Image of person playing cello
Welcome to The Value of Music Education: Applying the Revised TEKS. This introduction module will provide an overview to the revised Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for music in elementary, middle, and high school for the State of Texas.

In 2015–16, the state of Texas will experience a big change in fine arts education. The original fine arts TEKS, adopted in 1998, will be replaced with revised fine arts TEKS, adopted in 2013. The revised music TEKS provided a great deal more specificity in the student expectations, and pay particular attention to vertical alignment from one grade to the next. The revised TEKS use 21st Century Learning Skills and the revised Bloom's Taxonomy in order to ensure students have a sound music education, and are also prepared to be productive citizens.

Image of students in band playing instruments

In order for our students to accomplish these goals, they must be fluent in many areas, such as problem solving, creativity, collaboration, and media communication. Increasingly, students and adults must learn how to navigate huge amounts of information, determining the validity of sources and identifying appropriate applications for new learning. The study of music at all grade levels provides opportunities for every student to be fluent in the skills necessary to be successful in life, now and in the future.

Making Connections

Another focus of the revised music TEKS is making connections between what is happening in music class and other areas of academic learning. Making connections between what is happening in the music classroom to English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies also helps build 21st century skills. The P21 framework grounds the study of academic disciplines thematically with key knowledge areas such as global awareness, civic literacy, health literacy, learning and innovation skills, and information literacy. The revised music TEKS help students make all of those connections.

Image of teacher and student playing guitar

While music educators have long focused on helping students build strong knowledge and skills in music and also on developing academically strong college‐ and career‐ready young adults, the revised TEKS go way beyond teaching the foundation and fundamentals of music. The opportunity for our students to creatively express themselves while building problem solving and communications skills may produce another Leonard Bernstein, Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates.

The globalization of our society demands students to be sensitive to the diverse cultures of the world in which they live. In every music class, world cultures and their historical significance come alive through our students' performances and studies.

Finally, opportunities to listen to and perform music fill our schools, allowing students to use some of their most critical skills in evaluation and, more importantly, to respond critically to what they are hearing.


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In this module, you will have an opportunity to explore the revised TEKS and reflect on how they will impact music programs in your district. Additional modules focus specifically on the elementary, middle, and high school music TEKS. By the end of this module, you should be able to do all of the following:

  • Identify the strands of the revised music TEKS and articulate a basic knowledge of the organization of revised TEKS
  • Recognize the student expectations within each strand
  • Relate the knowledge and skills that focus on the creative process, real world relevance, higher‐level thinking, and problem‐solving to concepts and skills of active music‐making

Organization of the Music TEKS

In order to look into the revised music TEKS fully, take a moment to review the revised elementary music TEKS. Look for examples of how music educators teach and enhance the fluencies that our students must attain to be successful in the 21st century. Each teacher, administrator, parent, and community member who comes in contact with students has an opportunity to prepare our students for the world of the future. Texas has established the following goals for students in its music education programs:

  • Develop a foundation in music literacy
  • Understand how to express themselves in a creative way
  • Demonstrate awareness of music's role in history and in cultures from around the world
  • Evaluate and appropriately respond to music and musical performances
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This module will demonstrate how these goals help shape the strands of the music TEKS and explore some specific changes music educators need to understand.

The elementary music TEKS comparison shows the original and revised TEKS. The side‐by‐side chart shows the changes in the elementary school music TEKS from the original TEKS to the corresponding revised TEKS. You will see some similarities between the original and revised TEKS as well as some differences. You may wish to refer to this chart throughout the module. After you have familiarized yourself with the changes, proceed to the middle school and high school charts by clicking the links above the chart.

Organization of the Music TEKS (Grade 1 Example)

In kindergarten through grade 5, the TEKS are organized by grade level and content area. For example, "Music, Kindergarten" begins the music section. In middle school, the courses are arranged to denote the year a student begins music study, rather than the grade level in which a student takes music. The first course is designated Music, Middle School 1.

Image of girl with violin


At the high school level, course levels are indicated by course title followed by I–IV. The high school levels I–IV represent student achievement levels and do not represent grade level classifications. Note that the high school courses are denoted by Roman numerals.

The structure of the TEKS standards consists of knowledge and skills statements and student expectations. Look at Music, Grade 1(1)(A–D) as an example. Several student expectations describing how students will demonstrate the specified knowledge and skills follow the statement, "Foundations: music literacy. The student describes and analyzes musical sound and reads, writes, and reproduces music notation." These student expectations provide the basis of instruction and assessment of student achievement.

Music, Grade 1(1)

(1) Foundations: music literacy. The student describes and analyzes musical sound and reads, writes, and reproduces music notation. The student is expected to:

(A) identify the known five voices and adult/children singing voices;
(B) identify visually and aurally the instrument families;
(C) use basic music terminology in describing changes in tempo, including allegro/largo, and dynamics, including forte/piano; and
(D) identify and label repetition and contrast in simple songs such as ab, aaba, or abac patterns.

