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Getting Started with Music Centers

Metallophone with music stands in the background, with the text "Getting Started with Music Centers"

Have you been wanting to try music centers, but aren't sure where to start? In this blog post, I'm detailing where to begin with implementing centers in your music classroom!

First, you may be wondering what exactly centers are. Centers are stations that students complete during the lesson. Small groups of students are at each center, and in a traditional model, they would rotate every five or so minutes, until students have completed all of the centers.

In the traditional model, there might be four centers, all practicing the same concept in different ways. I've tried other models, such as centers choice (which you can read about here), but if you're just beginning to use centers, I'd start with the traditional model. Here are five decisions to make in order to start centers in your music room:

#1: Decide concept and grade level

Before you can try centers, you'll need to figure out which grade level you'd like to try them with, and which concept you'd like to practice. I would suggest choosing a grade level that you know will be able to handle some responsibility and can work somewhat independently. Then, you can decide on a concept. Perhaps you'll practice a rhythmic concept, a melodic concept, instruments of the orchestra, ukulele, whatever you'd like!

#2: Consider familiar activities

Once you have a concept and grade level in mind, you might think about which activities your students are already familiar with for that concept. For example, maybe your students have already played “I have/ who has” with that concept, or maybe they're playing recorder and they've already used these composition cards. It's great to have a familiar activity or two sprinkled amongst the centers, as those centers will take very little explaining!

#3: Instruments, manipulatives, assessment, and technology

If you're stumped, trying to figure out what kinds of centers to do, try thinking in terms on instruments, manipulatives, assessment, and technology. For example, if you are practicing sol and mi with your primary students, you could do the following:

  • Instruments: Students figure out how to play “See Saw” on barred instruments, knowing that G is sol
  • Manipulatives: Students write patterns on the staff with chips or mini erasers, like shown in the picture below
  • Assessment: Students complete a worksheet, like one in this set
  • Technology: Student play a game, like this freebie from Linda McPherson

Most centers can fit neatly into one of these four categories, and it can be super helpful for brainstorming center ideas!

Barred instruments set up for centers
Staff writing with mini erasers, for St. Patrick's Day

#4: Decide how you'll group students

You might decide ahead of time who is in which center, so that you can ensure that students can manage their behavior with their peers. Or, you could split students up by their “magic” number, if they have their own number in their classroom. For example, numbers 1-6 could be at the first center, numbers 7-12 at the next, etc. Another way to group students is by homogeneous or heterogeneous ability. With homogeneous groups, you could have students who are advanced al in one group, students who are proficient in another, and students who are progressing in another, so that you can more easily differentiate. With heterogeneous ability, you could have a variety of abilities in each group, so students who are advanced can help out students who are struggling.

#5: Decide what you as the teacher will do

When my students do centers, I often am free to check in with students, help groups out, etc. Sometimes, though, I'll anchor myself at one center, so that I can assess just the students at that center, or explain a center in more detail. If you're just starting out, I recommend that you are free to help anyone out, or you can hang out at the centers where you know your students will need the most help.

Want some free materials for centers? Sign up here for rhythm centers materials for first grade!

Looking for more centers materials? Check out this bundle; the grade level sets can also be purchased separately.

I hope this is helpful as you start centers in your music room! Happy teaching!

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Hi, I'm Aileen

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