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Music Room Organization {Part 1: Digital Files}

Let's face it! Music teachers have a LOT of STUFF! Our rooms are full of instruments, sound equipment, puppets, books, manipulatives and that doesn't even scratch the surface of keeping everything organized on our laptops!

On my Facebook page, I asked for some topics to blog about and one teacher requested that I write a post on how I keep all my visuals organized and ready to use without wasting too much down time!

For today's post, I am strictly going to show some ways that I (try to) keep organized so that I can quickly find what I need for each class, especially when you have classes with zero break in between and so that there is as little down time as possible DURING the class. I don't know about you, but I only see my kids for 30 minutes twice a week- each second counts!

To start off with I have anything and everything that I would ever need at school all saved to an external hard drive.

I bought two of them on sale during Black Friday.

I have several reasons for doing this, and it may or may not be something you want to look into. 

1) If anything should happen to my computer, I can take this and hook it up to ANY computer. I've had to borrow my PE teacher's laptop for a day when mine decided not to work. Having all my files stored on an external hard drive was a life saver and meant that I could continue on with my lessons as planned.

2) It gives me a permanent back up of all my files that I create or download from other TPT music teachers. (I also store many things on dropbox and google drive). I'm just SO terrified of losing my things.

3) I store a TON of clip art that I use to make all of my files, so I really need a lot of storage space.

To start off with, I save to that hard drive in one main folder with several sub folders.

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Within this main teaching folder are many, many sub folders organized by concepts. I also have a big one titled "Songs" which I will explain in a minute.

So, say I am working on my lesson planning for teaching half note, I pull up my half note folder and it has ALL of my digital files for that concept.

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I start by going to my concept plan.
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(snapshot taken from my concept plan for half note, available in my Songs and Games to Teach Half Note) Here I have outlined all of the songs I can use and I make a column that says teaching materials where I list any resources I have created (or collected) that I don't want to forget. I haven't made visuals for all of the songs on the repertoire list, so I make a note of what songs I do have those digital visuals ready to go.

I use my concept plans, my notes from my Kodaly Certification, the American Methodology and Yearly Plans while writing my own plans, but this organization on the digital end helps me figure out what songs/activities I can plug where. If you don't have those materials, I highly suggest you look into them. Another thing that you might find helpful in your long term planning is my Jan.- May Planning Guide

It includes song lists by grade level as well as rhythmic and melodic concepts mapped out for when I plan to prepare, present and practice them (from Jan-May). I hope to make another set before back to school for Aug.through Dec.

Once I have my plans done, and the school day is upon me, how do I transition between files for each class/grade?

In the morning I see 4th, 3rd, then 5th, so I go to my lesson planner before school and I see what digital files I will need for the morning, and have them all pulled up so they are ready to go and I can quickly move from one to the next while my kids are singing.

If they are all songs, an easy way I have found is to have a folder that has all my song visuals. I just go to that folder and type in the song title and poof! There it is! That way I don't have to dig through all my concept folders. 

Song File contains ALL my song visuals in ABC order
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Quickly find what I need by typing in the title.

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At lunch I close out of all my 3rd-5th files and open all my 1st and 2nd. 

How to transition during/between classes:

Since all my files that I need for a class are already open, all I have to do to transition between files, is hover over the PowerPoint of PDF icon at the bottom of my screen, depending on what kind of file it is, and select my file. I always try to do this when my kids are busy doing something else. Say we were at the board to read and clap the rhythm for "Who's That Tapping At Your Window?", then we went to the circle and played the game, as my kids are going back to the board and I am transitioning to the next song (and file) I can have them sing "Who's That?" and assign soloists or if the next song is one they know well by memory, I have have them sing it while I pull up the slide. They are not sitting there waiting for me because it takes them more time to get to their spot than it does for me to switch files, and I can quickly make the switch to Rocky Mountain.
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I hope this helps give you some ideas on how to organize your digital files. Later this week, I hope to blog about getting manipulatives organized for each class period.

If you have different/more efficient ways of organizing digital files, PLEASE feel free to share! :) We can all learn from each other! Either comment or link up below!


  1. Lindsay, How do you keep track of those songs that teach more than one concept? I call them Power Songs. For example--the song that you mention above: Who's that Tapping at the Window could be a song for teaching half note--but I also use it to work on 're'. This is where I REALLY run into problems with all of the files that I have. I have a lot of folders with subfolder inside of them--but I'm so afraid I'll forget a really good song/activity that is hidden in one of those folders. I recently went through and labeled all of my files with concept(s). For example:
    Dinah-drms-RE-tiri-tiri-Jervis (because I bought that file from you!).
    I THINK that I will be able to run a search for RE (and HOPEFULLY) my song files for RE will pop up--same for tiri-tiri... I am probably trying to think this too hard...but the organization for all those files is something that I have really worked on quite a bit and still don't feel I have it all worked out correctly. Thanks! GREAT BLOG!!!!

