Fostering 21st Century Skills in the Music Room

How does one define what 21st Century Skills are? As defined by, these skills are essential for a child’s ability to learn and be innovative in a forward thinking century. These skills are also the connection between life skills, technology, and core subjects.

Dubbed as necessary in order to function in the current generation and environment. Bringing 21st century thinking mixed with more meaningful technology use and useful work related skills. The arts and especially music are a perfect place to help foster these skills and guide students to a successful future. 

There are 4 parts to these skills:

Collaboration: Students working together in activities, projects, and games. Working together towards a common goal.

Creativity: Opportunities to think outside of the box and go beyond final expectations. Activities and projects or discussions that give students opportunities to expand and create ideas all their own.

Critical Thinking: Students given opportunities to problem solve, process, sequence, and more. Getting them to think deeper and know that problems and riddles are not always solved quickly.

Communication: Learning how to communicate in an effective way that expresses ideas, emotions, problems, and praise. Students learn how to speak up, collaborative, learning how to get criticism and give criticism too.

While teaching these skills are part of a normal educational practices, being consciously aware of how you teach and reinforce these skills can help administration see how important the arts are to educating the whole child.

So what are some ways help guide students in practicing these skills in the music classroom:

  1. Being able to collaborate and work together is an important skill one must have. Have students work together often in class. Sometimes it might be the first time they have worked in a group with some students in their class. Music is all about team work, whether it is a 5 minute collaborative activity of creating movement to a piece, or a full ensemble jam session.
  2. Take off restrictions to activities and projects. Provide the framework and then let them build. Provide opportunities for them to deviate from everyone else and be original. I had my 5th graders do a project on music in commercials a few years ago, they had to create a brand, ad copy, backing track, jingle, and any props and then film it. Everyone was different and demonstrated creative thinking.
  3. Give students activities that give them thinking. Refrain from spoon feeding them information and ask questions that get them thinking. Make a point to walk around the room during work time and ask questions about what they are doing. Why did you put that there? What other things could you write? How can you add a phrase that connects those two? What emotion was the composer trying to get you to feel?

Helping students practice 21st century skills will help them be better prepared for the rest of their life. That is what education is all about right? Preparing students to be upstanding and contributing members to society? If you help to guide them even in music class, you are showing your administrators and all the nay sayers out there even how much more music and the arts are a necessary core subject because of how they contribute to a child’s growth and education.


The Year I Spent in PreK

This time last year I was packing up my classroom and moving into my new home office. Isn’t that crazy? It has been almost a full year since I joined the Quaver team! Me being me of course couldn’t stay away from the classroom for long, soon going to see every Quaver teacher I possibly could co-teaching and observing how they used Quaver in their classrooms. I soon wanted to hop back into doing my own lessons, not full time, but just enough to dab my toe in the water and have a great place to test out activities in the Quaver curriculum that we were coming out with at a rapid pace. So when the opportunity opened up to volunteer in a local PreK classroom to just teach a short music class I ate it right up. It took only my lunch hour away (which I barely use anyway) and I could come when ever I could. No set schedule, if things got busy at work I’d save my visit for another week. How perfect? It kept me grounded and constantly reminded me where I came from as I took on a new career role.

It was totally different setting up for these mini music classes compared to a K class. I was told “Pretend they are aliens, start from the very beginning” I quickly realized that when I met them the first time and saw what we needed to work on. The teachers told me the most important things they wanted to work on were finding the beat and keeping a steady one, working on their speech through songs and chants, and practicing recall skills learning all the songs and dances we did. So that is what we focused on in a very simple method.

When I was looking through Quaver resources for what to do I looked for the following attributes:

  • Was there an option to chant or sing the song? Teaching them the words through chant was equally as important as singing. Chant was usually a high priority.
  • How simple are the words? Do they repeat often? The songs could not be too wordy for the little guys.
  • If it was not a dance tune, could we create finger plays for it? Had to constantly keep them moving.
  • Are the activity directions less than 3 steps? Cognitive function at that age is not very extensive yet, they could only handle one or two steps at a time.

I set up a scope and sequence on what to work on with them throughout the year and we went through the concepts below in order:

  • Beat
  • Fast and Slow
  • Loud and Soft
  • 4 Voices
  • High and Low
  • Instruments

For end of the year performances I taught them Stinky Pirates and I’m a Superhero from the Quaver Curriculum.

Of course we had some setbacks, somethings were too tough for them or they just didn’t get it. We adapted and changed though. The different between how they could perform at the beginning of the school year and at the end of the school year was HUGE. I loved seeing what they could do and they were really fun to be around. We had a “my favorite” day this week of all their top songs and dances they did this year and here are some of their favorites taken right from the Quaver K-5 Curriculum:

  • Going On a Bear Hunt (Absolute favorite!)
  • Steady Beat
  • Whisper, Talk, Shout, and Sing
  • Stinky Pirates
  • I’m a Superhero
  • Kangaroo Kangaroo

It was such a great experience and to be able to try out Quaver resources on that age level was awesome. I learned a lot on how to teach to that age group and got a lot of adorable hugs along the way!


Do you teach PreK? What are some of your favorite activities?