Five Must-Dos for Back-to-School in the Music Room

21 August, 2019

Are you getting ready for the school year, but you're not sure where to start? In this blog post, I'm detailing five must-dos for back-to-school, and 5 nice-to-dos, so you can prioritize and prepare with purpose! If you listen to podcasts, scroll down to the bottom for a podcast episode where I'll elaborate on this blog post!

Five Must-Dos for Back to School in the Music Room: Tasks that will help you be prepared for music lessons at the start of the year!

While preparing for the school year, it can be overwhelming to decide what to do, when. I have found it helpful to think about what HAS to be done, and then what would be nice to get done, so that I can finish my must-do tasks first. Here are five must-do tasks that I feel are vital to your school year in the music room.

#1: Print class lists and schedule 

Class lists are great to have for attendance, creating seating charts, figuring out small groups, and more! I love to have class lists both in paper form (for my class list and fire drill binders) and in Excel, so I can easily copy and paste into programs and apps.

A schedule is obviously great to have to keep yourself on track of what you're doing when each day, but it can also be helpful for keeping track of which lesson classes are on, sharing with other teachers, and more.

#2: Figure out your classroom management system and routines

Sitting down to think about how you'll run your classroom, how you'll handle behavior issues, if and how you'll reward students, etc., is so important. In the past, I've used star student for individual rewards and class points for whole class rewards, but this year, I'm going to try to give rewards more randomly so students aren't expecting them. Additionally, my school is doing a school-wide PBIS system, so I'm going to align a lot of my classroom management with that.

Part of our PBIS system includes really thinking through and teaching your routines, so I am going to try to be more intentional with teaching my routines. I found this set on TpT, and even recorded my voice speaking each slide right in PowerPoint so I could save my voice. Of course, I have elaborated along the way, but this has saved me from repeating the same routines 25 times!

I was also inspired by this blog post by David Row, about splitting your class up into four instrument families, for grouping and management. I'm going to try it this year, giving one family the opportunity to sit in flexible seats, another family the chance to have class jobs, and then switching each month.

Thinking through if you'll have seating charts, and for which grade levels, is important before the first day of class. I create my seating charts in Powerteacher Pro, but if your school district doesn't use that, you could use the Smart Seat App.

#3: Writing engaging lessons

Making sure you have lessons and materials ready to go for the first day is definitely a must-do! I like to split my first day lessons into three sections:

  • "Getting to know you": This section can include you introducing yourself and some name games, like the ones mentioned in this blog post, so that you can get to know your students and their names
  • Routines: In this part of the lesson, you can discuss your routines, rules, and expectations, so that students know what to expect in your class. During this part of the lesson, I go down my class lists to make sure I have the names of everyone in the class, and ask any students new to the school which school they want to last.
  • Music-making and review: This can include known songs and concepts. For example, if my second graders know ta, ti-ti, and rest from first grade, I might just review ta and ti-ti in the first lesson, with a game like "Bee Bee," and then in the second lesson, I'll review rest.
If you're looking for ready-made lessons for the first day of school, check out this set:

#4: Setting up your room

Whether you have a small or big room, thinking through where you will put your instruments, your materials, your chairs, etc. is beneficial for the start of the year. In the past, I've drawn up a diagram of what I wanted my room to look like so that I can use it when setting up the room. You might even think of your room in sections (technology section, instrument section, materials section, etc.)

As you are setting up your room, hook up your technology--your SMART board or interactive board, any iPads, etc. Try not to wait until the day before school starts, in case anything isn't working the way you think it's supposed to.

#5: Posting anything important

Think about what you refer to often, and would be helpful for students to see posted. This might be your rules, anchor charts, word walls, etc. You don't need to necessarily have a lot of decor, nor do you necessarily need a theme, but having important documents up and easy to access is a must-do.

After you do all of those must-do tasks, here are five tasks that are nice-to-do, if you have the time.

#1: Decorating

If you'd like to and have the time to, you could post more than just your essentials. I love to have a word wall, a musical symbol wall, levels of understanding, ukulele chord charts, bulletin boards, and a few more items. I also use a theme each year to help tie everything together. This of course is not a necessity, but if you are interested in more ideas for themes, check out this blog post.

#2: Using an app or website for choosing students and groups

If you'd like to have an interactive way to choose students or groups, you could check out this set by Pink Cat Studio, which allows you to keep track of turns in games, form student groups, interactively call on students, and more! I've also heard of people using Class Dojo for this reason. There are likely other tools out there as well. Some of the tools will allow you to use csv files to import names, and some won't....so it can be time-consuming, depending on which tool you use, but also super engaging for students!

#3: Creating a music brochure

I wrote about creating a music brochure in this blog post. I love to have this to hand out at open house, so that when parents want to know more about the music program, you can hand them the brochure! In my brochure, I include a little about me, a little about my traveling music teacher, a little about Kodály, a bit about the music program, and program and other important dates.

#4: Sub Tub

If you have time, it's really helpful to put together your sub tub before school starts, so that if something were to happen at the start of the year, you're ready to go with emergency sub plans. Check out this post about compiling your sub tub, and this post for free sub plans.


#5: Organizing

If you have time to organize your desk, your drawers, your bookshelves, and more, now's a great time to do it, so you can start the year organized and ready to go! Some years I've had time and some years I haven't, but I do always feel calmer when I have the time to organize and know where everything is. Check out this set for organization labels and ideas.

Want to hear more details? You can listen to my podcast episode about this topic here:


What are your must-dos for the school year? Feel free to comment below, and Happy Start of the Year!

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