3-5, Elementary Music, Lessons

What do I do with Fifth Graders? Lessons and Tips

If you are a brand-new elementary music teacher, you might be thinking—what do I do with fifth graders? Well, even if you are not brand new, you may be thinking– what do i do with fifth graders?

If you haven’t started teaching yet, you may be confused. Let me explain.
We all know that the first year at a school is usually the hardest. On top of that, the oldest students in the school are usually the hardest. For most of us, that is fifth graders.

Why are they so difficult?

Well, the biggest thing is that they may not know you yet. They just met you. They only see you about once a week, and they do not trust you yet. I know that that stinks, but it is the truth. It takes a long time for the kids to get used to you and trust you. And this is even harder for the older students.

There is a saying, “Kids don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”
You may be thinking, Well that’s great, but what do I do NOW? Because I still have to teach them!

That’s what I’m here for.

This post is all about what to do with fifth graders when it comes to lessons. What do you actually teach them? Next week I will be posting again about how to deal with fifth grade behaviors.

Before we get started…..

We have to figure a few things out. The first thing is to figure out what the students already know. You may not be able to do this until the first few weeks of school, but it is so important. You need to know if what students know and what they are used to—singing, instruments, watching movies, doing worksheets… You would be amazed by how varied the student’s musical education can be before you get there.

How do you do that?

First, you want to look at your room. Obviously, if there is not a single instrument, they probably were not playing instruments. Or if the instruments have a one inch thick layer of dust on them, they were probably not playing instruments. If the instruments look well loved, then they may be more used to them.

Second, ASK. Ask the other teachers what they have heard the students doing in the music room. Ask the kids—yes, you can do that! You can give them a super short survey. Ask them what they liked and didn’t like last year, what they like to do, and what they want to do. You can get a FREE music interest survey from my free resource library here. There are a few templates for different grades and thoughts so that you can use whatever you would like to do.

If you have already gotten the password, then you can click the picture below to get there.

FREE Music Interest Survey as part of the new free resource library on Becca's Music Room. There are two versions-- an older student and younger student version. Find out whether your students love instruments or singing or dancing-- and what their favorite things are! Becca's Music Room

Third, try things. Once school has started (I’m writing this in October, so school started a while ago), you can just try some different things. You will find out very very quickly whether or not students are used to doing something.

For example, if you ask students to use scarves to show you high and low (like I talk about in this blog post) while listening to a song and they look at you like you are completely crazy and don’t even know what to do with the scarf, they are probably not used to using scarves or movement.

That doesn’t mean they won’t do it or they won’t love it, it just means it is new.

When you try new things you can also see what the students seem to be liking/not liking when you try something new. They may not love everything, but they may surprise you with what they do like.

Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty: What do you teach?

Also read: Boomwhackers and Science

What do I do with fifth graders? Part 1: Lessons and Tips. Trying to teach music to fifth graders? Don't know what to do? Read this article to find out what tips and tricks to help keep those students engaged! A few ideas and a FREE RESOURCE to help your elementary music class. Becca's Music Room



Use Lots of Instruments

In any music class, the number one thing to keep students engaged is playing instruments. It’s hands on, it’s learning, and students are more likely to behave if they can play them. Seriously, if I tell students we are going to play the instruments today, they will try SO MUCH HARDER.

Your fifth graders may or may not want to sing or read music or listen to classical music, but they want to play instruments.

If you don’t have instruments, see if you can get some. Even if you just get drum sticks, they will go crazy. Seriously, put a drum stick project on Donor’s Choose. You can drum on the floor or on the chairs if you don’t have drums.

Recorders are also a good choice, since they are small and relatively cheap. A lot of schools are able to have students purchase their own recorder. If you go that route, do not let them bring the sparkly pink princess recorders that are $1. They do not sound good. I have these Yamaha ones, and a lot of other blogs I have read also seem to have them.

If you have some instruments, you can do African drumming or Orff or whatever you want really!

If you are new to the general music instrument world, I would suggest using a book or curriculum. Artie Almeida’s Kidstix program is really great, and all you need is drumsticks and coffee cans and tambourines (which are also relatively cheap). Recorder Karate is really popular for recorder, although I have not used it. (We are starting recorders for the first time next week!)



Play Some Games

All children love games, especially fifth graders. There are tons of musical games– the Kodaly curriculum is basically built off of singing games. Here are a few of my favorite singing and non singing games:

  • Extra Beat Take a Seat: This one is sooo much fun! We play it with rhythm sticks, but you can play it with just your hands too. It’s all about counting rhythms, and I like to bring in some rhythm reading as well.
  • Chicken on a Fencepost: I played this for the first time with my fourth graders yesterday, and they had a blast. It was so much fun. I plan to teach it to my fifth graders as well, although I am a little bit concerned about them freaking out about holding heads. Ideas? Let me know in the comments.
  • King of the Mountain: I have not tried this one yet, but it looks like fun. It has to do with rhythm reading, and that’s always good, right?
  • Button You Must Wonder: My students love this song. One person stands in the middle. Everyone else is in a circle, and they have to pass a button (or button like object) around the circle without the person in the middle noticing. At the end, the person in the middle tries to guess who has the button. You can play it with younger students but I think it is better with fifth grade because they have figured out how to be sneaky with it.
  • Freeze Dance: Always a winner. If stopping music mid-phrase kills you, you could try using a signal like a maraca to tell kids when to freeze and when to move.
  • Rhythm Hula Hoops: Break the class up into teams. Have four hula hoops (or three or whatever meter you’d like) out. Say a rhythm and have students figure out how many people to put in the hula hoop (one for a quarter note, two for eight notes, etc). Each student represents a sound. First team with the correct rhythm wins! Note: I like to make the first hula hoop a different color, because I have had issues with students creating the rhythm backwards.
  • Poison Rhythm: This is my go-to. You do a rhythm and students echo it back. One rhythm is poisoned. You can tell them what it is or just have it written on the board. If you do the poisoned rhythm and the students repeat it, then they are out. Last one standing is out!

