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Middle School General Music Curriculum

I need help creating a strong middle school (grades 6-8) general music/choir curriculum.  This is my 2nd year teaching and my first year at a charter school in Detroit.  The music program started just 5 years ago and the middle school general music classes have had 3 or 4 different music teachers, all teaching a variety of different things.  I am trying to create a "real" curriculum for next year and need help planning some material that is more interesting and engaging for the students.  Unfortunately, the schedule for next year is not planned yet.  This year, I had 2 classes each an hour long, both with mixed grades 6-8, and most of the students stayed in the class all year long.  I would like to do different units in the class: music history, different popular music genres (rock, blues, jazz, etc.), world music and/or drumming, class piano, music theatre, and singing/choir.  I tried to incorporate music theory into the class this year, which didn't work out the best, but I do want to include that somewhere in the curriculum as well.  I'm planning for the course to be 1 semester long.
I am looking for some good projects/ideas/resources/textbooks/etc. that I can use in the classroom to help the students gain a better understanding and appreciation of music.  I also need advice from experience what worked for others and what didn't.  Most of the students I get are not interested in what I have to teach them so it's really important to me to find material that they will be interested in and that will help them feed into the high school program to make that stronger as well.
Replies (8): Threaded | Chronological
on July 6, 2012 7:38pm
The World Music Drumming Curriculum by Will Schmid has excellent strategies and resources for teaching Middle School music grades 6-8 and it is well suited for multiple grade classes.  Summer workshops are offered in many locations each summer.  The workshop in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin near Milwaukee offers special evening opportunities that the others do not offer.  The first book and DVD will get you started, but the workshop is very helpful and inspirational with a lot of sharing between teachers.  I attended the first workshop in 1996 and have used the curriculum ever since.  I purchased drums gradually over several years.  Attending the workshops and using the curriculum has been a life changing experience for me!  Even if you don't have the funds for drums, there are very creative "drum" alternatives.  Check out the website at  Everything is done aurally which I find very refreshing!  Since few students have studied hand drumming, students enter as equals and progress together.  Students play rhythms on drums and hand held instruments, sing, and move.  Discipline problems are minimized with engaging hands on experiences.
I then use the drumming experience as a springboard into jazz, rock and current music styles.  
Teaching classroom guitar is also an excellent way to work with Middle School students.  MENC(Nafme) has partnered with the music industry, GAMA and NAMM to offer a one week FREE guitar workshop for teachers who promise to start a guitar program at their school.  Once again, there are creative ways to get funding for guitars.  Each workshop participant receives a free guitar, lots of music materials and one week of hands on instruction on how to teach classroom guitar.  I had been teaching guitar for years, but taking this class really improved my classroom guitar teaching strategies.  We learn folk songs and pop songs, chords and melodies and we play the 12 bar blues, making up our own lyrics, etc.  There are many creative possibilities.  I always add guitar playing to our drumming and singing from the World Music Drumming Curriculum.
I taught classroom keyboard in the past, but find it more difficult to monitor than the drumming or guitar playing because students must work on their own.  I do not have a "fancy" connected system so it is more difficult to hold students accountable.  I think students enjoy the group interaction with the guitar and drumming.  Students do learn to play the 12 bar blues on keyboard with improvisation and then move that concept to the computer for a Garage Band assignment.
We create compositions in Garage Band which the students really enjoy.  Each grade level accomplishes a different project.  One project that has been very successful is a 12 bar blues project where students play a bass 12 bar blues track, then layer improvisation, percussion and lyrics over the bass.  If you don't have access to Garage Band there are other PC music software programs.
I also use the Music Alive Exploring the Blues book. It is a nice resource.  You can pull up You Tube blues performances to share with students if that is allowed.
A strategy I have started using in my classes is to repeat drumming and guitar pieces the following year with the same students.  Students enjoy the recall, skills are reinforced, and you can then build from there.  Even though some new students will be unfamiliar with the material, most will catch on quickly with support from the rest.  
I hope this helps.  Feel free to contact me.
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