouraging reflection about it here.
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Elementary music educator who teaches on a cart (if not done so previously) in the students’ main classrooms. The music room was given to a classroom teacher in order to reduce the class size.

There are numerous elementary music educators who have already reported that this is their current scenario. If this is your scenario, I encourage you to support it. However, with the caveat of being proactive. Remind the school that this is an early phase to a larger transition back to you teaching in the music room.

Obviously, in the current situation, the school had to reduce class sizes. As the restrictions hopefully ease up, there will be more students allowed in a classroom. In addition, students will be able to travel to other classrooms. When that occurs, it is time to encourage that the music room is again, a place that the students can travel to so that they can make music together with the materials that were intended for this. In addition, the music room brings a lot of joy to many students. It is a place where their creativity is tapped and they can escape from traditional methods of instruction. Essentially, it is a place where they greatly experience social emotional learning. Finally, if you are allowed to move furniture or your students can play their own recorders in teacher’s classroom, that might be enough to have the classroom teacher advocate for you to have your own room again.

As you teach in another teacher’s classroom, here are some items to consider. There will be more as we continue to move forward.

  • When you come to a classroom to teach, it is now the music classroom, but proceed cautiously and with empathy. Therefore, with permission or within the safety guidelines, you might have to move furniture and use their tech equipment. With that said, make friends with the classroom teachers. They are also stressed by this new paradigm and you all can benefit from supporting each other.
  • In addition, you can make the instrument kits and have them stay in their classrooms. With this, there has to be a place for the kits to be stored.
  • You might need to ask for access to the device that projects onto a screen. If you are bringing your assigned school device to the classroom, you will need to plug into the projection system or be able to airplay your device. If you must use the teacher’s device, then try to have manipulatives and projectables that can be accessed through a cloud-based system, like Google Drive, Google Slides, a Google Site, websites housed in your Symbaloo account, etc.
  • If, for some reason, none of that works, bring a thumb drive with your manipulatives, videos, projectables, etc., saved on it and plug it in to the teacher’s device in hopes that they have the app or software needed to open the files. For this reason, I encourage you to place everything you need in a cloud-based system like Google Drive, which only needs the internet and a web browser to access.
  • See ideas listed in the previous section, “Elementary music educator who teaches in their music classroom with several restrictions” about budgeting and curriculum.
  • Tips for teaching on a cart from Aileen Miracle, Amy Abbott, Lindsay Jervis, Karla Cherwinski, Kate Klotz, Tanya LeJeune, Jamie Parker, Sue Leithold-Bowcock, Liza Meyers, and Christopher Roberts found at: http://kodalycorner.blogspot.com/
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Tips about teaching on a cart from Susan Carlson

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Elementary music educator who now co-teaches with a classroom teacher in the classroom permanently or every two weeks changes classrooms and/or grade levels.

In this scenario, the elementary music educator is asked to help the classroom teacher as well as integrate music into the classroom. This is a unique scenario with a lot of positives to it if you think outside the box. The positives that come from this are:

  • You get the opportunity to deep dive into a grade’s curriculum. When I get the chance to do this, I jump at it because I can see so many opportunities where music can be taught with support from the classroom curriculum and is more meaningful because of it.
  • You will have to work closely with the educator about the goals of the curriculum. Once that is established, look for cross-curricular connections.
  • Preschool and kindergarten: If there is a letter of the week, integrate that into the musical alphabet and show visuals of the letter on a xylophone, on a recorder, on a keyboard, or a chord of a ukulele. If there are words that they are continuously using for that letter (apple, ant, arrow), take those words and make them into a rhythm chant. Have the students use their homemade instrument kits to perform the rhythmic chant and record it onto Seesaw. In addition, use incredibox to have the students create a background accompaniment to the chants.
  • Sight words and grade 1: Listen to a song and project the words onto the screen. Ask the students to identify the sight words they find in the song. Use those sight words to create a rhythm composition and have them perform it using body percussion. Record that onto Seesaw.
  • Math and grade 2: Introduce music literacy and meter with math. Perform math games with simple addition using note values. Here is a free example from Making Music Fun. In addition, look at MusEd Lab’s Groove Pizza where you can create music with angles and shapes.
  • Science and grade 3: Bring in beakers, water, and markers for each student that can be disinfected at the end of the day. Play a three-note melody like Hot Cross Buns on a keyboard or xylophone or boomwhacker. Have the students identify mi, re, and do pitches and emulate them using the beaker and water. Once finished, use the marker to perform the melody. Record and upload to their Seesaw journals, or Flipgrid, or Google Classroom.
  • Social Studies and Grade 4: If the students are studying a certain state, have them compose a melody using Noteflight Learn and write lyrics that involve the facts that they researched about their state. Noteflight learn is a subscription and web-based notation app that you can order through Noteflight or MusicFirst. We use MusicFirst and they create an online learning environment where I can create an assignment with guidelines and they login to work on it in the classroom or from home. Below is an example from one of my students that he composed while we were in distance learning.
  • Coding and Grade 5: Pose a design thinking problem and ask the students to code an instrument since they cannot play one at this time. Use Scratch to have them code a simple drum set or get complex and have them code a recorder or xylophone. Though it might take you a bit to learn this, it will take your students very little time to learn, if they have not already started coding on their own or in their other classes. Here is a sol mi xylophone adapted from cbrinkman’s coded Orff instruments, a virtual xylophone with boomwhacker colors, a virtual recorder that plays B A and G, and a drum set.
  • Art: Using Chrome Music Lab’s Kandinsky, create cross-curricular connections with creating music with art and shapes.
  • Dr. Feierabend’s First Steps or Conversational Solfege: For the First Steps curriculum, take poems, nursery rhymes, chants, and other types of rhythmic readings from the classroom teacher’s curriculum and turn them into steady beat practice. For Conversational Solfege, take readings, perform a phrase to a certain rhythm and meter, and have them decode the phrase.
  • Kodály: When you come to the practice portion of prepare/present/practice, have them use a poem to create a melody using the pitches they have explored.
  • Orff Shulwerk: Taking the letter of the week, have the students tap the steady beat on their lap. Take the words that start with the letter and turn it into a game that they can play at their desks or in their allotted space. Start the beat and say “apple”. They echo apple. Then add a word like “ant”, to create, “apple ant”. They echo “apple ant”. Now have them add the next word that they can think of that begins with the letter “a”. This has them improvising to the beat using the classroom curriculum.
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Elementary music educator who now mainly teaches all subject areas to one grade level.

I include this scenario because I have been reading that elementary music educators are having to be an additional classroom teacher at this point. If this is your scenario, the main thing to remember is that you are employed and have a job for the upcoming school year. I empathize that this is a very challenging and not ideal scenario. Hopefully, it is temporary and you will go back to teaching music as soon as it is possible. However, in the meantime, find networks to join to ask questions and to find resources. Assist the lead teacher of that grade level any way that you can so that when they are asked from an administrator about your teaching performance, the grade level teacher will answer positively. They will use phrases like, “they are always willing to learn and try new things” to “they take my advice and utilize it well in the classroom.” Again, this is not an ideal scenario, but it is one where you will need to make lemonade when life temporarily gives you lemons.

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Virtual Performances…

Over the past three months, there has been so much written and shared about virtual performances. From administrators asking you to produce a high-level “Eric Whitacre style” virtual performance with your kindergartners, to you deciding that you are going to bite the bullet and produce one, to you emphatically stating “no, I cannot without the proper equipment, money, time, “insert reason here”, with our current situation, virtual performances can become the norm. If it is mandated in your school that students cannot sing together in class, but they want you to run an online music class/choir/band/enrichment/etc, then jumping on the virtual performance bandwagon might become a necessity.

You can perform a google search and find the many articles written about how to do one. In addition, you can scour the music education networks from Twitter to Facebook to Instagram, to see many examples. Here are some things to keep in mind if you are asked or you decide to do a virtual performance:

  • Do you want to produce it or do you want to pay to have someone else produce it?
  • What is being asked by the school? Do they want one? If so, do they want one to look like a professional studio made it?
  • Does the school have permission to show the students’ images in a virtual choir? Usually, schools have parents sign a digital release form to use the students’ images in marketing materials.
  • Will the school pay for a professional to make one?
  • If not, will they pay to give you the equipment needed to produce one? This would include, but not limited to, a laptop or desktop with a lot of RAM (max out the RAM), a video editing program like iMovie (limited but easy to use on MAC or iOS), WeVideo (web- and subscription-based, so it works on numerous devices and can layer videos easily, but is very limited and has to work with your internet speed), Final Cut Pro (MAC paid program, but very powerful and will need some time to get used to), a digital audio workstation (DAW) like GarageBand (free on MAC or iOS and intuitive) or Soundtrap (free for your own account and a web-based program very similar to GarageBand, with collaboration like Google Docs), and a place to host the video, whether it be on your YouTube or WeVideo account, or a Google Site you set up for this purpose, or a school YouTube channel or website.
  • Look at the free Canva website. Many music educators used this site to place various videos that had no sound but were cued up so the students were singing together, into their video grid platforms. Once they had their videos layered in Canva, they exported it as one movie and placed it in iMovie to add the soundtrack of the students singing. Brilliant, easy, and time-saving.
  • Are you starting small where the Acapella app (iOS only) can be used? There is a free, limited version to experiment to see if this would be ideal. Here is Sarah and me singing “Spring is Here”. However, Acapella works better when you are using this with your music department or colleagues, and not so much with students, due to the age restriction. I use this with Sarah because we were making a teaching video and as her parent, I gave her permission to use it with me.
  • You will need to compile videos from the students. What would be the best and easiest way for the students to do this? Flipgrid, since it is free, you create a grid, share it with the students, they can login with emails or a link (if they do not have emails), intuitively record themselves with a beat track, and submit it, which would work well. Seesaw would work because the video recording tool is built-in. The accompaniment track in Seesaw would require you to create an activity that hosts a link to the accompaniment and the student would need to access this from a laptop or Chromebook, or have their parents video them singing with another device while the accompaniment track plays from the student device..
  • What if you are compiling videos from young children? Would the parents take the time to video record their children and send the videos to you? Do you have that parent buy-in needed?
  • What digital license would be needed if the school places the video on their YouTube channel? What copyright from the song selected is needed?
  • Finally, do you have the time if the work falls on you to collect, edit, and produce the virtual performance?

It is a lot to take on. I did this past spring. With help from my music colleague, we created a Lower School preschool-grade 4 virtual performance, as well as a small ensemble woodwind performance. It was a lot of work. It took two weekends to get the three separate concerts completed. However, once they were published, parents wrote me stating:

“It was amazing! I can only imagine how much time and effort went into that. Thank you for giving us all that gift of music and community during these crazy times!! 💚🤍

“This was beautiful to watch!”

“So awesome!! Thank you guys!!”

“No surprise that you totally knocked it out of the park again. It’s clear that so much thought, time and love went into preparing this concert. We appreciate you and Kevin so very much. Congratulations and Happy Summer! You certainly deserve a holiday now. ❤️🎶❤️🎶”

“Mrs Burns, I am crying happy tears. Thank you!” – kindergartner :)

It was worth every second.

If you want to read about a step-by-step guide into making one, which is accompanied by a video tutorial, check out Robby Burns’s blog post titled, “How To Make Virtual Ensemble!”

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“Even though our teaching environments will differ from previous years, we look at this as an opportunity to teach in a unique, new way, and not in a different way.”

There have been states that have already mandated how the arts will look for the next school year. Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, NJ (September Ready Fall 2020 Guidance for Arts Education), and more have printed documents giving guidance to teaching the arts next year. NAfME and NFHS have collaborated on Fall 2020 Guidance for Music Education to “provide practical guidance for PreK–12 schools as administrators and music educators seek to provide meaningful music instruction for students of all ages and grade levels during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

A couple of weeks ago, there was a Q&A with educational leaders from schools in Germany, Australia, and Switzerland who discussed their phases of opening and their experiences after two weeks. They gave great advice from making sure the teachers’ states of well being were being addressed to limiting the requirements for masks to only older students and only for a short period of time. Only one school mentioned specialists (single subject teachers) and that their classes were held in the afternoon and in a blended (synchronous and asynchronous) learning environment. However, all of the schools were reopening in phases and easing up on restrictions as cases decreased in their countries.

Shaz Bailey, an educator/administrator in Australia presented during the webinar. She created this padlet below with tips for transitioning back to school:

Made with Padlet

We will not know more until research and guidance are given. However, after we rest a bit, we do need to make sure we have researched what we can and have been apart of the conversation. We know how important the arts are to children and for many, it is their bright spot of the day. The arts are where they can be creative. It is where they can truly express themselves. Even though our teaching environments will differ from previous years, we look at this as an opportunity to teach in a unique, new way, and not in a different way. We are still teaching. Our students social emotional well being is one of the most important goals for us and what we do is so important as it helps students feel safe, happy, and loved.

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Want to Learn More?

Coming September 1st, I have a book being published by Oxford University Press titled, Using Technology with Elementary Music Approaches. This book gives lessons and ideas on how to integrate technology into the approaches of Dr. Feierabend (First Steps in Music), Zoltan Kodály, and Orff Schulwerk. It also has a chapter for integrating technology into Project-Based Learning (PBL). The summaries of the approaches were written by experts in the field: Dr. Missy Strong (Feierabend’s First Steps), Glennis Patterson (Kodály), and Ardith Collins (Orff Schulwerk), along with a contribution of a project in the PBL section from Cherie Herring.

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