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.


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!

Please follow and like us:
3-5, Differentiation, Elementary Music, Lessons

Elementary Music Lesson: Treble Clef Dice

Are you looking for a new way to practice the treble clef? I was too. I am always looking for new ways to practice, preferably with little to no set up. This treble clef dice activity checked all of those boxes, and the students loved it.

If you have been reading my blog, then you may have noticed that I am getting more and more into differentiation. Music teachers differentiate all of the time (read about that here), but I am trying to do even better. This was one of the EASIEST ways to differentiate. Ever. Like, so easy.

I have seen a ton of classroom activities where students could roll a die to practice a skill, and I really wanted to do one as well. So I downloaded some dice clip art and made a few different worksheets so that it can be differentiated.

So, you can go download some clipart, or you can purchase my product off of TPT here.

In my product, there are 6 pages. One is just lines. One is just spaces. One has lines and spaces. One has words that students can spell (like ace, bag, etc). One allows students to make their own words with the letters from A-G. The last one is blank.

You can get some cheap dice at the Dollar Tree, or on Amazon like these.

Also read: DIY Music Manipulative: Treble Clef Battleship

Treble Clef Dice Activity + free treble clef quiz. Looking for a fun way to practice the treble clef in you elementary music room? This dice activity is engaging, fun, and differentiated, plus students get to practice the treble clef. Becca's Music Room

Treble Clef Dice Activity

For this lesson, I gave a really quick pretest the week before. This allowed me to separate students into groups. You can get a FREE treble clef quiz in my free resource library. If you have not signed up for access to the library, then you can sign up here.

Once I had graded the quizzes, I split the class into categories. I do this very simply. Just put an X, a -, and a check mark. I usually just do this on a scrap of paper or an extra long sticky note like these.

Split the number of questions into the number of groups you are making. For this lesson I did students who got all 10 correct, 6-9 correct, and 1-5 correct. Yes, I know this isn’t even, but I wanted to give something different to kids who had 100%.

It seems like a lot of work, but once the pretest is graded it only takes a few seconds to split them up.

Treble Clef Dice Activity + free treble clef quiz. Looking for a fun way to practice the treble clef in you elementary music room? This dice activity is engaging, fun, and differentiated, plus students get to practice the treble clef. Becca's Music Room
Here is an example of how I do student groups. If I am actually putting them into groups, then I will still make this chart first, then separate them.

 

Then we did our dice activity. In these activities, the students roll a die. Each number coordinates with a letter on their recording sheet. On the sheet, they will record answers. They write the letter on the line and then put a whole note or solid dot on the treble clef.

I used three different recording sheets to differentiate. You could just use two, but I went with three. What did they get?

  • X got the sheet with both lines and spaces but only one letter.
  • — got the sheet with words for them to find on the treble clef. They had to practice putting the notes in the right order, which was a bit of a struggle for some of them.
  • Students who got 100% on the pretest got a worksheet where they had to come up with words using the letters A-G and then put notes on the treble clef to correspond with them.

Once they were finished, students turned in the sheets and went to get their recorder.

Also read: Assessment without “Assessment”

Treble Clef Dice Activity + free treble clef quiz. Looking for a fun way to practice the treble clef in you elementary music room? This dice activity is engaging, fun, and differentiated, plus students get to practice the treble clef. Becca's Music Room

 

So that’s it! It is really not complicated when you try to explain it. I hope that you found the piece on differentiation helpful. I feel like it is one of those things that sounds intimidating, but it’s really not– it’s all about giving kids what they need to succeed.

To help you, you can get a FREE treble clef quiz in my free resource library. If you have not signed up for access to the free resource library, then you Sign up here.

You’ll get the password to the resource library, plus I will send updates once every other week.

Get my version of the treble clef dice activity here.

And let us know in the comments what your favorite treble clef activity is!

Happy teaching!

 

Treble Clef Dice Activity + free treble clef quiz. Looking for a fun way to practice the treble clef in you elementary music room? This dice activity is engaging, fun, and differentiated, plus students get to practice the treble clef. Becca's Music Room

 

FREE treble clef quiz for elementary music, beginning band, choir, or music theory class. Just sign up for the free resource library! Becca's Music Room

Please follow and like us:
Differentiation, Elementary Music, Management

Setting up Centers: The First Day

Hey everyone! As the school year just started (or is about to start), every teacher in the world is working on rules, routines, and procedures. For a lot of that, rules, routines, and procedures include centers. But what do you actually do on your first day of centers?
Let’s talk.
I came up with this post because I overheard some second grade teachers discussing centers with the assistant principal at school yesterday. The AP was describing how she used to set up her centers for math.
And you know what? It is the same thing that I do.
Well, it is the same thing that I do after that first terrible centers experience that I had, which I outline in my post about centers with “bad classes”.
The first thing that I will say is that your first round of centers does not have to be magical. It does not have to be the absolute best lesson you have ever done ever. There is time for that later.

