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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

How to Set Up Your Elementary Music Room

One of the most important tasks we face in back to school season is setting up our classrooms. Creating a welcoming, functional, and equitable learning environment is so important to the success of our students! Today I want to share my top priorities that I consider when I'm setting up (and continuously tweaking!) my music room setup.

The most important thing to remember when you're thinking about how to set up your classroom, no matter what, is how to help your students be most successful in your space. That's the thought behind every single one of the considerations I go through as I plan my classroom environment. Here are some specific aspects of classroom setup that are important to creating a room that's most conducive to student success:

1. Clutter

I find the more years I spend in a classroom, the more I tend to pare down! You'd think it would be the other way around, but as I learn which things I need and which I don't, my goal is always to get rid of as much as I can- the visuals on the walls, for sure, but more importantly the furniture. What can I move against a wall? Which items can I remove from the room entirely? Freeing up space is so important to avoid feeling claustrophobic, and gives more space for movement, small group work, and other important activities we all want to include in our classes.

Besides getting rid of stuff, though, organizing the things you do have can also make a big difference in clearing up clutter. Put like items together in bins instead of having everything sitting out on a shelf or in a giant drawer. A box of maracas looks a lot less cluttered than a pile of them! And of course organizing things like this has the added benefit of making things easier to use and find.

2. Student Eye Level and Reach

For students to be the most successful in your classroom they need to be able to do things independently, like get out instruments for themselves, or reference visuals on their own. So as you think about where to store and display things, think about what age (height) of student needs to be able to access them- I keep the instruments that I'm comfortable with my youngest students using, like egg shakers and rhythm sticks, on the lowest shelves. The same applies to visuals- I use ukuleles only with my 6th graders, so the ukulele posters can go somewhere that the younger ones can't see as easily.

3. Flow 

How do you typically transition between one type of activity to another? Where do students walk to enter and exit the room? Which supplies do you most often use in certain parts of the room? Walk through the space in the way students will for different types of lessons and see if it makes sense. Think, too, about what students will be near when they have down time, like waiting in line. Visually interesting things are great but maybe not tantalizing instruments that you've asked them not to touch! Sometimes it's unavoidable- my open shelving where I keep almost all of my instruments is right next to the door that students use to enter and exit. If you are going to put students in a difficult situation, try to give them as many tools as possible to be successful- in my case that has meant marking a line on the floor where I expect students to stand when they line up, and keeping that line far enough away from the shelves so that they are less likely to lean on them while they're standing in line.

4. Themes/ Decor

The classroom needs to be appealing and welcoming to as many of your students as possible! While I'm not going to say that decorative themes are counterproductive or useless, I will say that it's important to find themes that are as universally-appealing as possible. Shiplap and florals may be great for your home office, but will it appeal to all of your students? My guess would be no. I think specifically about students whose taste and style are most different from my own and try to make my room appealing to them- I know I will naturally appeal to sensibilities that are similar to my own but I have to be conscious of those that are most different from my personal style.

In general visual themes that are more general are going to be more universally appealing- I don't have a "theme" so much as a color scheme, which is basically bright primary colors. But there's nothing wrong with inserting some quirks to make the room feel more playful- I have stuck with the few minion-themed elements I have in my room for so long because I've found they're universally appealing to a wide range of styles, personalities, and ages.

It's also important to consider what kinds of people you are representing and normalizing in your visuals- do you have a bunch of pictures of white men or are there faces of all different ages, genders, races, and religions? This is a whole separate, huge topic that is critical but requires a lot more space than I can give it in this post- click here to go to my series on this topic.

5. Seating

Think very carefully about student seating- at least where students are going to tend to spend the most time in your room. In my opinion chairs are worth the added clutter for older (taller) students, for students with physical limitations, and for students wearing skirts and dresses. Sitting on the floor for long periods of time just is not comfortable for those student groups, and will be more of a distraction than an enhancement of their learning. If you can't get chairs in your room for one reason or another, you'll want to think carefully about how to accommodate the needs of those students- is there a way to have some alternative seating options like stools or benches? Or maybe you just need to give students the option of standing- if so, where can students who want to stand be so they're not blocking other students' view?

