Catholic grade school music curriculum?
  • I am going to be teaching pre-K through 8th grade at a very traditional parish starting this fall in addition to being the parish music director. In addition to weekly Mass, we have monthly adoration and Confessions. Is there a Catholic music curriculum out there so I don't have to spend extra time blending everything? FYI this is my first teaching position - I have been a Music Director before and directed children's choirs but never a weekly teacher so I need a good amount of guidance this first year. TIA!

  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Welcome Valerie,
    Here in California, our diocesan School District has a very articulated, grade appropriate/assigned set of objectives and assessment protocols. Having spent 20 years in public, 10 in parochial, those curriculum guides are very similar to those of the state department of education. Frankly, depending upon how much actual classroom time you have with nine classes each week, and assuming you're also preparing music ministry for school Masses, and certain other musical events, you'll have to meet with your principal and identify your local priorities. The only time you'll have to reference "your curriculum" to the diocesan/state guidelines will be when your school comes up for accreditation. If you actually try to cover the whole gauntlet of requirements in the rubrics, you'll go nuts. Be very aware of linking music-reading skills, even with Gregorian neumes, with actual church repertoire. Use Kodaly basics from K-3 often, tie both note and rhythm Kodaly notation to solfege in both chant and modern notation as early as possible. Go to and look for Luke Tappan's latest article about what kids need to be taught for some solid ideas. After your first year, you'll get the timing and curve of the stuff that's important rather than whatever other teachers or parents might think is more accessible or popular.
    Thanked by 1ValerieOestry
  • JPike1028
    Posts: 95
    Research the Ward Method. There are workshops through CUA. In my research it is among the better curriculums out there.
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 819
    Ditto Ward.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,224
    Ward seems to work for more people than Kodaly does...IMHO.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,169
    Ward has some good methodologies, but the training program has some difficult hoops to jump through: if I understand it right, after you take Ward 1, you can't register for Ward 2 until a representative comes out to observe and evaluate the teacher on-site.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Respectfully fellow advisors, I would like to point out a couple of things.
    First of all, Valerie is going to be in it in less than a month. One doesn't acquire the Ward technique in one month, and you really don't do it "as you go along." Maybe WORDS WITH WINGS.
    Secondly, I don't advocate one stratagem over another, Dalcroze v. Kodaly v. Ward. But like it or not, parochial principals are bound to statutes and rubrics that are not of the Justine Ward era. And Valerie will eventually have to deal with that reality. Now, if you have more than a didactic solution for her at this point as she faces the upcoming semester, I am also all ears.
  • JonLaird
    Posts: 209
    Very good feedback from Richard and Charles. I am married to a Ward-certified instructor, a music teacher at a pre-K through 8 Catholic school. She is also certified in Orff Approach, has an extensive musical theater background and a degree in voice. She uses all of these to develop her own curriculum. Ward cannot be learned on your own in a month, nor can it realistically be your sole resource for lesson plan material. Words With Wings can be learned quickly but likewise cannot be your sole resource.

    My advice, for the first year, is to use the best of your expertise and background to develop something that works for you and is in accordance with the guidelines offered by your diocese, if any. If your diocese doesn't have guidelines, find one that does and use them. Make friends with enthusiastic and experienced music teachers in your area, avoid those who may be experienced but are jaded and cynical. And most importantly, hang on for the ride as you learn what works and doesn't work. Go easy on yourself as you make many inevitable first-year teacher mistakes. Take an education class from your local community college and study classroom management more than you study curricula or teaching techniques. If you cannot manage the class, the content is irrelevant.

    God bless you and good luck!
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,449
    study classroom management more than you study curricula or teaching techniques. If you cannot manage the class, the content is irrelevant.

    Make friends with enthusiastic and experienced music teachers in your area, avoid those who may be experienced but are jaded and cynical.


    I would also ask around to see who has the best programs and bother them with questions. There are also good websites to peruse such as:
    Thanked by 1ValerieOestry
  • I have an MM Voice Performance but unfortunately that does not prepare me much for the classroom.....the school has approx 160 kids grade Pre-K through 8. Mass once a week so that will take up some class time. Has anyone used the Carnegie Toolbox to teach basics? It looks pretty accessible (and free, bonus) for anyone who hasn't taught before until I can get some more training, plus I think it would pretty much meet any State and diocesan standards. I will also go look at and Words with Wings. The program at this point has very little structure if any, so I have a clean slate to work with.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,449
    You know, you could run a program around school Masses. You would have to have a discussion with your priest as well, I think. Look at this:

    You could begin with the Kyriale (the ordinary of the Mass) and build from there with simple chant hymns and eventually move into music of two to four parts. You would do so much good teaching our young people about beauty in the Mass.
    Thanked by 1ValerieOestry
  • Finale has free music lessons that may be downloaded and printed. Worthwhile using with a choir or in class if you do not have a useful book at hand.

    I used these while at a Catholic high school. Found them the day before I was asked to present a curriculum. (I was filling in and had nothing at hand. Worked great.)
    Thanked by 1ValerieOestry
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 819
    Granted, Ward cannot be taught in its pure form unless you have a 20 minute class with each grade every day of the week--not likely. Still, it shouldn't be overlooked or dismissed just because one can't do it exactly according to the book.

    My undergrad is in Music Ed and we were taught a smattering of all the various methodologies out there: Orff, Kodaly, Dalcroze etc. But not a single mention of Ward. Probably because it is too Catholic. You don't need to study it in depth and get certified and teach it by the book. Download the free teacher manuals from CMA and read them and incorporate some of the exercises into your own curriculum.

    If you have some money to spend, also take a look at the John Feierabend materials available from GIA. Some of it quite good. But I wouldn't follow that metholody to a T either. Still, particualrly for the younger grades, there are some nice song collections and the Conversational Solfege Curriculum is another good reference point. There are many optional extras like flash cards and what not if you want that sort of thing, but you can easily adapt it and make it your own.

    The most important thing is to give them a good, healthy vocal model and then expose them to as much good music as possible--especially music from the Catholic heritage.

    Even something as simple as starting each class with "good morning students" (on a descending minor 3rd) will work wonders. I think I shared this before, but I did this with elementary students for our weekly "hymn practice" at a parish where the priests never sang any of the dialogues or prayers at Mass. One day when the Bishop came to say Mass he sang "The Lord be with you" and ALL of the students answered perfectly singing "and with your spirit" as if they had been doing all the while. It was a beautiful moment.
  • janetgorbitzjanetgorbitz
    Posts: 916
    I don't know what materials are available to you there at the school already, but I actually liked some of the Seton music books that came with the curricula I purchased for homeschooling my boys. They had a surprising amount of chant in them.
    Thanked by 1ValerieOestry