Blog

3-5, Elementary Music, K-2, Lessons

Elementary Music Lesson: Breezes are Blowing

Breezes are Blowing is a Luiseno Indian Rain song that I used with my second and third graders. The rhythms are very simple, but the melody is a bit complex for those grades– it includes low la, do, re, sol, and la– but it was really great to talk about form and improvisation, so that’s what we did! But we know that it is good for students to sing and hear songs even if they cannot correctly notate them immediately.

This lesson talks about aba form, and adds an improvised part to create ABA as well. Students play instruments, sing, create rhythms, improvise, and more!

I paired this with The Syncopated Clock scarf activity from Artie Alemida’s book Parachutes and Ribbons and Scarves, Oh My! You could also use a piece with a matching form (or an AABA form) like Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks. (You can read a form lesson about that here!)

This lesson does involve a bit of teacher-made resources to facilitate the students’ improvisation, but you can get the product in my TPT shop that has everything in it! It has a powerpoint (stick notation and regular notation), worksheets, rhythm cards, etc. You can definitely do the lesson without it, or you can check it out here.

Want to get free resources? Sign up for the FREE resource library– all you do is put your email in, and you have access to all of the resources in the library (including quizzes, powerpoint, beat charts, rhythm cards, lyric sheets, and more!)– and new resources are added monthly! Sign up here!

Breezes are Blowing: Elementary music lesson for second grade and third grade to teach low la, aba form, and improvisation-- using a Native American folk song! Becca's Music Room


Breezes are Blowing

Teach students the song Breezes are Blowing by rote.

Breezes are Blowing: Elementary music lesson for second grade and third grade to teach low la, aba form, and improvisation-- using a Native American folk song! Becca's Music Room

Ask the students, what two parts are the same? Which part is different? Then ask, “If I label the first line a, and the second line b, what should I call the last line?” Inevitably, someone will say c. So… then explain, “The third line is actually a, because it is the same as the first. If something is the same as another line, they get the same letter.

Next, have students come up with movements for each part of the song. Tell them that the two a sections have to have the same movement, and b should be different. You can do this individually or in small groups depending on what you prefer.

After they have some up with their actions, sing the song through twice and just have everyone do their own actions at the same time. (Alternatively, you could have students do them individually and perform for each other if you have the time.)

Breezes are Blowing: Elementary music lesson for second grade and third grade to teach low la, aba form, and improvisation-- using a Native American folk song! Becca's Music Room

Have students brainstorm (or have some cards ready, like the ones in the Breezes are Blowing product on TPT) words that relate to breezes and rain. This could be umbrella, thunderstorm, gust, raindrops, etc.

Once you have decided on the words, figure out what rhythms the words have. You could write this on the board, or have it ahead of time if you want to save some time.

Model for the students how to string together the rhythms you just came up with to improvise a new rhythm. Have them repeat back to you the ones you say, then allow students to do create their own rhythms.

Also Read: Bizet Scarf Routine

Breezes are Blowing: Elementary music lesson for second grade and third grade to teach low la, aba form, and improvisation-- using a Native American folk song! Becca's Music Room

Tell the students that the song Breezes are Blowing is going to be A, and they will get to make up the B section by using different words from the board. Practice that a few times.

Write ostinatos on the board for the students to practice. We used four. Our rhythms went with the words breezes blowing all around, rain drop rain drop, ocean, and sh….. We practice each one with just body percussion together.

Next, I handed out the instruments. I started with just two instruments and ostinatos to accompany Breezes are Blowing, and added the other two once they were successful with the first. Our “orffestration” looked like this:

  • Breezes blowing all around: castanets
  • Rain drop rain drop: egg shakers
  • Ocean: guiros
  • Sh: rainsticks (ocean drums would work too!)
Breezes are Blowing: Elementary music lesson for second grade and third grade to teach low la, aba form, and improvisation-- using a Native American folk song! Becca's Music Room

I started one group first, and then added the second group in until everyone was playing. Then I sang the song. Some of the students joined in immediately, but for some students, that was a bit much for them to get all at once. So if they are not singing the first few times, that’s ok. It’s a lot to think about. They will get there (although you may have to remind them).

After your students get the accompaniment down, then you can have them improvise a B section to go with their song.

And to take it one step further, you can have students write down their favorite B section they tried before they leave.

Also read: It’s Raining and Que Llueva

So there it is! This lesson was spread over a few different days (I feel like I always say that…) I used the product from my TPT shop to show all of the rhythms, the improvisation, the words, and for the worksheets my students used at the end to write down their favorite B section. You can feel free to check it out here!

What process do you use to teach improvisation? Let me know in the comments!

Happy teaching!

Breezes are Blowing: Elementary music lesson for second grade and third grade to teach low la, aba form, and improvisation-- using a Native American folk song! Becca's Music Room
Differentiation, Elementary Music

Super Simple Differentiation through Music Centers

I know, I know, differentiation is a nasty word. And centers– depending on your view– can be right up there with it.

I hear about centers and differentiation in meetings all the time, so you probably do too. And you either think 1.) That’s not for me, I’m the music teacher OR 2.) Cool! Let’s try it.

Thankfully for you, I am the second kind of person.

And through some serious trial and error, I have figured out ways to differentiate while using centers in my elementary music classroom in super easy ways. Because when we teach 650 students or more, we don’t need to make things more complicated than they already are.

If you missed my previous differentiation posts, be sure to go back and check them out! In this one, we talk all about differentiation that music teachers naturally do, and how to be more intentional with those things to help your students succeed. In the more recent one, we talked about how to separate students into groups (which is super relevant here!) and the three types of differentiation.

You can also watch the video below of how to differentiate students.

Super Simple Differentiation through Music Centers. Looking for a way to help students who are struggling with rhythm? Or push students who are ahead of the rest? This differentiation guides helps you find easy ways to makes your elementary music lessons more or less complex to accommodate a variety of learners! Becca's Music Room

There are four main ways that you can differentiate with centers– make it harder, provide scaffolding, tiered activities, and teacher led groups. And no, these are not official terms. They are Becca terms.

Make it Harder

This is not an official term, since I am pretty sure that I just came up with that. I do not know of an official term, but if you know of one, please let me know.

Sometimes in centers, I will use progressive tasks– they start easy and get harder. Students who are struggling can focus stay on the easy task as long as they want, an students who are ahead can breeze through the first task and go into the second one.

This is really great for you, because you don’t have to sort out different activities for different students– they will be able to do what is best for them.

