Supercharge Your Music Lesson Plans

2011 Symposium2

While  lesson planning is essential to delivering quality instruction, I must admit that I often don’t enjoy writing lesson plans. The task often becomes more time consuming than I would like as I search for materials that will be just right for a particular class and objective. While there is a certain flow from one lesson to the next, writing for a new unit or topic can be especially challenging. This summer I found an extremely helpful tool at the Connecticut State Department of Education Arts home page. It’s a conceptualization made by Margaret Fitzgerald of the National Core Arts Standards (NCAS) as an inverted pyramid. This pyramid can instantly add depth and rigor to your lesson plans, and give you an organization and focus for instruction that can otherwise be easily overlooked or under represented.



When you sit down to write a plan, start by choosing one of the four artistic processes: Create, Perform, Respond, or Connect. NAfME has embedded connect into the other three, so you may want to choose one of the first three and then include connect within each lesson. Next, go to the “standards at a glance” and choose the course for which you are planning from the drop down menu. I teach General Music, so I selected “music.” Find the table for the artistic process you chose, then the process component that applies to the concept you want to teach. The process components are shown on the left most column, and include things like “select,” “analyze,” “evaluate,” and so forth. With these choices made, you can copy the anchor standard, essential question, and enduring understanding that pertain to your lesson. You can also copy the performance standard, which is the text in the columns under the grade level boxes. Finally, fill in your strand, which is the course you will be teaching the lesson for (general music, band, etc.).

With all of this in place, you are now ready to list the steps you will take your students through. This is called “instruction” in the pyramid. With all of the information that has gone before the instruction steps, it is now a relatively easy matter to write out what you will do to address the anchor standard, enduring understanding, essential question, and performance standard. I find that the steps come quickly with all of that foundation laid, and the foundation is not something I have to come up with every time, it is already all laid out right there in the national core arts standards for music. I use the connect process by asking students to relate music to their own interests and experience, and by relating musical concepts to math, science and language arts, and to visual art, theater and dance.

Here is one of my lesson plans, which I share with you here as an example of what I have just described. EU is enduring understanding, and EQ is essential question. To state an objective for the lesson, I simply paraphrase the performance standard. For this lesson, I would state my objective, “students will be able to analyze, read from standard music notation, rehearse, and perform a given hip-hop groove.” I write all of my plans on Google Docs. From there I can access them in my classroom, and easily share them with my administrator. You will notice this plan includes a link to a video of the drum groove. I use videos from YouTube frequently and like providing hyperlinks in my plans. This helps me keep track of where my videos are, and keeps a record of what I used for future years, or for revisiting later in the year. I do the same with all of the online resources I use. I hope you enjoyed this, and find it helpful.

Grade 8_Week 4_2016-2017

Process: Perform

Anchor Standards:  

  1. Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.
  2. Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.


  • Analyzing creators’ context and how they manipulate elements of music provides insight into their intent and informs performance.
  • To express their musical ideas, musicians analyze, evaluate, and refine their performance over time through openness to new ideas, persistence, and the application of appropriate criteria.


  • How does understanding the structure and context of musical works inform performance?
  • How do musicians improve the quality of their performance?

Process components: Analyze, Rehearse, Evaluate, Refine

Strand: General Music

Grade: 8

Performance Standards:

  • When analyzing selected music, sight- read in treble or bass clef simple rhythmic, melodic, and/or harmonic notation.
  • a Identify and apply personally- developed criteria (such as demonstrating correct interpretation of notation, technical skill of performers, originality, emotional impact, variety , and interest) to rehearse, refine, and determine when the music is ready to perform.


  1. Have each student pick up a listening journal on the way in. On the journal will be the following questions:
    1. What percussion instruments do you hear or see?
    2. How many beats does he play before he adds a fill and starts the pattern over?
    3. What genre or style of music would you say this is?
    4. What is one thing you wonder about this groove?
  2. Play the video of Shane playing Tommy Igoe’s Groove 16 Slow from Groove Essentials. Have each student fill out their listening journal as they listen.
  3. Analyze the groove with the students. Tell students to listen for the answers to their journal questions as the analysis proceeds. Break it down to look at what each instrument is doing. Combine all x notes into one steady eighth note part, so you will break out high hat, kick, and snare.
  4. Lead the whole class in rehearsing each part, one at a time using buckets for the kick, shakers for the high hat, and drums with mallets or sticks for the snare. Teach performance techniques as necessary. After each attempt, solicit evaluations of the performance from individual students, and form goals for the next attempt based on the evaluations. Continue so that a process of refining occurs.
  5. Divide the class into three groups, and assign a different instrument part (kick, high hat or snare) to each group. Lead the class in having each group play their part individually and then together with one then two other parts. After each attempt, solicit evaluations of the performance from individual students, and form goals for the next attempt based on the evaluations. Continue so that a process of refining occurs.
  6. On the back of their listening journals, have each student write down how analyzing and evaluating helped improve their performance (exit ticket).



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