I'm also a firm believer in assigned seating for music classrooms. Because of how infrequently students come to our classrooms, having an assigned place to go increases predictability and structure. I also think a good seating arrangement can make a huge difference in student success- you can read all about all the different things I take into consideration to make my seating charts in this post.

What are your top considerations when you're setting up your classroom? If you want to see my most recent classroom tour, click here (the photos in this post are actually from a few years ago!). Don't have a classroom? MusicOnACart is a wonderful resource for music teachers working without a room of their own, including lots of tips for setting up your cart!

Thursday, July 25, 2019


As I continue my work towards equity in my classroom, hip-hop is something I still have so much to learn about. And I'm pretty sure I'm not alone among music teachers in needing to better understand the world of hip-hop. Earlier this summer I shared my summer listening list for music teachers with suggestions for ways to stretch ourselves out of our comfort zone and listen to genres of music we aren't as familiar with. The response to that post was overwhelming! So now it's time to hold ourselves accountable and take action.

Today I'm teaming up with HipHopMusicEd to challenge everyone to the #HipHopPlaylistChallenge!

Joining the challenge is easy: listen to a hip-hop song. Share what you're listening to with all of us by filling out the information about the song in this survey (you may have to do a little background research if you don't know your hip-hop styles!). Then go listen some more and fill it out again!

The great thing is we can all find new music to listen to by seeing what everyone else is listening to as well- you can view the results of the survey above to see the other responses, and we've also created a collaborative playlist on Spotify where you can see more music to listen to.

This is amazing (and free) professional development for us as music teachers- it's so important for us to become more familiar with the genre and the culture that surrounds the music- so no need to worry about limiting yourself to only classroom-appropriate songs. Our hope is that this can turn into a resource for teachers, but hopefully also begin to spark other conversations as a result, including new ways to effectively bring hip-hop into our music classrooms.

If you want to read about some basic, simple ways to incorporate hip-hop into music classes of all types, as well as just a few examples of classroom-appropriate songs, here is the post I wrote on the subject last fall. I'm hoping through this challenge we can expand on these ideas much further.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

How to Assign Seats in the Music Room

I am a big fan of assigned seating for elementary music class. Because students don't come to my room every day, predictability is important. And with such short class periods, anything that speeds up transitions is a win in my book! The right seating arrangement can also make a huge difference in how well students learn, how comfortable they feel in my class, and how smoothly the classes run. So if you're going to assign seats, it needs to be done well! Today I'm sharing all the different factors I consider when making my seating arrangements.

Because getting the seating arrangements right is so important to me, I spend a lot of time contemplating them and setting them up before the first day of school. This is one area where we as music teachers have the advantage of knowing most of our students from the previous year! Of course if you're at a new school you don't have that luxury (and I always have a new set of Kindergartners plus a handful of new students in each class)- I'll talk about what I do in that case at the end of this post.

IEP's/ individual learning needs
Of course the very first thing I look at when I'm making my seating charts is the accommodations pages of all my students' IEP's and other individual plans. Some seating accommodations don't apply to me because they don't have desks, but for things like vision difficulties it's important to make sure I'm compliant with those and meeting any individual needs students may have!

level of need for attention
My second highest priority is the level of need/ want for attention. Over the years I've learned that some students feel more comfortable if they aren't too close to me- either they need the psychological/ emotional space, or they get less overwhelmed by the noise level when they're further away from me and my sometimes loud singing! There are also, of course, some students that need a lot more individual attention, and I can give them that less intrusively if they're closer to me.

need for space/ movement
This is somewhat similar to the first two, but I also think specifically about those students who tend to move around in their chairs, need to stand up more frequently, or just take up more physical space when they're sitting. Those students I try to put at the ends of rows or in the back so that they can get up or move around without distracting other students as much.

