Looking for ways to improve your pacing in the music room? In this blog post and podcast episode, I’ll detail my favorite ways to improve your pacing, so that students are engaged and focused!
Listen to the podcast in iTunes, on Google Play Music, on TuneIn, or here:
What is Pacing?
Good pacing can greatly improve student engagement and learning…but what is pacing? According to MicroPD, pacing is the speed at which we move through a lesson, or the rate of delivery for different parts of the lesson.
How can we as music educators improve our pacing? Here are my five favorite ways:
Strategy #1: Talk Less
A great way to improve pacing is to be more succinct with your words. For example, instead of saying, “Okay, boys and girls, today we are going to learn a new song, which is called ‘We are dancing,’ and I want you to listen to what it’s about,” you can simply say “Listen,” or “Listen to what this song is about.” The less words you use, the quicker your lesson will use, and the more your students can actively make music!
Another way to save words is to have motions you do which signal to students what to do. For example, instead of saying, “Now I’d like you to make a circle while you sing ‘Apple Tree,’” you can simply make a circle motion with your finger and sing “ready, sing,” and off you go! Other signals I use include:
- Signaling to students to stand up by lifting up both hands
- Signaling to students to sit down by motioning down with my hands
- Signaling to students to come to the board by motioning for them to come closer on the carpet
Strategy #2: Routines
Routines can be a great way to save time, as students know exactly what to do, when! Some of my favorite routines for the start of class include:
- Greetings: Using the tone set students are practicing, such as sol-mi, or mi-re-do, I sing questions to students, such as “How are you today?” or “What will you do this weekend?” Then, I’ll listen to four or five students sing solos (which helps me track how well they are matching pitch!)
- Gathering song: With Kindergarten and first grade, I sing “Here we are together,” which is to the tune of “The more we get together,” and has these words: “Oh here we are together, together, together, oh here we are together in music today. With Macy, and Jenna, and Amy, and Scott, etc. Oh here we are together, in music today.” This is a great way to learn their names, and to create routine!
- Mindful minute: I was inspired by Tanya LeJeune from Music Teacher Coffee Talk to try some mindfulness. I’ve been doing a mindful minute with fifth grade every day, and it’s been a wonderful routine. Check out this podcast Tanya does about mindfulness, and this book for mindfulness strategies.
- Mini-listening lessons: With fifth grade, I've been doing mini-listening lessons, like the ones found in this Musician of the Month set, right at the start of the class, then moving into the mindful minute. It's been a great way to integrate listening into my lesson and create a routine!
Strategy #3: Remember the Attention Span of Children
A good rule of thumb is to think about the attention span of children in relation to their age. So a five-year-old can concentrate for five minutes, an eight-year-old for eight minutes, etc. Although I sometimes break this rule, with project work, manipulatives, etc., it’s a great general rule to follow, to keep pacing moving.
Strategy #4: Write times into your lesson plans
Even though I’ve been teaching for 21 years, I still like to write very detailed lessons, and a part of those lessons includes time allotted for each activity. Having a plan for how long I plan on taking with a song or activity is very helpful for keeping the lesson moving. Even if I am over or under the amount of time I planned for, it’s a big help to have that plan and to structure your lesson around how long you think an activity will take. For examples of how that looks in a lesson, check out these free lesson plans in my store:
Strategy #5: Observe students
Simply keeping an eye on students to see if they are engaged and focused can be beneficial for pacing. If you see several students are getting wiggly, then feel free to adapt your lesson and move onto another activity! I’ve also added some kind of brain break into my lesson, to get them up and moving and get those wiggles out! It can be difficult to stray from your written lesson, but when you see you need to, feel free; just make notes of what you’ve changed so you remember for next time you teach the lesson.
Other links from the podcast:
- Responsive Classroom for Music, Art, PE, and Other Special Areas
- Music Teacher Coffee Talk Lesson Planning Episode
What are your ideas for pacing in the music room? Feel free to comment below, and happy teaching!
I am taking a new position as an elementary music teacher at a charter school, after being a middle school chorus teacher for 14 years. I am just looking for resources to help me plan and prepare for this new adventure.