What do I do with fifth graders? Part 1: Lessons and Tips. Trying to teach music to fifth graders? Don't know what to do? Read this article to find out what tips and tricks to help keep those students engaged! A few ideas and a FREE RESOURCE to help your elementary music class. Becca's Music Room



Get them Moving!

We all know kids need to move. Getting them moving to music is a really great idea. I love to use movement to teach form, but you can use it for high and low, to talk about instruments, etc. Here are some of my favorite movement activities:

  • Parachute: Parachutes are actually decently cheap, and the students love them. I believe mine is 12 feet and it fits really well in my classroom. We did this parachute routine to Star Wars last year and the kids loved it!
  • Scarves: If you have been reading my blog, you probably already knew that one was coming. I loooooove scarves! I have a Bizet scarf routine you can read here, a routine to Sempre Libera here (yes, you can get fifth graders to listen to opera if you put a scarf in their hands), and a post about creative movements with scarves here. I would also highly recommend the book Parachutes and Ribbons and Scarves, Oh My! by Artie Almeida. It is fabulous. There are two routines for the Nutcracker and I use them both pretty much every year.
  • Folk Dances: If your kids are not used to folk dancing, they might be weirded out at first, but I promise they will love it! You can use recorder music or have students sing the songs. My kids think that this one is super cool, because it looks like stepping (sidenote– the teacher in here was totally my music education professor. And no I did not learn this from hime, I just looked up the video). I have not tried Alabama Gal (yet!), but I plan to incorporate it this year.



Make it Easier– Do Some Units

If fifth graders are stressing you out, calm down. Make it easy on yourself. A great way to do that is through units. A unit is basically a bunch of lessons all tied together by something. It can make it easier to find resources because you are looking for something specific. Students will also find this really helpful because they know what to expect, and they will learn everything really well.

You could do units based off of instruments. You could do African drumming for a few months and teach the students African songs and work on rhythms. you could do a recorder or piano unit if you still have those old keyboards in your room (I do, and I totally use them!). You could even do a unit on Orff instruments where you play Orff instruments and you sing and read treble clef notes.

You could also go off of a theme. You could do seasons– teach the students songs about fall and dance to songs about fall and everything. You could do a unit about a certain country. I do this a lot and my students always think it is so cool. We will learn about a certain country and sing their songs and play their instruments.

You could pretty much do a unit about everything.

They May Surprise You

You will be amazed at what can happen when you try things. Just because you think the kids won’t like to to sing or use scarves or whatever, they might. My fifth graders really don’t mind singing– even the boys. If I hadn’t tried to get them to sing, I wouldn’t know that.

If you want to do something and you are not sure whether it will go well or not, just try it. Keep a back up plan in mind, but still just try. They may surprise you. My principal says students rise to the level of expectation you set for them.



 

So there are a few tips! Sorry for the super long post (my word counter currently says I’m at 1857), but I hope it was helpful! If you want to get that FREE MUSIC INTEREST SURVEY we were discussing, sign up for my free resource library! This is exclusive content for my email subscribers. Don’t worry– I will only send you two emails per month, usually talking about the new resource that is available. Sign up here!

What are your favorite activities for fifth graders? Let us know in the comments!

Happy teaching!



What do I do with fifth graders? Part 1: Lessons and Tips. Trying to teach music to fifth graders? Don't know what to do? Read this article to find out what tips and tricks to help keep those students engaged! A few ideas and a FREE RESOURCE to help your elementary music class. Becca's Music Room



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

Free Music Lesson: Bate Bate Chocolate

Do your students speak Spanish? Whether they do or not, they will enjoy Bate Bate Chocolate! I have been using this with my 2-3 grades. I find it perfect for that age (and with students who speak no Spanish) because there are very few words. Out of the few words, the students usually know how to say uno, dos, tres. Chocolate is the same in every language. So you end up with only one line that is a little bit new or different.

I picked this chant because I liked it, but my students ended up loving it too. We used it for a few activities, and I have since thought of even MORE activities that we do not have time to do. Isn’t it always the way? It’s only October and I’m already freaking out about not having enough time to get through everything I want to do.

This is partially because of my super weird schedule and me looking to see how many times I’ll see my kids before the end of the year.

The answer is not very many.

Anyway, I created a TPT resource that goes along with this lesson. It has the words, words and rhythm, and two different worksheets for the students. One of them has heartbeats, and students can fill the rhythm over top (it is just quarter notes and eighth notes, so it is actually a little too easy for second grade), and another one for students to use with their body percussion compositions (more on that if you scroll down!) Check it out here.

And as always, you can do everything without using the resource. But it’s better if you do.

Also read: Vamos a la Mar Orffestration

Free Elementary Music Lesson: Bate Bate Chocolate. This chant teaches ta and titi, body percussion ostinatos, and composition. It is great for your general music class during Cinco de Mayo or Hispanic Heritage month-- or any cold weather day, since it's about hot chocolate! Becca's Music Room

Bate Bate Chocolate

  • Show the students the words to Bate Bate Chocolate and teach it to them by rote.
  • Explain that this is a chant from Mexico that they use when they make hot chocolate—which is a pretty big deal over there.
  • Say the chant a few times, with the students copying your body percussion movements. I like to do three patterns to give them different examples. In the first one, we will change movements every beat. In the second, every two beats. And in the third, every four beat. I will point that out the patterns so that students get it in their heads.
  • Have students create their own body percussion movements patterns. They can use the worksheet included in my TPT resource. They assign each movement a color, and then color the box over that movement that color. So if the decided that clap was blue, then they would color the box over “bate” blue to show that that is a clap.
  • Have students perform their creations.
  • Transfer the compositions to actual percussion. You could have students change the body percussion to instruments. Then you could have the student “direct” the class in playing. So if blue was clap, now it could be triangle. When the student gets to a blue box, all of the triangles play.
  • Have students figure out the rhythms to the chant on the heartbeat worksheet. If you are using this with younger students (or even older students) you could have them point to the hearts as they say the chant.