personality mixes
Because I have my students (besides Kindergarten) sit in rows of 4, and especially because I put a heavy emphasis on those seating groups in the running of my classroom (you can read all about that in this post), I spend probably the longest trying to put the right people next to each other and in the same group/ row. Obviously there are some students I make sure to keep away from each other if they really don't get along or if they easily distract each other. I also think about putting more outgoing students together with the quieter ones so that when they are performing or working in small groups they can help each other. I usually split up "cliques" so that they aren't excluding other students, get experience working with different people, and are less likely to get distracted from the lesson, but sometimes if there are students who are very shy or seem to be having a hard time getting comfortable in my class, I'll put them next to a friend.

singing confidence
For other musical skills it doesn't really matter that much who students are next to, but for singing it can make a huge difference! Although it's definitely not at the top of my list, I do try to make sure I have students who need to hear strong singing around them in order to sing in tune better next to the strong singers when I can. Even if it's not an issue of singing in tune, putting confident singers next to hesitant ones makes it easier for the hesitant singers to sing because their voice doesn't sound as exposed to them.

I used to pay a lot more attention to height than I do now. I make sure I put visuals that are really important for everyone to see at the top half of my screen so that students aren't looking over each other's heads as much. And really, there aren't too many times when they need to be looking at the board for long periods of time. Certainly I have some students who are so much shorter or taller than the rest of the class that I have to put them at the front or back, but for everyone else the other factors are much more important.

But what if I don't know the students?
If I don't know the students in advance, I don't make my seating charts until I see them on the first day. I will find out about IEP's and other individual needs from support staff and note those on my seating chart beforehand, but otherwise I wait until I see them on the first day and do some quick analyzing in the first few minutes that I see them! After doing this for over a decade I have gotten pretty good at seeing who needs the extra comfort of a friend, which cliques need to be split up, who needs more or less of my attention, and who needs to be kept apart. You can read about everything I do on the first day in this post, but when they first come in I always give them a quick introduction to me and to the room before I show them where to sit, and that's when I'm watching and analyzing.

If you want to see how my seating (and everything else) is set up in my classroom, here is my latest classroom tour. And if you want to see all the other ways I use my seating charts besides just keeping track of seating, here is a whole post on that (I use them a LOT). And of course another advantage of having assigned seating, especially for music teachers who see hundreds of students, is that it helps us learn their names more quickly- here is a post on strategies I use to help me learn student names and why I think it's so important to do so.

Do you do assigned seats in your music classes? What are your top considerations when you're making seating assignments? My thoughts have changed quite a bit on this over my years of teaching, and I would love to know what you do to try to find that perfect seating arrangement! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Administrator Music Teachers Love

A year ago I interviewed my administrators about the kinds of qualities they view as important to being a successful music teacher. But what qualities do good administrators have that make them successful leaders for music teachers? After years of working with mediocre administrators, supporting some friends who worked with horrific ones, and now working with one of the best administrators I've ever come across in my career, I've nailed down a few key traits that I think are important to music teachers for administrators to have.

The points below are in no particular order, and they are all strictly my own personal opinion. Obviously different teachers with different personalities will work better with certain types of administrators, but I tried to think about those qualities that are most universally-important to successfully leading music teachers within a school or a music or arts department.

If you have a good administrator that you appreciate, when is the last time you told them? If you ever have the opportunity to contribute to hiring an administrator, what will you look for? And if you've had to work with some particularly bad administrators, what will you look for in an administrator when you're looking for a new job? Most importantly, if you're considering going into administration, I hope you'll reflect on how you can be the best possible administrator for music teachers!

1. Strong Leadership

As much as we, as teachers, may think we don't want to be told what to do, in my experience good leadership requires a certain decisiveness and control. Of course administrators need to be able to back up their decisions and opinions with insight and experience, but there needs to be clear leadership for any organization to run successfully or nothing will ever get done, and we need a clear direction and vision to work cohesively. The beauty of working under strong leadership is it takes so much of the guess work and stress of decision making off of our shoulders!