Ideas for Make it Harder:

  • Task cards with increasing difficulty
  • Playing rhythms from rhythm cards— start with an easier set or cards and get harder
  • Treble Clef dice activity— students start with one of the easier version and go to a harder one (my kids love these activities!)
  • Have students pull slips of paper with letters on it out of a cup and put bingo chips onto a treble clef. The first set can be just one letter, and the second set could be words or measures that go with a song you are working on.
  • Have students play melodies on xylophones. They can go through cards with just letters first, then notes on the treble clef. They can use melody cards like these.

Provide Scaffolding

Scaffolding encompasses many different things. We as music teachers tend to think of scaffolding mostly as spiraling curriculum so that students have an easy transition from one concept to another. But it also means providing supports to help students with an activity– think graphic organizers or extra tools.

Of all the differentiation, I am probably the worst at this one, even though it is probably the easiest one.

Some ideas of scaffolds or extra help include:

  • Providing heartbeat charts for students creating rhythms instead of a measure card (There are heartbeat charts in the free resource library– sign up for access to it here! If you already have access, then you can click the tab at the top of the page and download them!)
  • If students are researching, you could give a graphic organizer with some of the parts already filled in.
  • Providing answer keys in an envelope so students can check their work (more about that below…)
  • Providing pictures along with words on matching cards or activities like these.
  • Providing extra help from the teacher

A word about answer keys… I got this suggestion from a training. As soon as the lady said to provide answer keys, we all lost a little bit of respect. “But they will just look at the answers!” Someone said. Her response? “When you have the students do another activity or have them come for small group time, you will see if they know the material or not. If they cheat but they learn the material, who really wins?”

Since then, I’ve been providing treble clefs and rhythm value charts and things like that inside of envelopes for students to reference. I want them to be able to get to work quickly– and also get it right. If they are just matching random things (especially with my matching games!) that don’t go together– they are not learning. I’d rather them use the answer key to help them learn it correctly.

I see it like when I am doing a puzzle, and I look at the picture on the box as I am doing it. It’s not telling me how to do it, it’s just helping me out.

Super Simple Differentiation through Music Centers. Looking for a way to help students who are struggling with rhythm? Or push students who are ahead of the rest? This differentiation guides helps you find easy ways to makes your elementary music lessons more or less complex to accommodate a variety of learners! Becca's Music Room

Tiered Activities

We talked a lot about tiered activities in the last differentiation post, and also in this post about my favorite treble clef activity.

Tiered activities basically means that some activities are harder than others. This is really great in centers because you have students in different groups, so you are able to split up the activities in different stations.

A few ideas for tiered activities in centers:

  • Have one set of students play rhythms from flashcards and have the other set make up their own rhythms to play. (You could use these and these.)
  • If working on treble clef, one set of students can identify one note while the others find words (such as egg) on the treble clef. You can check that out in my TPT product here.
  • Have some students matching notes on the staff while others match notes and staff and recorder fingerings. Or have the second group write notes onto the staff because that is more difficult than matching.
  • Have both groups play a game like Kaboom!, but give one group more difficult rhythms. (You can get levels 1 and 2 in my TPT)
  • Have students create measures of rhythms with words. (Kind of like in this or this) You can give the lower group only one beat rhythms to manipulate and the higher group one beat and two or three beat rhythms. They will have to work harder to make sure they have the correct amount of beats in the measure.
  • When playing instruments, you can tier up by having staff notation and tier down by having just the letters or the letters inside of the note heads.
  • Have one group finding all of the letters in words on the treble clef and the other group coming up with their own words (like BAG or EGG or FADE) to put onto the treble clef like on this.
  • Have students play hands together instead of alternating hands on the xylophones.

The possibilities are truly endless once you start thinking through it. Remember, you do not have to come up with 50 different activities. You just have to find a way to make one activity more simple or more complex.

Teacher Led Groups

This is my person favorite way to do my differentiation– through groups led by me.

If you have read my post about setting up centers, you will know that I have six groups and three activities. One of those activities is always at the “teacher station” AKA my front carpet.

What we do changes every time. This is usually the instrument group (I do not trust my students enough to put instruments in any other station!). At this station, I usually have two or three different tiered activities we can do that are easy. The group that needs the most help gets the most help. The highest group gets almost no help at all.

Having these groups has truly changed my life. I love it. I love it because you can be really hands on with the kids, and you get to know them better because of it. I always take an observation grade during this time, and it is so much easier to grade 6 kids at a time than 32. And the kids always tell me that that was their favorite station.

As far as differentiation, sometimes we do different activities, but most of the time I just give different amounts of help/structure to each group. And yes, more or less help does count as differentiation.

Also, the teacher group is usually my instrument group, because I want them to play instruments but don’t trust the kids to use instruments in other stations.

Some ideas for teacher-led station:

  • Rhythm review: low group can review each rhythm, medium group can play rhythms or do dictation, and the high group can use rhythms cards to create their own rhythms
  • Recorder practice: Allow students to practice on their own while you assist and assess.
  • Xylophones: I like to give students cards with letters to play first, and if they finish that, they continue with cards that have notes on the staff.
  • Have students figure out the rhythm or melody from a song you have been working on (Like in my Ickle Ockle lesson)

So those are the main ways to differentiate through centers! I promise, it sounds like more work than it actually is. If you can get students pretest and sorted into groups, you have done almost all of the work. Just add in one or two of these differentiating techniques, and you will see a difference.

How do you differentiate during centers? Let us know in the comments!

Want to get access to exclusive FREE content? Sign up for the free resource library! Once you sign up, you’ll receive the password to the library, and you will be able to download monthly freebies to help you teach elementary music! Sign up here!

Happy teaching!

Super Simple Differentiation through Music Centers. Looking for a way to help students who are struggling with rhythm? Or push students who are ahead of the rest? This differentiation guides helps you find easy ways to makes your elementary music lessons more or less complex to accommodate a variety of learners! Becca's Music Room
3-5, Books, Elementary Music, K-2, Lessons

I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello

Most music teachers include lots of books in their elementary music classes. I see this all the time on social media, in trainings, and in classrooms. But can I admit something to you? When I was first starting out, I felt like i was very unclear as to HOW to go about incorporating books. Like– what do you actually do with them? (And don’t say read them.)

A while later, and I am (finally!) starting to get the hang of using books in my normal classroom life. So if you are thinking, “I want to use books but I don’t know how!” Then this post is for you.

One book that I did not struggle with incorporating is the book I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello— a title which will from here on out be shortened, because wow that is long. I got this book from my mentor teacher during student teaching and I love it. It is based off of the There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly books, but everything the shy fellow swallows is an instrument!

