Dr. Mark Turner

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Early Childhood Model Lessons:
Beginning the New School Year Right!

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


As we develop our pedagogical skills of making music with children, models provide a way of watching and learning from others. The intent of these videos is to provide full-length early childhood lessons with my commentary. This is but one way to create active, child-centered music lessons. As with all professionals, this is what works for me and may, I hope, work for you as well.

Kindergarten Model Lesson - In this lesson you will see a kindergarten class at the end of an academic year. I work with these children once a week, usually. The lesson plan is based, in part, on John Feierabend's First Steps in Music. You will note in influence of Edwin Gordon's Music Learning Theory which I modified to meet my needs in a public school setting. I speak to you about the lesson you watch and my thoughts about how I might improve the lesson and suggest alternative strategies to meet the needs of young children. Each of us, regardless of experience, can benefit from reflecting on our daily practice as a way of improving our pedagogy.

Beginning a new year with Kindergarten - These three model lessons show how I navigate through the first few weeks of a new year in an early childhood classroom. Helping children to grow musically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially isn't easy. It take patience and tenacity. As you watch these lessons you will see how I must modify and adjust my pedagogy to meet the ever changing demands of young children. Eventually, these children will get to the point where they are ready to have a more structured lesson, as we saw in the first video. Throughout the videos I will comment either verbally or through the use of on screen graphics.

First Grade Lesson - This video presents another look at a first lesson. Your first lessons with any group of children are critical, regardless of age. In thirty minutes you must introduce or establish several things: 1) Routine, 2) order, 3) expectations, 4) an active musical environment, and 5) that your room and your discipline is the coolest thing in their school, and, given the choice, that they would rather be making music with you more than anything else. Possibly at tall order and possibly something that cannot be achieved in thirty minutes. However, understanding that these five things will help you focus your energy on creating expectations in your students and yourself that will pay off throughout the year. This video provides an example of how to "jump start" your year with active early childhood lessons.

Note: As you watch, note the importance of pacing. Pacing a lesson so that it does not "bog down" varies from class to class, from age to age. To maximize the benefits of a lesson you must develop the skill of "reading" your students so that you can anticipate when you need to move on with a different activity, transition, or song. Some may call this a gift. I consider this the skill of attending to students' nonverbal (and verbal) cues. Children will let you know when they've had enough long before the class dynamics disintegrate into chaos. Pay attention to your students and it will pay-off in more productive/constructive music making.


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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