I find no matter what I do and 134.days of school, I still have students that do not know their letter names and struggle with the basic of air flow.  All get stuck and fustated with those student and have a hard time moving on.  I just do not want to give up,  but how do I when I have done my part. How do others handle this problem?  I hate to lose any student  

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Middle school students are funny.  Today they came in and played a lot better.  If any body has ideas for pacing guide, please pass it along.

Flash Cards, emusictheory.com on the big screen, any of the games from musictechteacher.com and incessant questioning from the podium as well as only references to AP music theory conventions Worldwide.


I insist on the following from 6th grade students and I get it each year with joy:


1.  All students learn all note names in treble and Bass clef  up to 2 ledger lines. Mastery, no grades, no mercy.  Learn it reinforce it and drill drill drill.  Great brain warm up.  Big screen helps.

2.  All students learn movable "Do" Solfege for every key in Standard of Excellence Book 1.  We sing at least one line per day if not more.  In solfege, in numbers, on ahh, the words to the piece, etc.  Just get 'em singing.  "Let's do this together...."

3.  All students will perform the paced note naming on grand staff at the speed of 50, take a screen shot, and send it to me.  All of this is on emusictheory.com.  This can take them a few months, but they love the computer program and it is the fastest way for them to learn this skill, plus it's fun for them.

4.  I will only answer questions on notes when they are asked in concert pitch with reference to their octave designation.  i.e.  Mr. Weaver, the what's the fingering for the concert Db4 on my clarinet?  Should I use the side key or the chromatic key?  (This is the AP Music convention that really does work and all you have to do is demand this of the students and have the expectations established.)

5.  Create a culture of fun, where knowing this stuff is just "What we do."  Common knowledge. 



Hope that is helpful. 

It's all about creating culture.

Great tips. I have been not holding to the standard.  Thanks so much

Hello Benjamin,

Basic instructional texts provide the frame work for learning all sounds with letter names in a sequence. This learning is spread out over one or two books. The students become familiar with each sound in a particular context which allows them to use the sound in that situation. What is needed is greater familiarity with the sound in different contexts. This can be aided by using age appropriate supplementary material. The supplementary material allows the teacher to reinforce what has been taught and also aids the teacher in seeing what the kids know and don't know. Most learners get stuck at times. It is to be expected. Learning to teach is an evolutionary undertaking.We change daily as teachers. I feel that each year I was a "different" teacher. Hopefully a little better!




You are right they are funny beings - they need us!  I would encourage you to do some simple breathing excersizes with them any time the sound is not solid or everyday for a while.  Breathing Gym with Pat Sheridan is great.  Or In 4 out 4.  In 4 and blow into your hand for 8, 12 , 16 beats.  Steady strong air.   Once they get to 20 counts of air -you tricked them - they can easily play a four measure phrase.  Have them warm up on different unison long tones - Foundation for Superior performance has all of the old band director tricks in one book.  I promise your band will sound better if you use that book correctly! Oh yeah, they love this game _Get a piece of paper and hold it on the wall with fast air for 5 seconds.

I used to over analyze the whole breathing process then Pat Sheridan came to Memphis and simply said"watch me breath"  and he said did you see that?  Watch again!  No diaphram discussion.  The words he used were breath from your waist.  Hope this helps!

The most powerful strategy I've used for teaching note reading is always calling the notes by their full names. "3rd line note B" When they first begin reading they identify them this way. I also model a step by step process of reading a note they can't just name.

1. Is it a line or space? (depending what they get in general music don't assume they all know the difference) A: space

2. What number space or line is it on?  A: 2nd

3. What's the memory device to help us remember? f-a-c-e what's the 2nd letter 'A'

This method has proven in my classes stronger retention and effective with students who have dyslexia. It helps them to focus then as they become more fluent they can leave this behind.

For dyslexic students or any students tracking can be very difficult. Keep in mind this could be there biggest hurdle not just reading the notes. Use post its to visually focus on a measure at a time is one idea. I have my beginning trombones highlight every note that is first position, they aren't writing the note name but it gives them a visual anchor for tracking.

For extending beyond the staff. Teach them the patterns when moving in stepwise; up (forwards) or down, (backwards) with alphabet. When moving in stepwise LSLSLS  Don't assume they can see skips. L L S L

If the octave designation is added at the end of your system, it will better prepare them for AP music theory.  This has worked wonders for our 6-12 program where HS students are required to take AP Music Theory and for your highly ordinal children, this is much more logical than line and space designation.  This also goes with the notion of Pitch Class across all of the AP textbooks.

Middle C is the most explosive note on the piano because it's C4!  LOL  (kids love this joke and it helps them remember)

I have them count the number of C's on the piano to get started and from there tactile schema are well in place for the transfer to reading notes on a staff.  Takes a period, lasts for life.



In trying to find a way to help those who cannot seem to learn note names, I discovered GBDFACE is a repeated series within the grand staff. It is repeated 3 times. You begin on the 1st bass clef line - go through all the lines on the grand staff and then go to the 1st bass clef space note and go through all the spaces. My class made an acronym for this series of letters: Goofy Bit Daffy's FACE.  I'll attach an explanation sheet of how I present this to my classes. When they learn this, they can name every note on the grand staff. After I use this approach, I then refer back to the standard EGBDF/FACE & GBDFA/ACEG and show the students how this fits into the grand staff picture.

Note: You can also use this to teach the basic notes in triads: GBD - BDF - DFA - etc.

Pamela Rezach




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