Elementary Music, K-2, Lessons

Favorite Activities for Piano and Forte

Teaching piano and forte is really fun.

I know that may seem like a weird comment, but it is true. I have a lot of fun teaching piano and forte. I think this is because there are just so many different things that you can do with it– and it is so different from teaching rhythm and melody and styles of music.

This post has a few of my favorite activities for teaching piano and forte. It is not nearly everything that can be used for piano and forte, but it is a couple things that my students have enjoyed.

And make sure you read to the bottom, because I saved the best for last.

Also read: Creative Movement with Scarves

 

Favorite Activities for Piano and Forte. A compilation of songs, games, listening and moving activities for teaching piano and forte to your elementary music students! Becca's Music Room.

Songs with Animals

The first thing that I do with my students is relate piano and forte to animals. I ask them to come up with ideas of what is loud and what is soft. This year, we did a series of lessons based off of mice and bears. This was an easy segway into piano and forte, because we were able to talk about how loud they were. (Are bears loud or soft?)

You could use something else, of course, like lions and bunnies or whatever.

For these lessons, we did Hickory Dickory Dock (FREE on TPT), Mouse Mousie, Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See, annnnnnd…..

Grizzly Bear

No list of piano and forte activities could be complete without Grizzly Bear on it.

Grizzly Bear is a super fun song that has dynamic changes in it, plus there are at least three different games that go with it. You can read all about it in this post.

You can also get a PowerPoint for FREE in my resource library. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do that here. I only send out one email every other week, and I add new free resources to the library once a month (and sometimes more, because I can’t help myself!). If you have already signed up, then you can click the tab at the top that says “free resource library” and enter in the password that was emailed to you.

Responding to a Drum

Is that really the best title to describe this activity, Becca? I guess so.

This is one of my favorite simple warm ups. Seriously. I use it the first week of school and for piano and forte and for any other day the kids just need to move. I play my djembe (I have this one and LOVE it!) piano, and students tip toe. Then I play forte and they jump or stomp. With the younger kids, I play piano for 4, 8, or 16 beats, then forte for 4 or 8 beats. If your students are doing a good job, then you can also change the tempo on them for an extra challenge.

With older students, I use this to get them thinking about groups of rhythms (often in preparation for the game Extra Beat, Take a Seat). I play the downbeat forte, and then play seven beats piano. After a few times, they can anticipate the downbeat.

Then we make it even more fun– we do statues. I still play the downbeat forte followed by seven piano beats, but when it is forte, the students strike a pose. They hold that statue until the next forte beat, when they switch to the next one.

Closet Key (or Lucy Locket)

Closet Key is a fun game for piano and forte. It is a song (check it out here). After learning the song, students sit in a circle. One person closes their eyes. While their eyes are closed, the “key” (or whatever object you have) gets hidden (I prefer to have it so that it is hidden in the circle, but you could have them hide it in the room.

Then the students sing while the person who had their eyes closed moves around. The students sing louder when they are close to it, and softer when they are far away. It’s like hot and cold with your voice.

I have also heard of people doing the same thing with the game Lucy Locket, so I included that in the heading. I personally do not play my game that way, but you certainly could. Check out how I play here.

Playing instruments

Of course we are going to play instruments! I use these rhythm cards for piano and forte. Each one has either a bear or a mouse on them. If it has a bear, then the students play the rhythm forte. If it has a mouse, then they play the rhythm piano.

They also have an introduction to piano and forte. You can get them here.

Favorite Activities for Piano and Forte. A compilation of songs, games, listening and moving activities for teaching piano and forte to your elementary music students! Becca's Music Room.

Student “Conductor”

This can go along with singing or playing instruments.

For the little people: Make a sign with “piano” and “forte” (I use the ones that are included in the Piano and Forte Rhythm Cards set). Have the students sing and hold up the cards. While they are singing, switch the cards so that the students have to change dynamic. You can change them at any time. Then have a student come to the front and change the cards.

For older students: They can conduct. Hand them a baton (or a pencil) and have them conduct while the students sing or play instruments. If you don’t want to teach them the conducting patterns, then you could just have them show the beat (so like in one) and get bigger when students should sing forte and smaller when they should sing piano.

Listening

Of course, there are all sorts of listening activities that can go with piano and forte. The piece Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks has a very distinct piano section. And–of course– the Surprise Symphony. I am going to play this for my first graders this week and I cannot wait to see their faces!

Students could hold up a card with a bear on it when the music is forte and a card with a mouse on it when the music is piano. And of course, you could always use scarves. Students can make large movements for forte and small movements for piano. You can read more about creative movement with scarves here.

 

 

Stuffed Animal Sort

To go along with our animal songs, I’ll often ask students what animals are forte and which ones are piano. For a quick review (or during centers), we will sort them. I will put piano and forte signs on bins or next to a pile, and students come and place their animal in either the piano or the forte pile. This is also great for centers, because it is pretty easy.

Don’t have stuffed animals? You can get them pretty cheap on Amazon. Check it out here.

The Monkey Game

I really did save the best for last. In The Monkey Game (which is really for crescendos and decrescendos, but I use it for piano and forte as well), one student hides a stuffed monkey. Another student has to find it. Then I have students at the tubanos who play forte when the person is close to the monkey and piano if they are far away.

You can read all about it here.

 

Favorite Activities for Piano and Forte. A compilation of songs, games, listening and moving activities for teaching piano and forte to your elementary music students! Becca's Music Room.

Well that was a bunch of ideas. I hope that some of them help you out in your teaching of piano and forte. What is your favorite activity for piano and forte? Let us know in the comments!

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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Elementary Music, Games, K-2, Lessons

Free Music Lesson: Grizzly Bear

Teaching dynamics in your elementary music class? Then you need to teach your music students the song Grizzly Bear.

This song is one of the main reasons that I decided to do a bear and mouse unit for my kindergarten and first graders this year. We did Grizzly Bear, Hickory Dickory Dock, Mouse Mousie, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do you see? We related forte to bears and piano to mice, like I outlined in this post.

Out of all of the different songs and activities that we did, this was the favorite.

There are a bunch of different games that go along with this lesson. I will include a few versions that I have seen/heard of along with the one that I actually did with my students.

You can get a lyric and rhythm sheet for FREE in my free resource library. All you have to do is sign up to get the password and then you can access all of the resources in the library! Sign up here!

Grizzly Bear: Free music lesson for piano and forte. This lesson is a song and game for kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. Includes free resource to help teach the lesson. Becca's Music Room

 

Grizzly Bear Lesson

  • First, I had the students warm up with the rhyme Hickory Dickory Dock (you can check out my FREE product on TPT here)
  • Ask your students: are mice loud or quiet? Musicians call quiet a special word– piano. What kind of animal is loud? (keep going until students guess a bear)
  • Sing the song for the students and have them listen the first time. It is extra fun if you walk around while you sing it because the students get really shocked at the end. Sing it again and have students hold their hands up high when it is forte, low when it is piano, or in the middle when it is in the middle.
  • Then ask for the students to join you in singing.
  • Ask them: If we don’t want to wake up the grizzly bear, what dynamic level should we be singing?

Also read: Free Music Lesson: Bizet Scarf Routine

 

The game…

Like I said, there are many different types of games for this song. I know of at least three different versions.

  1. Sing the song and walk around in a circle. One student is in the middle, laying on the floor. This child is the grizzly bear. At the end of the song, the teacher walks up and taps the child. The child jumps up and roars at everyone else. (I have also done this without anyone touching the child, they just hopped up at the end of the song.)
  2. Sing the song and walk around in a circle. One student lays on the floor in the middle– this child is the grizzly bear. At the end of the song, the bear gets up. All of the students have to be frozen. If they move, then they bear pretends to eat them. They have to get out of the circle (or just sit down).
  3. Sing the song and walk around in a circle. One student lays on the floor in the middle– this child is the grizzly bear. At the end of the song, the bear pops up. The other students try to get to a safe place in the room (maybe a wall or a carpet). The bear tries to tag the students before they get to the safe place.

Also read: Lesson Ideas: Creative Movement with Scarves

I used the first version until I heard the second version of it– then we switched. The third version looks like fun, but it is a little bit too chaotic for my population of students.

Don’t forget to sign up for the exclusive FREE RESOURCE LIBRARY so that you can download the lyric and rhythm sheets to go along with this song.

Which one do you like? Is there a different version that you like? Let us know in the comments!

Happy teaching!

 

Grizzly Bear: Free music lesson for piano and forte. This lesson is a song and game for kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. Includes free resource to help teach the lesson. Becca's Music Room

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