Whether I'm planning my music lessons on a weekly, monthly, or long-term basis, I always start the process by asking myself one question: what do I want my students to get out of this?
I know that for some kids, their experience in general music may be their first and last opportunity to study "high quality" musical repertoire. That means it is my responsibility to make sure that they are leaving my class with a well-rounded knowledge of music and are having fun doing it.
I've whittled down my core values of what makes up "high quality" music-making to include the following seven things: folk songs, foreign language songs, contemporary/pop music, classical masterworks, folk dances, improvisation and composition. So when I plan out my weekly lessons, I try to make sure that at least one of my grade levels is doing each of the things on this list each week.
For instance, this week my third graders learned a folk dance (Paw Paw Patch) while my fifth graders studied Mozart's Rondo a la Turka. My first graders sang several folk songs using the pitches so mi and la, while my kindergarteners improvised/composed rhythm patterns using ta and ti-ti. My fourth graders watched this super fun video of the Star Wars theme on Jimmy Fallon, and my second graders sang the African greeting song, Sorida. Next week, each grade will do something completely different from the checklist!
I use this checklist as a reminder of what's important to me and what I know my students will love. I helps me focus my planning on the micro level so that when I look back at the school year on the macro level, I can tell that my kids are getting a well-rounded musical experience in my classroom.
I know that every teacher's values are different, and I'd be interested to hear what you would add or subtract to this list. Let me know in the comments!