Setting up Centers: The first day. How do you get started on the first day of centers or workstations in the music room? Here are some ideas to destress you centers time and help your students understand the routine. Becca's Music Room.

 

In your first day of centers, go for simple

You may love having four or five or seven centers (although I seriously advise against that!), but don’t. On the first day of centers, start with two.
If you did centers last year, then you can go ahead and do three or four. But if you have new kids, have never done centers, or have students (like mine!) who forget ALL procedures over the summer, then just do two.
One group works independently, and one works with you.
If you are adventurous, maybe go for three groups. Two independent and one with you.
That leads me to my second point…



Have a group work with you

I know they may not have to, but try it anyway. This does not necessarily mean that you are teaching the same lesson to each kid 50 thousand times. It just means you are doing an activity with them. Now, for the first day of centers, it can be something they can do by themselves, and you supervise and are available for questions. But this is the time to work with one of the groups. You can assess or extend depending on the group you’ve got.
There is a reason that the classroom teachers do this—because it works.
It’s extra fun to have your group work with instruments. Because they are with you, you can supervise their playing better. But if that is too much for your first day of centers, don’t bother.

Also read: Tips for Incorporating Social Studies in the Elementary Music Class

Have the independent group do something they already know how to do

This is THE BEST classroom management technique I could give you for centers.
Have you ever had a group that sat down to do centers and just sat there and did nothing?
Or they play with other kids the whole time?
Or they throw things and knock things over and run around the room?
Because no matter how much you talk about what they are doing, how many directions you write on the board, or how many times you explained it, they still don’t get it.
I do not understand why, but it is a thing. Maybe your school doesn’t have this problem, but my school does.
Literally. They would sit at the center and do nothing.
Because no matter how many times I explained it, they did not hear me.
So this is the antidote to that.
Take an activity that the students already know how to do. Use a game you did in class as whole group. I sometimes have them practice something the class before. For example, when I introduced Kaboom!, we played it the day before. I had four sets, and it was in groups, but everyone did the same thing.
Then when we played it in centers, they already had the procedures down.
Then you can take that same thing and make it harder—like they could add melody to the rhythms, they could put rhythms together for a quick composition, they could do different body percussions for the rhythms, etc.
But independent work should be something they can do easily.

Like my students know how to do this rhythm bingo, so it works well as a group activity.



Really emphasize the procedures

In my class, we earn class points. On my first day of centers, I tell them all of their points are connected to centers procedures—keeping voices down, transitioning, being kind to each other, etc.
Seriously, it is more important for the students to understand the routines than for them to learn music today.
I know, you hate me now. Let me be clear, the FIRST day of centers is for procedures. The rest of the days of centers are for music learning.
It’s like the first day of school. But in small groups.

You can read more about my classroom management ideas here.

Focus on being kind

The thing about centers is that you cannot watch all of the kids all of the time. Yes, sit so that you can see them. Occasionally circle while your group is busy. But you cannot necesarily hear everything.
So preface this with a pep talk on being kind.
I tell them that they are a team (that’s why they earn class points as a team). You have to work with people on your team, even if they aren’t your favorite. We go through what to do when people are annoying you, we talk about keeping our personal space, etc.
And then I tell them that if they cannot handle centers, we won’t do them anymore.
And they usually like centers because I usually have lots of games for them to play.



Then what?

Now that procedures are down, you can experiment more! I would suggest having only three centers, but like I said in this article, break the groups down further. So I have six groups, but they only do three things.
Now you have to decide how many centers to have. This will vary greatly based on time and space, but give the kids enough time to enjoy a concept. They need at least 5-10 minutes to actually do something productive.
Use your centers to differentiate (I hope you didn’t gag when you heard that word) to help students understand concepts more fully.

Also read: DIY Music Manipulative: Battleship

If you have any tips of questions, put them in the comments. We would love to hear anything that works in your classrooms! Good luck in these first couple weeks!
Happy teaching!






Please follow and like us:
Differentiation, Elementary Music

Easy-Peasy Differentiation in the Music Room

Differentiation. Woo that is a scary word… especially if you teach elementary music. We tend to sit through lectures and professional developments about differentiation and shudder in despair.

I can’t do that, we think. This doesn’t apply to me.

Well…. Yes and no.

Now, some lessons really don’t lend themselves to differentiation. Some do. And when you think about it, you already do differentiation. Even when you don’t realize it.