An important distinction in the TEKS is the use of 'including' and 'such as.' Statements that contain the word 'including' reference content that must be mastered, while those containing the phrase 'such as' are intended as illustrative examples only.

Vertical Alignment

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The design of the music TEKS scaffolds learning, creating both horizontal and vertical alignment of knowledge and skills. With each advancement in grade or course level, student achievement increases and is demonstrated in this vertical alignment. Please take a few moments to review the vertical alignment of the music TEKS illustrated in the elementary music TEKS alignment chart for elementary school music. The documents for grades K–5, 6–8, and 9–12 show how skills are vertically aligned, or scaffolded, from one grade level to another.

As you review the vertical alignment, you will see how the degree of sophistication of knowledge and skills in music literacy grows out of each grade level or course. Additionally, you will see how the level of musical artistry designed to foster a high level of creative expression is enhanced, how comprehension of the relevance of music in culture and history deepens, and how the depth of understanding required in students' evaluation and response becomes more critical.

Vertical Alignment

Student achievement increases with:

  • Degree of sophistication in music literacy
  • Level of musical artistry and creative expression
  • Comprehension of music in culture and history
  • Critical evaluation and response

Overview of the Strands

All fine arts TEKS include the following statement:

"The fine arts incorporate the study of dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts to offer unique experiences and empower students to explore realities, relationships, and ideas. These disciplines engage and motivate all students through active learning, critical thinking, and innovative problem solving. The fine arts develop cognitive functioning and increase student academic achievement, higher-order thinking, communication, and collaboration skills, making the fine arts applicable to college readiness, career opportunities, workplace environments, social skills, and everyday life. Students develop aesthetic and cultural awareness through exploration, leading to creative expression. Creativity, encouraged through the study of the fine arts, is essential to nurture and develop the whole child."
TAC §117.102. Art, Kindergarten, Adopted 2013. (a)(1)

In music, this introduction is articulated in the structure of four strands. Each of the strands serves distinct learning purposes.

Music Strands

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Foundations: music literacy
The foundation of music literacy is fostered through reading, writing, reproducing, and creating music, all of which develop students' intellect.

Creative expression
Through creative expression, students apply their music literacy and the critical-thinking skills of music to sing, play, read, write, and move.

Historical and cultural relevance
By experiencing musical periods and styles, students will understand the relevance of music to history, culture, and the world, including the relationship of music to other academic disciplines and the vocational possibilities offered.

Critical evaluation and response
Through critical listening, students analyze, evaluate, and respond to music, developing criteria for making critical judgments and informed choices.

It is important to note that in each grade level and course, the four strands function interdependently, minimizing the need for equal amounts of time to be allocated to each strand. Strand interdependency is an essential concept to consider in developing and preparing curricula. In each class or course, all strands should be addressed, but not necessarily in parity.

TAC §117.102. Art, Kindergarten, Adopted 2013. (a)(1)

Foundations: Music Literacy

Image of students sitting in front of teacher with guitar
In the Foundations: music literacy strand, the TEKS outline a sequence for teaching students to become musically literate. The student describes and analyzes musical sound. The student reads, writes, and reproduces music notation. Kindergarten students start with comparisons of same and different in beat/rhythm—higher/lower, louder/softer, and faster/slower. Eventually, fifth grade students leave elementary music with knowledge of syncopated patterns; 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 meters; and extended pentatonic and diatonic melodic patterns. They not only identify, but also interpret a plethora of music symbols. Upon entering middle school, students are prepared to enter a music ensemble class such as band, choir, orchestra, mariachi, guitar, or keyboard.

Foundations: music literacy

  • The student describes and analyzes musical sound.
  • The student reads, writes, and reproduces music notation. (Technology and other tools may be used to read, write, and reproduce musical examples.)

Elementary music classes establish the foundation of music learning. Students are involved in active music‐making. They sing, play instruments, and move to music from various cultures. They read, write, and reproduce rhythmic and melodic patterns. Students emerge as independent music‐makers and begin to engage in part‐work. They learn to listen, focus on what they are listening to, and use correct vocabulary. These students identify, describe, and categorize myriad sounds. The elementary music foundation also includes learning to create and improvise rhythmic and melodic patterns and the ability to identify voices.

Foundations: music literacy—Elementary

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  • Beat
  • Rhythm
  • Melody
  • Dynamics
  • Tempo
  • Timbre
  • Form
  • Singing
  • Playing instruments
  • Reading, writing, improvising, and creating music
  • Participating in part-work

Elementary students experience music in many ways. Initially, they listen to short musical selections and distinguish between like and unlike passages. Through a carefully planned sequence of activities that includes singing, playing, and listening, students learn to look at rhythmic and melodic patterns and reproduce them with accurate pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and tempo.