Seriously, I love it.

And so do the kids.

So I figured it is the perfect book to introduce to you. Here are a few different ways that you can use this book in your classroom– some of them you could incorporate tomorrow.

If you don’t already have the book, you can get it here for cheap!

Also read: Game and Lesson for Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do you See?

5 Ways to Use I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello in the elementary music classroom. Want to incorporate more books into your music lessons but don't know how? Check out these ways to use my favorite book to teach instruments of the orchestra, singing, and more! Becca's Music Room

Acting it Out

This is one of my personal favorites.

As you read the book, have students look at the pictures of each of the instruments. Have them mime with their hands how to play the instruments. So every time you say cymbals, students can pretend to hit cymbals together in their hands. When you say cello, they can hold one hand up and use the other to play the imaginary bow.

This gets the students involved in the story annnnd the added bonus is that they are now thinking about how each instrument is played rather than “Oh a cello is some kind of instrument I’ve never heard of before.”

Speaking of which….

Show and Tell

For instrument show and tell, you can read the book and then have students look at pictures or posters for each instrument and talk about how it is played.

If you have any of these instruments (and, btw, you can get a fancy silver kazoo on Amazon for cheap here), bring them in! I love to bring in my cello and show the students what it looks like and how it is played. They are always super amazed (and impressed by my Mary Had a Little Lamb rendition).

Oh course, you probably don’t own a cello AND a harp AND a saxophone AND a flute AND cymbals AND all of the other things, but if you have one of them, it is still going to make a huge difference for the students.

And again. Kazoo.

5 Ways to Use I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello in the elementary music classroom. Want to incorporate more books into your music lessons but don't know how? Check out these ways to use my favorite book to teach instruments of the orchestra, singing, and more! Becca's Music Room

Introduction to Instrument Families

This is what I used for my students this year, and it worked really well. I taught 2nd and 3rd grade about the instrument families. Later on, we read this book. While reading the book, I stopped at each instrument and had the students tell me what family that instrument belonged to. If they were correct, then they got to go to the board and put the picture of the instrument onto the section of the board.

For example, after the shy fellow swallowed the cello, I asked, “What instrument family is the cello in?” Athena says, “Oh it’s in the string family!” Athena walks up to the board, finds the cello, and puts it in the section of the board labelled “strings”.

5 Ways to Use I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello in the elementary music classroom. Want to incorporate more books into your music lessons but don't know how? Check out these ways to use my favorite book to teach instruments of the orchestra, singing, and more! Becca's Music Room

By the way, Athena is my dog, not one of my students. She is sitting next to me while I write this, so I thought I would include her.

A few days later, I have the student do pretty much the same activity but on a printed worksheet. Students write or draw the names of each of the instruments in the boxes that correlate with that instrument’s family.

If you are interested in the worksheet, instrument posters, or in the cut outs of the instruments or any of those things, you can get them all in my TPT product here!

5 Ways to Use I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello in the elementary music classroom. Want to incorporate more books into your music lessons but don't know how? Check out these ways to use my favorite book to teach instruments of the orchestra, singing, and more! Becca's Music Room

Singing

Did you know that there is a song that goes with the There was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly books? There is!

Here is the best video I can find that has the melody, although we did it much faster than this.

I use the original book at the beginning of the year with my kinders to show the students the difference between singing voice and talking voice (read about that lesson here!). So I read it one day and I sing it another day.

Then if we read any variation like There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell (or a clover!) or I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello, the students can sing along with it the first time!

Instrument Playing

This one is a little bit trickier, but cumulative songs like this are fun to use with instruments. You assign each instrument a word in the song, and every time the word comes, you have a student play that instrument.

Parts of this book would be perfect, and others would take more creativity. Cymbals and a bell would be easy to come by, but finding an alternative to a cello or harp that won’t confuse the students would be more challenging.

Although, it would be a perfect time to pull out all of the autoharps in my closet that I don’t know what to do with…

If you have done this before or have a good idea for which instruments to use in your classroom, let me know in the comments!

Also read: The Tick Tock Song (sol/mi and ta/titi)

5 Ways to Use I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello in the elementary music classroom. Want to incorporate more books into your music lessons but don't know how? Check out these ways to use my favorite book to teach instruments of the orchestra, singing, and more! Becca's Music Room

So there are 5 ways to use I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello in your elementary music classroom! If you need the book, you can check it out here. If you are interested in the product on TPT so you can have more resources (many of which are really great for subs!), you can check that out here.

And don’t forget to sign up for the FREE resource library– all you do is put your email in, and you have access to all of the resources in the library (including quizzes, powerpoint, beat charts, lyric sheets, and more!)– and new resources are added monthly! Sign up here!

How would you use I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello in your classroom? Which was your favorite idea? Or do you have another idea? Let us know in the comments!

Happy teaching!

5 Ways to Use I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello in the elementary music classroom. Want to incorporate more books into your music lessons but don't know how? Check out these ways to use my favorite book to teach instruments of the orchestra, singing, and more! Becca's Music Room
3-5, Elementary Music, K-2, Lessons

Irish Music Lesson for St. Patrick’s Day

Is St. Patrick’s Day a big deal where you live? It is one of those holidays that either your city takes very seriously, or no one cares.

Here in Savannah, we take it very seriously.

We actually have the third largest St. Patrick’s ay parade in the US– yes, right here in South Georgia! I looked that up to double check we are still #3, and one of the articles I read said we have the highest density of Irish-Americans for our size– 8%. I did not know that.

Now, I’m going to be honest, none of my kids are Irish. But they still love St. Patrick’s Day, and I am shocked by how much they looooved the music in this Irish lesson! I actually did this K-3, although it is probably best suited for 2-3 grade. Nevertheless, in every class, students were asking me if they could sing it again.

At the bottom, I will link some other ideas if you want to expound upon what we’ve got here!

Also read: Favorite Activities for Piano and Forte

Looking for something fun to do in your elementary music class for St. Patrick's Day? Look no further! This lesson includes two different Irish folk songs for students to sing, do movement activities to, and learn more about Ireland. You can use this general music lesson with kindergarten, first grade, second grade, or third grade. Becca's Music Room

Irish Music Lesson

We start the day out with a well known song as a warm up. We did not previously know any Irish songs (should have planned better!), so each grade did whatever they had done last week.

After that, I told them, “We are going to listen to Irish music today! Does anyone know what holiday is coming soon that has to do with Ireland?”

