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Instruments of the Orchestra Four Corners

I don’t quite remember when it hit me, but for a long time I have thought that I wanted to do the game 4 Corners with the instruments of the orchestra. I even put it in my lesson plans a few times and took it out.

Why? Because I couldn’t figure out how to make it academic. If the person is just saying “Woodwind” and all the people in the woodwind section go sit out…. it that actually helping anyone?

Then I figured it out. It was kind of like the epiphany that led to treble clef battleship.

The person should call the instrument name, and all of those students go out. That way, you actually have to think about what instrument family it is in.

So we played this and it has been a HUGE hit! I will explain the best way to play, and then also a no-prep way to play in case you are in a pinch.

I have a product in my TPT shop that I used to help my students play– including posters and instrument cards (in color and black and white). You can get it here!

Also read: Write the Room: An active instruments of the orchestra review

Instrument Four Corners: an active game for instruments of the orchestra. My fourth grade and fifth grade elementary music students loved this game-- and it is so easy to set up and explain-- easy enough that a sub could do it. This is great to review instruments of the orchestra or just have some fun! Becca's Music Room

Instruments of the Orchestra Four Corners

  1. Put up a poster in each corner of the room. Each one will have a different instrument family– woodwind, percussion, strings, and brass. (Posters are included in my product!)
  2. Review with the students what instruments are in each of the families.
  3. Have one student stand at the front of the room. They will hold an envelope or bucket with pieces of paper that have pictures of instruments on them.
  4. The person in the front counts (loudly) to ten with their eyes closed.
  5. While they count, all of the other students need to get into one of the corners. THEY MUST BE IN A CORNER BY 10. If they switch or are still in the middle of the room when the count is finished, they are out.
  6. The person in the front pulls out a picture of an instrument and says the name of the instrument.
  7. Everyone in that instrument family sits down. So if they pulled out trombone, they say trombone, and all of the people in the brass section sit down.
  8. This continues until you have a winner, and then that person is the next counter.

It is seriously so. much. fun.

Now, the first time I played it, I had not thought through all of the best things to do. So I present to you the no-material no-prep-at-all version of this:

  • Write the names of the families on the board to correspond with the corners (so the front left corner will match the family written on the board on the front left.
  • Have a student choose an instrument to say instead of pulling a card out of the bucket.

The biggest reason I added the other parts is time. I found that the student calling the instruments just took sooooo long to come up with one. I don’t know if it is because they couldn’t think of the names or couldn’t decide or what. But. I do know that once I added in the bucket with the pictures of instruments, it went so much smoother.

Also, there was less talk about the person in the front cheating because it was more random– they weren’t picking anymore.

Instrument Four Corners: an active game for instruments of the orchestra. My fourth grade and fifth grade elementary music students loved this game-- and it is so easy to set up and explain-- easy enough that a sub could do it. This is great to review instruments of the orchestra or just have some fun! Becca's Music Room

Instruments of the orchestra four corners was a huge hit with my students– especially during testing and the end of the year! It made review so much more fun. Don’t forget to pick up the family posters and instrument cards from my TPT shop! Get them here!

Going to have a sub? Check out my instruments of the orchestra print and go sub plans here!

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

Have you ever tried anything like four corners? Let me know how it went in the comments!

Happy teaching!

Instrument Four Corners: an active game for instruments of the orchestra. My fourth grade and fifth grade elementary music students loved this game-- and it is so easy to set up and explain-- easy enough that a sub could do it. This is great to review instruments of the orchestra or just have some fun! Becca's Music Room
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3-5, Elementary Music, Games, K-2, Lessons

Lesson Ideas for Ickle Ockle

Have you heard of the song Ickle Ockle? It is a really fun folk song… with like 20 different versions of it in cyberspace. I have seen it as Bickle Bockle, with do, without do, different wording…. yeah.

But, no matter how you sing it, it is a really fun folk song and my students really liked it.

I used it with second and third grade to introduce do. If you do it without do, you can use it with even younger students…. It’s really up to you!

Here is the most reliable version that I have found.

In my TPT product, I have slightly different wording, because I went with what was in my textbook series.

However you sing it, it is really fun. And thanks to testing, I have now been able to do about a million different activities with this one song… So, I hope you enjoy the ones down below:

Lesson ideas for Ickle Ockle: a song for ta rest or do. This ocean themed folk song has a really fun singing game-- and many other activities to use with it in your elementary music class! Becca's Music Room

Ickle Ockle Game

First and foremost, we have to talk about the game. Full disclosure, I have not had a chance to play the game (yet!) because I have been in classrooms without enough space… but I have hopes for next week!

