Think back to your elementary school days. Did you have music in a designated classroom, or did the teacher come into yours with a variety of supplies? Perhaps the music classroom was reserved for middle school band to store stands and cases, or maybe there wasn’t even a music program at your school.
I started elementary school music instruction either with my homeroom students or through a teaching assignment 10 years ago, and have come to reflect on the advantages of having a personal space for lessons. Posters are readily able to be displayed, and learning centres are easily able to be set up for a variety of activities. Also, for the few periods a day that I am not teaching, I usually invite our EAs to bring their assigned students into the room to be able to explore the instruments in a big, quiet space. I have already met a kindergarten student who definitely has a ear for singing as through playing with the toned bells, was able to order the pitches from high to low. And using some of my budgetary funds, I used bubble wrap on some of the materials that some of the more boisterous students may have had difficulty with handling so that we continued to have instruments available for all the classes.
Of course, given the layout and allocation in your board, a separate music room may not always be possible. However, there are multiple ways to turn some spaces into inviting escapes for students. For example:
*consider turning a small section of a sensory room into a ‘music corner’ where mindfulness can be practised using speakers through devices, with small chimes and other small soothing instruments. You can even give students a ‘carry cart’ to take out into the hall so they be safely supervised while teaching your lessons to practise self-regulation.
*print out some info cards for various topics in music (e.g., composers, genres, note names, etc.) that can be used while teaching ‘on a cart’ for ready made group or partner activities. These independent formative assessment areas can allow for leadership from students who have received training outside of school with lessons and help when there is a supply who may not have as much familiarity with the program.
*use open spaces in your building for practises with choir and other emsembles. One teacher I saw would wheel a piano to the front of the school and have students sing outside the office. The others coming by to pick up lunches and use the washroom would see the group and want to join in.
Most importantly, continue to advocate for music spaces in your school, especially if a room has been designed with that purpose. There are many advantages to having a music room, such as the use of risers, sound proofed walls, and spaces for movement performance. A common misconception is that the arts do not require a designated room like a gymnasium. But given how often homerooms and libraries are being redesigned (e.g., flexible seating), it’s time we looked at how creativity can be limitless and prioritized when it comes to architecture.