Free Elementary Music Lesson: Bate Bate Chocolate. This chant teaches ta and titi, body percussion ostinatos, and composition. It is great for your general music class during Cinco de Mayo or Hispanic Heritage month-- or any cold weather day, since it's about hot chocolate! Becca's Music Room

Also, if you are looking for some sort of reward or Christmas themed party or something, a hot chocolate party would be super fun. And if you are, I would suggest this over individual packets.

Also read: It’s Raining and Que Llueva

And don’t forget to check out the Bate Bate Chocolate resources on my TPT here!

So there we go! One chant with five activities. Which one are you the most excited about? Let us know in the comment! Happy Teaching!

 

Free Elementary Music Lesson: Bate Bate Chocolate. This chant teaches ta and titi, body percussion ostinatos, and composition. It is great for your general music class during Cinco de Mayo or Hispanic Heritage month-- or any cold weather day, since it's about hot chocolate! Becca's Music Room

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

Ideas for Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage month is one of my favorite things to teach. Many people have schools with large groups of Hispanic students. I do not. But it is still fun.

If you do not usually do music lessons from different cultures, this Hispanic music is one of the easiest ones to start with. A lot of kids know some Spanish words or have seen Dora the Explorer, so they are used to some Spanish.

And it is super fun.

I do a lot of music from different cultures. And Spanish songs are some of my favorites.

How do you celebrate Hispanic heritage month?

Also read: Incorporating Social Studies in the Elementary Music Class

Ideas for Hispanic Heritage Month in elementary music. Whether you have hispanic students or not, learning spanish songs and dances is so much fun! Here are some of my favorite elementary music lessons for Spanish songs, spanish dances, and rhythm practice. Becca's Music Room.



 

Dancing

There are tons of Hispanic folk dances. Last year we learned the Mexican hat dance (well a variation of it), and it was super fun.

This year, my 2nd and 3rd graders are going to learn Los Machetes. I found it on Pinterest, and here is the link to the YouTube video so you can try it too. And as I was looking for a video of it, I found this one which just happens to be of my college music professor teaching this to his elementary music class. I am not sure how that happened, but it did.

The salsa is always a good one—and actually pretty easy to learn.

 

Songs

There are a ton of Spanish folk songs. You can sing them in English or Spanish (but it’s so much more fun in Spanish!). Here are some songs that my students are learning this year, or learned in the past:

  • Al Citron: This was super fun. Here is a link to a video of the game. I used old tin cans instead of rocks. I found this from Pinterest. (try with grades 3-4)
  • Los Pollitos: This is a super fun song for younger students about chickens. It is fun and it can lead to very interesting discussions (like how Mexican chickens say pio). I learned this song from the podcast Make Moments Matter, which is fabulous, by the way. (Here is a link to a red hen puppet, if you are into that.) And here is a link to the words.
  • Que Llueva: This is basically a Spanish version of “It’s Raining”. That is actually how I am going to teach this to my K and 1—they will learn “It’s Raining”, then we will learn “Que Llueva”. And I will be pulling out the rain sticks! Here is a link to my TPT version of this song that has the solfege, rhythm, Spanish, and English words, and rhythm cards.
  • Vamos a la Mar: I found this song on this website. I am going to do the lesson pretty close to how she wrote it. The only difference is that I wanted larger rhythm cards so that we can do the composition activity together before they do it alone. Because I wanted them larger, I actually created my own rhythm cards (some of the rhythms are different than hers, because I did them independently of those) which you can check out on my Teachers Pay Teacher page here.
  • Las Mananitas: I love this song. I actually sang an arrangement of this in college choir, and I loooove it. So when I found it in one of my textbooks at school, I knew we had to do it. Some people use this as a birthday song, so we are going to learn it and do an informal compare and contrast with our birthday song. Here is a link to a mariachi band singing it.
Ideas for Hispanic Heritage Month in elementary music. Whether you have hispanic students or not, learning spanish songs and dances is so much fun! Here are some of my favorite elementary music lessons for Spanish songs, spanish dances, and rhythm practice. Becca's Music Room.
What the Spanish rhythm cards look like when you don’t have a colored printer… My kids did not seem to care!



Instruments

You can play instruments with the songs or with the dances, or with something totally different. Of course, you can use Orff instruments or ukuleles or whatever you have in your classroom, but try using some Hispanic instruments like these:

  • Maracas: always a good one. We all have maracas.
  • Castanets: I just got a few of these (the cheap plastic ones) and I love them! We used them a few weeks ago and the kids loved them too. A lot of them said they liked them even better than the drums. Here are plastic kid ones and here are some wooden ones.
  • Claves: Claves are super cool. If you only have one or two sets (like I do), you could totally cheat and have most of the students use rhythm sticks, and just let one person use the real claves. They can switch out.
  • Cajones: So I do not have these, but they are on my wish list, because they are so cool.
  • Guiros: Instruments shaped like fish? Yes please!

 

Videos

I like to include some videos so that students can see more of the Hispanic culture. I can’t bring in professional mariachi bands in their costumes to my classroom (if you can, then go for it!). But there are YouTube videos about with professional mariachi bands in their costumes!

Here are some videos that are fun to show the students.

