Elementary Music in Cyber School: The Tools of the Trade

Posted by Olivia Porter on 1/18/18 8:34 AM

By Elisa Carpenter, Music Teacher

“…its objectives are two-fold: to aid in the well-balanced social and artistic development of the child, and to produce a musically-literate adult; an adult who can read and write music as easily as words..”  - Zoltan Kodaly

An intriguing quote from Zoltan Kodaly, the founder of the Kodaly Teaching Method developed in Hungary.  Years ago he wanted to be involved in a music education system that was capable of leading children toward love of and knowledge about music, from the youngest of ages into their adult lives.

Many educators, whether in traditional or cyber school, strive to replicate this idea each and every day, in their own course, in new ways, and with fascinating tools so their students are well prepared and successful!

This ideology has laid the foundation for my love of teaching. In this article, I will describe some of the tools used to cultivate a well-balanced and artistically expressive elementary musician, all in an online elementary education environment!

Tool #1 – Sequences and Real-time Feedback in Cyber School

“…the sequence of the method is a child-developmental one rather than one based on subject logic. In a subject-logic approach there is no relationship between the order of presentation and the order in which children learn easily. The subject matter is simply in a fashion that seems reasonable in terms of content." - Kodaly 

A lot of colleagues ask how I get the “real time” feedback from my students and their musical experiences…well the answer is simple: digitally!

In the lessons that my students complete in a cyber school setting, they have the opportunity to watch videos, listen to audio clips, and see musical performances, just like in a brick and mortar school setting.  The difference is that their musical experiences are recorded, using the website Vocaroo (www.vocaroo.com).

These recordings give me real-time answers (and documentation to look back on) to their abilities in reading and perceiving musical sounds.  I can also use these recordings to identify any barriers they may have in listening to or performing music.

Tool #2 - Using Instruments in Cyber School
music class in cyber school

  “[Music allows students] to gain a better understanding of their environment…become emotionally balanced…..relieve a child’s emotional tension…offer a chance of self-expression and develops the child’s intellectual faculties. It also presents an opportunity for developing thought process…concepts through physical action…and generates feelings which influence the child’s activity." - Katalin Forrai

These are all important qualities of music education, but are vital when they aid a student on their journey through reading, writing, arithmetic and music!

Playing an instrument can help a student build physical, emotional, and academic responses to certain activities included in the regular education classroom.

These skills are also vital while navigating through an online curriculum in cyber school. We still perform in our live learning classrooms while using a live video and audio feed.

It is great because the students get the chance to perform in a virtual capacity that requires non-virtual, but physical, hands-on skills while in front of a camera.

An added benefit to all of this is that everything is recorded for the students to review. Recording oneself musically allows for purposeful and meaningful revision that aids in a student’s ability to self-examine and critique; two skills highly valued by many disciplines, including, and outside of, music.

Tool #3 – Back to Basics: Reading 

The basic tools of learning to read are phonemic awareness and phonics. The two basic tools used to read music are solmization and duration syllables. In these content areas, each is necessary to building the foundation needed to be successful down the road.

Phonemic awareness is a student’s ability to understand and manipulate sounds found in the English language.  Similarly, in music, Solmization is a student’s ability to reproduce musical sounds in their vocal range.

Kodály method in cyber school

We call them “hand signs” because most students are familiar with the

term sign language, and it serves as a familiar analogy.  I tell them it is 

another tool we use to communicate the sounds we are hearing.  

Using hand signs also gives us a physical feeling of the distance between sounds. We use our cameras during our live learning classroom time where students perform these hand signs for their peers and me!  It gives them an opportunity to practice spatial awareness with the support of their peers.

Also, Phonics is making the association between a letter and its corresponding sound. Reading with duration syllables connects the duration of musical sounds to their symbolic stem notation.

This is another approach to reinforcing learned or familiar knowledge. Although we are in an online classroom, the students can see a shared whiteboard.  Writing on the classroom whiteboard helps them to practice tracing shapes, numbers and letters in music (especially the lower grade levels who are still working on this).

Summarily, stem notation is used in music so that students are able to read accurately the correct expression for duration of sound. Writing on the white board can help them maintain accuracy, and motor control which can then be transferred to their physical requirements of writing ledgibly.

We also frequently use manipulatives to demonstrate the steady feeling in music (heartbeat), and will have the health related discussion about our hearts beating faster and slower when we are busy versus rest periods.

All of these visuals are used in my online classrooms from Kindergarten through 5th grade to support reading levels for many learners. With these basic reading tools at hand, and an opportunity to practice them digitally, a student is engaged in a well-balanced curriculum that is supportive of their most basic tool to communicate.

I encourage you to explore some of the other subjects being approached in your students’ grade level, and see which tools are used to get their attention!  Reinforce their learning by giving them access to their video, audio and writing tools. You might find a topic or tool that captivates them and can be used to strengthen their understanding of your content area through different activities!

“Music multiplies the beauty of life and all its values”
– Zoltan Kodaly


Hear from More  Cyber School  Teachers



Forrai, Katalin, and Jean Sinor. “The Effect of Music on the Child's General Development.” Music in Preschool, KultúRa, 1998, pp. 6–7.

Choksy, Lois. The KodáLy Method I: Comprehensive Music Education. Prentice Hall, 1999.

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