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1/3 Introducing My Tech-Powered Music Curriculum: Grade 6



Student working on a LogicPro app



Welcome! ๐Ÿ‘‹


Hi and welcome to the first in a series of articles where I aim to present you with my unique tech-powered 3-year Middle School Music Curriculum. ๐Ÿ“‘


In addition to providing a comprehensive overview, this article series may also inspire you to implement new ideas in your own teaching.


Since this is an overview, I won't go into the specific implementation details. However, I have created a comprehensive curriculum based mind - map. This will provide you with the best perspective on the content.


In this mind map, I have included details on assessments, including links to quizzes, exam procedures, and more. Please check it out below and click the button to download.



Gyf of a document presenting the mindmap
Mind - map quick overview




To receive this mind map, all you have to do is subscribe. As a thank-you for subscribing, you'll get additional (music-tech powered) resource pack. ๐ŸŽ


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Introduction


When I started working at my current school in Shanghai in 2020, I faced one of the biggest challenges a music teacher can have: creating a comprehensive 3-year middle school music curriculum.


At that time, the school was just opening, and the first generation of middle school students were ready to enroll. Now, as that generation continues their educational journey in high school, I can reflect on how I managed to create a unique and innovative curriculum in my setting.


After conversations with my new principal, I gathered a few key points. He advised me to review established global curriculums and gain some insights from them. Additionally, he expressed a desire for a contemporary music curriculum that incorporates technology in teaching. This request resonates with my personal affinity for technology and computers in all aspects.


Challenge accepted!


This challenge was like a double-edged sword, with sharp edges on both sides. On one hand, I had the freedom to create something based on my own views and teaching style, which was exciting. On the other hand, it was also a bit frightening. If you have been in a similar situation, you understand this feeling.


I reviewed the established music curricula and had some tech ideas in mind. One general idea that I had from the beginning was that this curriculum should serve as a bridge between primary and high school education. So, I started from there.


I have based my curriculum on three main pillars:

  • ๐Ÿ“‘ Theory / History

  • ๐ŸŽธ Performance

  • ๐Ÿ–ฅ๏ธ Technology


Technology is the aspect that connects all the units and is extensively used wherever there is an opportunity. And there are plenty. Content delivery starts from fundamentals and gradually progresses across all main pillars, reaching its peak at the end of grade 8.


Now, let's focus on the content of grades six, to provide you with the initial perspective. I will briefly explain how each unit fits into the bigger picture, along with one example of technology use-case.



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Grade 6 Unit Plan

Student's age: 11-12 y.o.


Semester 1

Semester 2

Unit 1 - Music Building Blocks (theory)

Unit 4 - Rhythm in Music (theory)

Unit 2 - Instruments & Orchestra (theory)

Unit 5 - iPad Composing: Form & Structure (tech)

Unit 3 - Ukulele (performance)

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Semester 1

Unit 1 - Music Building Blocks (theory)


Grade 6 starts with a theory unit on basic music elements, providing a solid foundation for students transitioning from 5th grade with different levels of musical knowledge. This approach ensures that everyone starts on the same page and progresses together. While there may be a few students who already possess this knowledge. By utilizing effective differentiation techniques, I can engage them in diverse ways while ensuring their continued learning and progress.


Some strategies could include using these students as assistants to help their friends understand different concepts, giving them opportunities to present key aspects, or assigning them more advanced tasks to keep them engaged.


๐Ÿ–ฅ๏ธ Technology use-case example:


When learning about the 'boring' music element of silence, students can utilize GarageBand on iPads to compose a music piece. In this composition, they can intentionally insert a measure of silence and then explain the effects. Additionally, they can ask their peers for insights on the composition.


Note: In my classroom, students have access to iPads which they can use in pairs. This approach has benefits compared to using them individually, as I discovered from the grade 8th survey last year. Students enjoy working together, and this approach is also cost-effective, which is a win-win situation that your SLT will appreciate.



Elements of music black text on white background


Unit 2 - Instruments & Orchestra (theory)


This unit naturally builds upon the content of the first unit, allowing students another opportunity to develop a solid understanding of the orchestra, including instrument families and specific details about various instruments used in an orchestra.

Compared to other units, this one is shorter and provides students with the chance to bring their own instruments to class and introduce them in their own unique way.


๐Ÿ–ฅ๏ธ Technology use-case example:


Students can use GarageBand to become more familiar with various instruments from the orchestra and compose simple melodies along the way, that is always fun.


Unit 3 - Ukulele (performance)


This is the last unit of the first semester, where students have the opportunity to learn how to play the ukulele. Many of them learned to play this instrument at some point during primary school. However, a majority of them have completely forgotten how to play due to lack of continued practice.


During this unit, students will (re)learn the basics of playing the ukulele, along with 4-5 starting chords. These chords will provide them with the ability to play a variety of interesting songs.


๐Ÿ–ฅ๏ธ Technology use-case example:


To create a short song, instruct the students to record a sequence of ukulele chords. Then, use GarageBand software instruments to add additional layers to the recording.


Midjourney AI generated image of a grade five student playing guitar
Midjourney AI generated image


Semester 2


Unit 4 - Rhythm in Music (theory)


Another crucial theory unit focuses on expanding students' understanding of music elements through rhythm. This unit provides a comprehensive exploration of rhythm, allowing students to gain a clear understanding of its use and apply this knowledge in practice, particularly when utilizing technology.



โ˜… Technology use-case example:

Students use the GarageBand app and the Drum software instrument (either manual or beat maker) to create their own unique drum patterns. It is also possible to expand on this by adding additional instrumental layers to create a short song.


Unit 5 - iPad Composing: Form & Structure (tech)


This is the first fully technology-oriented unit, although it will not be the first time that students have been introduced to iPads in the classroom. In this unit, students will have a chance to get familiar with writing music and music notation on iPad through selected APP.


The longest unit of the year covers two main topics:

  1. Dorico / Flat APP for exploring music notation

  2. Form & Structure: AB, ABA, Rondo form

The theoretical aspect of this unit builds upon the knowledge gained in Unit 1: Music Building Blocks and Unit 4: Rhythm in Music.


Grade 6 student exploring iPad possibilities
Grade 6 student exploring iPad possibilities


Grade 6 outcome:


After completing the sixth grade, students have a solid foundation in music theory, including music elements, as well as proficiency in playing the ukulele and basic practical technology for music composition. They are now prepared to advance to the next grade and further enhance their musical skills.



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Thank you!


Thank you for reading and make sure to check out the two articles where I cover grade seven and eight. After reading all of them, you will gain valuable insights into how everything connects on various levels.


Also, remember to download the curriculum mind map. It includes additional information such as student work, exam procedures, and the core content.



Screenshot of the music curriculum mindmap content
Curriculum at a glance



Until next time, happy teaching!


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