I would also suggest showing the students some pictures of Mexico, Costa Rica, Spain, Venezuela, etc. You can just google (ahead of time so you know what will pop up!) “pictures of Mexico”. It really helps when the students can see these places, so they know they are actual places. Without the pictures, you may as well be talking about Middle Earth for all they know.

And please, please talk about places other than Mexico. I love Mexico– I used to live there– but let the students know that hispanic heritage means everywhere that speaks Spanish, not just Mexico.



Ideas for Hispanic Heritage Month in elementary music. Whether you have hispanic students or not, learning spanish songs and dances is so much fun! Here are some of my favorite elementary music lessons for Spanish songs, spanish dances, and rhythm practice. Becca's Music Room.

And of course, you can use my Ocean Animals Rhythm Cards in Spanish and English to practice rhythms, composition, and for centers or my Que Llueva lesson to practice beat v rhythm!

And I have a YouTube channel now! Check it out here!

How do you celebrate Hispanic heritage month? Do you use songs and dances from other countries? Let us know in the comments!

Happy teaching!



Ideas for Hispanic Heritage Month in elementary music. Whether you have hispanic students or not, learning spanish songs and dances is so much fun! Here are some of my favorite elementary music lessons for Spanish songs, spanish dances, and rhythm practice. Becca's Music Room.



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3-5, Elementary Music, Lessons

DIY Music Manipulative: Battleship

Funny story: Last year, I was working really hard to get my students to learn the notes of the treble clef. Towards the beginning of this adventure, I gave them all staves to look at, and bingo chips. I’d say, “Put a chip on line one. Put one on space four.” And on and on. In the middle of one of these, I thought that it sounded similar to the game battleship.

And I actually gasped and said, “We should play battleship!”

And all of my poor, board-game-deprived fourth graders looked at me like I had totally lost my mind.

Which is ok, by the way. If they think you are a little crazy, they are less likely to do something ridiculous in your room.

And so the brain-storming began.

Little did I know that other people had done this too… but I’m going to pretend I made it up. Because I did arrive at it independently, I promise.

Anyway, even though about two kids in each class had played battleship before, it was a lot of fun. It really helped them to learn the staff.

We also played it in centers, but if you do this, I suggest playing it all together first, so that you can explain to students what they are doing.

I also used this for assessment—I just walked around and watched them play. One person will say, “Do you have a battleship on A?” and the other will say yes or no, and you can see if they mark it on the right line/space.

I will also put the rules for how to play at the bottom, so that you can check it out!

If you need some help with using centers with crazy classes… check this post out.

 

DIY Music Manipulative: Battleship. This board game based teaching tool is great for upper elementary or middle school students who are learning about the treble clef. It can be adjusted for different lessons. My upper elementary music classes loved it! And it is super CHEAP. Becca's Music Room.

Musical Battleship

Materials:

 

Procedure:

  • Print out two treble clefs on the same sheet of paper. I downloaded this one from Teachers Pay Teachers (for free!). Then I printed two out, cut them, taped them to a clean sheet of paper, and copied them. I know that sounds like a lot, but it wasn’t! I added the words “yours” and “theirs” so that we understood the game a bit better.
  • Stuff treble clefs into sheet protectors (you could also laminate, but this was quicker, and you can put other things inside them if you wanted!).
  • Staple sheet protectors into the file folders. I just put two staples in the top. I tried to make it so that I can put other things inside of them.
  • That’s it!

Also read: Free 3-5 Music Lesson: Extra Beat, Take a Seat

DIY Music Manipulative: Battleship. This board game based teaching tool is great for upper elementary or middle school students who are learning about the treble clef. It can be adjusted for different lessons. My upper elementary music classes loved it! And it is super CHEAP. Becca's Music Room.

Rules of the Game:

  • Students pair up. Each person gets a battleship game. We used expo markers and drew on them, but you could also put bingo chips on the lines/spaces.
  • Each students makes three dots for on the staff marked “yours”. These are their battleships.
  • Students take turns asking where the other student’s battleships are. It should sound like this:
  • “Is there one on B?” (You could also do second line, third space, etc. depending on what you are teaching them.)
  • “Hit” if they hit and “miss” if they miss it.
  • The students mark their guesses. If they guess correctly, on the staff marked “theirs”, they put a dot. That way they know there is a battleship there. If they miss, they put an x. Make sure they do this, otherwise they will ask the same place ten times.

That’s it! I played this with 3-5 grades. At first they really did not get it, but they slowly started to comprehend as time went on. And they LOVED it!

Also read: Lesson Ideas: Creative Movement with Scarves

What are your favorite DIY music manipulatives? Let us know in the comments!

Happy teaching!

DIY Music Manipulative: Battleship. This board game based teaching tool is great for upper elementary or middle school students who are learning about the treble clef. It can be adjusted for different lessons. My upper elementary music classes loved it! And it is super CHEAP. Becca's Music Room.

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

Calming Down Activities for Music Class

As music teachers, we spend a great deal of time trying to get kids; energy up—it requires energy to sing, dance, use scarves and parachutes, etc. We do tons of movement activities and games that teach but also are a lot of fun. And then we send the little people back to their teachers without calming down…

Halfway through the year, I realized I was sending these kids back wired. I thought that getting the wiggles out by dancing was enough, but it isn’t. Kids do not yet know when or how to calm themselves down—they need help calming down.

Since then, I have done a much better job at calming kids down. I find that they act better in line, and hopefully beyond that.

So here are a few super easy end of class calming down activities to help your kids.

I also sometimes use them throughout class if they are particularly wild that day.

These are not anything monumental, but they work. They are all no prep and can be used for any amount of time.

Calming Down Activities for the Music Room. Some ideas for musical ways to get students to wind down before sending them out again. Becca's Music Room.



