Teacher Routines for Concurrent Music Teaching

By Elizabeth Caldwell

Reprinted with permission from the music blog Organized Chaos: Purposeful Creativity at Home & In the Music Room

I’ve been teaching concurrently- with some students socially distanced in the classroom and some students participating in the same class live on zoom at the same time- since the beginning of this school year. I’m also on a cart and, as of right now, still not allowed to sing or share any supplies in school. It’s still exhausting and frustrating, but I have definitely figured out some strategies to make it work more smoothly over the last several months! Here are some routines I’ve established for myself to help me juggle all my responsibilities for teaching elementary music concurrently.

There are 2 categories of routines that I think are equally valuable in teaching in general: class routines and teacher routines. Class routines help make class predictable- I’ve learned even more heavily on establishing routines for how I run my lessons this year to help give my students and me some predictability in these highly unpredictable and unusual times and make it easier for all of us to know what to do when we’re dealing with these complicated restrictions. I do the same series of stretches at the beginning of class, and I end with a virtual “happy note” at the end of class, every single lesson. You can read more details about how I have established class routines this year in this blog post.
Equally important, though, are the routines we establish for ourselves as teachers! The reason concurrent teaching is so exhausting is because you have to think about so many different things at once, so anything that can alleviate the mental load is a good thing. It has taken me a long time to find a routine that helps me manage everything, and of course, as things continue to change I have to continue to adjust my own routines, but here is my current routine for managing everything for my teaching.

1. Before School I make sure to set up a few things before my first class each day so that I have everything ready to go:

  • Put my class lists on my clipboard to have on my cart
  • Put my class schedule on my cart
  • Review my lesson plans for the day and write down the basic sequence of each on sticky notes- the first one goes on my computer next to my trackpad where I can see it, and the rest go on on my class lists next to the classes they’re for
  • Pull up the slides and any other tabs I need for each lesson- I put all the tabs for one lesson in one browser window and minimize the others so they’re ready but not visible
  • Open the zoom app and find the first class in my list of recurring meetings
  • Get my voice amplifier on
  • Make sure my computer, walkie talkie, speaker, and voice amplifier are charged and turned on
  • Open class dojo on my phone and find the first class I’m teaching
  • Fill up my water bottle, eat a quick snack, and go to the bathroom

2. Before Each LessonI have 5 minutes between most of my classes. Before each class here is what I do to make sure everything is set up:

  • Start the zoom, and pause the automatic recording, 5 minutes before class (this often means I’m starting the zoom for the next class before I leave the class I just finished teaching)
  • Adjust any zoom settings- make sure students can’t unmute, and can only chat with me
  • Make sure slides and other tabs for the lesson are open and ready for the beginning of the lesson
  • If it’s different than the lesson before it, get the sticky note for that class and put it on my computer, and move the previous one to my clipboard
  • Look through the roster to remind myself of who to expect on zoom and in the room
  • Try to be walking into the room about 3 minutes before the start of class so I can
    • say hello to the in-person students
    • ask the homeroom teacher/ cohort supervisor who is absent today and/or any in-person students who are on zoom 
    • Plugin my power strip from my cart
    • Connect my computer to the projector and adjust my settings as needed, move windows so the visuals I’m sharing are on the board and the zoom window is on my computer
  • Admit all students from the zoom waiting room at the start of class time, say hello, and make sure everyone can see and hear me

3. After ClassUsually the routines I have for starting the next lesson are happening at the same time as the routines I have for the end of the previous one unless I have more than 5 minutes between 2 classes.

  • Write down attendance: I try to note my attendance for the distance learners sometime during the lesson- usually when they’re all taking turns answering a question or when everyone is watching a video so I am free to look through the participants and mark them down. If I don’t have a good time to do that during class I make sure to do it right after class before I forget, and I always wait until after class to mark down the in-person attendance.
  • Send a virtual happy note on class dojo to whoever got it that day (more on this in my previous post on class routines linked above)
  • If I’m not teaching that lesson again that day, close those tabs

4. After SchoolAfter my last class is over, here are the things I always do before the end of the school day:

  • Make sure I have sent all the happy notes on dojo (if I didn’t have time between lessons)
  • Pick out one zoom recording for each grade and post the recording in each google classroom
  • Plugin my voice amplifier and speaker to charge
  • Throw away all the lesson sticky notes for that day
  • Contact the families of any distance learners who were missing more than 1 day without a known reason
  • Make sure tomorrow’s google classroom’s posts are ready
  • Make sure tomorrow’s slides are ready

This is a lot when I write it all out but I hope it helps anyone who is finding themselves teaching concurrently for the first time and struggling to wrap their head around it all!

If you want to see more ideas and tips for teaching in various pandemic teaching situations, be sure to visit this page where I’ve compiled all my relevant posts in various categories.

Elizabeth Caldwell

Elizabeth Caldwell has been teaching elementary general music and choir for over a decade and cannot imagine ever doing anything else. She is also the author of the website, Organized Chaos Music, where she regularly shares organization strategies, lesson plans, and other ideas to encourage purposeful creativity in the music classroom. She holds her B.M.E from Wheaton College (IL) and her M.M.E. from Boston University and was named Teacher of the Year in 2018. She has presented on lesson planning, restorative behavior management, effective recorder teaching, world music, National Core Arts general music standards, and other music education topics at conferences around the globe, and teaches an e-course on lesson planning through her website. You can follow her on these formats:

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