Beneath the Surface: What is REALLY Going On During Class?

The amazing Fred Rogers said “Play is serious learning,” and he is absolutely right!  One of my highest priorities (and biggest challenges!) as a teacher is to instruct in a way that makes learning feel fun and effortless.  If I’ve done my job well, parents and children leave class having had a wonderful time playing and making music with each other.  But what is REALLY going on during each activity?

The Anatomy of a Music Together Activity

Even though I use child-friendly music, I try to model the form of a classical piece of music for each activity: Introduction, Theme, Development, Climax, and Conclusion.


  • What key are we in?  The Music Together recordings are designed to fit into a child’s natural vocal range, which is higher than adult’s natural range.  Songs in class are sung in the same key as the recording.
  • How to Start? How can I catch everyone’s attention and transition into the song while minimizing “Teacher Talk?”  Everyone stays more engaged when there is more “Doing” and less direct instruction.


Repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition……….  Kids thrive on familiarity.  When material is familiar, we can start to tinker with it, as well as reinforce different musical skills and concepts during each repetition.  Some variations that might be included:

  • Microbeat/macrobeat – different ways of organizing beats within the song’s meter.
  • Tempo – faster, slower, acceleration, deceleration (rallantando.)
  • Variations on text – teacher-generated ideas for new words, student-generated ideas, vocables (neutral syllables)
  • Action substitutions – I’m always keeping an eye on kids to catch something I can include in the song!


  • Big finish or gradual ending?
  • Will I follow with a pitch pattern or rhythm pattern?

The class as a whole is also designed to follow this overarching format to feel like a cohesive whole, rather than a random collection of activities.  That’s why we start with more focused songs and smaller instruments, save things like parachute and play along for the climax, and have our lullaby and goodbye for a satisfying denouement and conclusion.

Luckily, if you are in class with your child, you don’t have to think about ANY of this!  It is a fun challenge for me every week to craft a musical experience that allows learning to take place without anyone realizing it’s happening.  All you have to do is sing and play with your child, and let me take you along for the ride. =)



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