Creative Expression

Image of students singing with sheet music
In the Creative expression strand, the student performs a varied repertoire of developmentally appropriate music in informal or formal settings. The student also creates and explores new musical ideas within specified guidelines. Students apply their music literacy, critical thinking abilities, and problem-solving skills to sing, play, read, write, and move to music. Movement and part‐work development as well as the specificity of particular knowledge of musical terms are new additions to the music TEKS as the Creative expression strand spirals from kindergarten through grade 12. Please review the elementary music TEKS alignment chart to identify this example of the vertical alignment in the Creative expression strand.


Image of boy with guitar performing on stage in front of two adults in the audience

Creative expression

  • The student performs a varied repertoire of developmentally appropriate music in informal or formal settings.
  • The student creates and explores new musical ideas within specified guidelines.

Historical and Cultural Relevance

Image of mariachi musician playing violin
In the Historical and cultural relevance strand, the student examines music in relation to history and cultures. By experiencing various musical periods and styles, students come to understand the relevance of music to history, culture, and the world, including the relationship of music to other academic disciplines and the vocational possibilities offered. This strand affords a wonderful opportunity to make music relevant and also helps students relate to and understand the cultures of their own communities and beyond.

Historical and cultural relevance

  • The student examines music in relation to history and cultures.

Critical Evaluation and Response

A woman singing and man playing guitar in a coffee shop
In the Critical evaluation and response strand, the student listens to, responds to, and evaluates music and musical performances in both formal and informal settings. Through critical evaluation and response, students learn the higher-level thinking skills of evaluating and justifying the quality of their own music and that of others.

Critical evaluation and response

  • The student listens to, responds to, and evaluates music and musical performances in both formal and informal settings.

Review the Strands

Discussion of how each strand is taught in each course, and examples of ways to use the new strands in the classroom are available in the course discovery resource, which is organized into elementary, middle, and high school levels. This resource also provides information for new music course offerings.

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Considerations for Successful Music Programs: Bloom's Taxonomy

Successful music programs require more than a strong set of standards such as the music TEKS. In addition to understanding the revised TEKS, teachers must also understand the role of the New Bloom's Taxonomy and the 21st century skills as they relate to the music TEKS.

The revised TEKS provide an opportunity for districts to review their existing music curricula and determine where changes should be made.

Considerations for Successful Music Programs

  • Curriculum and Professional Development
    • Music TEKS
    • 21st century skills
    • New Bloom's Taxonomy
  • Space, equipment, class size, and time

Research is showing that students can learn the lower-level skills of Bloom's Taxonomy at the same time they are learning the higher-level skills, and in fact, they better process new knowledge and skills if they are learning in this way. The increase in action verbs through the kindergarten through grade 12 sequential spiraling of the TEKS helps develop and promote age appropriate, higher‐level thinking skills.

As the students progress from kindergarten through Music IV, the levels of action verbs, particularly in the Critical evaluation and response strand spiral to the more complex levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. As you study the revised TEKS, take notice of the action verbs related to the New Bloom's Taxonomy.

New Bloom's Taxonomy—Action Verbs

Image of girl on stage with clarinet and microphone

  • Create
  • Justify
  • Interpret
  • Describe
  • Exhibit
  • Examine
  • Respond
  • Distinguish
  • Recognize
  • Compare
  • Identify

Considerations for Successful Music Programs: 21st Century Skills

Creativity is one of the key skills identified in the Partnership for 21st Century Skills framework and describes what students need to be effective and successful in the modern workplace and world. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills organizes skills into three big categories. The first group includes learning and innovation skills. The next group includes information, media, and technology skills. Finally, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills Framework identifies a third group—life and career skills.

Image of students in a circle having a discussion and using tablets and laptops


The revised TEKS are built on 21st century skills. Look for these skills as you become familiar with the TEKS. There are myriad ways the revised TEKS address and work to build 21st century skills in music students at each level.

The Role of 21st Century Skills in the Revised Music TEKS

Learning and Innovation

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication and Collaboration

Information, Media, and Technology Skills

  • Information Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • Information, Communication, and Technology Literacy

Life and Career Skills

  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Self-Direction
  • School and Cross-Cultural Skills
  • Productivity and Accountability
  • Leadership and Responsibility

In the 2010 IBM Global CEO survey, business leaders reported that creativity is the most important skill for young leaders to possess as they enter the workforce. This is because creativity allows them to cut through the growing complexities of working in a globally connected, multi‐cultural, networked world. As students build a foundation of knowledge in music and learn to improvise and create music as outlined by the revised TEKS, they are learning the all-important life‐skill of creativity.

1,500 business leaders in 60 countries say…
"Creativity is the #1 leadership competency for the future."

IBM. (2010). Capitalizing on Complexity: Insights from the Global Chief Executive Officer Study. Retrieved May 7, 2015.

Considerations for Successful Music Programs: Space and Class Size

Image of students playing instruments in class
There is a practical side for a quality music program. Teachers must have access to instruments and other musical equipment, space in which to use them, proper time allotments, and appropriate class size.

The range of activities in music instruction determines specific space allocations for all music courses. Playing classroom instruments, moving, singing, and singing games require adequate room for safety and instructional effectiveness.

Time allotments should be adequate for students to demonstrate the expectations of the Music TEKS. Providing the time required for students to learn and teachers to teach should be the primary consideration in scheduling decisions.

Strong music education relies on both group and individualized instruction. Primary considerations for determining class size include course content, expectations for demonstrated student achievement, facilities, staff availability, and the format of instructional delivery (for example, team teaching, heterogeneous or homogeneous student groups, number of beginners in the class).

Space Considerations

  • Secure storage
  • Access to technology and sound system
  • Age‐appropriate instruments and manipulatives
  • Space for using equipment and materials
  • Furniture and space for movement needed to accommodate the largest class. If classes scheduled in the room include students from kindergarten through grade five, a variety of desk and chair sizes will be needed.

Determining Class Size

  • Course content
  • Demonstrated achievement
  • Facilities
  • Staff availability
  • Format of instruction

The Benefits of Music Education

Why the focus on music? Music education has many purposes. It provides a means of communication and expressiveness beyond notes and technique, such as when a sustained and focused effort results in a memorable performance. Music education can provide a refuge and a process for developing emotional awareness and growth.

"Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent."
Victor Hugo

Image of special needs student playing violin

Music for all students

Students with special needs—whether they are students with limited English proficiency, students with 504 designations and accommodations, or students with IEPs developed through the special education program—all benefit from music education. Music develops literacy, coordination, social awareness, self-expression, and many life skills, including team work. The success for special needs and limited English proficiency children in music is often high. They learn verbal and visual literacy in addition to mathematical relationships. Music allows them to learn valuable skills while being both individually expressive and also learning the skills of collaboration. Life skills are learned through the creative process. Students with special needs can succeed in music classes, because when expressing oneself through music and the creative process, one learns things in a new way.


"Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness."
Maya Angelou

Music develops:

  • Literacy
  • Coordination
  • Self-expression or personal voice
  • Life skills
  • Verbal and visual literacy
  • Realization of success


Reflect on the Benefits of Music Education

Music builds understanding of how history, culture, and society influence original creations, re-creations, and creative thinking processes and provide a venue for the collaboration skills needed for success in everyday life and in the global economy.

"Music may achieve the highest of all missions: she may be a bond between nations, races, and states, who are strangers in many ways; she may unite what is disunited and bring peace to what is hostile."
Dr. Max Bendiner

Image of student playing piano
Music is a source of inspiration and a stimulus that inspires creative and critical thinking skills that facilitate finding solutions to problems in multiple ways. Albert Einstein was once asked how he discovered the Theory Of Relativity. He said, "I didn’t discover it. I was listening to music and the whole thing dropped in."

Finally, there is pure joy in music. Music education enhances experiences as a music maker and as an audience member.

"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything."

Reflection Activity

Download the interactive PDF to record your responses to the following questions:

  • As a music educator, reflect on times you witnessed music becoming a refuge for yourself or your students.
  • Write about the importance of collaboration in music education.
  • How have you witnessed music being a source of inspiration?
  • Reflect on the joy of music as a music maker as well as an audience member.




Image of students in a circle having a discussion and using tablets and laptops

At one time, the development of music literacy was only available to those who could afford to take private music lessons. Now music literacy opens the door for all students.

The kind of music learning described in this module helps students connect to themselves, other people, other disciplines, and the world. This kind of music education encourages students to learn in a wide variety of ways. The spark of creativity in musical learning speaks to students who might better learn in non‐traditional ways. It is often the struggling student who most quickly grasps the division of notes as it relates to fractions, the quiet child who produces the most melodic tune, and the most rebellious teen who latches on to technology to create new and innovative sounds.

Music literacy opens the door for all students.

Extend Your Learning: Tools and Resources

There are many resources and professional development opportunities to help align a district’s curriculum and teachers' instruction to the revised music TEKS. Listed below are a few that will be beneficial in creating and developing a program. Take a moment to review each one. Bookmark these resources or some of the others used in this module, such as the music TEKS alignment chart, the music TEKS comparison, or the course discovery music.

Tools and Resources

Ten Ways We Can Use the TEKS to Reinforce and Strengthen Our Music Programs

Professional Development Opportunities for Music Teachers