Top Ten Tips for Primary Teachers


To celebrate Music Education Solutions® 10th Birthday, we’re posting our top ten tips for different types of teachers each month during 2018! This month’s list is compiled by Dr Elizabeth Stafford.

  1. Don’t panic! So you’re the only musician in your school? Or maybe there are no musicians in your school at all? Don’t tell anyone we told you, but you don’t have to be ‘a musician’ to teach primary music, in the same way that you don’t need to be J.K Rowling to teach writing! However ‘unmusical’ you feel, you WILL be able to teach primary music because it’s at a level designed for 5-11 year olds, and you are much older and wiser than that!
  2. Invest in quality teaching resources. Make things easy for yourself and invest in an up-to-date curriculum scheme and modern resources. You don’t need to create everything from scratch yourself, particularly if you’re not confident about music. Let the experts do the legwork for you and use commercially available resources that you can adapt to suit your class. Adaptation is easier than invention – shout-out to Disney and their live-action-remakes!
  3. Clear out that music trolley. If it’s broken – chuck it. If you don’t know what it’s called – find out. If you don’t know how it works – find out. If you haven’t got a full class set of instruments, or at least one between two – time for a fundraiser! You can’t teach music effectively without providing functioning instruments for your pupils to play – it’s in the national curriculum and everything!
  4. Talk to your local music education hub or service. In England your music education hub is specifically charged with helping YOU teach music better, so don’t be afraid to knock on their door for some advice. Although this is not a statutory role in other parts of the UK, music services love to develop their relationships with schools, so get in touch and find out what they can do for you – musicians love to chat about music!
  5. Get some CPD. Music is one of those subjects where it’s quite hard to learn what to do from a book. Attending a practical CPD course, or even an online course with video and audio exemplars, can be a great way to raise your confidence and give you some new ideas to try out. Even meeting up informally with colleagues in your school cluster or consortium can be enough to spark off some new ideas. Whatever CPD you undertake just make sure there is a good ratio of information to cake – it’s been scientifically proved* that you can’t take in information without simultaneously taking in sugar.*Exhaustive research by Dr E. Stafford.
  6. Read the National Plan for Music Education. This plan is due to finish in 2020, so now would be a great time to check whether your pupils are getting their entitlement under this plan! Grab those opportunities before they go, as who knows what will happen post-2020? (Fingers crossed it’s not nuclear holocaust, eh? Although I bet your ancient music trolley will survive that intact…)
  7. Involve your pupils. Don’t be worried if your pupils are ‘more expert’ at music than you – celebrate it! Ask them to be a group leader for less confident pupils, ask them to start off the singing or playing in a performance, have them bring their instrument in and use it to contribute to class compositions and improvisations. We all know that kids love being given a job to do, and playing the violin is much more educationally valuable than sharpening pencils! Although it can make a very similar sound…
  8. Film everything! Ok well not EVERYTHING, but as many activities as you can. It’s much easier to show progress through audio and video examples than through numbers on a spreadsheet. Ofsted have said that they expect to see audio and video assessment evidence for music, so make sure you have some videos and audio tracks ready for your inspection. Just think, if you create enough examples for them to look at, maybe they won’t have time to leave the room to do the rest of the inspection…
  9. Drink water. Yes, I know, patronising much? But seriously, practical music lessons, particularly involving singing, dry you out much more than ordinary teaching. If you don’t want to lose your voice, keep sipping – and remember that clear spirits* look just like water when decanted.*Definitely do not do this. Enjoy it! Music is meant to be fun! So even if it’s not your thing, try to make the experience enjoyable for yourself as well as your pupils. Consider sharing your own favourite music as part of lessons and talking about why you like it – just make sure to check for dubious lyrics first, obvs!