We learn the chorus to “Tell Me Ma”. I taught it to them by rote– first words, then with the melody. This is actually one of our Musical Explorers songs (find out more about that here), which means I have extra resources to go along with it– that you can access! So I use this page to show the lyrics. You can get the song here.

They sing along with the song for about 30 seconds, and then I pause it. Then we talk about how the chorus is a part of the song that keeps coming back over and over, and the verses are different each time. I have the class pick different ways that we can keep the steady beat, and we change each time the section changes. So I will write something like this on the board:

  • Instrumental: Pat legs
  • Chorus: Clap
  • Verse 1: Stomp
  • Verse 2: Head

We will listen and sing and do the steady beat, changing our motions for each section. Of course, I am letting the kids pick it so it ends up being different each time.

Looking for something fun to do in your elementary music class for St. Patrick's Day? Look no further! This lesson includes two different Irish folk songs for students to sing, do movement activities to, and learn more about Ireland. You can use this general music lesson with kindergarten, first grade, second grade, or third grade. Becca's Music Room

Also read: Monkey Game for Crescendos and Decrescendos

Instrument time! We looked at the bodhran (an Irish drum played with a stick– you can look at one here) and– with the older students– talked about how it is a percussion instrument. We listened again and played hand drums, since they were the closest thing what we had to the bodhran.

To make it more interesting for my second and third graders, they each played the hand drums. Two students went to the front of the room and played tubanos (I have these!). Everyone was playing the steady beat. We walked in a circle on the chorus and stood still the rest of the time. Each section, the people at the tubanos had to switch with someone in our circle until everyone had played.

Next, I showed the students some pictures of Ireland (I literally just google “Ireland” and click on pictures– but make sure that you do this ahead of time and look to make sure they are appropriate!). We looked at the ocean, the castles, the cliffs, and make sure to show them the bogs.

After explaining what a bog is, I told them I had a song about a bog. They learned the chorus by rote. I sang the verses myself, and had them use their arms to make actions that represented all the things in the bog– the limb and the branch and the twig and the nest, and so on. They joined in on the chorus. And, of course, I played my ukulele (but you could play the guitar or the piano or xylophones or just do it a cappella).

Looking for something fun to do in your elementary music class for St. Patrick's Day? Look no further! This lesson includes two different Irish folk songs for students to sing, do movement activities to, and learn more about Ireland. You can use this general music lesson with kindergarten, first grade, second grade, or third grade. Becca's Music Room

After that, we watched some Irish dancing. Again, my kids are used to Irish dancing because– hello, parade– but they still amaze me with how much they love it. They think it is so cool. One fifth grader told me last year, “It’s kind of like our music, because it’s got a cool beat and then a melody on top.” I thought that was very insightful.

Anyway, I like to have them watch Riverdance, because it is super cool. This is my favorite video so far– I always look for one that have guys as well as girls.

More Irish music ideas:

What is your favorite Irish music lesson? Let us know in the comments so we can keep the conversation going!

Happy teaching!

Looking for something fun to do in your elementary music class for St. Patrick's Day? Look no further! This lesson includes two different Irish folk songs for students to sing, do movement activities to, and learn more about Ireland. You can use this general music lesson with kindergarten, first grade, second grade, or third grade. Becca's Music Room
Elementary Music, K-2, Lessons

Free K-1 Music Lesson: The Tick Tock Song

You know those songs that you find and you are not sure if your kids will like it, then they love it? That’s how the Tick Tock song was for my classes. I thought it looked/sounded cute, but it was a HUGE hit! My kids wanted to keep doing this song over and over and over again.

And of course we love any songs that keep students singing!

I used this as a movement activity and for playing instruments, but I am planning to bring it back to teach rhythm. It is a ta and titi song as well as a sol-mi-la song. So of course you can use it for any of those.

I do have a TPT product for this, which you can get here. It has rhythmic and melodic practice with flash cards, slides with rhythm and melody, clock faces, beat charts, and basically everything you need for a super smooth class. If you just want to get a preview to use in your classroom with slides for lyrics, solfege, and rhythm, then you can get that in my free resource library. If you have not accessed my free resource library, then you will need to click here. You provide your email and then you get the password and you can download everything in the library! I only email twice a month, so I won’t be spamming you, and of course you can unsubscribe anytime (but you won’t want to because, again, FREE RESOURCES).

PS My second graders also really enjoyed this song!

Also read: Free Music Lesson: Brown Bear Brown Bear

Free Elementary Music Lesson: The Tick Tock Song. This is one of my kindergarten and first graders' favorite songs! We use it for movement, rhythm, and solfeggi. It is perfect for sol-la-mi or ta and titi. Becca's Music Room



Tick Tock Song

  1. Teach students the Tick Tock song by rote. You can focus on rhythm or melody. You can find both the rhythm and melody on the free slide in my resource library or you can get all of the resources in my TPT.
  2. Teach the students the movements to the song. I always (ALWAYS) start non-locomotor movements and then switch to locomotor movements if the students can handle it. The movements are a little bit awkward because they really aren’t supposed to be non-locomotor, but my kids did not notice or care. Here are the movements:
  • Walk in place
  • At “open wide”, open your arms up wide
  • At “cuckoo”, bend your body sideways for each cukoo

I learned this from a video on this YouTube channel. It no longer seems to be on YouTube and the link from my Pinterest is broken. So he gets the credit even though you cannot see it!

3. Each time, ask a student to pick what time it will be. This can make it entertaining for hours, because they all want to pick the time. I like to use a plastic teaching clock like this one or the clock cut out in my TPT product to show the time, because most students cannot tell time on analog clocks. I don’t spend a ton of time on it, but we do talk about the big hand and little hand and the hours and then I will change the time each time we sing.

4. If they are doing a good job with that, then we will do it in partners. Now, of course, you have to make sure that you prep them VERY well before doing anything in partners. Since they are so young, I like to model with a student a few times before I let them do it. Basically, one person is the clock and one is the cuckoo. The clock stands still. The cuckoo walks in a circle around the clock. At “open wide”, the cuckoo opens the clocks’ arms. On each “cuckoo” the cuckoo pops out from behind the clock.

5. Use some small percussion instruments to play the beat to the song. Then use the instruments to play the rhythm. I tend to be partial to rhythm sticks and castanets, both of which are really cheap options if you don’t have much in your classroom.

6. Make the rhythm! Depending on where your students are in the rhythm reading journey, you can have them put manipulative (like the clock cut outs in my resource) onto heartbeat sheets. Use one manipulative for ta and two on a beat for titi. Mini erasers are usually a huge hit for this activity. Or you could use popsicle sticks like I talk about in this lesson to make stick notation ta and titi. I have also seen people use straws for this activity, although I have not used them.

