Keep Calm and Teach On

I hope that, by now, you have all enjoyed a fabulous start to your school year! I know that the excitement and energy that accompany the first days of school are among my very favorite things!

I don't know about you, but I know that I always approach the school year feeling totally on top of things, and then that feeling begins to... fade... far, far away. Assemblies, safety drills, field trips, committee meetings, conferences, reports cards and so many other things cloud my mind and result in a never ending battle to stay organized and prepared.  However, staying organized is SO critical to your student's success in the Kodály sequence.  Christopher wrote an awesome post discussing the importance of reviewing what you have done (among other things!), but that can get tricky if you don't know which class did what! So, today, I am going to share...

Like most Kodály teachers, I carefully craft year-plans, concept plans and daily lesson plans. However, that doesn't mean that things always go according to plan! There are many times where, for one reason or another, classes get on different lessons, activities work in one class but not another, students need extra time for an activity, etc., etc., etc.  With hundreds of students walking in our door each week, I sometimes find it hard to remember who did what and when. However, I have found a few handy tricks that have made a big difference in keeping me organized and ready for each class!

Trick #1: Number Your Lessons

I assign all of my lessons with a number rather than labeling them by date or weekday.

I have a binder for each grade level, where I keep my lessons in numerical order.  In order to keep track of where my classes are, I created a table that I laminated to write down which lesson each class is on.  I use a dry erase marker so that I can update it every day.

At the end of each day, I update my chart so I know exactly what lesson we left off on. This way, if a class was gone for a field trip or had to miss music for another reason, I know what lesson I need to turn to.

Trick #2: Add a "Notes" Box to Your Lesson Template

Even if I know a class is on lesson 4, that doesn't necessarily mean that they got to everything in the previous lesson. As you know, each class has a personality of it's own, and some groups need extra time while others will fly right through your plans. Therefore, I have built a box into my lesson plan template where I can write notes for each class. I try to be diligent about noting anything that I will really need to remember for the next class BEFORE the class leaves my room. If I don't, chances are I will forget! 

Having it right there on my lesson plan makes it easy to remember to write things down and helps me when I am going to teach my classes. I promise you will thank yourself later for taking those 20 seconds to write yourself a note! :)

Trick #3: Keep a "Done" List

I absolutely adore To-Do lists. I write them during staff meetings (I mean...I always pay attention during staff meetings), color code them by activity, keep them on my phone, ipad, and computer, and love the satisfaction that comes from checking off one of my boxes. However, I have found that keeping a "Done" list is extremely helpful when it comes to staying organized. I use my song-list and concept plans to check off activities and songs as we cover them in class. That way, I don't accidentally repeat a song or activity with a class.

When doing activities from activity books or other resources, I will put a sticky note on the page with the date and grade I used it for. That way, I know exactly what I have used when I go hunting for a new activity to teach!

Trick #4: Think BIG

You've read it here before... year plans are awesome. I am a HUGE fan of having a year plan to use as a guide as you design your sequences and plan your lessons. However, it can be hard (if not impossible) to design a year plan when you are new to a building, new to Kodály, or even just beginning your career.

That being said, even if you can't plan your whole year in detail, you can do a few things to keep the big picture in mind. The core of my year plan is my melodic and rhythmic content. However, I totally love all the cute things, celebrations, and other fun that comes with working in an elementary school. So, I have a crate in my classroom that has a binder or folder for every month of the year where I keep different activities that I want to be sure to include in that month. For example, in my March Binder I have...

  • A list of my favorite St. Patricks' Day children's books
  • A St. Patrick's Day song and dance
  • Shamrock rhythm flashcards (printed and stored inside a sheet-protector)
  • St. Patrick's Day beat strips
  • A "Music in Our Schools" poster that I like to display
  • A reminder to sing "No More Pie" on Pi Day (3/14)
  • A list of recordings of my favorite Irish Music
I always make sure to look in my my "Month Box" when I am writing my lesson plans to remind myself of the fun activities I have to use!  You can also do this for concepts (have a tika-tika crate) or grade levels to help you keep your ideas and resources organized. 

In addition to having a place to store your hard materials, you can keep folders on your computer labeled by concept or month to help you remember what you want to use. I upload MP3 files into my month files on my google drive in order to remember which recordings I want to use for movement activities, beat games, and listening lessons. It's so helpful to have them all in one place! 

It seems that every school year is crazier than the last, but I hope that these ideas can help you keep that "beginning of the school year calm" going throughout the year!

Happy Teaching!


  1. I LOVE the month box idea! I find myself frustrated by "theme" activities that don't always "fit" into my filing cabinet, so I'm going to use this idea today,thank u!! :)

  2. Holy smokes...this is EXACTLY what I was looking for in an organizational method! I just switched from teaching middle school choir to elementary general music in a different district, so now is the time for me to get things organized. We have to use district-wide, but that just isn't enough for this type-A gal! Again, thanks!

  3. Really like your ideas for keeping track of which class has done what! I just switched to a week format rather than a date format this year for the same reason. would you mind sharing your lesson template?


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