SQUILT

This is a great concept. You can check out the website here. SQUILT stands for super quiet uninterrupted listening time. The basic premise is that students learn how to listen to music.

And that’s it.

Just listen.

Now, we all know that students cannot just sit and listen. They need something to do. There are lots of different ways to do SQUILT (I love these worksheets for when we do this as a large part of class).

My favorite way is to have students close their eyes and “put the music in their bodies”. I tell them they can move their head, hands, or bodies, but they cannot get up and they have to close their eyes. They actually get really into it. It’s awesome. I have seen a huge difference in the kids’ ability to move to the music and describe it since I started incorporating this.

Another way is to have them show you movements. With my older kids, I will play a song and have them close their eyes and show me the hand signs for the letters of the form. You could have students put their hands up for high parts and down for low parts. Have them pretend to play an instrument they hear. There are all sorts of super easy movements that can keep kids engaged.

Bonus: You can use this as assessment!

Also read: Lesson Ideas: Creative Movement with Scarves

 

Videos

Now, videos are always a great way to end a lesson and calm children down. You can find videos of everything on YouTube.

One easy thing to do is to show an orchestra playing a song that you learned. So if you did a movement routine like this Bizet scarf routine, you could show people playing the music. This helps kids get a feel for the song.

You could do a video that has to do with the country a song is from, or a composer.

For time fillers or for fun, I like to use some of Disney’s Silly Symphonies. They are cartoons set to classical music and they are hilarious—and have classical music! I always ask the students to notice how the music and the cartoons line up.

Calming Down Activities for the Music Room. Some ideas for musical ways to get students to wind down before sending them out again. Becca's Music Room.



Books

Books are a great way to get students to calm down. You can find a book that goes along with any of your songs or concepts.

There are also a ton of great music books. Berlioz the Bear, I Know a Shy Fellow who Swollowed a Cello, and Orchestranimals are some of my favorites! You can click on the pictures below to see more about them on Amazon.

Sing Alongs

Thre are a few ways to do sing alongs.

First, you can teach a song (or do a song they learned a while ago) and sing it while you play a background instrument (I really want this ukulele!). Second graders especially love songs that build on themselves—we have done There was an Old Lady who Swollowed a Fly and the Irish song Rattlin’ Bog (they thought this was wonderful!) and they were all about it.

You can also teach a song and put up a YouTube video with the lyrics on the screen.

And…. You can also use Disney sing along songs. I reserve these for right before a break or when I am trying to reward my students. I just play Disney songs on YouTube and they go for it.

Also read: Free K-2 Music Lesson: Animal Form



Deep Breaths

This is a super quick and easy calming activity. if I run out of time for a calming activity, I will at least do this.

I have students move their arms up and breathe through their nose, and then out and breathe through their mouth.

I have actually had kids request this.

Dum Dum Dah Dah

This is a really fun song that I often use when we are in line waiting for a teacher. You can check it out on YouTube. Essentially you sing dum dum dah dah and do an action, and the student copy you. It’s like music Simon Says.



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

So those are some of my favorite calming activities. What do you do to calm students down? Let us know in the comments!

Happy teaching!



Calming Down Activities for the Music Room. Some ideas for musical ways to get students to wind down before sending them out again. Becca's Music Room.



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

Free Music Lesson: Blue Skies Jazz Lesson

As you may know (or you read in my post about Jazz lessons here), April is Jazz month! I actually just finished a unit on jazz (yes, my planning should have been better), but this allows me to share some of my jazz lessons with you. This one is one of my favorites from the year, based on the song Blue Skies.

I used this with kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade. This lesson uses the song Blue Skies to incorporate singing, movement, instruments, and improvisation.

And yes, I used scarves.

Because if you cannot tell from this post or this post… or this post…. I LOVE scarves.

They are fun, they integrate movements, and you can use them as incentives. What could be better?

Now, this was actually two lessons for my students, but I will put it all here and you can make it one or two (or three if you want). Free Music Lesson: Blue Skies Jazz Lesson. Jazz lesson including singing, dancing, improvising, scarves, and instruments! Becca's Music Room.

Blue Skies Jazz Lesson

Focus: I can sing, move, and improvise to jazz music. Materials: You can click on these affiliated links to see them in Amazon.

Procedure:

  • Tell the students that we are going to learn a new style of music, called jazz music. Jazz music started in the United States when people from different cultures mixed their music together.
  • Listen to Blue Skies. You can do steady beat motions (snapping to the back beat is great for this), or have students close their eyes and “move how the music sounds” (I talk more in detail about this in this post).
  • Ask the students: If we have Blue Skies, what do you think that means? Are we happy or sad?
  • Teach them the chorus for Blue Skies by rote. While doing this, have the students move their hands up when your voices go up and down when it goes down.
  • Practice the chorus with the recording.
  • Listen to the song again, this time doing steady beat motions (patting shoulders, marching in place, swaying, etc.) until the chorus. At the chorus, stop and move hands up and down to trace the melody (my students like to pretend they are holding a paintbrush and we are painting the melody).
  • Do this activity again, but use scarves this time—because scarves make everything better!

Free Music Lesson: Blue Skies Jazz Lesson. Jazz lesson including singing, dancing, improvising, scarves, and instruments! Becca's Music Room.

  • Have students get a handheld percussion item, like tambourines (we just got these from Donor’s Choose and they are awesome!).
  • Have students keep the beat on their instrument on the verses and move their “paintbrush” up and down on the chorus. You could also have them move their tambourines up and down for a fun effect.
  • About halfway through, stop the music and talk about improvisation. Tell them this is something that happens in jazz a lot, where we make up our own music. Does this mean we are just as loud as possible? No. This means we try to think about what will sound cool and do that.
  • Play the song and allow students to improvise to the song. Walk around the room and listen and encourage those who do not need a little extra support.
  • Closing: Ask students what words they would use to describe the song. Was it fast or slow? Was it loud or soft? Legato or staccato? What kind of instruments do you hear? See what they come up with.

