Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Making Your Budget Go the Extra Mile

Outfitting an empty music classroom with $300

The things we hear about music education these days are often focused on under-funded programs and regrettable music program cutbacks.  So when teachers receive a budget of any amount, we feel an obligation to use it wisely.  Any amount that is budgeted for supplying the music classroom will inevitably disappoint us, with our wild hopes of filling our classrooms with all the best tools and resources.  No need to wallow in the disappointment, though; with a little research and ingenuity, a smart music teacher can find the best possible use of those precious dollars.

36 sets of rhythm sticks...............59.85...............Music in Motion
Give Me a Bucket.......................19.95...............Heritage Music Press
5 five-gallon plastic buckets........13.90................Lowe’s
35 gallon trash can......................29.98................Lowe’s
Activate! subscription.................79.95...............Heritage Music Press
Double Agents............................14.95...............Heritage Music Press
What to Teach When..................54.95...............Heritage Music Press

Passing the love of music on to your students......free as the sunshine

Total: 273.53 plus shipping

Start with the basics.
In this scenario, we’re setting up a new music classroom that has nothing at all.  What does every elementary student need to be successful in music class?  It would be great to have classroom instruments for everyone, right?  To allow every student to have an instrument at the same time, try a set of Rhythm Sticks.  I found a set of 12 at MusicinMotion.com for only $19.95 if you buy 3 or more sets.  Let’s start with 3 sets of those, so we’ll have enough for every student in the largest class and hopefully some to spare if they get lost or broken as the year goes on.

Find a creative resource.
In Mark Shelton’s book Give Me a Bucket ($19.95, Heritage Music Press), the author provides instruction, music, and tons of helpful advice on starting a bucket ensemble at your school.  The best thing about a bucket ensemble is that students learn how to make their own music by working together as a group.  It teaches improvisation, texture, timbre, beat, and teamwork.  What’s the second best thing about a bucket ensemble?  Plastic buckets cost less than $4 at your local home improvement store.  To provide various timbres, you can use a large trash can, smaller trash cans, paint cans, and even soup cans.  Most of these items could easily be donated by families at your school.

Find a good source for lots of original teaching ideas.
Subscribe to a music educator’s magazine.  New ideas will be delivered to your door regularly, and there will always be something you can use.  Activate! magazine is a great resource because it provides so many different types of activities in every issue.  Not only are there songs, games, and activities to fit the season, but there are also several options to add to your teaching treasury, like interactive whiteboard lessons and Orff arrangements.  You can pick the ideas that work best for your classroom, and you’ll never run out of material.

Another outstanding resource is What to Teach When.  Don Dupont and Brian Hiller are accomplished music teachers, and they have put all of their ideas together into an entire curriculum for the K-1 and 2-3 grade levels.  I would strongly recommend adding one of these books to your collection.  They are designed to help both beginning teachers and experienced teachers as they plan their teaching years.

Be a team player.
In many parts of the country, Common Core is the new buzzword.  Chances are, you’re already teaching Common Core concepts in your music classroom.  Why not make sure to do it intentionally, so that everyone from your administration, to parents, teachers, and the community realize that your music classroom is an integral part of the team that makes your students ready for the world.  Nicole LeGrand’s book Double Agents is full of activities that intentionally integrate music and other academic subjects.  They’re carefully designed to authentically teach music in conjunction with other topics.

Think ahead.
Throughout the year, think about what you’d like to have next year.  Most of the resources listed here will still be just as good then, so you can use next year’s budget to add more breadth to your resources.  The sky’s the limit.  Good luck!

What resources help you most in your classroom?  Be sure to comment below and share them with other music educators!
Erika Popp is an Editorial Administrator at The Lorenz Corporation, where she works with composers and editors to publish new music and classroom tools. She earned her Bachelor of Music Education degree at Wittenberg University in 2006 and has seven years of classroom experience in North Carolina and Ohio. Her general music classrooms have included large auditoriums, closet-sized classrooms, normal rooms, and even travelling carts – whatever the size, she hopes they are always filled with learning.

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