Part of successful strong leadership, however, involves responsibility and ethics as well. A strong leader without ethics is an evil dictator. A strong leader without responsibility to their commitments is a lazy tyrant. To be a good administrator, strong leadership must go hand-in-hand with a commitment to all the responsibilities that come with the job and a strong sense of ethics.

2. Genuine Support

Music teachers are always underappreciated and often are an island, the lone music teacher in their building or even their district. We need to feel genuinely supported and cared for by our administrators! One of the most basic ways to show support for music teachers it to attend our concerts and events (and pay attention during the program). Even better are those who offer to help in practical ways, whether it's setting up/ tearing down equipment, managing students back stage, or helping with crowd control in the audience.

Beyond that basic level, though, great administrators listen to and address our concerns. So often within schools- elementary schools in particular- homeroom teachers' concerns are prioritized over music teachers'. Showing genuine care for our concerns, and demonstrating that with action, will go a long way! Even better: an administrator who has good enough interpersonal skills to show genuine interest and concern for us as people and not just workers.

Support doesn't always have to mean agreeing with everything we say and do. But when a good administrator sees areas for improvement, they will offer constructive feedback, give us direction for how to improve, and provide the resources we need to address those areas. And the feedback should be based on accurate insight, not baseless personal opinion- they need to know what they're talking about before telling us how to improve!

3. Good Teacher

Good leadership skills alone will not get you anywhere as an administrator if you aren't a great teacher yourself. To be able to give feedback to teachers, make good decisions for the school/ department, and support music teachers, you need to know what a great music teacher looks like and have experience doing that yourself. I don't think you have to have been a music teacher specifically to be a great administrator and mentor for music teachers, but experience in the arts will give a lot of insight because music teaching is different in many ways from other subject areas!

All too often, the great teachers who are passionate about children are, for obvious reasons, the ones who stay in the classroom, while the ones who don't have as much of a heart for students are the ones who end up in administrative positions. Great administrators are the ones who still have a heart for students- they will be able to keep their priorities in the right place even when they're surrounded by adults, and they'll be a better mentor for teachers.

4. Seek Input

It will be rare for an administrator to be a former music teacher, so there are going to be areas of music teaching with which administrators are unfamiliar. It's possible to still be a great administrator for music teachers, though, by seeking out input from teachers. We certainly don't want to be explaining everything to our administrators, but great administrators are willing to admit they don't know everything and ask for advice!

It's also important for us to feel heard and included in decisions- seeking out teachers' input, including us music teachers, regularly in meetings, individual conversations, or even emails before making major decisions that affect our jobs is so important. We will be a lot more likely to be invested in new initiatives and willing to go along with changes in policy if we feel genuinely included in the decision-making process. Similarly, great administrators also foster collaboration among teachers. As music teachers in particular, we crave opportunities to collaborate and contribute to conversations with colleagues!

5. Advocate

As music teachers we constantly have to justify our programs and promote the importance of our classes to students, parents, and colleagues. It is so important to have an administrator who advocates for the importance of our program and curriculum to higher-up administrators and politicians, parents, and our non-music colleagues! Promoting our performances and events, sharing the great things that are happening in our classrooms, and talking about the importance of music in the lives of our students is a key element to successful leadership of music teachers and programs.

6. Promote Teacher Agency

Teaching is an art, and so is music- there is no way to standardize or script music teaching! Music teachers need administrators who understand that good music teaching will come in many different forms, and will be able to foster great teaching regardless of the form that may take. A lot of that comes down to giving teachers agency- give us direction, hold us accountable to high standards, and then give us control over how we make that happen. Yes, we need strong leadership, mentorship, and vision, but we also need to feel like we have agency over our classroom. No teacher wants to be micro-managed!

