Music for Kids 

Music for School - Free Lesson Plans


When I first started teaching I believed that because I was excited about “Classical Music” my students would follow suit.  My big plan was to play a classical piece every day as the students came into the music room.  Eventually, I thought, they would start to recognize the pieces I played, and would come to love the music, as I did.  I chose Bach - one of my favorites - as my first composer I would teach them to love. 

The third day of class (in those days I had the students every day for music), I put the Bach Badinerie #2 recording on. As the fourth graders filed in, one boy groaned, “Oh, no! Not this music again!”

I took it off and taught my class, but  my heart sunk.  My big plan wasn’t working, and it seemed I was just teaching the students to hate classical music!

I talked to many music teachers, and took in their suggestions.  One experienced teacher suggested I have the students draw pictures of what they heard in the music while listening. Plan “B!” 

I tried this idea eagerly, playing Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony after telling them the story of the music.  As I walked around I saw only too clearly that “Plan B” was not working.  The girls were all drawing pictures of fields of flowers, rainbows, the sun, birds, and trees.  Nearly all the boys were drawing tanks, bombs, airplanes, and blood.  Not what I had in mind for the listening experience.  As an experiment, in my next class I played big band music and asked the students to draw what they heard.  The girls drew fields of flowers, rainbows, the sun . . . and nearly all the boys drew . . . well, you guessed it.

I tried a few more ideas, but nothing seemed to hook the kids they way I wanted to hook them.  Rather than teaching them to hate the music, I decided I wouldn’t play much classical music for them until I figured it out ... and that took me three years. 

My third year of teaching I went to a workshop taught by Jos Wuytack, a master teacher from Belgium, who taught in some of the first Orff Schulwerk courses in the United States and Canada.  He presented some listening lessons that began with a pre-listening activity which taught the rhythm, the theme, the form, the melody . . . some piece of the music that was easy to remember. 

Later, I did my Masters Thesis on listening.  I wrote over 300 active listening lessons.  I did them with my students . . . and with thousands of other students and adults across the United States and Canada.  I tested my students at the end of the school year for several years, and without fail nearly all of the students in my school were able to identify every composition we had studied. 

When I started teaching at the University level I was given the Freshman “Music Literature” course.  Would  “Active Listening Lessons” work with University students the way they had worked with my elementary students?  The short answer was, “Yes.”  The class that had been the bane of the department - no professor wanted to teach it, and no student wanted to take it - became a joy for me to teach, and (from the student reviews, and the soaring grades) a pleasure for the students, as well. 

And in graduate school?  The University of Memphis had 40 pieces on their required listening exit exam for the Masters Degree program.  After writing listening lessons for each piece, I didn’t miss one - not even when the “needle dropped” on an obscure portion I otherwise would probably have missed.

ACTIVE LISTENING LESSONS -- they take the unfamiliar and make it familiar.  They provide a framework the music can be laid upon for closer examination. 

Oh -- and they’re really fun!

Music For School


Music For School:


Darva Campbell

Darva has been a music educator for thirty years. She has worked with every age student from preschool through post graduate.

She earned a bachelor degree in music education from Columbia Christian College, a master of music from The University of Memphis, and is ABD on a doctor of musical arts at The University of Memphis. She has been assistant professor at University of Nevada, Las Vegas and California State University, Chico, and has taught courses at University of Oregon, and Memphis State University.  

Darva has taught in public and private schools over the past 30 years and is a specialist in early childhood/elementary general music with special training in Orff, Kodály and Dalcroze. She continues to teach in Orff levels courses across the United States.

Darva has presented sessions on Active Listening Lessons; Classical Music for Children, throughout the United States and Canada.

It’s time to share!

Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler

Why Active Listening Lessons Work