Differentiation in the Elementary Music Classroom

Differentiation. It’s a word we hear in staff development all the time and most music teachers probably think, “I differentiate instruction to meet the needs of the students in every class!” Although it’s true that we do this through our activities, I’ve never done it with worksheets. However, considering all the new students who weren’t in my class last year, I’m having to do more reteaching and remediation than I’ve ever done before. So, I decided to provide my third grade classes a choice this week. I called the worksheet levels blue, green, and black.

The blue is the simplest worksheet and included labeling the tone ladder, identifying pitches to Phoebe in Her Petticoat, and then writing four pitches on the staff. The green level began the same way, but instead of writing four pitches, students transposed Phoebe in Her Petticoat into a new key. To make it a black level challenge, they added the rhythm stems. The green and black levels also allow students to create a new melody on a blank staff.

A majority of students chose the harder worksheet and worked at the green or black level. A few chose the blue level but finished too quickly. They determined that they should have chosen the harder one. Those students either took a blank staff and worked on transposing Phoebe in Her Petticoat or assisted other students who raised their hands. A few students chose the blue worksheet and it was just right for them. (See the worksheets under “Resources for Teachers” or click the links above.)

A final thought: Carol Ann Tomlinson wrote, “Students who consistently fail lose their motivation to learn. Students who succeed too easily also lose their motivation to learn. For learning to continue, students must believe that hard work is required, but the hard work often pays off with success….Challenges must grow as students grow in their learning.” p. 19 The Differentiated Classroom

Are you challenging your students in any special ways? I’d love to hear about it!

One thought on “Differentiation in the Elementary Music Classroom

  1. Very good idea! I do this often when we are playing an instrumental piece. Kids can choose the part they want to play in the group. They get to choose when they are ready to move on to a more challenging part in the music. I haven’t ever done it with worksheets, though!

    I have a set of music games I use as centers 3 or 4 times a year. I have three different levels of each center game. If I have a new student (which happens weekly), I give him a beginner version. If I have a student who is really advanced, they get the advanced version. All the games look the same, so there is no stigma involved. Works really well.

    Thanks for the great idea!

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