Centers

Easy, Low Prep Music Centers Your Kids will Love

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You’re ready to increase engagement with centers, buuuuut…. There’s just so many materials. Manipulatives, rhythm cards, flashcards, bingo chips… where do you start? You start with low prep music centers for elementary music. Low prep music centers are elementary music workstations that are easy to set up, easy to explain, but still practice content and are fun.

When it comes to centers, I like to start with things that are low prep– because who has time to do tons of laminating every week?!. Each time we do music centers, I may add one new item or one new activity, but I don’t add a ton of new things each time. Low prep centers for elementary music will be your best friend. 

Adding just one new activity or item will help you keep the chops down as you increase engagement with elementary music centers. 

If you need more ideas, you can start by downloading The Ultimate Centers Ideas list. It’s completely free and has pages and pages of ideas for activities that you can use with general music centers– plus, it’s organized by topics including rhythm, treble clef, composition, instruments, and more. 

Click here to get instant access free!

Bingo chip composition

First off, bingo chips. These are just small counters that you can probably borrow from a kindergarten teacher, and they are your low prep music centers best friend. 

If you’re working on high and low, or any melodic pattern, have students use the bingo chips to make patterns. They can add them to the staff, or just show the highs and lows. 

Working on treble clef? Have students practice putting notes on the staff. You can notate a song you’re working on, or have letters in a bucket. Draw a letter from the bucket, find that note on the staff. 

Here’s a Valentine’s Day version so you can see what I’m after. Just imagine counters instead of hearts. Or mini erasers! Here’s the Valentine’s version if you want it.

Working on rhythm? Add heartbeat charts (get them free here) and have students put counters to represent the rhythms (one chip for quarter note, two for eighth notes, etc). 

Versatile and easy to prep. 

elementary music centers thanksgiving becca's music room including turkey rhythm sorts, rhythm manipulatives, solfege games, and more
The pumpkin version

If you need bingo chips, you can get them on Amazon here.

Or you can grab these acrylic vase fillers, which are my favorite.

Shape composition

Next up in low prep music centers is shape composing. This is a super fun activity, especially for the beginning of the year or before students are reading music. (I’ve used it for open house too!). 

Cut out different shapes— I usually stick with 3. Assign a body percussion or instrument to each shape. Have students create patterns with the shapes, and then play the patterns on body percussion or on instruments. 

Or have one students create the pattern, and the other students try to figure it out. 

Directions for this center with instruments. I used this for open house!

Flashcard playing

Need to practice rhythms? Put some flashcards down and see how many the students can get through  in the time allotted. Most of us already have flashcards laying around (if not, grab quarter and eighth note ones free here), so spread them out and let them go to town! 

Also works with treble clef notes, solfege, and more. 

I know it sounds simple, but it’s still an important skill students need to practice. 

And they will get super into it.

I also like to have them put the flashcards together to make a really long pattern to play.

Whiteboard drawing

Next up, the ultimate no prep music center: practice reading and writing music with whiteboards! Have students write rhythms or melodies on their boards. 

They can create their own, add instruments, or work with a partner to try to stump each other! 

Don’t have whiteboards? Get some sheet protectors and put paper inside. They work just fine, are cheap, and you can add heartbeat charts or staves inside it for more structure!

Draw pictures

What’s more low prep than paper and pencil? Incorporate art by having students draw pictures!

Here’s some music themed drawing options you can use:

  • Draw a picture of a song you’ve been learning
  • Draw a picture of an instrument 
  • Draw a picture of the type of music you’ve been learning
  • Put a CD player or iPad out and have students draw pictures to a classical piece (if doing iPads, I find it best to use a QR code to have students scan to find the right piece)

Splat!

Splat! Is a fun game (if I do say so myself, as I made it up) that you can do yourself! I use the sets that are in my centers course, but all you really need is rhythm cards. 

  • Spread out rhythm cards. 
  • One student says a rhythm they see
  • The other students race to find it first
  • Winner is the next person to call a card

You can also do this with piece of paper— one person has red and one has blue and they put the paper on the cards. Most cards wins. 

You can use this with any concept, and it’s fun! 

If you want to make it fun, just make it a competition– who can do find the most?

There’s a few ideas of some low prep music centers– what would you add to the list?

Make sure you download the centers list for more ideas!

And if you’re ready to get started (or level up) with centers, you may be interested in the Increasing Engagement with Elementary Music Centers course. In it, you’ll learn:

  • How to increase engagement with centers
  • How to prep and manage materials
  • What to do to prep your students
  • Classroom management for centers

Plus, it comes with over $240 worth of centers activities– that’s more than the price of the course. By a lot. And 26 of them are exclusive to the course and not available anywhere else.

Click here to learn more!

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