Image Map

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

In the Music Room During COVID-19

My school district, along with many others in the United States and elsewhere, closed recently as covid-19 (coronavirus) hit the country (if you've found yourself in that situation please read this post). But schools in China and other places that are nearing the tail end of their bout with the virus, as well as some parts of the US and other countries that haven't yet been affected, are still open (or will open soon) for business and looking for ways to be vigilant about germs while continuing to teach their music classes. Other teachers have closed to students but are still working in their rooms and trying to disinfect and find relevant lessons to teach online. Here are some ideas to limit the spreading of germs while music class is in session, clean up music equipment, and plan lessons that encourage good hygiene in a positive way.

1. General Considerations
  • If you're trying to keep germ-spreading at bay, you'll want to plan activities that don't require students to touch each other and also don't require students to touch the same equipment. 
  • Keep cleaning! Find out what the school is doing as a whole to address cleaning classrooms, and ask about special considerations for your room and equipment.
  • Make sure everyone is cleaning their hands as they come and go, and always remind students of other good practices like washing their hands after using the bathroom, covering any coughs and sneezes, and going to the nurse if they feel sick.
2. Instrument Cleaning

One of the most immediate concerns for music teachers is keeping instruments clean! If you normally use shared wind instruments (like a class set of recorders that is shared by multiple classes), it's time to stop that now. For the time being, consider switching to a different instrument, or ask families to purchase their own. If that's not possible, find new lesson plans. But other instruments can also be an issue, especially knowing that the virus can live for days on hard surfaces. West Music has also put together a resource for cleaning various common classroom instruments, as well as movement props and puppets- click here to read their tips.

Lessons to Teach, in Person or Virtually

3. Hand Washing Dances

Before my district closed unexpectedly, I was planning to do this with my classes to help reinforce good hygiene while getting creative and active (without touching each other).  Show students this video and learn the dance together (this video shows the English translation of the lyrics and this video is a good slowed down tutorial):

Discuss the different hand washing techniques that are incorporated into the choreography, then have students create their own dance using the same hand washing moves! For younger students it will probably work best to have them just pick 2 of the hand washing techniques to use in their dance, or ask each student to come up with one move to contribute to a dance you put together as a class. Remember no touching!

4. Hand Washing Song

Go to and create a few posters using lyrics from songs that would be familiar to your students. Practice pretending to wash their hands while singing the songs. Then have students make up their own hand washing song to go with the timing of each move- print out one of the posters, blank out the lyrics, and have students come up with lines to go with each picture (remember you don't want students to use your shared pencils, so either have them bring their own and let them write their own on a hard copy, or you write in the lyrics by projecting it on the board or showing it to the class and have students work together to suggest lyrics).

Once you've come up with lyrics, you can quickly turn it into a melody with Word Synth and then practice singing the song together while washing your hands!

5. Learn About China

There is a lot of fear and misinformation going around about China because of this virus. You can help students feel more of a connection to China and combat some of the sinophobia by learning about the music of China. The good news is this is an engaging and relevant unit that doesn't require any touching- click here to read my post with ideas for teaching Chinese music.

6. Sing!

Singing requires no contact and no equipment but still helps students feel connected and joyful! If all else fails, take this as an excuse to let go of any other notions of pushing curriculum and just sing. Here are some of my favorite silly songs, here's how I teach canon singing, here's how I teach partner songs, and here are 5 different ways to introduce a song to keep things interesting.

If you are still teaching in the classroom or getting ready to start again, of if you're looking for ideas to teach virtually, I hope you find these ideas helpful! I'd love to hear your plans as well if you have other ideas. If you have ideas or questions, please leave a comment.


  1. Hey I got an email from NAFME about this webinar about music teaching online. Thought you might like to join in!

    1. Thank you! I saw that as well. I haven't had a chance to watch it yet myself but that is another great resource to share.

  2. I have seen some things about singing causing the spread of COVID-19, but I agree that it seems like the most viable option to avoid touching things. What do you think about the risk factor there, such as if some students are wearing masks and some aren't? I'm going into my first year of teaching and everything is so up in the air, I'm going crazy trying to plan out my curriculum!

    1. Planning right now is definitely challenging, to say the least! This post is from March, when there was far less information and research on COVID19, and reopening considerations were much different. There is a study being done right now, with results on the spread through singing scheduled to be released on July 22, that will give us a lot more insight into the risk factors of singing in schools. Until then, the current thought seems to be that singing in person should be avoided. I've seen some suggestions to perhaps have everyone humming instead of singing- that might be a possibility worth exploring, but I can't say with any authority whether that is a viable and safe option or not. Honestly I think the best thing you can do right now is to plan for the concepts that you'll teach without trying to figure out the "how"- if you haven't already, I'd encourage you to read my more recent post, "Now What?", here: