Elementary Music

Centers in the Elementary Music Room

Centers are definitely the trend in education right now. There are a ton of benefits to having centers– they can be easily differentiated, you can work with students in smaller groups, which means they get more attention, and hypothetically students should be engaged because there are many different things that they get to do.

That’s all good, but when you teach music, and you have 500 or 600 or 1300 students who you only see for 45 minutes a week, it can be a different story.

Is it still possible to do centers? Yes! I do centers on a regular basis in my elementary music room, and it is always very productive– and I even differentiate.

Not because I am amazing, just because I put in a little bit of effort at the beginning of the year to get centers figured out. Once they are figured out, it is so easy to implement them on a regular basis.

How do you figure out centers? There are a few decisions that need to be made:

  • Number of groups
  • Who will be in each groups
  • Rotating!!!!
  • Setting up boundaries
  • Number of activities
  • What the activities will be

Want some more centers help? You can check out some of my other center blog posts down below!

Want to try centers in elementary music and not sure where to start? This post includes all of the things to think about before starting centers-- so that you can have centers in a meaningful and successful way! Becca's Music Room

Number of Groups

The first thing you want to decide is how many groups there will be. This helps you determine who will be in each groups, how many activities there will be, etc.

This is definitely a personal preference, but I like to have groups as small as possible. I find when there are more than 5 students at a group, it gets chaotic. I always have 6 groups (unless a class is super small, and I will do 5). Most of my classes are sitting around 24ish kids, so that puts 4 in a group. I find this is be a good number of students, but again, personal preference.

Who will be in each group

Now that you have determined a number of groups, you can start putting kids into groups. The most important thing here is that YOU DECIDE ON GROUPS AHEAD OF TIME. Seriously. Deciding in the moment takes way too much time, kids get disappointed or mad that they have to go to that center first or be with that person… it’s not worth it. Take 5 minutes before class starts and decide on your own. That way when you call students into groups, you can do so quickly and they don’t have time to be upset.

You can determine groups however you want, but I highly recommend using centers to differentiate. In order to do that, you need to group students by their performance on some sort of work or quiz or something. You can read (or watch!) all about this in my post But how do I actually differentiate in the music room?

Rotating through Centers

One of the trickiest parts of centers is the rotation.

How do kids know it is time to clean up? How do you know they are ready to switch? Where do they go?

These are all questions you need to know the answer to. Before the kids are in your room.

I have recently started using timers for centers, and I have to say, it has CHANGED my life. I pull up two tabs on Class Dojo (you could also do YouTube videos). One of them I set for 5 minutes, and the other for 1 minute. The 5 minute timer is for the centers. As soon as it goes off, the kids know to clean up their station. I set the 1 minute timer. If they are done cleaning before the cleaning timer goes off, then the class gets a point.

This has seriously made the biggest difference in the world. I don’t have to try to talk over them to be heard, I am not standing around waiting for them to clean up, and they know exactly how long they have.

I used to ring my chimes and say, “1, 2, 3, 4, put everything down, get off the floor, and FREEZE.”, which I still do sometimes, even with the timer.

Once everyone is cleaned up and frozen, I show each group where they are going and have them POINT to it. This way I know they know where to go and no one is moving while I am giving directions. When I say, “5, 6, 7, 8, hurry don’t be late”, they know to go to the next station and start.

So make sure you know which way you want them to rotate. (clock wise, counter-clockwise, etc.)

Sidenote: I do the pointing thing the first time, and usually the second time they will stand and point without me having to say anything about it.

Want to try centers in elementary music and not sure where to start? This post includes all of the things to think about before starting centers-- so that you can have centers in a meaningful and successful way! Becca's Music Room

Setting up Boundaries in Centers

My school is not considered a “good school”. That is, of course, very subjective, but it is still the truth. People who are local are always very impressed when they hear that I do centers with my students…. or they look at me like I am completely crazy.

Getting students to behave in centers can be difficult no matter what population you serve. The magic is to make sure you set up the boundaries very well.

What do I mean by boundaries? Basically the expectation. Where should students be? What are they doing? What are they not doing? We talk about these things every. single. time. Seriously. We talk about the boundaries for a good 5-10 minutes depending on the class.

The conversation looks a little bit like this:

  • I tell them what each station is.
  • Then I say: Just like everyday in music, we are going to follow directions, be respectful, be responsible, and be a participant (These are our music class expectations and we go over them nearly every day, so they are veeeery familiar!). This may look a little bit different in centers.
  • In centers, responsible students stay with their groups– that means you are sitting around the hula hoop– not in it. Do responsible people break things? (No!) Do they throw anything? (No!) Do they wander around the room? (No!) [At this point I will insert anything specific about the items we are using, like not dumping crayons on the floor or whatever] Great! So I will see responsible students sitting next to the hula hoops, whispering to their partners, and taking care of materials. Awesome!
  • Being respectful in centers is all about being kind to people in your group. I’ve already made the groups. You may not be with your best friends in the world, but that’s ok. You don’t have to say anything to them. Just make sure you are not saying anything rude. You are professionals today. Can you say professionals? (Professionals!) That means that being a student is your job, just like my job is to be a teacher. Can I tell my boss that I don’t want to work with someone? (No!) Can I say something rude to [insert the homeroom teacher’s name here] (No!) Great. So If I cannot say it to your teacher, then you should not say it to each other.

Yeah. That seems like a lot when I type it. And yes, we do this pretty much every time. If I have a class that’s rocking it and we have had centers before, then I will leave some of that out. But for the most part, I have very few problems with people messing with over people in centers.

And if they do? I have packets of worksheets on stand by, so if they are yelling or hitting or whatever, they sit out the rest of class and do worksheets.

You can read more about classroom management with centers here.

Number of Activities

Next, you need to figure out how many activities you need. Obviously, every group needs to have something to do, but you may repeat or combine your groups depending on the type of activity.

So if you have six groups, you could have six activities. But will you have time for six activities? My guess is no, unless you have really long classes or students who don’t need any explanation of anything.

I have six groups, but I only have three activities. I have found that three is the most successful amount– we can pretty much always get to three.

So I put out two of the same groups. Then I have half of the class rotate on the left side of the room and half of the class rotate on the right side. Everyone still does everything, but we are able to have smaller groups.

I also run one of the groups, and it combines students from both sides. I’ll pop in a picture of my anchor chart to show how I rotate kids through centers. It’s not as difficult as it sounds.

What will your activities be?

Now, FINALLY comes the fun part! Planning what activities your students will be doing.

I have done tons and tons of centers activities in the past (If you watch any of my lesson videos on YouTube, it will give you quite a few ideas), so here I am just going to write a few of the greatest:

  • Composing or dictating rhythms (You can get beat charts FREE in the free resource library (more on that below) and get rhythm cards free here!)
  • Using bingo chips or mini erasers to put notes on the staff
  • Kaboom! (This game works with any concept, check them all out here)
  • Feed the Monster (for little people! Use it for rhythm, melody or anything that involves flashcards. Also a FREE download!)
  • Matching games (I have matching games for recorder, piano, treble clef, rhythm, instruments of the orchestra, etc in my TPT shop!)

There are a lot more, these are just a few general ones.

If you need to get started, you can check out my FREE resource library. It has lots of resources that can work for centers, like beat charts (in tons of different key signatures!) and rhythm composition cards and more! More resources are added monthly. You can sign up here, and not only will you get access to all of the resources, but you will also get 2 emails per week with useful, practical tips and lessons to take to your classroom!

Want to try centers in elementary music and not sure where to start? This post includes all of the things to think about before starting centers-- so that you can have centers in a meaningful and successful way! Becca's Music Room

Have you used centers in your classroom? What would you add to my list of things to think about? Let us know in the comments!

Happy teaching!

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Elementary Music, K-2, Lessons

Feed the Monster Rhythm Game (for Centers!)

Rhythms centers can be really fun.. or really boring, depending on how you handle them. My kids always love them, because I try to include at least one game. Now, I love to stick to crowd favorites, like Kaboom! (seriously, they are disappointed it we don’t play this one!) or Go Fish (yes, even my fifth graders seem to enjoy this one), but it is nice to switch it up sometimes. What is a good way to switch it up? Well, Feed the Monster generally does the trick.

Feed the Monster is a game that I found on Pinterest. I looked and looked but cannot find the original post that I saw, however, if you type Feed the Monster into the search bar, you can find a ton of differs monster styles. In the post I read, they used it to teach sight words, but obviously, I am not going to do that. I generally use it with rhythms (although we are trying with melody soon…. wish me luck!). It does work best with younger students, and I have had success with students K-2.

Feed the Monster game for elementary music. This game is perfect to get kindergarten, first grade, and second grade students reading rhythms or solfege melodies! It is super fun and perfect for October music lessons, fall music lessons, or Halloween music lessons. Plus, it comes with a FREE download! Becca's Music Room

Feed the Monster Rhythm Game

Materials:

Feed the Monster game for elementary music. This game is perfect to get kindergarten, first grade, and second grade students reading rhythms or solfege melodies! It is super fun and perfect for October music lessons, fall music lessons, or Halloween music lessons. Plus, it comes with a FREE download! Becca's Music Room

Set up Directions

For this game, you will need to set a few things up.

  • Monster: The monster is a brown paper bag or a cereal box. Cut a hole in it to be the mouth. I also like to have the top part open so that you can dump the cards out easily when finished. Add some eyes and hands and so forth to the bag to make it more fun.
  • Cards: You will need rhythm cards small enough to fit into the monster’s mouth. I have Monster rhythm card sets (which just make them extra fun), but if you already have small rhythm cards, they will work just fine. You can also do it with melodies! Here are some Monster sol-mi and sol-mi-la patterns!
Feed the Monster game for elementary music. This game is perfect to get kindergarten, first grade, and second grade students reading rhythms or solfege melodies! It is super fun and perfect for October music lessons, fall music lessons, or Halloween music lessons. Plus, it comes with a FREE download! Becca's Music Room

Directions

  • First off, put students into groups. I find groups of 4-5 usually work pretty well.
  • Each group sits at a station with a Monster bag. Cards can be stacked up or just on the floor. I like to use a hula hoop to contain the chaos.
  • The first person picks up a card and reads it. If they get it right, they feed it to the monster. If it’s wrong, it goes back in the pile.
  • Next person goes next.
  • Keep going until you are out of cards!
Feed the Monster game for elementary music. This game is perfect to get kindergarten, first grade, and second grade students reading rhythms or solfege melodies! It is super fun and perfect for October music lessons, fall music lessons, or Halloween music lessons. Plus, it comes with a FREE download! Becca's Music Room

It really is that simple.

I usually walk around while this is going on and assess whether students are reading the rhythms correctly or not. This allows me to assess their skills without them knowing that they are being tested– which is a win in my book (I even have a whole blog post on assessment without “assessment” in the music room!).

This game works really well in October, but I have done is in all different seasons– the kids do not mind!

What rhythm games work well with your little people? Let us know in the comments!

Happy teaching!

Feed the Monster game for elementary music. This game is perfect to get kindergarten, first grade, and second grade students reading rhythms or solfege melodies! It is super fun and perfect for October music lessons, fall music lessons, or Halloween music lessons. Plus, it comes with a FREE download! Becca's Music Room
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Elementary Music

DIY Music Manipulatives for Centers

I really love music centers. Like REALLY love music centers. Every time that we do them, I am amazed at how the students seem to grow. Even more than that, I am amazed at how much I notice each individual student and their own abilities.

Now, getting started in centers can be difficult (because seriously, what are the kids supposed to DO?!), and you will need a few activities. And they need to be engaging enough that students will WANT to do said activities. Because we all know that bored students are misbehaving students.

These music manipulative DIY will keep students occupied during centers time! They can be adjusted for different musical concepts.

Need some help getting started with centers? You can check out my blog posts below for help!

