One of my favorite things about the Music Crew on TpT is the wealth of knowledge and experience we have across our members. Between years of experience, content area, and even geographic location, there is so much wonderful variety that makes our community rich. If you are an elementary general music teacher, you’re likely not a stranger to the many different pedagogical approaches music teachers use to inform their pedagogy. Among them are Kodály-inspired teaching, Orff-Schulwerk, Music Learning Theory, and Dalcroze Eurhythmics. As a music educator who has studied all four of these teaching and learning strategies in some capacity, I thought it would be fun to share a little about each. What follows is “Fill in the Blank” inspired teaching, according to Anne, as well as a few thoughts from our crew members who are inspired by these approaches.

I consider myself a bit of a chameleon, but the heart of my teaching practice is truly Kodály-inspired. What I love about this approach is the way students are led through musical experiences that are purposefully and intentionally built upon one another. Although many might equate Kodály with hand signs and solfege, those are simply two of the many tools Kodály Educators use. The practice is much more multi-faceted and tied to one’s own culture. Kodály inspired teaching is deeply rooted in folk tradition, and our voices (and subsequent bodies) as our first instrument.

“I am influenced by Kodály – I love the idea that you can create literacy and understanding out of music that gives joy to the learner. Using songs from their culture, and finding joy from other cultures is what music is all about. Sharing and creating.

– Melissa Stouffer from Mrs. Stouffer’s Music Room

“I myself am a product of a Kodály education. I learned how to conceptualize music through solfege and to this day it is the only way I hear music in my head. My Kodály upbringing exposed me to a great variety of music and high level of music literacy from a young age. As an adult, I can see what a profound impact it made on me. Now that I’m working towards my masters at the American Kodály Institute at Loyola University, I’m learning the best techniques to instill that same foundation of musical understanding in my students.”

– Rachel Tanenblatt from Music With Mrs. Taneneblatt

Orff-Schulwerk is an active music making approach that puts student agency and creativity at its very center. In an Orff inspired classroom, a lesson may start with a simple idea, whether a concept or melody, and expand into an expansive production.

“What I love about the Orff approach is how open-ended it is. When I start a project with my students, it could go in a million directions! Ultimately, it’s the kids who decide the direction we take, and the results are as unique and varied as the students who created them.”

– Lauren Summa from Rhythm and Glues

“I have my level one Orff training. I think I’m drawn to Orff because my musical passion growing up was band. Instruments have always been intriguing to me. As a teacher, I like how the Orff process enables self discovery. It’s focus on the pentatonic scale and the ability to remove “wrong” notes from the instruments creates such a positive learning environment for my students. It’s fun to make music when everything you play sounds good!”

– Chrissy Hutzel from Hutzel House of Music

Music Learning Theory is language immersion for musicians, no matter their age. Gordon was a strong advocate for teaching music learning as music language acquisition, and supplying students with the building blocks to speak and understand before all else. In this approach, music is a consistently conversational.

“The draw to Music Learning Theory was watching babies and toddlers make music purposefully in early childhood music classes at Michigan State University. As an educator, I connected with the idea that that every child is born with musical potential (or aptitude) and our musical interactions could impact that potential. I also loved learning about audiation and how our ability to think and comprehend music was a never ending journey. MLT is exactly what it claims to be – a theory of how children learn music and there is always some new piece of the puzzle to uncover, improve upon, or learn.”

– Jennifer Bailey from Sing to Kids

Dalcroze Eurhythmics provides students with a kinesthetic exploration of music and rhythm. Dalcroze teachers explore and identify concepts as they pertain to movement as a musical notation of sorts, where our bodies mirror the character and nuances of music.

My personal experience with Dalcroze has inspired me to facilitate as many different ways as possible for my students to show their musicianship. Some students are their most musical through singing, others are through instruments, and there are others who are their most musical self through creative movement. Taking into consideration what might most resonate with my students and providing lots of different opportunities to explore musical concepts aurally, visually, and kinesthetically, allows for differentiation for my students.

Although all of these approaches may have different entry points for music learning, the end goal is similar—to actively make music with children and facilitate a lifelong love and fluency of musical language!

“I am Kodaly certified (3 levels) and have one level of Orff. I absolutely love the sequence of Kodaly and it’s huge emphasis on singing (vocal develiopment) and folk songs. I love that my whole district does Kodaly and that no matter where a student moves from in the district (there are many students who move around), the students can just come in and feel comfortable. I was pleasantly surprised at the major things that Kodaly and Orff have in common, but I love the instrumental part of Orff and its huge emphasis on creative movement. I was so thrilled to get to learn about creative movement last summer from Danai Apostolidou-Gagne who studied with Karl Orff. She was AMAZING!”

– Linda Seamons from Floating Down the River

“My musical passion growing up was band and I was drawn to Orff because of the instruments. When I finally took my Orff level I, the special topics class in the afternoon was MLT. At that point I realized what was missing from my own musical education. I still love the Orff process for the same reasons that have been mentioned above, but MLT now defines and is the underlying principle behind my practice. I have a greater understanding of harmonic structures and my audiation of those structures has increased dramatically. MLT opened up a new understanding of all of the different tonalities. I love learning the tonal patterns with solfege, and I really love how I can think/audiate the same solfege for every tonality. I realize that the “sound” that I have always been attracted to is dorian and now I know how to write my own songs with that sound.”

– Sally Utley from Sally’s Sea of Songs

What approach or approaches inspire YOU as a music teacher?

With Joy,

Anne from Anacrusic


Anne Mileski

Anne is a early childhood and elementary music specialist in Eastern Washington. She is certified in Kodály & Orff, and has completed coursework in Dalcroze, Music Learning Theory, and World Music Pedagogy. It's her mission to help music teachers be more purposeful, sequential, and joyful in everything they do!