I field lots of questions about Kodaly teaching and how to get started in it. I thought doing a post about getting started in Kodaly teaching would be a great way to answer some burning questions.

What is the big deal?

So. There are lots of ways to approach a student’s learning in the music classroom, and although I’m obviously a Kodaly practitioner, I really advocate what works for you is best. If I was mandated to use a different methodology, it just wouldn’t fit me as well and I might not be as effective. That being said, I think some people work well with a mix and having some training is a good idea. Not all the things you learn are things you might use, but it can help with effective questioning, communication of ideas, and more. (Hello sequencing!) I’d also like to point out that it’s not really a “method” because there are several ways to interpret Kodaly teaching. It can look very different in many different ways.

Taking levels courses has been directly tied to how effective I FEEL in the classroom. I have a better understanding of how to communicate to my students and get ideas across. For a lot of music teachers, we don’t have a built for you curriculum, and not having something like that can deter even our best efforts as a young teacher. For seasoned teachers, it can still hone our skills, give us new ideas, and breath life into our careers.

What are levels courses and why should I take one?

Breathe some life into your teaching. I know I said it before but I’ll say it again. When I first started teaching elementary, I felt like I was going from one activity to the next without any real sort of structure, plans, sequence, etc. The curriculum guide I had gotten from my district was incredibly vague and didn’t talk about concepts, just big ideas. I had no clue what concepts to teach to what age group except vague ideas I had seen online. When I started doing the research for myself to find some sort of curriculum that had actual concepts and ideas, I came across the Kodaly method.

While the style itself may not be where you want to stop, there are some huge benefits to taking a levels course:
Sequence of concepts – what order to teach concepts and in what grade. LIFE. CHANGING.
No more activity to activity. Instead, you’ll learn to create lessons that are thought out and sequenced.
– Learn how to teach, how to question, procedures, and elements of lesson planning.

What’s in a levels course?

Pedagogy: part of your levels course is learning how to teach the concepts. This is a HUGE part of what directly changed my teaching by taking a levels course. How to question, how to prepare, present, and practice a concept.
Musicianship, conducting, and choir: the honing of your skills is just as much a part of a levels course as the pedagogy aspect.
Materials: All the good stuff. Music, games, dances to use that will help you build a curriculum that is based on tried and true efforts, not activities.
Special topics: sometimes, you spend a little of your time doing something different – learning about a specific culture’s music, learning out to contra dance,

Note: Don’t get me wrong. I love those days that are activities. Something that sticks out for your kids as “WOW, we did this”, but having taken levels courses, I know how to fit those activities into the large scheme of things that go with what I want my kids to know each year instead of going to a conference, seeing a cool idea and taking it back to all my grade levels (or even half). This was another big change for me right away.

Is a workshop enough?

Workshops are GREAT! I even offer them, but they won’t give you the full experience. Levels courses are two or three weeks of intense work, class, homework, learning, and personal growth. You can’t replace a few weeks of intense learning with a workshop.

Isn’t this just for singers?

Oh gosh no.
You do NOT need to be a vocalist to make the Kodaly method work for you. Just like you don’t need to be an instrumentalist to make Orff work for you. This is really about learning to be the best teacher you can be. Yes there is singing involved, but it is about developing your skills.

What about….?

….things the Kodaly method doesn’t do?
Some common criticisms of the Kodaly method are:
– Creative activities
– Movement exploration
– Instruments

Ok. First, this is pretty untrue. Second, you can absolutely pair any of these things with the Kodaly method. Add an extension activity using instruments for a folk song. Take time for movement as you learn a song, or create just for the sake of creating. Creation is absolutely an important part of any music room and you can do this with movement, or composition as part of the lesson, or as another part of your practice sequence.

….composers, listening, Carnival of the Animals, etc.?
Kodaly helps you create a curriculum. Even if there is something that isn’t part of it, it doesn’t mean you can’t teach it. For instance, I’d argue that if you AREN’T teaching different composers and musicians, you are missing out on a big way to connect with your kids. But now maybe you know where to put them in your lesson, how to use certain pieces differently, or

…modern music?
I don’t think that modern music needs to be excluded if you are a Kodaly teacher. You can adapt the method learned in levels to fit the literature you use with your students too. It should be something that evolves with our situation, not a codebook of great songs that are the only ones you use.

First, Kodály’s idea was that teachers use the music of the people. Is modern music the music “of the people” (namely our students)? Second, it’s important that you can help your kids see themselves in the music. If you are only using English folk songs, that isn’t going to cover all your kids unless you live in Britain and even then it might not happen. Do I think I should introduce my kids to quality folk music from different countries, kids songs, games, etc? YES. Do I think that modern music should be included? YES. There is so much we can adapt.

Is a levels course right for me?

YES. If you answer yes to any of these questions, I suggest you start taking a look for a local levels course.

  • Do you want to have a curriculum that builds concepts upon concepts?
  • Do you feel like you are constantly on the hunt for things to do with your kids
  • Are you struggling to know what to teach from year to year?
  • Do you want your kids to understand notation, be able to use it to actually read, write, and create?
  • Are you wanting to figure out how to include things you learn at conferences but in a meaningful way?
  • Do you want to enhance YOUR musicianship skills?
  • Do you want to really understand how to use folk songs, dances, and more in your class in a meaningful way?

I hope that this has been helpful. I’d love to hear if you have any questions!

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