7. Make the melody! Cut out the words to the song. Put two lines on the ground with tape. Have students put the words onto the two line staff. Then you could have everyone practice that by themselves with bingo chips or mini erasers on a personal two line staff.

Free Elementary Music Lesson: The Tick Tock Song. This is one of my kindergarten and first graders' favorite songs! We use it for movement, rhythm, and solfeggi. It is perfect for sol-la-mi or ta and titi. Becca's Music Room



A few extensions:

  • Pair with Hickory Dickory Dock (free!)This is a fun nursery rhyme in 6/8. I like to use this as a warm up with movements.
  • Pair with a movement activity to The Syncopated Clock. I believe this is in the book Parachutes and Ribbons and Scarves, Oh My!
  • A clock race: Have students get into teams. One student runs up and changes the clock to a particular time, rushes back and the next student goes.
  • Rhythm clock: Have students work in groups to make a rhythm clock. They have to make a rhythm for each hour that adds up to the hour. This is more fun with older students who know a bunch of rhythms with different beats, but it can still be fun with the littles.

Need those heartbeat sheets? Get them in my free resource library! If you haven’t gained access yet, then do it by clicking here.

So there is the Tick Tock Song! This is one of my students’ absolute favorites. Between thing on and the Que Llueva song that I talk about here, it is hard to get them to sing anything else!

What are your favorite clock themed activities? What would you pair with the Tick Tock Song? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Teaching!



Free Elementary Music Lesson: The Tick Tock Song. This is one of my kindergarten and first graders' favorite songs! We use it for movement, rhythm, and solfeggi. It is perfect for sol-la-mi or ta and titi. Becca's Music Room



 

This is a powerpoint to go along with the song Tick Tick. It has the song lyrics, lyrics and rhythm (in regular notation and stick notation!), and rhythm and solfege. Becca's Music Room.
Differentiation, Elementary Music

But how do I actually differentiate in the music room?

If you have been to any meeting, any class, or had a discussion with any teacher in the last five years, then you would know that the hot topic is differentiation. I hear it all of the the time. And last year I thought, there is no way that I can differentiate in the music room.

Turns out, I was wrong.

Now, music teachers are constantly differentiating without realizing it. I have a whole post about that here (which is really great if you need to prove you differentiate on your TKES!). This post is about being intentional with your differentiation.

As far as differentiating goes, we are certainly at a disadvantage. I teach 650 students– and I know other teachers who have even more. Most of us see our kids once a week. And we don’t have any MAP testing or iReady or whatever programs and tests your state uses to tell us what the kids know.

So… how do you actually get started with differentiation? How much work is it to differentiate? And when do I have time to do it? Let’s talk. Because I promise, it is less work than you think it is.

Prefer to watch or listen? You can watch the video version of this post below.


But how do I actually differentiate in the music room? This is a step by step guide to how to differentiate in your elementary music class-- from gathering data to grouping students to ways and ideas for differentiation. Becca's Music Room

So where do I start?

The first thing in differentiation is finding out what your students currently know– AKA a pretest. You can do this via paper and pencil, or through observation (I talk about a lot of different options for assessment in this post).

I started at the beginning of the year with a (short) pretest and interest survey that covered the major concepts we are working on this year. If it’s the middle of the year, don’t stress. You can also go unit by unit.

For example, my fourth graders have been working on treble clef notes for a few months now. And some of them are still not totally getting it. So, I gave them a super short quiz which told me how much they know and what some struggles are.

You can actually get that quiz in the free resource library– if you have signed up for the library, than you can click the “Free Resource Library” tab at the top of the page. If you haven’t, then you can signup here to get the password. Once you have the password, you can download anything that you want from the library– and check back, because I add more resources monthly!

You could even just use an assignment that they have done and use it as an indicator– even if it is not a quiz. I did this last week with my fifth graders and their write the room activity which told me that they needed some help with differentiating between the brass and woodwind families. It wasn’t an official “assessment” but it game me the information I needed!

So I have data… Now what?

I am a fan of simplicity when it comes to differentiation.

I take out three sticky notes. Then, I write an X on one, a – on one, and a check on the other. Then I divide the number of questions by three. This gives me the ranges for each sticky note. (I like to get these with the lines on them.) So if I had 12 questions on a quiz, students who got 1-4 correct would have an X, 5-8 correct would be a -, and 9-12 correct would be a check. I also like to put a star by anyone who got 100%– more about that later.

But how do I actually differentiate in the music room? This is a step by step guide to how to differentiate in your elementary music class-- from gathering data to grouping students to ways and ideas for differentiation. Becca's Music Room
Setting up my sticky notes. I write down the ranges for how many questions students get right. On this one, I went ahead and split each sticky into groups.

These sticky notes are the basis of my student groupings during centers. I like to have six groups, so I will split the names on the sticky notes into two groups. Each sticky note represents two groups. If they are not even, then I will adjust them (or if I have students who should not be together, then I will adjust them). In general, I will put – with X or checks, but do not put checks with X’s.

But how do I actually differentiate in the music room? This is a step by step guide to how to differentiate in your elementary music class-- from gathering data to grouping students to ways and ideas for differentiation. Becca's Music Room
An example of (fake) students in groups. You can see I moved one person of make the groups more even, and I made sure to put a check by their name to remind myself that they scored better on their test.

It is also how I decide who gets which activity when I am doing something like my treble clef dice activity, which has many different versions for different levels of understanding.

But how do I actually differentiate in the music room? This is a step by step guide to how to differentiate in your elementary music class-- from gathering data to grouping students to ways and ideas for differentiation. Becca's Music Room

So I have groups… Now what?

So now you have to decide how you are actually going to differentiate. There are three main ways that you can differentiate in the elementary music classroom.

Sidenote– you do not have to differentiate every. single. day. I probably do portions of lessons that are differentiated once or twice a month. Because if you are having a drum circle or playing Lucy Locket… how are you going to differentiate that?

Ok. So. On the days that you do want to differentiate (intentionally), there are three main ways: chunking, centers, and tiered instruction. (Although when you think about it, it’s all tiered instruction.) We’re going to talk about each one so that you know what they are and how you can do them.

Chunking

Chunking is basically the concept of not making students do things they already know how to do. If you have a few students who are a bit ahead of the others and have proven they understand the material, then they can have an alternate assignment.

I did this in January with one of my treble clef activities. On the pretest, I had 1-5 students in each class who got 100%. Instead of continuing to make them practice every day, I had the other students working on treble clef activities, and they worked on their recorder songs. They were still working– even still working on reading because they had to read recorder notes– but they were not bored while going over material they had down.

This is not something I would suggest doing with every activity, but it is good every once and a while, especially if you have been working on the same unit for a while. (Plus it makes the other kids work harder because they want to play recorder too!)

Centers

Next week’s blog post is going to be a deep dive into differentiating with centers, so I am not going to go super in depth here. But there are a lot of ways you can differentiate during centers. It is a great way to give students activities tailored to their skill level without them noticing that different people have different activities.

My centers differentiation is really just in one of the groups. One group is always the teacher group, and that is where I assess and differentiate. Sometime I have different lessons for each group, but most of the time, it is pretty much the same, but with different levels of guidance. So the group where everyone understands may not get any help from me while the group that is struggling will have a lot of remediation.

I really love having a teacher group for centers because I feel like I can give more attention to each student. I actually know my students and their musical capabilities much better now than I used to.

Also read: Music Center Classroom Management for “Bad Classes”

Tiered Instruction

The third main way to differentiate is through tiered instruction. This just means that students are doing different activities based on their levels.

If you are just getting started, this is where I would start. I would pick a concept, pick two activities and split the students up based on data from whatever quiz or observation you have.

One thing I will say is try to find things that are equally fun. Don’t give one group a worksheet and the other one a game. They don’t have to be the same, but they do need to be equally fun.

A few examples are:

  • Have one set of students play rhythms from flashcards and have the other set make up their own rhythms to play. (You could use these and these.)
  • If working on treble clef, one set of students can identify one note while the others find words (such as egg) on the treble clef. You can check that out in my TPT product here.
  • Have some students matching notes on the staff while others match notes and staff and recorder fingerings. Or have the second group write notes onto the staff because that is more difficult than matching.
  • Have both groups play a game like Kaboom!, but give one group more difficult rhythms. (You can get levels 1 and 2 in my TPT)
  • Have students create measures of rhythms with words. (Kind of like in this or this) You can give the lower group only one beat rhythms to manipulate and the higher group one beat and two or three beat rhythms. They will have to work harder to make sure they have the correct amount of beats in the measure.
  • When playing instruments, you can tier up by having staff notation and tier down by having just the letters or the letters inside of the note heads.
  • Have one group finding all of the letters in words on the treble clef and the other group coming up with their own words (like BAG or EGG or FADE) to put onto the treble clef like on this.
  • Have students play hands together instead of alternating hands on the xylophones.

Those are just a few ideas to get you started, but you get the point. It seems sooooo daunting– “I not only have to come up with lesson plans, but now I have to do twice as many!”– but once you start thinking of ideas, it is much more simple than you think.

Also, if your school groups students into classes based on ability level, you can differentiate for whole classes. Even with whole group lessons, I will adjust based on the collective understanding. For example, last week my students did an Orff arrangement of a Japanese song called Star Festival. One group did a great job with four different instruments and different patterns on the xylophones. In another class, it was a hot mess. So I ended up making the arrangement easier for the second class (I took out the glockenspiels and changed the xylophone part to hands together on the steady beat) and they were much more successful. And yes, that counts.

So how often do I have to differentiate?

That totally depends on you! Personally, I think as music teachers, we don’t need to do this every day. I do centers once a month with my upper grades, and I usually do one other differentiated activity in the month– but it depends on what we are working on! Right now my fifth graders are working on Orff skills and drum circles, so, frankly, I am not worried about differentiating right now. Music is inherently differentiated (don’t believe me? Read my post about the differentiation you are doing without realizing it here.)

With my younger students, I really don’t differentiate much at all. That may sound bad, but it’s the truth. I am much more concerned with them singing, playing, listening to music, and more.

Some lessons also lend themselves better to differentiating than others do. That’s why I keep going back to treble clef activities– they are so easy to differentiate!

Basically, you know your students. You know what is best for them. So you should do what is best for them. Sometimes that means tiered instruction, sometimes that means centers, and sometimes that means whole group drum circles. Do whatever is best.

But how do I actually differentiate in the music room? This is a step by step guide to how to differentiate in your elementary music class-- from gathering data to grouping students to ways and ideas for differentiation. Becca's Music Room

Do you differentiate in your elementary music classroom? How do you do it? Let me know in the comments so that we can have even more ideas!

Happy teaching!

Elementary Music, K-2, Lessons

Favorite Activities for Piano and Forte

Teaching piano and forte is really fun.

I know that may seem like a weird comment, but it is true. I have a lot of fun teaching piano and forte. I think this is because there are just so many different things that you can do with it– and it is so different from teaching rhythm and melody and styles of music.

This post has a few of my favorite activities for teaching piano and forte. It is not nearly everything that can be used for piano and forte, but it is a couple things that my students have enjoyed.

And make sure you read to the bottom, because I saved the best for last.

Also read: Creative Movement with Scarves

 

Favorite Activities for Piano and Forte. A compilation of songs, games, listening and moving activities for teaching piano and forte to your elementary music students! Becca's Music Room.

Songs with Animals

The first thing that I do with my students is relate piano and forte to animals. I ask them to come up with ideas of what is loud and what is soft. This year, we did a series of lessons based off of mice and bears. This was an easy segway into piano and forte, because we were able to talk about how loud they were. (Are bears loud or soft?)

You could use something else, of course, like lions and bunnies or whatever.

For these lessons, we did Hickory Dickory Dock (FREE on TPT), Mouse Mousie, Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See, annnnnnd…..

Grizzly Bear

No list of piano and forte activities could be complete without Grizzly Bear on it.

Grizzly Bear is a super fun song that has dynamic changes in it, plus there are at least three different games that go with it. You can read all about it in this post.

You can also get a PowerPoint for FREE in my resource library. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do that here. I only send out one email every other week, and I add new free resources to the library once a month (and sometimes more, because I can’t help myself!). If you have already signed up, then you can click the tab at the top that says “free resource library” and enter in the password that was emailed to you.

Responding to a Drum

Is that really the best title to describe this activity, Becca? I guess so.

This is one of my favorite simple warm ups. Seriously. I use it the first week of school and for piano and forte and for any other day the kids just need to move. I play my djembe (I have this one and LOVE it!) piano, and students tip toe. Then I play forte and they jump or stomp. With the younger kids, I play piano for 4, 8, or 16 beats, then forte for 4 or 8 beats. If your students are doing a good job, then you can also change the tempo on them for an extra challenge.

With older students, I use this to get them thinking about groups of rhythms (often in preparation for the game Extra Beat, Take a Seat). I play the downbeat forte, and then play seven beats piano. After a few times, they can anticipate the downbeat.

Then we make it even more fun– we do statues. I still play the downbeat forte followed by seven piano beats, but when it is forte, the students strike a pose. They hold that statue until the next forte beat, when they switch to the next one.

Closet Key (or Lucy Locket)

Closet Key is a fun game for piano and forte. It is a song (check it out here). After learning the song, students sit in a circle. One person closes their eyes. While their eyes are closed, the “key” (or whatever object you have) gets hidden (I prefer to have it so that it is hidden in the circle, but you could have them hide it in the room.

Then the students sing while the person who had their eyes closed moves around. The students sing louder when they are close to it, and softer when they are far away. It’s like hot and cold with your voice.

I have also heard of people doing the same thing with the game Lucy Locket, so I included that in the heading. I personally do not play my game that way, but you certainly could. Check out how I play here.

Playing instruments

Of course we are going to play instruments! I use these rhythm cards for piano and forte. Each one has either a bear or a mouse on them. If it has a bear, then the students play the rhythm forte. If it has a mouse, then they play the rhythm piano.

They also have an introduction to piano and forte. You can get them here.

Favorite Activities for Piano and Forte. A compilation of songs, games, listening and moving activities for teaching piano and forte to your elementary music students! Becca's Music Room.

Student “Conductor”

This can go along with singing or playing instruments.

For the little people: Make a sign with “piano” and “forte” (I use the ones that are included in the Piano and Forte Rhythm Cards set). Have the students sing and hold up the cards. While they are singing, switch the cards so that the students have to change dynamic. You can change them at any time. Then have a student come to the front and change the cards.

For older students: They can conduct. Hand them a baton (or a pencil) and have them conduct while the students sing or play instruments. If you don’t want to teach them the conducting patterns, then you could just have them show the beat (so like in one) and get bigger when students should sing forte and smaller when they should sing piano.

Listening

Of course, there are all sorts of listening activities that can go with piano and forte. The piece Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks has a very distinct piano section. And–of course– the Surprise Symphony. I am going to play this for my first graders this week and I cannot wait to see their faces!

Students could hold up a card with a bear on it when the music is forte and a card with a mouse on it when the music is piano. And of course, you could always use scarves. Students can make large movements for forte and small movements for piano. You can read more about creative movement with scarves here.

 

 

Stuffed Animal Sort

To go along with our animal songs, I’ll often ask students what animals are forte and which ones are piano. For a quick review (or during centers), we will sort them. I will put piano and forte signs on bins or next to a pile, and students come and place their animal in either the piano or the forte pile. This is also great for centers, because it is pretty easy.

Don’t have stuffed animals? You can get them pretty cheap on Amazon. Check it out here.

The Monkey Game

I really did save the best for last. In The Monkey Game (which is really for crescendos and decrescendos, but I use it for piano and forte as well), one student hides a stuffed monkey. Another student has to find it. Then I have students at the tubanos who play forte when the person is close to the monkey and piano if they are far away.

You can read all about it here.

 

Favorite Activities for Piano and Forte. A compilation of songs, games, listening and moving activities for teaching piano and forte to your elementary music students! Becca's Music Room.

Well that was a bunch of ideas. I hope that some of them help you out in your teaching of piano and forte. What is your favorite activity for piano and forte? Let us know in the comments!

Happy teaching!

3-5, Elementary Music, Games, K-2, Lessons

Monkey Game for Crescendos and Decrescendos

Is there a game at your school that your students beg to play? Like all of the time? That’s the Monkey Game for me. I know that it teaches piano and forte to the littles and crescendos and decrescendos to the older students, but they do not care. They want to play it all the time.

Seriously. I’ll say, “We’re going to play a game!” and they’ll say, “The Monkey Game?!”

No. It’s not always the Monkey Game.

It actually got to the point where I was so sick of it that I started telling them we couldn’t play it because it took too long to get the drums out.

Anyway, this is a game that teaches crescendos and decrescendos (or piano and forte, if you differentiate). I learned it from my mentor teacher during student teaching, and I do not know where she came up with it. But it is so much fun.

Why do I call it the Monkey Game? Because we use a stuffed monkey. In your class it could be the bear game or the owl game or whatever depending on your stuffed animal collection.

Also read: Extra Beat, Take a Seat

The Monkey Game: Free music game for crescendo and decrescendo. Perfect for teaching elementary music, or even middle school band and choir. It can be adapted to teach kindergarten and first grade by switching it to piano and forte. Your kids will be begging to play it-- at least mine do! Becca's Music Room.

 

The Monkey Game

Materials:

Instructions:

  • First, discuss what crescendo and crescendo are. I like to have the students say the words with a crescendo and decrescendo. So when we say crescendo, we crescendo. When we say decrescendo, we decrescendo. I also like to have them move their hands up and down to show the dynamics. Then I project them onto the board so that we remember them.
  • Then, have a few students come up to the tubanos in the front. (After the long discussion about how we do NOT LEAN ON THE DRUMS, of course)
  • Have one student hide the monkey. They are the hider. (We always let a piece of the monkey stick out to make the game go a little bit faster.)
  • While that person hides the monkey, another student goes in the corner and closes their eyes. They are going to be the finder. Once the hider is finished, have the finder come out and open their eyes. They are now going to walk around the room and look for the monkey.
  • The people at the drums help find the monkey by playing with different dynamics. If they are close to the monkey, they play forte. If they are far away from the monkey, they play piano. This causes lots of crescendos and decrescendos. Throughout the game, ask the students, “Was that a crescendo or a decrescendo?”
  • The students at their seats watch, and I usually tell them they can help by playing on their legs or the ground if they want to. This helps those friends who just cannot sit still have an outlet.
  • Once the monkey is found, switch out the people. I usually let the drummer stay for two rounds before switching them.

 

Easy peasy! It’s kind of like hot and cold but with music. I know some people play Lucy Locket in a similar way (I don’t– you can see how I play here)

Note– if you do not have tubanos, don’t stress. Use whatever you have– hand drums, bongos, rhythm sticks, egg shakers. If you can play crescendos and decrescendos, then you can play the game.

Also read: Sempre Libera Scarf Routine

There you have it– the most requested game EVER in my elementary music room. I think I am going to break down and play it right before Spring Break…. They always need a little extra incentive to do a good job around Spring Break.

What is the most requested game in your elementary music classroom? Let us know in the comments!

Happy teaching!