So that is my Blue Skies jazz lesson! I broke it into two by stopping after the scarves on the first day. On the second day, we reviewed the chorus, danced to the song, and then added in the instruments.

The kids loved it. So much so, that I may try it with some of my older students too. I am playing around with a parachute routine for it… So make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss anything! You can also click here to view a lot of lesson ideas on my Pinterest page.

Happy Jazz month!

Free Music Lesson: Blue Skies Jazz Lesson. Jazz lesson including singing, dancing, improvising, scarves, and instruments! Becca's Music Room.

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

Music Lesson Ideas: Jazz

If you cannot tell from other posts, I love to teach students about different kinds of music. I think that music teachers have a unique job in that we can show the students the similarities and differences between different cultures. Music is a great way to integrate different cultures. I spent some time teaching my students about jazz this year, and am sharing some of those lessons—along with some other ideas—with you.

If you want to incorporate different kinds of music, jazz is a good starting place. It is different enough from what most students listen to that it is new, but close enough to popular music that they don’t think it is totally weird.

Here are just a few ideas for how to incorporate jazz music into your music class!

PS—These are great for Black History Month, but you should know that April is Jazz month! And of course, you can just do it anytime.

And if you want to incorporate other styles, here are some ideas for opera!

Music Lesson Ideas: Jazz. Free music lessons to help teach jazz in elementary music. Great for Black History Month or Jazz month. Becca's Music Room.



Backbeat

Jazz is all about the back beat. Practice keeping the steady backbeat first by using movements, then with instruments. I found that tambourines provide a similar sound to the cymbal on the drum set.

By the way– I just got these tambourines in my classroom (from Donor’s Choose!). They are super cute– they are the ones in the pictures above.

Improvising

There are a few ways to do this.

With younger students, I used the song “Blue Skies”. They kept the backbeat with the tambourines. About half way through, we talked about improvising, and I allowed them to try it. We talked about trying to make it sound cool instead of just making tons of noise.

With older students, you could start there, and then go further. On xylophones, you can do question and answer improvising—you improvise for eight beats with the music, then they improvise for 8 beats. Don’t forget to make the xylophones pentatonic.

You can also practice scatting! Have students listen to a song that has scatting in it. Talk about what scatting is. Decide on a syllable and note, and have students come up with their own rhythms. (For example, you can have students use the syllable “do” on middle C. This way they only have to come up with the rhythms.) Once they have that down, you can open it up to different syllables. (Don’t forget to model for them.)

Also read: Free K-2 Music Lesson: Five Little Monkeys (with Math and Reading!)



Instrument study

Jazz songs are great for instruments, because the instruments often take turns improvising! Talk about the types of instruments that you hear in jazz music, and show them pictures (if you can bring some in, even better!). Show them how to play the instruments.

While listening to the music, have the students pretend to play each of the instruments they hear.

Bonus: for an assessment, you could have students hold up cards that say what each of the instruments are.

 

Scarf movements with melody

I did this with the Blue Skies song too. Teach the students the chorus, and have them move their scarves up when the melody does up and down when the melody goes down.

For the verses, you can have them follow you with movements or make up their own!

Read more above listening lessons with scarves here and get YOUR scarves here!

 

Music Lesson Ideas: Jazz. Free music lessons to help teach jazz in elementary music. Great for Black History Month or Jazz month. Becca's Music Room.



A Train

This song is about directions to get to Harlem. Have the students listen to the song, and tell what directions are said (take the A train). Have students come up with their own directions on how to get to Harlem, and draw a map that shows it. The more ridiculous, the more fun! My favorite one said that we had to go over the Great Wall of China.

 

What a Wonderful World

Talk to students about Louis Armstrong, and how he was a really important jazz composer. Tell them a little bit about his life. Have them listen to the song What a Wonderful World. Have students make up actions for the song—you could have one group make up actions for the first verse, another group for the second, so on and so forth.

Ask students what you think a wonderful world would look like. Have them draw a picture and write a few sentences about their own wonderful world.

Also read: Phrases for Classroom Management in the Music Room

Books about Jazz

Books are always a really great way to teach about music– and include reading lessons as well.

Miles the Crocodile is a really cute book about jazz. Here are two books about jazz you can read to the kids. Click on the pictures to see them.

So there are some ideas for Jazz music! How do you incorporate jazz music? And how what styles of music do you like to incorporate?

Happy Teaching!



Music Lesson Ideas: Jazz. Free music lessons to help teach jazz in elementary music. Great for Black History Month or Jazz month. Becca's Music Room.



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3-5, Elementary Music, Lessons

Free 3-5 Music Lesson: Extra Beat, Take a Seat

This is one of my favorite games! I learned it from my mentor during student teaching. I am not sure where she got it from. I haven’t seen it in any books or on the internet. If you know where Extra Beat Take a Seat comes from, feel free to let me know so I can give credit where credit is due!

I have also used it during a long term substitute job, and the first week of school during my first year.

It is easy to figure it out, musical, and fun.

It is also good if you need to travel to classrooms. I have used it many times for that. Just do it with hands instead of rhythm sticks.

Also read: Free 3-5 Music Lesson: Boomwhackers and Science

Free 3-5 Music Lesson: Extra Beat Take a Seat. A really fun rhythm game for upper elementary. Can be played with rhythm sticks, drums, or no materials at all! Becca's Music Room



Extra Beat, Take a Seat

Focus:

I can count rhythm patterns.

