Which Elementary General Music Curriculum Should I Use?

As the school year is winding down or may have already ended, many elementary general music educators are finding out that they will have a budget to purchase a new music curriculum for their classrooms. …

As the school year is winding down or may have already ended, many elementary general music educators are finding out that they will have a budget to purchase a new music curriculum for their classrooms. This is always exciting news, however, it can be accompanied with the feeling of being overwhelmed because there are so many great products on the market. In the past few weeks, the question of which curriculum to purchase, or even the more vague question of how to spend  the money, has been posted in numerous social music educators’ networks from the music teachers and general music teachers groups on Facebook to inquiring tweets on Twitter to the NAfME boards. The questions have garnered a variety of answers and after reading so many of them, I wanted to brief some of those responses in this blog in case you were trying to figure out what to purchase for your classroom.

These include curriculum as well as philosophies. Disclaimer: I do not claim to be an expert on any of these items listed below, except for two. I have taken levels in Orff and Kodály. I am a contributing author on the newest Silver Burdett Series. I have written a book on technology integration in the elementary music classroom. I have been a contributing author to a keyboard curriculum in the elementary general music classroom. I have authored numerous articles on elementary music education and technology. I have presented workshops about elementary music education and technology at districts, state, and national conferences. I have utilized some aspects of all of the items listed below in the 17 years I have been teaching general music to students in PreK through grade five. 

  • Activate! Magazine – This series is published five times a year. It includes lesson plans written for teachers by teachers, addresses all National Standards, and includes choral and recorder music, classroom percussion, and movement activities. There are contributions from great music authors/educators such as Artie Almeida, Denise Gagné, Greg Gilpin, and more. I have used it when I have needed vocal music for specific events and the students have loved the music. Other music educators have posted that they like the  original and public domain related material. A one year subscription costs around $80.
  • Artie Almeida – Artie Almeida has written numerous materials for the general music classroom. These include Mallet Madness, Recorder Express, and more. Her mallet series includes lesson plans, flash cards, and digital resources. She also gives ways of using this series even if you have limited resources in your classroom. Artie is a music educator to over 1100 students. I have liked using Mallet Madness in my classroom. The lessons are set up well. Other music educators have raved about her and her materials in their posts. Her materials range from $5 and up.
  • Dr. John Feierabend – If you are a music educator that teaches early childhood and/or elementary music, then you most likely have heard of Dr. John Feierabend. If you have not, then you should check out his website and read about his work. He is a music educator, researcher, clinician, author, and a Past President of the Organization of American Kodály Educators (OAKE). He is also known for utilizing and preserving folks songs in his curriculum.
    • First Steps in Music – This series is broken into two separate curriculum, one for infants/toddlers and one for Prek and beyond. I have used these books several times in my early childhood music classes. The songs and activities vary from singing to movement to reinforcing the steady beat. My students love them.
    • Conversational Solfege – This series goes into a deeper understanding of melody and rhythm and eventually leads to reading notation.
    • If you have ever seen Feierabend in a workshop, you are immediately intrigued because he is well-versed on music education, he is enthusiastic, and you can relate to what he is stating very well. Many music educators adore him and his materials. His materials range from around $12.95 and up.
  • GamePlan – Written by DeLelles and Kriske, two very popular authors, clinicians, and music educators. GamePlan is a curriculum that is written for grades K-5. It includes 35 weeks of lesson plans organized into objectives of five musical categories. It is logically sequenced, based in Orff-Schulwerk and Kodály philosophies. Assessment charts as well as seasonal activities are included. I have utilized many of Jeff and Randy’s resources and they are always excellent and my students thoroughly enjoy them. Other music educators have stated that they love their resources because the lessons are laid out well, the song literature is great, and the orffestrations are wonderful. Music educators have stated that they like that the curriculum is based on National Standards, has children’s books incorporated into it, and is flexible. It also has digital extras. Price for the curriculum begins at $105 for Kindergarten and goes up from there. The supplements and the digital resources are extra.
  • The Gordon Institute of Music Learning – As written on the website: “Music Learning Theory is an explanation of how we learn when we learn music. Based on an extensive body of research and practical field testing by Edwin E. Gordon and others, Music Learning Theory provides the music teacher a comprehensive method for teaching musicianship through audiation, Gordon’s term for hearing music in the mind with understanding. Teaching methods help music teachers establish sequential curricular objectives in accord with their own teaching styles and beliefs.” There are two levels to become certified and to acquire mastership in this program. This program is geared for early childhood, elementary general, and instrumental music specialists. Many music educators swear by Gordon and his philosophy and state that learning his philosophy changed the way they teach for the better. The price of the program varies.
  • Interactive Now – I first discovered Interactive Now when a SMART Board appeared in our school. Aside from finding interactive whiteboard lessons for music educators on the internet, this was one of the first series of music lessons to be specifically written for interactive whiteboards. This series took off and there are now eight volumes of lessons that can be used on a variety of interactive whiteboards. The lessons are laid out well, can be adapted and edited for your specific music lessons, and are based on a variety of musical concepts. Originally written by Debbie Anderson and Phyllis Thomas, the later volumes are just written by Debbie. The price per series is $24.95, however, you can purchase a multi-user license or a district-wide license.
  • Kodály: Organization of American Kodály Educators (OAKE) – As written on the website: “Inspired by the vision of Zoltán Kodály, the mission of the Organization of American Kodály Educators is to support music education of the highest quality, promote universal music literacy and lifelong music making, and preserve the musical heritage of the people of the United States of America through education, artistic performance, advocacy and research.” There are three levels to complete to be Kodály certified. When I participated in the classes, I liked how I spent the day in different portions: curriculum and lesson planning, theory and singing, ensembles, and conducting. It felt like I was back in my undergraduate music education degree, but with a focus on choral (mine was a focus on instrumental). I enjoyed learning this philosophy thoroughly and have used many aspects of it in my daily teaching. The price varies depending on where you take the courses and I would highly suggest that if your district or school can cover the cost of the course and the materials, that would be ideal.
  • McGraw Hill’s Spotlight on Music (2011) – As written on the website: “Macmillan/McGraw-Hill’s Spotlight on Music provides opportunities for students to understand music concepts and skills, read music notation, perform music, and celebrate music with fresh, age-appropriate materials. Students gain confidence and discover the joy of music through familiar songs, exciting recordings, engaging performance materials, and sequenced instruction.” From what I researched about this series, music educators like the flexibility of this series as they can teach any unit at any time of the year. The series’ units is based around answering the question, “How is music important in our lives?” When I first started teaching, I used the MacMillan’s Music and You series written in the early 1990’s. Spotlight on Music has grown significantly from the days of Music and You. Pricing comes from a retailer.
  • Music Express – This magazine is written by one of the music education world’s favorites: John Jacobson. If you have never heard of John Jacobson, then you need to google him and see him on youtube. When you attend one of his workshops, you leave feeling invigorated and exhausted because he is one of the most enthusiastic, energetic, and passionate music educators that you will ever meet. Says John, “MUSIC EXPRESS is the magazine designed to help you, the everyday hero, as you share music with young people in your classrooms. It will bring you fresh ideas from some of the best music educators in the country in a format that’s easy to use and fun!” Published six times a year, each subscription comes with one teacher’s magazine, 30 student magazines, and a CD. The magazine provides info on current musical trends, five news songs in each publication, and as other music educators have stated,  helps provide the educator with current pop music that students love. The price ranges from $195 and up.

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