What should a music teacher have in his or her teaching bag (or desk, or studio, or whatever you use to hold your teaching tools of the trade)?
That answer, of course, is different for everyone.
But here are the five things I use the most and would never be without while giving a lesson.
It doesn’t take a new student long to realize that I have a love for all things color-coded.
Partly that’s because I’m not as organized as I wish to be, but color-coding things help me feel like I can “fake it ’til I make it”. But I also find color-coding things extremely useful, and highlighters are a great way to do it!
I use highlighters for two main purposes.
First, I use them on student assignments to visually separate the information into separate categories for them. I also use a different color highlighter for each student if I have more than one from the same household (Joe’s assignments can be marked in blue, Sally’s in orange, Ben’s in green, etc.)
And, to be totally honest, sometimes I just like to make the assignment look prettier. There’s nothing wrong with a little color, right?
The second use for highlighters is for teaching my young beginners: I have them pick one color for right hand and one for left, and mark the notes in their lesson books appropriately. This seems to help the younger kids a lot.
Once we’ve moved past the pre-reading stage, the right hand color becomes our “treble clef marker” and the left hand color is the “bass clef marker”. We slowly phase out the use of the colors once the student is more comfortable playing with hands together on the grand staff.
2. Dry Erase Board
Dry erase boards are very handy for us music teachers.
I use mine all the time to illustrate rhythms, practice note reading, keep score during review games, and write down a lesson plan outline for students who have a hard time concentrating and staying on track.
I highly encourage every teacher to get a hold of one – bonus points if you can find some good dry erase markers that actually work (looking at you, smeary red marker of mine that won’t erase properly…)
3. Paint Chips
Okay, so this might be a slightly unconventional thing to keep in your teaching bag, but it works well for me.
I use paint chips for a lot of rhythm-based activities with my students: counting rhythms based on paint color names, using those names to tap out a rhythm on each note of a new major scale pattern, basing an original compositions around them…the possibilities are endless!
4. Buddy the Rhythm Tiger
If there’s one thing my young (and young at heart) students would never want me to show up without, it’s our studio mascot, Buddy the Rhythm Tiger.
I’ve written a whole post on how to incorporate stuffed animals into your music lessons here, but for now I’ll suffice to say that he is the most popular teaching tool in my studio by far!
(And according to some of my students, he gives excellent hugs. So there’s that bonus, too.)
5. My Teaching Binder
Finally we come to my most-used, most-loved teaching tool of all. I don’t think I’ve ever taught a piano or violin lesson without my trusty teaching binder – I use it every single time!
My binder has lined notepaper, my current student roster and birthday list, progress charts, extra pieces of sheet music to be assigned, scale exercises to be handed out, and a pouch to hold all of my pencils, pens, dry erase markers, and highlighters (see above).
A truly invaluable asset, especially for a traveling music teacher like me.
My teaching binder is my “home base”, my command center that keeps me organized through each lesson with each student at each location. If you’ve never tried using one, I highly recommend it!
And there you have it: my top five tools that I always keep in my teaching bag. What tools do you most often use when teaching? Let us know in the comments!