Updated: Dec 29, 2022
Teaching the History of Music Timeline can be a daunting task. Maybe it was something you loved to learn about in college or maybe it was something you really struggled with (insert me raising my hand!). This subject can be taught boring and monotonous - spitting out dates and names. BUT, what if I was to tell you, there are things you can do to liven it up? What if I could tell you that it doesn't have to be a snore fest?
Here are my 3 TOP TIPS for making the history of music timeline shine and really give students something to look forward to:
Art of Anticipation in Music History Timeline Lesson
Talk it up! Get the students excited about it. Bring it up at the beginning of the year and how it's your FAVORITE lesson to teach (and that might be a stretch in truth, but it builds it up for them). Tell them there are extra fun things you do in your lessons for this unit (more on that). The more you talk it up, the more excited they get. When you get kids bought in, you know that lesson is going to go well.
How do you build it up?
At the beginning of the year when I'm going over the syllabus, I love to point out that Music History has a lot of mystery in it. I pretend like I want to tell them SO BAD what the surprise at the end is, but I 'refrain' and hold back the answer. They are DYING to know what it actually is - and I love it.
When I actually get to the history of music timeline lesson, a few things happen:
I make sure that every time we switch to a new music history timeline, I make it special (see Create Fun Surprises below). You can make it as extravagant as you want or as small surprises. Regardless, anything that is different is going to make their day and it will keep the anticipation going.
I remind them that there is a big surprise at the end...almost everyday. Annoyingly so. They love knowing that something is about to go down!
Create Fun Surprises for Each Music History Timeline
Creating a different environment for the kiddos can make a huge impact on their interest in the lesson. Make sure it is relevant to the timeline in music periods that is being taught that day. Here are some ideas I've used in the classroom:
You can change your room up to mimic that time period! You can dress up, add fake candles around the room instead of having your over lights on.
Buy some super cheap backdrops from the Dollar Tree during halloween and make it look like stone walls from a castle.
When I talked about the Medieval Era, which is my first lesson, I'm wearing a hooded cape, have Gregorian Chant Music on while ALL my 30+ dollar tree fake candles are sprinkled around the room.
Handouts? They are rolled up like scrolls and I hand it to them when they come walking in.
Baroque Era? I dress up as Bach and pretend that he is the sub for that day (middle schoolers love this). Most of my classes ask be ridiculous questions about that time period (which I love!) and it brings up great conversations as I'm teaching.
Renaissance Era? I have them "joust" with competing kingdoms, aka...hula hooping contest. I love creating the contest where the knights from different realms compete - Sir Dougie - Sir Skipsalot - any other random name you can come up with.
Classical Era? Sing your heart out with a singing challenge of Queen of the Night. My kids ATE THIS UP! It it was surprising the kids that wanted to do the challenge. I got out my microphone, challenged kids to REALLY get those high notes out. It was a hoot, and some kids walked away proud with the fact that they could sing higher than their best friend.
You don't have to do HUGE plans in redecorating for each timeline in music history...simple things can go a LONG way! Dollar tree can be your friend...and so can your art department. Hit up the stores as halloween decorations go on sale after Oct. 31st and load up on decor that can be easily used in your classroom. It's all about the little details that make it a big deal.
Scavenger Hunt Test
You can create a scavenger hunt for students to do at the end as a test. They answer questions using their handouts and roam around the school (supervised of course) finding clues that you've secretly placed. What an awesome way to take a test, right? I've done Doctor Who themed scavenger hunts and Star Wars themed scavenger hunts. Both very successful and fun! If that's not your cup of tea, create a digital escape room using your materials and content as a test. Guess what...The theme of the escape room can be WHATEVER! It doesn't have to be another boring Mozart cliche clipart. Keep it fun and simple!
My favorite one is my Doctor Who version. I pretend that I'm The Doctors companion coming back from a time line that needs to be saved - the Middle Ages.
I create this whole story about a Gregorian chant music having hidden clues in it to save the music we listen to today.
I run into the room in full panic mode and give the story to the kids.
Then, I have them get into groups of 4-5, grab their iPad to scan the QR codes around the school and their testing paper. I also let them take their notes from the lessons too - which they appreciate.
Because of this, the kids learn to work together, problem solve, and all while going over music history elements. I've had kids end the test saying "This is the best test I've ever taken! I love this class!"
See, it's all about the delivery...and the anticipation. Come up with a fun setup for the kids to really get into the scavenger hunt and finding the clues!
BONUS TIP: Don't Play Boring YouTube Videos
Yes, history created a lot of beautiful music. But is that actually going to catch their attention...about 90% of the time, it's not.
Find videos that demonstrate music history timeline instruments by playing current songs and have them guess!
When teaching about ostinato, find fun videos where people use their names to create ostinato patterns. I love using the Harry Potter Pals video with all the characters chanting their names in rhythm.
I found one video of Vivaldi's Four Seasons and there is a viola player in the background of the soloist that makes hilarious faces (I don't think on purpose...but it makes the video entertaining).
So, try your best to keep the videos current or entertaining. If you can get them bought in to the video...you can expand on the actual educational content. Point in blank: I got my music class to have an opera contest because they loved one of the videos so much.
Teaching is stressful as it is. I hope this gives some insight into how to make your Music History Timeline Lesson stand out from the rest and give the kids something to look forward to!
If you want to find more inspiration, feel free to check out the Music History Blog post...there's plenty of ridiculous pictures of me in there that could at least give you a small laugh. Let me know what you think! Have you utilized any of these tips in your classroom?
If you are looking for something that is already made, you can visit my Music History Unit with the Scavenger Hunt already created...which is a HUGE time saver. I really did a lot of work to make this unit captivating to the kiddos.
Keep checking out Teaching Music Outside the Box for more helpful tips and tricks!
If you are looking for more resources for your music classroom or band classroom, please feel free to visit my other blog posts below!