Planning is a passion of mine. Through my Kodaly levels, I learned so much about long- and short-range planning, and how to best develop plans that could meet all of my daily, monthly and yearly goals.

When I begin my planning for the next school year, I first start with song lists, which for me is a grade-level list of songs, listening pieces and books cross-referenced by concepts, skills and extensions.

Next, I move onto concept plans, which are unit plans in which I can map out physical, visual and aural activities for my students to do over a few months of time to prepare and practice a specific musical concept.

Then, I write year plans, which are an overview of the entire year. I figure out when I'm presenting certain rhythmic and melodic concepts, what my goals are for improvisation, reading, writing, inner hearing, and more, and when exactly I'll teach the songs I've used on my song lists and concept plans. I can plug in the specific activities from my concept plans right into the year plan.

Now, I'm ready to write a lesson plan! My long-range plans can aid greatly in figuring out what I need to teach.

I can look at the year plan for a certain month and see songs, activities, goals, assessments, children's books, etc. that I'd like to include in the lesson. Those year plans are so helpful!

Aside from using the long-range plans, though, I want to give a list of tried-and-true strategies that have helped me write cohesive, engaging lesson plans.

Where have we been?

I look at previous lessons to see if there are any activities we haven't finished, any songs I meant to teach, any games I want to make sure to do with them, any folk dances yet to teach, etc. Looking at the year plan is also helpful when figuring out where we have been.

Where are we going?

Is there a goal we're moving toward that I need to plan for? Is there an extension of an activity I need to plan? Is there a new song they need to learn?

Again, looking at the year plan can be very beneficial. I have a place on my lesson plan template that says "previous lesson" and "next lesson" to help me keep track.

Which songs, chants, activities, and dances would I like students to learn in this lesson?

I often write a list only with song titles and then figure out a good order from there. When I figure out the order, I keep in mind that I like to have one chunk of the lesson that is rhythmic and one that is melodic (so I'm not switching back and forth a bunch!) I also think about transitions, so...

Keep transitions in mind.

Transitions are very common in the Kodaly world. Transitions allow the lesson to seamlessly flow from one activity to the next.

You might use a story transition (weaving two songs together into a story), a rhythmic transition (changing the rhythm of one song to the rhythm of another), a melodic transition (i.e., echoing melodic patterns, then showing the hand signs to the next song in the lesson and students identify which song it is), a geographical transition (i.e., finding Japan on the map after singing "Sakura," then having students find Afghanistan, identify a song we know from that country, then sing "Ye Toop Doram")...the possibilities are endless. Story transitions work very well in a K-12 classroom, but after that I like to move onto more musical transitions.

Sing as much as possible; talk as little as possible!

We all know that the more a student reads, the better he/she is going to read. The same, of course, is true for singing.

The more your students sing (and the less you talk!) the better they will sing. I often do nonverbal cues to get my students doing what I want (like winding my finger in a circle to get them into a circle, or motioning for them to stand up without saying the words "please stand") so they can sing more!

Keep assessment in mind.

Are there opportunities for your students to be formatively and/or summatively assessed? This can happen with paper/pencil, with manipulatives, by performance....again, lots of possibilities!

Keep concentration and relaxation in mind.

If students have been focusing on something and have been working really hard, give them a break! Play a game! Move! Another good way to relax is to have students listen to you play the guitar or dulcimer, or sing a book.

Those are my favorite go-to lesson planning strategies. I hope they are helpful to you as you plan!