An easy approach to teaching Primary music….for non musicians!

How much music happens in your school?….are you a musical school, do you give music a token nod or perhaps music doesn’t occur outside of song practice?

You may be surprised to learn this (and I say this very much tongue in cheek) but there are actually other subjects in the national curriculum than the big 3.

Tucked away in the last 24 pages are the foundation subjects and it is here we will find Music and its 10 lines of expectations!

If we look back at the recommendations with regard to balancing the curriculum it can be seen that music was recommended to have approximately 1 hour per week within the Primary timetable.

Yet, if we are honest, how often does this happen and are many schools just giving music a token gesture as the core curriculum pressurises all around it!

I am a great believer in the broad and balanced curriculum and there is a desperate need to ensure this is provided for our children. Music plays an enormous part of the lives of everyone and should form an enjoyable and integral part of the Primary curriculum.

If you are like me, then you are not musical and this of course poses a problem in the teaching of music. So just how can you approach this subject if your rhythm starts and ends at “dad dancing!” ( never heard the phrase “mum dancing” but you get the idea!)

Get acquainted with some basics:

Its a good starting point and let’s face it, you will not be able to wing it, so you do need to do a little research.

  • Does your school have a music coordinator?
  • Are there any music resources?
  • Where are the instruments kept in school?… really need to know this!!
  • What instruments does the school have  – make a simple list and how many of each?
  • How do they work and what sort of sounds do they make…are any broken / need repairing?
  • Does the school have music stands and how many?


Developing an approach for your class:

Don’t worry if there is nothing else happening in your school for music or the only music is song practice or music played as assembly starts – you are going to contribute “musically” to the education of the children in your class and you’re going to have fun doing it.

For the “non musicians” amongst us we are NOT going to start on all the technical side of music. No notes, staves, timings, treble or bass clefs – nope non of that at all. All that can come later as both we and the class get more confident. For now we are going to start very simply (and noisily) – but we are making a start…we are enjoying music, composing and playing.

Base camp: – If your class have never had music before or if you have never taught them music then this is the starting point. It can be done simply, practically or in combination with some written work – it’s up to you.

  • You need to introduce the instruments. This can be done initially by you at the front giving the names of the instrument – showing children how to hold the instruments and also how to play….demonstrate the sounds. Class discussions as to whether they make hard sounds / soft sounds and if they are more suited to quick music or slow music are all aspects you can discuss.
  • You now need to set out some rules of playing the instruments before the children “have a go.” It’s a bit like P.E or Art and you need to be quite clear that everything is done sensibly and when instructed. Don’t be afraid to stop proceedings at any time to get things back on track!
  • As with P.E let the children experiment with instruments and then stop everyone so that you can hear how people are managing or experimenting. It needs to be fun but managed fun (make sure that the children are aware of sound levels)

(Hygiene is one aspect of music that you will need to be aware of in regard to wind instruments. This needs to be explained to children and the need to clean any instruments that are played and then passed on. Wet wipes are useful for this.)


What is your class topic? : Our starting point is going to be the class topic for the term / half term. This will give us a focus and link what we do in music to the other subject material covered – it will also allow pupils to draw on associated knowledge and skills.

Our musical focus: Our musical focus is to follow a story or compose a story and to add a musical element to it. In other words we are providing a musical score to a story and reflecting the storyline.

  • The easiest way to do this is to have breaks in the story when the music occurs – however for older children it is possible to have the music that occurs behind the narrator (obviously regulating the noise level for this to occur is crucial)
  • As the story progresses the music reflects what is happening….danger, sadness, frightening, funny, running etc
  • There may also be other aspects to musically interpret – water, rain, mountains, spooky forests.
  • Each musical interlude (doesn’t that make me sound musical!) will not only require instrument choice but speed and volume decisions by the children.

How it can be organised:

  • Decide on a story but make sure that it is relatively short. Either select a short story, or précis a story or write one as a class. If you have KS2 classes you could always borrow a book from KS1 (golden key books are pretty adaptable and fun to do)
  • Your choice of story could also link into work done in other parts of the curriculum – for example Literacy writing, poetry, art work. You can even make your own instruments in DT if you wish to extend to this.
  • Split the class into groups and divide the story into sections – one for each group.
  • Each group now has to organise both the reading of their story section and also the music that will accompany and reflect the action.
  • The group has also to annotate the script to illustrate where and how the music appears.

Pulling it all together:

My advice would be to keep it simple at first – choose an easy story or text to follow or write and then create the musical score.

Keep a close check on both noise levels and progress and don’t be afraid to make comments or suggestions as to how things are sounding but don’t forget that this is the children’s interpretation.

If you wish to give the task some momentum then arrange to perform it to perhaps a KS1 class (great if you are doing a KS1 book)…this gives an importance, relevance and impetus to what is being done.

Photos and the children’s write up can create a great  music display board in class and pull the whole thing together linking directly to the class topic.

As a non musician I have based my music teaching around this sort of approach. It fits in nicely with any topic that is being done and is adaptable to any age group in school.

Of course in its simplest form it does not involve the teaching of musical instruments nor any technicalities in music but these can be introduced when and if you become more confident.

As an approach, however, it fulfils 3 things

  • My class was actually doing music!
  • It was a simple approach but yet covered many areas of music
  • It was fun and enjoyable.

Have a go – develop your own ideas and approaches but above all have fun !










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