4 DIY Music Manipulatives that are perfect for centers-- and easy to make! Centers can be difficult to figure out, but they don't have to be! These simple DIY music activities can be used over and over again to help students learn about rhythm and melody. Becca's Music Room

1. Lappacks

Have you ever heard of a lap pack? It is basically a fancy words for “papers stuck in a sheet protector“.

Sounds fancy, right?

Lap packs are actually SUPER useful. I have some that are made all the time with heartbeats on one side and treble clef on the other. You can write on them with expo markers, you can use rhythm manipulative on them, or those tiny erasers to put on the staff… The possibilities are basically endless. You can also put a blank sheet of paper in them so that students can write rhythms or answers or lyrics or whatever they could possibly need to write.

And so, so easy.

Also, you can get a ton of FREE heartbeat charts in the Free Resource Library on my site. It includes all different time signatures! Not a member of the free resource library? You can sign up here! You will get one email each week with a roundup of helpful tips, ideaas, and strategies for teaching music, plus access to all of the free resources in the free resource library.

2. Rhythm Spinners

Rhythm spinners are a little bit of a harder DIY music manipulatives, because they require finding the word spinners. These babies were in Target Dollar Spots at the beginning of the year. Annnnnnd I found very similar ones on Amazon! You can get them here. Hurray!

Anyway.

To make rhythm spinners, you paint over the letters on the word spinners. This took me about 4 coats of cheap acrylic to get it so that I could no longer see the letters. Then you write over the letters with rhythms. I just used a sharpie, because I am not very fancy.

And voila! Students can make rhythms and play them on their instrument. You could do dictation and have them find the rhythm that you used. So many ideas.

This idea is from Katie Wonderly, on Instagram as @mswonderlymakesmusic. She is truly wonderful, and has some really great ideas (including more Dollar Spot DIY music manipulatives), so go follow her! (And yes, I asked her permission before I put this on my blog!)

4 DIY Music Manipulatives that are perfect for centers-- and easy to make! Centers can be difficult to figure out, but they don't have to be! These simple DIY music activities can be used over and over again to help students learn about rhythm and melody. Becca's Music Room

3. Battleship

Battleship is one of my kids’ favorite activities. I pull this out when we first talk about the treble clef, and a few times after. It is always tons of fun.

I have a blog post that goes really in depth into it here, so I’ll keep it short in this one. Basically, you need a paper with two staves. Slide in into a sheet protector. Then staple or glue it into a file folder (that way students can shield their answers).

To read how the kids play, go check out the post here!

4 DIY Music Manipulatives that are perfect for centers-- and easy to make! Centers can be difficult to figure out, but they don't have to be! These simple DIY music activities can be used over and over again to help students learn about rhythm and melody. Becca's Music Room

4. Rhythm Manipulatives

Need more REALLY simple DIY music manipulatives? This rhythm one is so. stinking. easy.

Print out pictures or clipart (you can find tons of free clipart on TPT!). It is best to stick with a theme, so you could do fruits or instruments or whatever. Write the rhythm of the word on the picture. So, for example, “kiwi” would be “titi” (barred eighth notes). Or two eighth notes, depending on how many beats you want.

Then let the kids create compositions with their words!

You can also do this with foam shapes that you can get at Dollar Tree or the Dollar Spot, but I have a hard time finding the ones that I want. Plus, they rip easier than laminated paper.

You can see what I mean with my Christmas Rhythm Manipulatives and Flashcards on TPT.

4 DIY Music Manipulatives that are perfect for centers-- and easy to make! Centers can be difficult to figure out, but they don't have to be! These simple DIY music activities can be used over and over again to help students learn about rhythm and melody. Becca's Music Room

So there you have it– four easy, cheap DIY music maniulatives for centers! Need some help getting started with centers? You can check out my blog posts below for help!

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

Happy teaching!

4 DIY Music Manipulatives that are perfect for centers-- and easy to make! Centers can be difficult to figure out, but they don't have to be! These simple DIY music activities can be used over and over again to help students learn about rhythm and melody. Becca's Music Room
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