    1. First, thanks for this post, and for all your wonderful TpT items and ideas. Second, I second Debbie's comment--it's when I need to cross-reference songs that things become overwhelming to me. I will categorize something in one subfolder, then over the summer, I'll get a brainstorm about using it another way, and then I'm not sure how to cross-reference...and then my head explodes! 8)

    2. Hi Debbie, Thanks for your question!

      I save things in more than one place.

      So I have Who's That Tapping in three folders:

      1) "Songs" which houses ALL my songs.
      So I go to my "Kodaly" folder (which is really my everything folder) then go to "Songs" folder.

      2) Half Note Folder
      "Kodaly" folder then sub-folder "Half Note"

      3) Re folder
      "Kodaly" folder then sub-folder "Re"

      If I had my "Kodaly" folder up I could search "Who's That Tapping" and no matter which sub folder I have it saved under, I will be able to find it that way too (as demonstrated in the "Bluebird" picture above, which it pulled up all the files with the word Bluebird in the title from my "Songs" folder.

      Ms. Hetland, to make absolutely certain I never lose a song, that's why I have the "song" file. No matter what concept it is, I always save it first there, then other places after I know how I am going to use it pedagogically.

    3. And Debbie, it sounds like you are on the right track! I highly recommend a folder for all songs and then separate folders for concepts. It's A-OK to save things in multiple places on your computer (as long as you have the space).

  2. LOVE this post! Thank you for such helpful ideas! :)

    1. Thank you so much! I hope there was something new here you can use! :)

  3. Awesome. Thank you!!!! Great idea to have a song folder and save things in different places. Now the problem is that I keep all my stuff on my school's "H" Drive, and I am only allowed so much memory there. I have been temporarily storing most of my TpT stuff on Drop Box, because I am part time, and go back and forth between two computers. Somehow I have to combine all this together?.!!

  4. Love this conversation. I have been using powerpoints all day every day in my music classroom for about six years now and have worked out, what for me is the most efficient system. I used to try to save songs in more than one place (song file, in the rhythmic concept file and the melodic concept file) and it got really messy because if I made a change to one file, I'd have to remember everywhere else I saved it. I now keep just one master copy of a song in the Song Library folder. For each grade level lesson, I have a Lesson Plan powerpoint in which I have the days learning target posted at the top of the slide and an icon for each song/activity we will use for the day on the same slide. Each icon is hyperlinked to the song's master powerpoint in the Song Library. The hyperlinks keep me from having to open 20-30 songs for the morning or afternoon session of teaching (I open only one Lesson Plan powerpoint for each grade level). Having just one master copy in the song library is way easier to keep track of any changes I might make to a powerpoint (I make changes one time to the master and not to all of the files). When teaching, I have one powerpoint open that has all of the song icons I need for the lesson and simply click to open each song as I need it. Once you've hyperlinked an icon, that icon can be copied and pasted to the next rotations lesson menu or the whole Lesson Plan slide can be duplicated and edited for changes in the next lesson. Hyperlinks are the way to go! Hope that all makes sense. I use spreadsheets to keep track of what songs go with what concept, rather than putting all of the song powerpoints in each concept folder. I also have a Master Concept powerpoint in which I have hyperlinked song icons for each concept. So I have a ta ti-ti slide(s) in which I list each song used to teach ta ti-ti and then have the hyperlinked icons. When I'm planning I copy and paste the icon from the Master Concept powerpoint to my daily Lesson Plan powerpoint. Wish I had a blog, and I could show you! It would be way easier. It's a lot of work the first year, but once it's in place, it is really efficient when planning and teaching.

    1. That sounds AMAZING!!! Let me know if you ever want to do a guest blog post on it for me! It sounds like you have an incredible system! I WISH I was that organized!

  5. Hi Lindsay! I have used a flashdrive to bring back and forth to home for years, but I've had to upgrade to more gigs for space - but oh man, what a great idea to get an external hard drive!!! How much memory do you have on yours? I love this post and all the great ideas people are contributing and look forward to some more!!! I'm more organized with how I store my materials and definitely in love with containers and containers FOR my containers - lol...I started a blog post on that a while ago, but it's still a draft...

    1. Tina I got a Terabyte I think! It's a huge amount of space and totally worth it. I would wait until they are on sale and you can get a great deal (and write it off at tax time!).

    2. Sounds like a good idea to me!

  6. I love this idea, but would be concerned, as someone said above, about keeping all files up to date. I think my adaptation would be to place shortcuts to the files in each additional folder, and just keep the actual file in the Master List. I'm getting started with organizing digital files in my new district/school, and think that is the way to go. Thanks for the jumping-off point!