Materials:

Also read: Phrases for Classroom Management in the Music Room

Free 3-5 Music Lesson: Extra Beat Take a Seat. A really fun rhythm game for upper elementary. Can be played with rhythm sticks, drums, or no materials at all! Becca's Music Room



Procedure:

  • Have students sit on a circle on the floor.
  • Start by having students play a short rhythm on repeat. I like to use quarter note, quarter note, half note. I play the first two with rhythm sticks on the floor, and the last note tap together. This, by the ways, is the “We Will Rock You” rhythm, so get ready to hear someone sing that.
  • Once they have the rhythm down, tell them to put their sticks down and listen. Tell them you are going to play the rhythm three times and three times only. And then do it. Count out loud so that they can hear what you mean.
  • Have them play it with you, three times and three times only. Someone will keep going—use that as an example.

Also read: Free K-2 Music Lesson: Sempre Libera Scarf Routine

Free 3-5 Music Lesson: Extra Beat Take a Seat. A really fun rhythm game for upper elementary. Can be played with rhythm sticks, drums, or no materials at all! Becca's Music Room
Here are the rhythms in notation. D for playing on the floor, and u for playing sticks together.



  • Tell them that you are going to play a game. They have to play the rhythm first three times and three times only. If they make an extra beat, they have to take a seat (sit in the middle of the circle). Then the class will try it again. Once the whole class (or whoever is left!) gets it right, then the round is over and everyone can rejoin the circle.
  • Once students get three times down, the round is over. The next time everyone will play the rhythm five times. Keep moving up by two each time. I usually go to eleven, and then find a new rhythm. You can do that or choose something else.
  • Once they get to whatever your magic number is, get a new rhythm.
  • My second rhythm is quarter note, quarter note, two eighth notes, quarter note. Play the rhythms as down-down-up-up-up. Again, if you make an extra beat, then you take a seat.
  • The third rhythm that I use is eighth notes, eighth notes, quarter note, quarter note, quarter note. this one goes down-down-up-up-down-up-down

A few tips:

Use a djembe to play the rhythms, because students can hear it over their sticks. This will help them keep the beat study.

You can play this without the sticks—just have students tap their legs and clap. This makes it great for the classroom.

You can add in some simple math practice by asking questions like, “If I have three notes and I play it three times, how many notes do I play total?”

Also read: Music Lesson Ideas: Opera Stories

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!

So there you go! It’s not too difficult, but it is very fun! What is your favorite rhythm game? Let us know in the comments!

Free 3-5 Music Lesson: Extra Beat Take a Seat. A really fun rhythm game for upper elementary. Can be played with rhythm sticks, drums, or no materials at all! Becca's Music Room



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3-5, Elementary Music, Lessons

Free 3-5 Music Lesson: Boomwhackers and Science

Boomwhackers. I love Boomwhackers. I love to use them for everything, really. Rhythms, chords, etc.

This is a super simple, mini science lesson that I like to use with Boomwhackers.

In Georgia at least, they talk about the science of sound in 1st grade and 4th grade. I have used parts of this with all of my grades to help reinforce some science. This lesson is better suited for older students though.

Free 3-5 Music Lesson: Boomwhackers and Science. Great lesson for third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Students read rhythms, talk about high and low sounds, and learn how size affects sound. Becca's Music Room.



Boomwhackers and Science

Materials:

Boomwhackers in a Pentatonic scale (click here to check them out)

Hula hoops

Rhythm cards

Baton (optional)

Free 3-5 Music Lesson: Boomwhackers and Science. Great lesson for third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Students read rhythms, talk about high and low sounds, and learn how size affects sound. Becca's Music Room.



Procedures:

  • Start by introducing the Boomwhackers, and going over the rules.
  • Show them two Boomwhackers that are the same note but different octaves. I like to use C because I have them in three octaves, so I can use my really big one and really small one.
  • Repeat after me: Small is high, big is low, that is science you should know!
  • Say that a few times and then ask which one of the boomwhackers is going to be higher just by looking at it. I like to have them point either right or left so that I can see what they think. Then play them so the kids can hear if they are correct.

Also read: Phrases for Classroom Management in the Music Room



  • Pass out the Boomwhackers.
  • Have the students get into groups, one with each of the Boomwhackers and have them arrange themselves lowest to highest (this works better if your kids haven’t figured out that the letters are on the Boomwhackers. And yes, mine usually don’t notice.) Then have them play a rhythm in that order so that you can hear it going up the scale.
  • Have students sit with all their colored Boomwhackers at a hula hoop. Put a rhythm (I just use my normal rhythm cards) inside of the hula hoop. Give them thirty seconds to practice the rhythm (I always walk around and double check that they are all playing them correct).
  • Do whatever your attention-getting system is. I use a cow bell because it is louder than thirty Boomwhackers.
  • You are the conductor. Walk to each of the groups and have them play their rhythm on repeat. Bring in each of the other groups until everyone is playing. I like to add in crescendos and decrescendos after everyone is playing.
  • After everyone has come in, go through and stop each of the groups.
  • Assessment time: Have students take a good look at the Boomwhacker they have. After rotating to a new instrument, have them hold it above their head if it is higher than the old one or close to the group if it is lower—just by sight.
  • Bonus: Have a student “conduct” the Boomwhacker choir!
  • Extension: Show them two other similar instruments and have them guess which one is higher. I like to bring in my violin and cello, but it could work with a guitar and an ukulele or a flute and a piccolo, or whatever you have available.

Also read: Music Lesson Ideas: Opera



Free 3-5 Music Lesson: Boomwhackers and Science. Great lesson for third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Students read rhythms, talk about high and low sounds, and learn how size affects sound. Becca's Music Room.
This is a fourth grade playing Boomwhackers along with In the Hall of the Mountain King. Video from YouTube.