 

The Monkey Game: Free music game for crescendo and decrescendo. Perfect for teaching elementary music, or even middle school band and choir. It can be adapted to teach kindergarten and first grade by switching it to piano and forte. Your kids will be begging to play it-- at least mine do! Becca's Music Room.

Elementary Music, Games, K-2, Lessons

Free Music Lesson: Grizzly Bear

Teaching dynamics in your elementary music class? Then you need to teach your music students the song Grizzly Bear.

This song is one of the main reasons that I decided to do a bear and mouse unit for my kindergarten and first graders this year. We did Grizzly Bear, Hickory Dickory Dock, Mouse Mousie, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do you see? We related forte to bears and piano to mice, like I outlined in this post.

Out of all of the different songs and activities that we did, this was the favorite.

There are a bunch of different games that go along with this lesson. I will include a few versions that I have seen/heard of along with the one that I actually did with my students.

You can get a lyric and rhythm sheet for FREE in my free resource library. All you have to do is sign up to get the password and then you can access all of the resources in the library! Sign up here!

Grizzly Bear: Free music lesson for piano and forte. This lesson is a song and game for kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. Includes free resource to help teach the lesson. Becca's Music Room

 

Grizzly Bear Lesson

  • First, I had the students warm up with the rhyme Hickory Dickory Dock (you can check out my FREE product on TPT here)
  • Ask your students: are mice loud or quiet? Musicians call quiet a special word– piano. What kind of animal is loud? (keep going until students guess a bear)
  • Sing the song for the students and have them listen the first time. It is extra fun if you walk around while you sing it because the students get really shocked at the end. Sing it again and have students hold their hands up high when it is forte, low when it is piano, or in the middle when it is in the middle.
  • Then ask for the students to join you in singing.
  • Ask them: If we don’t want to wake up the grizzly bear, what dynamic level should we be singing?

Also read: Free Music Lesson: Bizet Scarf Routine

 

The game…

Like I said, there are many different types of games for this song. I know of at least three different versions.

  1. Sing the song and walk around in a circle. One student is in the middle, laying on the floor. This child is the grizzly bear. At the end of the song, the teacher walks up and taps the child. The child jumps up and roars at everyone else. (I have also done this without anyone touching the child, they just hopped up at the end of the song.)
  2. Sing the song and walk around in a circle. One student lays on the floor in the middle– this child is the grizzly bear. At the end of the song, the bear gets up. All of the students have to be frozen. If they move, then they bear pretends to eat them. They have to get out of the circle (or just sit down).
  3. Sing the song and walk around in a circle. One student lays on the floor in the middle– this child is the grizzly bear. At the end of the song, the bear pops up. The other students try to get to a safe place in the room (maybe a wall or a carpet). The bear tries to tag the students before they get to the safe place.

Also read: Lesson Ideas: Creative Movement with Scarves

I used the first version until I heard the second version of it– then we switched. The third version looks like fun, but it is a little bit too chaotic for my population of students.

Don’t forget to sign up for the exclusive FREE RESOURCE LIBRARY so that you can download the lyric and rhythm sheets to go along with this song.

Which one do you like? Is there a different version that you like? Let us know in the comments!

Happy teaching!

 

Grizzly Bear: Free music lesson for piano and forte. This lesson is a song and game for kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. Includes free resource to help teach the lesson. Becca's Music Room

Elementary Music, K-2, Lessons

Music Lesson: Piano and Forte with Bears and Mice

While lesson planning, I kept finding all of these songs about bears. And I thought, I should do a bear unit. One of my top ideas was to sing and play the song Grizzly Bear. If you have been around Pinterest or any music blog, you will find people playing and singing Grizzly Bear to teach dynamics. At some point that caused my bear unit to because a piano and forte unit with mice and bears.

Now, you may have read that and thought, “Wait– what?”

Yes. I am teaching my first graders that mice are piano and bears are forte. It gives them a visual to put with the words, and it allows me to tie in all of the bear and mice songs with it!

I did mice and bear songs all week long– we sang:

We did those five songs plus a bunch of other activities– responding to piano and forte on drums, moving our bodies piano and forte to music, and– what I am really going to talk about today– playing instruments piano and forte.

Also read: Beat v. Rhythm with Soul Music

Free Music Lesson: Piano and Forte with bears and mice. This music lesson uses many well-known songs to teach students about piano and forte, relating them to animals. The highlight is having students play instruments in music class piano and forte. Becca's Music Room

 

Mice and Bears for Piano and Forte

  • First, warm up with Hickory Dickory Dock. I like to do some actions with this nursery rhyme. We start on the floor and keep the beat on our legs. On “the mouse ran up”, we pretend our fingers are mice and stand up. For “the clock struck”, open your arms like the hands of a clock. Then we have the “mouse” go back down at the end.
  • Ask the students: “Is a mouse loud or soft? We have a special word for soft. We call it piano. Can you say piano?” I always have them whisper it so that they think of it as being quiet.
  • Then, ask what kind of animals are loud. They will say a bunch or things, but we keep going until I lead them to bears.
  • Next, pick one of the bear songs so sing. I suggest Grizzly Bear, because it has dynamics built into it, so it emphasizes the point.
  • Tell them, “In music we have a special word for loud– forte. Can you say forte?” (side note– there are slides for this dialogue in my Piano and Forte Rhythm cards set)
  • Now onto the instruments! Get some rhythm cards ready. You can make them and put a bear or mouse clip art onto them. Or you could print a picture of a bear and a mouse and just hold them next to the rhythm cards. Or you could just tell them whether to play forte or piano. I have a set of ta-titi-rest rhythm cards in my TPT that I used. They come with both stick notation and regular notation. You can get them here.
  • Next, have students play rhythms on instruments. My go-tos are rhythm sticks and egg shakers. Alternate between piano cards and forte cards.
  • After students play instruments, have them write their own rhythm. You could use the heartbeat charts in my FREE resource library do this. (Sign up here!) Have them draw a mouse or a bear next to their rhythm so that they can choose whether it should be piano or forte.

 

So there we go! This is just one day of my five-lesson-long bear and mouse and piano and forte unit with my first graders. Of course, many of these activities can be used with students older or younger depending on your group, but I used it with first grade.

What are your favorite bear or mouse songs? How could you make this lesson better– maybe with puppets? Let me know in the comments!

And don’t forget to sign up for my FREE RESOURCE LIBRARY. Once you sign up, you will get a password so that you can download any or all of the resources– including the heart beat charts I mentioned in this lesson. Make sure to check your email every other week to hear about any new items going up in the library. If you’re already a member, go to the resource library here.

And you can check our my Piano and Forte rhythm cards here.

Happy teaching!