To play the game, everyone gets with a partner (except the person in the middle, who I call the shark). They walk with their partner in a circle. Everyone sings. At the end of the song, Everyone has to find a new partner, and whoever is without a partner goes to the middle.

So. Much. Fun.

Flashcard Walk

I use Ickle Ockle to review sol, la, and mi and also introduce do. So we do this activity twice– first for sol, la, and mi, and second to include do.

I put flashcards all over the floor (I use the fish shaped ones from the Ickle Ockle pack on TPT). Students sing and walk to the steady beat. When the song stops, they stop. Whatever fish the are closest to, they sing. Then they go back to singing and walking.

Super fun– and it gets some of the wiggles out!

You can get sol-la-mi flashcards here or sol-mi-la-do flashcards here.

Flashcard Partner Walk

This is very similar to the last one.

Students hold a flashcard. As they sing the song, they walk around the room. When the song stops, they turn to the closest person and sing their flashcard. Then they go back to singing and walking.

Side note: To avoid having anyone crying because they didn’t have a partner, I tell them that if they are really far away from the other students, they can just read their own– but only once. This makes the activity waaaay less stressful.

Also read: Fun and Engaging Activities for Flashcards

Lesson ideas for Ickle Ockle: a song for ta rest or do. This ocean themed folk song has a really fun singing game-- and many other activities to use with it in your elementary music class! Becca's Music Room

Put it in Order

I love doing this as a review!

Write the rhythm or the melody on cards. Have students get into small groups and arrange the cards in the correct order!

(PS– Melody cards that match the music are included in my product!)

Worksheets

Wow, writing that feels like the fun is going away. Activity sheet? Does that sound less taboo?

Anyway, I promise, worksheets can be fun. No matter what people say.

I used three different ones with my students this week. First, we wrote the rhythm to the song under the words. Then we did a coloring sheet, where they had to match the solfege pattern to the notes on the staff (it was really a quiz, but they didn’t know that…), and then we created our own pattern and created a fish habitat with crayons!

Does that seem boring? No.

This is one of the activity sheets we used. Students matched the solfege pattern to the notes on the staff. When they found the right one, they colored it the correct color! This is in my Ickle Ockle TPT product. (Becca’s Music Room)

Coloring

Annnnd…. You could just do a fish themed coloring sheet or have students draw fish scenes. This is extra great if you are in their classrooms one day or if you have a sub.

Pair it with Aquarium

If you have read this post about creative movement with scarves, this post about Bizet scarf routine, this one about Blue Skies (AKA jazz), this one about Irish music, or pretty much any other lesson on this blog, you may have figured out that I looove listening lessons. I think that students have the ability to appreciate all different kinds of music, if we just give them the tools to be able to do so.

So when I was looking for an activity to accompany Ickle Ockle, so course I picked Aquarium from Saint-Saen’s Carnival of the Animals.

Now, there are a million different things that you could do with a listening lesson, but I chose to give them a piece of paper and have them draw what the music sounds like.

Between this activity, the fish coloring in, and the composition, I have all sorts of student work to put in the hallway!

Instruments

And of course, you can play instruments. Steady beat, playing an accompaniment (or the melody!) on xylophones… etc. I like to use my ocean drums and castanets (because they look like clams!).

Also read: Breezes are Blowing

Have you use the song Ickle Ockle in your classroom? What activity did you use? Let us know in the comments!

Happy teaching!

Lesson ideas for Ickle Ockle: a song for ta rest or do. This ocean themed folk song has a really fun singing game-- and many other activities to use with it in your elementary music class! Becca's Music Room
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3-5, Books, Elementary Music, K-2, Lessons

I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello

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

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

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

Seriously, I love it.

And so do the kids.

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

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

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

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

Acting it Out

This is one of my personal favorites.

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

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

Speaking of which….

Show and Tell

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

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

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

And again. Kazoo.

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

Introduction to Instrument Families

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Singing

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

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

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

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

Instrument Playing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy teaching!

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

Irish Music Lesson for St. Patrick’s Day

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

Here in Savannah, we take it very seriously.

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

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

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

Also read: Favorite Activities for Piano and Forte

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

Irish Music Lesson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also read: Monkey Game for Crescendos and Decrescendos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Irish music ideas:

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

Happy teaching!

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

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

Monkey Game for Crescendos and Decrescendos

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

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

No. It’s not always the Monkey Game.

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

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

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

Also read: Extra Beat, Take a Seat

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

 

The Monkey Game

Materials:

Instructions:

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

 

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

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

Also read: Sempre Libera Scarf Routine

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

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

Happy teaching!

 

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

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