Fine Arts Programs in Elementary Schools


Elementary school students experience music by listening, speaking, chanting, singing, moving, playing, reading, writing, and arranging. Leaving out even one element shortchanges student learning. These basic elements provide a foundation for advanced development when students interpret, compose, improvise, and evaluate music and musical performances.

Elementary music students listen, identify, describe, and categorize a myriad of sounds. They listen to short musical selections and distinguish between like and unlike passages. Through a carefully planned sequence of activities, students learn to look at a passage of notes and replicate it with accurate pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and tempo.

Elementary students also learn to listen to a melodic line and identify its visual representation. This exercise enables students to use both ear and eye to identify forms such as AB, ABA, theme, variations of a theme, and rondo. With more experience, children learn to hear the difference between two very similar phrases, for instance those having the same melodic line but different rhythms or vice-versa. From simple learning processes that begin at primary levels, students advance to analyzing longer and more complicated musical works in which harmony and texture also create form.

Music specialists and classroom teachers who are responsible for music instruction have a challenging task. To enable all students to realize their musical potential, elementary schools must implement a solid music program based on scaffolded course content. To build a foundation for musical achievement, activities must be sequenced and TEKS-based. Class musicals do not substitute for the ongoing, well-rounded instruction necessary for the development of content knowledge and skills. Excursions to concerts and performances do not constitute, and should not supplant, quality music instruction.


Districts and campuses make decisions about time allocations, meeting patterns, and class size. In class, time is used to teach music concepts and skills and distribute and collect the materials. In addition to the content taught, the facility and staff availability help determine maximum enrollment in music classes. Final scheduling considerations include the number of class meetings per week, the time of day, the length of the class, and the number of students in the class.

The music specialist should have no more than five to six classes per day and a total of no more than 150 students. Strong music education relies on both group and individualized instruction; large numbers of students reduce both the effectiveness of teaching and the quality of learning.

Elementary specialists have one duty-free planning and preparation period per day and scheduled intervals between classes. Classroom teachers may escort students to and from the classroom, providing security for students and time for the music specialist to set up for the next class. Specialists may require additional assistance when a class contains students with special needs. In small school districts where specialists are assigned to multiple campuses, an additional period is needed for travel, record keeping, materials management, and preparation of multiple music laboratories. An additional benefit of having a music specialist on the faculty is the added flexibility in scheduling teachers’ conference periods.


The range of class activities determines the specific space allocations for elementary music courses. Playing classroom instruments, movement, singing, and games require adequate room for safety and instructional effectiveness. Other space considerations include:

  • Secure storage for equipment and materials (e.g., tapes, compact discs, VCR/TV, classroom instruments, computers)
  • The number of chairs, risers, and/or desks needed to accommodate the largest class. (If classes scheduled in the room include students from kindergarten through grade five, several desk and chair sizes are needed.)