Here are some easy-peasy differentiation ideas. Some of them are things you already do, just need to be more aware of them. When you are aware of them, you can make sure to point them out (to the kids and administrators!). Others will take more effort, but none of these ideas are difficult or time consuming.

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

Easy-Peasy Differentiation in the Music Room: Think you can't differentiate because you teach music? Think differentiation is only ok in centers? Think again! Here are some RIDICULOUSLY easy ideas to differentiate in your class-- that you may already be doing! Becca's Music Room



Dances

This is an example of differentiation that you already do. If you use any kind of dances or movement activities, you use differentiation.

Naturally, when preforming dances, students who are struggling will do less and students who are doing a good job will start to add more to their moves. Think about it—if the child is struggling to do movements while walking in a circle, they are naturally going to just walk instead. That is automatic differentiation.

Now that you know that is differentiation, you can use it consciously!

When I teach students a new dance, I tell them ways they can make it easier or harder. Like if we are walking in a circle doing a dance, then I’ll tell them to make sure to do the walking and not worry about the rest.

If students are doing a good job, I’ll ask them to push it harder—how can you make this movement look like the music? What could you add to make it better?

Easy-peasy.

You can also observe them throughout the class and put them into teired groups either for part of the class or for the next class. You can give them different ways to do the dance, and they can perform it for the other groups. Have each group add extra movements, but change the difficulty of each of the dances. This way they will each look different– without them knowing that some groups are more advanced than others.

Also read: Boomwhackers and Science Lesson



 

Instruments

There are two different types of instrument lessons. There are instruments to accompany songs or books. Then there is recorder karate or rainbow ukulele.

As for the first type of lesson, there are ways to make it different. If a student is struggling with a rhythm, you can have them just play the downbeat, or you can put them onto a different instrument that may be easier.

You don’t even have to sort them– you can just say, “OK guys, if that’s too hard, then try playing the steady beat on mi and sol. If you think this is too easy, then try playing this rhythm on different notes.”

To tier it up, you can have them sing the song while playing the instrument. You could have them make up their own accompaniment. If you want everyone to play the c-e-g-c on the quarter notes, you could have more advanced students play different rhythms one the same notes.

Recorder karate is literally made for differentiation– students who understand more quickly move quickly.


Easy-Peasy Differentiation in the Music Room: Think you can't differentiate because you teach music? Think differentiation is only ok in centers? Think again! Here are some RIDICULOUSLY easy ideas to differentiate in your class-- that you may already be doing! Becca's Music Room

Singing

Singing may seem like it is hard to differentiate, but it is not.

How do I tier a song down to make it easier? Easy. When teaching, you can break it down with solfege and rhythmic notation. When singing, you can have students sing on “loo” instead of with the words. This is helpful, especially if the song is in another language. (These are all things you can do in your whole group lessons!)

To make songs harder, you can add dynamics or phrasing. Ask students to make up movements to go along with the song. You can do the song as a round, and allow students who are excelling fend for themselves while aiding the other group.

Also read: Blue Skies Jazz  Lesson

 

Centers

Now this is a form of differentiation that you have heard of before.

But good news—you can use this is the music room.

Here are two easy ways to differentiate with centers:

  1. Flashcards: There are lots of centers activities including flashcards—singing the solfege on them, reading rhythms, performing rhythms, etc. You can use two sets of them—or three or four. You could have students play rhythms on one note of an instrument, and to tier up you could play the same rhythm on different notes. (Check out some rhythm flashcards here)
  2. Working with students: When I do centers (and how they advise to do them in professional development meetings), I always have one center that is an activity with me. Sometimes we practice writing rhythms or melodies, identifying notes on the staff, composing rhythms, etc. Sometimes the students really don’t need me, but I station myself there anyway. These are ridiculously easy to differentiate, and allows you to see more easily who understands the concepts.



Easy-peasy, right?

How many are you already doing?

Probably all of them.

Anyway, those are some really easy ways to differentiate. Most of them are already being done, but when you realize that, you can point them out to students and write it into your lesson plans to help emphasize that you are doing those things.

This year, I plan to dive deeper into differentiation (which, of course, also includes better assessment… yuck…), so look subscribe for more posts about differentiation and other music teaching stuff. You can also subscribe to my email list here. You will get two emails a month with updates about my blog, YouTube, and TPT shop. You will also get a FREE music interest survey for signing up!

 

How do you differentiate in your music class? Do you find it easy or difficult? Let me know in the comments!

Happy teaching!



Easy-Peasy Differentiation in the Music Room: Think you can't differentiate because you teach music? Think differentiation is only ok in centers? Think again! Here are some RIDICULOUSLY easy ideas to differentiate in your class-- that you may already be doing! Becca's Music Room



Please follow and like us: