Dr. Mark Turner

Tips for Elementary Music Specialists
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Tips for Early Childhood
Early Childhood Music

by Dr. Mark Turner
Associate Professor of Music
Early Childhood and Elementary Specialist
SFA School of Music
[email protected]

Part 3: Planning and Implementation

Planning & Implementation

Try to move away from behavioral objects. They are useful with older children but do not work as well for early childhood because of the large differences in cognitive, social, and emotional development among children. Even one month can make a world of difference (developmentally) to a four-year-old. Instead of using behavioral objectives such as “85% of the students will sing by themselves at the end of this grading period," use phrases such as:

  • Students will have the opportunity to sing by themselves.
  • Students will have the opportunity to explore sounds produced by percussion instruments and string instruments.
  • Students will have the opportunity to move creatively to listening selections using scarves, streamers, and hoola hoops.

There should be opportunities for child-selected activities during every music class. At the beginning of the year, I allow children approximately 10-15 minutes of center time. As they become more familiar with the various centers and more comfortable with their classmates (social interactions), I increase the amount of center time. Toward the middle of the spring semester, I often devote the entire music class to centers.

Observation. Because the curriculum emerges from children’s interests and musical talents, observation is critical. Take time to watch (and enjoy) your young musicians. When a center becomes stale and the children have lost interest, I add a new wrinkle, a new twist, to generate new interest. Another important point to remember is that every class and every child will have their own interests and talents. What works for one group of students won’t necessarily work for another.

Exploration. There needs to be time for exploration. Research suggests that if there is inadequate time for exploration of a new toy, children may not fully benefit from formal instruction using the toy. The same could be said of musical sounds and instruments. If children do not have sufficient time to explore how sounds are produced or the relation between the size of an object and the sound it produces, they may not progress as quickly during formal music instruction as compared to someone who has had the opportunity to explore sounds.

Develop opportunities for children to make music by themselves, with partners, with a large group, and with you.

Plan, Do, Review. Before allowing children to go to centers, have them tell you what center they intended to use first and what they are going to do. Once they have played with music at the first center they should be allowed to go to any center they choose (i.e., Tina Bruce’s “Free flow play”).

When children are involved in playing and making music use a questioning strategy that does not limit their responses (e.g., “Tell me about what you are doing?”). Open ended questions will help you determine the child’s intentions and will also help you redirect inappropriate behaviors


The Texas School Music Project is a source for ideas and information concerning pedagogical practices in the music classroom or rehearsal hall.
The TSMP is a service provided to all music specialists by the faculty of the School of Music at Stephen F. Austin State University.

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