So there you go! It’s not too hard, but it does really help solidify their understanding of how size relates to sound. You can also show them pictures of the whole string family, or a close up of strings on a guitar or ukulele or violin and show them how even the thickness of the strings affects how high or low they are.

If you don’t have and Boomwhackers, get them! Click on the picture below.

Also read: Free Music Lesson: Bizet Scarf Routine

Do you talk about science in music? What is your favorite way to do that? Let us know in the comments!

 



Free 3-5 Music Lesson: Boomwhackers and Science. Great lesson for third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Students read rhythms, talk about high and low sounds, and learn how size affects sound. Becca's Music Room.

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

Music Lesson Ideas: Opera

This is a round-up of a bunch of lessons and resources all about teaching opera!

I love teaching kids about different styles of music, and opera is one of my favorites! It is a great way to incorporate geography, history, and culture into your lessons, because you can talk about German, Italy, France, etc. A lot of countries have opera but those are the three big ones.

I know a lot of you are thinking, “There is no way my kids will ever like opera!”

But it is really all about how you present it.

I recommend starting teaching the kids about different styles of music from kindergarten on up. When you introduce something new, approach it as, “This may be different than what you are used to, and that’s ok. We are going to be smart musicians and learn about it, even if it is not what we are used to.” Then talk about being respectful.

It works. I teach in an inner city, urban school where I can assure you, none of my kids are listening to classical music at home. But after an opera unit, we had this conversation:

“Did you know, that some people think that opera is boring?” –Me

“WHAT?! But opera is so fun!”-A bunch of first graders staring at me like I told them some people don’t like puppies.

And now they seriously ask if we are going to listen to opera.

So, here are some things that we did, along with some things we did not, but I wish we had.

Music Lesson Ideas: Opera. Becca's Music Room. Great ideas and resources for ideas to teach kids about opera or any style of music! including scarves, writing across the curriculum ideas, videos, movement, etc. Great for any elementary music class.



Scarves!

If you have read my blog, you know that scarves are my favorite material in the music room. I love them. And with opera, it was so much fun.

We used creative movement with scarves (check out the full lesson here) to learn about using movement to show how the music sounds. We talked about using the scarves to show fast and slow passages, as well as high and low. They loved it. I loved it.

We also did two scarf routines to opera pieces. One is to Bizet’s Les Toreadores No. 1 (check out the full lesson here), and the other was to Sempre Libera from La Traviata (check it out here).

You can listen to and purchase each of those songs here: Sempre Libera and Les Toreadores No. 1.

And get your scarves here! You need them!

 PS– Parachutes are super fun too!



Coloring sheets and Drawing

Coloring is always a good way to teach kids to like different styles of music.

We used a theater style coloring sheet to talk about the plot of The Magic Flute (you can check out the lesson here. It also has the link to the coloring sheet, which is a free download). We broke it down into three really simple things that they could draw.

Another favorite (which works with any kind of music) is to have students listen to a song and draw a picture of that is makes them think of. I have used this activity with K-5 (it is especially great for subs!). You just play the piece a few times, and have them draw whatever comes to mind. I usually do this with blank paper, but there are templates on TPT like this one.

You can also have them write a few sentences about it to incorporate writing across the curriculum. Win win!

There are also some coloring sheets on TPT of operas that you can get.

Also read: Really Specific Classroom Management Systems for the Music Room



Opera Activity Books

I have a few of these opera activity books. They were at the school when I got here, but they are available on Amazon. They are awesome. They are full of information and games. They talk about the composers and the music. There are mini-skits that students can act out as well as word searches and coloring pages. I definitely recommend them (they are also pretty cheap, which also helps).

Click on the picture to view in the Amazon browser:




Make Your Own Opera

Have students make their own opera in groups. Give them a topic and have them write the story. So they don’t feel weird singing their own opera, you could have them include YouTube videos of songs in it.

For example, if they are doing Cinderella, then they could have “Let it Go” on the way to the ball, or something to that effect. You don’t even have to listen to it, just have them say what it is.

This is another example of writing across the curriculum, and really great if you have technology. They could do the whole story on power point with the videos in it.

Also read: Tips for Keeping on Top of Lesson Planning



Act it Out

Have students act out key points from operas. So that no one has to sing Queen of the Night, you could play the arias, and have the students lip sync to it. You could do this as a whole class or in groups. Each group could have a scene.

One of my favorite ways to do this (especially with little kids) is to be the narrator. This way, I tell the students where to go and what to do. For example, I may say “The three ladies walk away. Then Prince Tamino wakes up and sees Papageno and thanks him for saving his life.” The students will act out these actions. It also means that I can add in comprehension questions throughout.

Also Read: Best Tools for Staying Organized as a Teacher

Music Lesson Ideas: Opera. Becca's Music Room. Great ideas and resources for ideas to teach kids about opera or any style of music! including scarves, writing across the curriculum ideas, videos, movement, etc. Great for any elementary music class.

Videos

Now, of course, the best way to teach about an opera is to watch one. This said, however, my kindergarteners are not going to sit through an opera.

You can watch clips from operas. I did this a lot in our opera unit. I would have the students watch an aria, and then I would tell them what was going on in the scene. This was a good way to have them watch opera without having to sit through everything.

We also watched this episode of Arthur, which is all about Carmen. It even uses real music from Carmen in the video (with original words and with different words).


Additional Opera Resources

Here are some other resources in case you want to learn more:

  • Musical Explorers Curriculum This is a curriculum in NYC and Savannah, Georgia where students learn about styles of music and then go to concerts. Even if you don’t live in these places, you can get the curriculum online for free.
  • Minnesota Opera has a bunch of ideas, although I would only use them for my older students.
  • Hansel and Gretel Learning about Opera this is an activity online where students can make their own opera.

How do you teach opera? Have you done any of these? Let us know in the comments!

 

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