Besides giving us agency in our own classrooms, great administrators will also draw on the strengths we have and foster teacher leadership. Music teachers are often very good at managing schedules and organizing events because we do it so much in our jobs. Many of us are good at managing large groups of students, public speaking, or organizing community volunteers. I'm not saying music teachers should have more tasks assigned to their already busy jobs, but great administrators give music teachers (especially the veteran teachers) opportunities to take on responsibility and leadership in areas they enjoy and are passionate about. We will feel more like we're working alongside instead of under our administrators.

What do you think of this list? Are there things you don't agree with or think are not important? Traits that I missed? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Color Teams in the Music Room

If there is one thing that I do that has the biggest impact on my classroom procedures, it is color teams! Color teams make everything easier: transitions between activities, beginning and end of class procedures, student jobs, managing student supplies, assigning instruments, seating arrangements, small groups, and so much more. Today I'm sharing how I use color teams in my elementary/ middle school music classes- if you're looking for ways to improve your classroom procedures, this is one thing I would highly recommend.

There are many benefits to assigning students to groups/ teams, but I think that using colors, specifically, for the groupings has a lot of benefits too: the colors work easily into a bright and cheerful classroom environment without creating more visual clutter, and lots of typical classroom items already come in different colors so you don't have to label things as much. I've seen teachers who label their groupings with composer, instrument, note, or time period names to promote the use of music vocabulary, but those tend to add to the visual clutter when the seating is labeled with those words or symbols, it's harder for students (especially the youngest ones) to remember their team, and you end up having to label everything if you want to assign items to specific groups (more on that in the supplies section below).

1. Seating

The foundation of the color groups begins with seating- I have assigned seating in all of my classes, both for the Kindergarten classes who sit in a circle on the floor and for the older students who sit in chairs. I tell them from the very first day to notice the color to which they are assigned, and I refer to the colors regularly.

I am a big fan of assigned seating for a multitude of reasons:
  • I find that many difficulties with individual student attention, personality conflicts, etc can be solved by changing the seating arrangement, 
  • I can take IEP accommodations and other individual needs into consideration without drawing attention to individuals who need to be in a specific spot, 
  • it gives structure and predictability for students (which all young students need),
  • it makes it easier for me to learn student names if they're new,
  • and it makes the beginning of class a lot faster because there is no confusion or discussion about who is going where.
The other benefit of having color groups with seating is that you have the option of giving some flexibility within your seating arrangement- if you want, you can assign students to a color but not a specific spot, giving students choice while still having most of the advantages of assigned seating I already discussed above.

I do assign specific spots most of the time, but I like being able to incorporate choice when, for example, students move from their normal chairs to the circle- I tell students to pick a spot from their color group, so they have some choice but with limited options, which limits the time it takes to choose and the potential arguments that can arise.

2. Teamwork/ Belonging

The advantage of having designated colors assigned to groups of seats/ spots is that it creates a sense of camaraderie- instead of being forced to sit in a certain spot, which might feel limiting or constricting (at least initially) for some students, they're being given membership into a team/ group/ club! The more I refer to the color teams in class, the greater the sense of belonging it creates as well. Because so much of how I manage procedures is tied to the color groups, it fosters teamwork within the groups.

This aspect of the color teams is really the biggest advantage of the system, especially for older grades. As students approach middle school age, the importance of having a sense of membership and belonging cannot be overstated! Having these small groups established and incorporated into the running of the class promotes that sense of teamwork for everyone. For younger students it gives them the opportunity to practice cooperative skills like shared responsibility, group decision-making, and collaboration. These are critical skills that need to be practiced regularly, and having these teams established in the classroom gives students more opportunities to practice.

This same team spirit plays into incorporating the teams in how I offer positive reinforcement in class. I have moved more and more away from value statements as a form of "behavior management", but there are still certain times when I find positive reinforcement (like, "I see the red team is ready for the next step", or "Everyone on the yellow team is playing on the beat!") appropriate and helpful, and I find it is often more effective to talk about groups rather than individuals. 

