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Workin' the Workstations: Tips and Tricks

Tips and Tricks for implementing workstations in your music class.  What works best, how to improvise and more and included in this post from a veteran music teacher.
This is the third blog post in a series to help you make workstations work for you!  See the first post, Getting Organized for ideas about how to plan and organize your supplies and time.  See the second post to learn what you can do in a workstation.  This post contains a HUGE list of ideas.
You’ve organized your classroom for workstations, you’ve planned the activities that you would like to do with your students and now you’re ready to go!  Here are a few ideas to make sure that workstations are working for you.  

Hang on!
If you have never had students work in centers in your classroom don’t plan to be at one of the stations for a few class periods.  Often I plan myself as a station and will work will small groups of students on matching pitch or reading music or vocalizing or a million other things.  Unless you are comfortable with the group that you are working with, I don’t advise doing this until you’ve “trained” them to work in stations and rotate at the appropriate time.

Instead use this time to walk around the room.  Notice which students are natural leaders.  Encourage reluctant participants to be a part of the activities.  Quite the noisy groups.  Praise the hardest working groups.

Track Student Success
Use a simple spreadsheet to record student success.  I use a very basic rubric to mark as I walk around the room while students are working in stations.  I’ve discovered that I can’t mark every student at every station during every class period.  I mark what I observe and draw a line through the centers that I don’t observe.  I suppose if I didn’t stop to interact with students I might be able to make it through everyone during each rotation, I just don’t make that a priority.  Take a look at this simple sheet that can be used to track students during workstations.

Assess the Activities
While walking around your room taking notes on student behavior and achievement don’t forget to evaluate the activities.  Are they easy to complete in the time each group spends at the station?  Is there a learning goal for each station?  There doesn’t need to be, but there should be a purpose.  Even the “just for fun” centers should have a purpose.  For example at the reading station I will let students choose any of the books to read.   What learning is taking place there?  Well…I don’t know.  Not always, anyway.  The learning that takes place here is student led.  Perhaps they are reading about a composer or a musical adventure.  Maybe they are reading a rhyming book and working on pace and rhythm without even knowing it.  The purpose is to give them experience with literature that enhances a music skill or exposes them to a musical concept.

Sometimes one of my stations is Singing Puppets.  I’ll toss a few puppets in the box with some Wee Sing songbooks or lyric sheets and students are instructed to only use their singing voice at this station.  Often this results in students “singing” their conversations while using the puppets.  What’s the point?  Well…it’s fun.  Sometimes fun should be the purpose.  This fun activity though is meant to get students singing!  Silly songs, serious songs, with a friend, on their own…singing!  I’ve watched students that will never, ever sing a hello echo to me blossom with a puppet on their hand.

Music vs. Noise
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said “Make music, not noise!” I’m sure I could comfortably retire by now!  Sometimes workstations are noisy especially when dealing with an art that is composed of sound!  Encourage students to work as quietly as they can and to use voices that are reasonable for the activity they are completing.  Don’t be surprised when their enthusiasm and excitement drive that sound a little louder.  Just keep reminding them “Music.  Not noise!”

Don’t Give Up
No, seriously.  Don’t give up.  I’ve tried lots of different activities in workstations.  Some of the activities have become favorites and I use them all the time.  Others make me ask “What was I thinking?” and draw little frowny faces in my plan book.  Sometimes an activity that I think is absolutely teacher-of-the-year-brilliant goes as well as a first year teacher trapped in a bathroom with 30 kindergarteners in a tornado on the day after Halloween with the class ferret and a broken jar of fire ants.  It’s just not pretty.

Sometimes I’ll try it with the next group just to make sure that it is horrible.  Sometimes I’ll tweak it just a little bit and see amazing results.  Scrapping it or saving it can’t always be based on the way one group handles the task.  Try putting the idea on a shelf and coming back to another time.

Workstations are an amazing way to add student centered learning to your classroom.  By organizing, planning and experimenting with workstations I know that you’ll be astonished with the results.

Looking for some activities for your music workstations?  Please check out my bundle of music workstation activities.  I think you’ll be pleased with the variety of activities you will find in it.

What tips and tricks can you share?  Link up below to share ways that workstations work in your classroom.  You don’t have to be a music teacher to share your ideas!

Tips and Tricks for implementing workstations in your music class.  What works best, how to improvise and more and included in this post from a veteran music teacher.


  1. Thank you so much for your dedication to teaching and spreading these wonderful ideas. I'm going to use this!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas I didn't know this teaching tips seriously but I'm a music teacher too. I'm going to use this workstations. If I get any pupils.