3. Classroom Jobs

For elementary teachers, student jobs can be a great way to empower students, and foster important character traits like independence, responsibility, and leadership. It also makes our lives a lot easier and improves the running of the classroom if we as teachers aren't the only ones doing everything! Almost every elementary homeroom teacher I know uses student jobs in some way in their classrooms, but it can be difficult for music teachers and other specialists to use them because we don't see students as frequently.

The solution I've found is group jobs, and I use color teams for that too (duh)! Rather than assigning jobs to individual students, I use jobs that can be shared (in one way or another) by a small group of students. I've written several posts detailing how I do this, but it has been a game-changer for me since I implemented them a few years ago.

This past school year I changed out one of my jobs to add the job of "warm-up leaders" and it was a huge success- I am definitely keeping it for the upcoming school year and this is the happiest I've been with all of my jobs since I started! Here is my post on how I have students lead warm-ups at the beginning of each class:

4. Managing Supplies

One of the procedures that can be time-consuming and difficult for music classes is managing supplies, whether it's pencils and other writing/ drawing supplies, manipulatives, clipboards, or anything else that needs to be passed out and collected. Because we don't see students as frequently as homeroom teachers, it takes longer for students to learn procedures (and for us as teachers too!), so the process takes longer and things get lost, damaged, or disorganized.

Color teams help with this in two ways: by having students assigned to help with passing out and putting away supplies, and by having specific supplies assigned to smaller group of students. Two of my classroom jobs are for handing things out and collecting things, which makes the procedures a lot easier by limiting who is getting things out and putting things away. But the key (and the main reason I like color teams specifically and not just any sort of team labels) is being able to assign specific supplies to smaller groups of students. It's a lot easier for the students putting supplies away to keep things organized if they know to put all the blue pencils in the blue box. It's a lot easier to keep track of who hasn't turned something in yet if you can see that you're missing one from the green team. And students are a lot more responsible and careful with their supplies when they have shared ownership- if they damage something they are damaging "team property" rather than school or teacher property, which is psychologically more removed.

Having supplies assigned to specific color teams also limits arguments over who uses what when there are different colors of the same item. I apply this same strategy to as many supplies as I can (which, again, is why I advocate for using rainbow colors specifically for teams because many items come in those colors to begin with)- I have colored djembes, ukuleles, ukulele picks, and cups (for cup games), for example, all in the same team colors. There's no need for the "you get what you get" discussion with my youngest students with these items because they already know they're using the color that matches their team!

5. Small Group Assignments

Before I had color teams, I often struggled to effectively come up with student groups that would work well together when I needed to do a quick small group activity. Because I take time to think through my student groups when I assign their teams at the beginning of the year, if I'm doing a quick activity in small groups I can easily have them work with their color team and know it will work out well.

I don't always have them work only with their color team though- that would get monotonous and doesn't encourage students to learn to work with different people- and color teams help with the process of assigning other groupings as well. I will sometimes have one person from each team work together, or group 2 colors together, to quickly mix up the groupings without having to think too hard. I can also split the class in half more easily too- warm vs cool colors, or primary vs secondary colors- and get in some visual art vocabulary in the process!

As you can see I'm a big fan of color teams- do you use color groupings in your music classes? How do you use them in your classes? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Friday, July 5, 2019

June Favorites 2019

Well that was fast! It's hard to believe a whole month even just happened, but it certainly did- here are some highlights from the month of June.

1. Endings and beginnings

June marked the end of the school year and the beginning of summer break! Of course I love the time I have to spend with my daughters, visit extended family, and work on all those things I just can't get around to during the school year, but I honestly do miss my students and miss teaching. Thankfully I don't have to entirely pack up my classroom for the summer but it is always sad to see the room so empty as I leave.

2. Inherited treasures

A close colleague of mine retired this year and he passed along quite a few of his personal collection of instruments, books, and recordings! I was completely overwhelmed and so grateful. I've already added the instruments to my shelves and can't wait to look through the books and resources. Hopefully someday I can pass along the favor to another teacher when I retire (many many moons from now!)- I feel so privileged to inherit all of these treasures.

3. Summer planning

While leaving the classroom for the summer is not my favorite, one thing I do enjoy is the chance to change up my planning routine with no lessons to plan over the summer! Although I do still have to keep track of meals, kids' activities, and other plans, there is not nearly as much information for me to keep track of so I can be creative with the weekly format I use and be a little more decorative than functional. I love having the chance to do things differently in my planner! I've been using a condensed one-page weekly format in the summer time for the last few years but this year I'm using a different one than I have in the past and so far I'm enjoying it! All of these undated weekly and monthly calendars are in the business planner section of the #PlanMyWholeLife planners (here's that section separately) if you're curious where it came from.

4. Music education blog posts

I am always so inspired by the articles I find each week from other music education blogs- click each picture to read the posts. They are all fantastic!

Games in General Music:

Dreaming of You: Identities of Me:

The Qualities of an Empowered Music Student:

What were some highlights from June in your life? Here's to another wonderful month ahead!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Summer Listening List for Music Teachers

Last week I shared a summer reading list for music teachers, with my recommendations of books that I have found helpful in reflecting on my teaching practice, especially in addressing marginalized people and perspectives. Books are great! But what about the music we're listening to? Summer break is the perfect time to explore new genres and artists to bring into our lessons!

As I continue to explore the topic of equity in music education, the idea I keep returning to is the importance of listening. More than anything else we can do, listening to different perspectives- not just hearing but actually listening- has the power to foster true empathy. For music teachers in particular, one area where we tend to be most overtly exclusionary is in the musical material we consider worthy of using in our classrooms. Not only does that severely limit many of our students from feeling connected to our lessons, but it also presents a hierarchy of musical genres that is rooted in our own personal biases. Taking time in the summer to dive into genres and artists with which you are less familiar will give you a chance to gain some appreciation and understanding that you can bring into your teaching!

With that thought in mind, here are some suggestions of music that you could explore this summer- I recommend picking a couple of the ones with which you are least familiar right now to focus your attention. You need to have the time to really get to know the music if you are going to get to know it well enough to use in your teaching! It can be hard during the school year to push yourself out of your comfort zone- summer is a great time to expand your horizons and try something new.

1. Local Radio

How much do you listen to your local radio stations? I know I was not always the best about this in the past, but I've found there are a couple of radio stations that the majority of my students listen to outside of school. Pick one or two local stations and set your car radio to them this summer- besides the music they play, local stations will also keep you more in tune with your community!

2. Hip-Hop

I've written already about the importance of bringing more hip-hop into our teaching. I believe it is one of the most glaring disconnects between the typical music curriculum in schools and our students' musical experiences at home. If you normally don't listen to the genre, I highly recommend spending some time with it this summer. Most places will probably have a hip-hop radio station you can listen to. You can also look up current hits with lists like this and listen to specific songs on any streaming service.

3. Current Non-Western Music

It's pretty common for music teachers to only present traditional/ folk music when we incorporate music from cultures outside our own. But doing this presents a distorted view of the rest of the world to our students (read more about how to respectfully, accurately, and holistically bring the world into your music classes in this post). One of the great things about the modern age is the ease of accessibility to music from all over the world! One of the easiest ways to find the latest popular music from any country is to type in the country name and genre in Online Radio Box- you can listen free online. You can also explore stations by region, and often you can get song information as you listen so that you can find out more about songs and artists you might want to include in your lessons.

4. Music by Artists of Color

Don't limit representation of Black musicians to hip-hop, or East Asian musicians to "world music" and string quartets! Use the summer to seek out musicians of color in all different genres to include in your lessons. For younger students in particular, start with artists like Desmond Dennis, Black Violin, and Andrew Huang. You can discover more current artists with classroom-appropriate music in this post.

I'd love to hear about what you're listening to this summer, or new artists you've discovered recently that you're looking forward to bringing into your music classroom next year! Share your ideas in the comments below.