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?
The person in the front counts (loudly) to ten with their eyes closed.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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!
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!
You know those songs that you find and you are not sure if your kids will like it, then they love it? That’s how the Tick Tock song was for my classes. I thought it looked/sounded cute, but it was a HUGE hit! My kids wanted to keep doing this song over and over and over again.
And of course we love any songs that keep students singing!
I used this as a movement activity and for playing instruments, but I am planning to bring it back to teach rhythm. It is a ta and titi song as well as a sol-mi-la song. So of course you can use it for any of those.
I do have a TPT product for this, which you can get here. It has rhythmic and melodic practice with flash cards, slides with rhythm and melody, clock faces, beat charts, and basically everything you need for a super smooth class. If you just want to get a preview to use in your classroom with slides for lyrics, solfege, and rhythm, then you can get that in my free resource library. If you have not accessed my free resource library, then you will need to click here. You provide your email and then you get the password and you can download everything in the library! I only email twice a month, so I won’t be spamming you, and of course you can unsubscribe anytime (but you won’t want to because, again, FREE RESOURCES).
PS My second graders also really enjoyed this song!
Teach students the Tick Tock song by rote. You can focus on rhythm or melody. You can find both the rhythm and melody on the free slide in my resource library or you can get all of the resources in my TPT.
Teach the students the movements to the song. I always (ALWAYS) start non-locomotor movements and then switch to locomotor movements if the students can handle it. The movements are a little bit awkward because they really aren’t supposed to be non-locomotor, but my kids did not notice or care. Here are the movements:
Walk in place
At “open wide”, open your arms up wide
At “cuckoo”, bend your body sideways for each cukoo
I learned this from a video on this YouTube channel. It no longer seems to be on YouTube and the link from my Pinterest is broken. So he gets the credit even though you cannot see it!
3. Each time, ask a student to pick what time it will be. This can make it entertaining for hours, because they all want to pick the time. I like to use a plastic teaching clock like this one or the clock cut out in my TPT product to show the time, because most students cannot tell time on analog clocks. I don’t spend a ton of time on it, but we do talk about the big hand and little hand and the hours and then I will change the time each time we sing.
4. If they are doing a good job with that, then we will do it in partners. Now, of course, you have to make sure that you prep them VERY well before doing anything in partners. Since they are so young, I like to model with a student a few times before I let them do it. Basically, one person is the clock and one is the cuckoo. The clock stands still. The cuckoo walks in a circle around the clock. At “open wide”, the cuckoo opens the clocks’ arms. On each “cuckoo” the cuckoo pops out from behind the clock.
5. Use some small percussion instruments to play the beat to the song. Then use the instruments to play the rhythm. I tend to be partial to rhythm sticks and castanets, both of which are really cheap options if you don’t have much in your classroom.
6. Make the rhythm! Depending on where your students are in the rhythm reading journey, you can have them put manipulative (like the clock cut outs in my resource) onto heartbeat sheets. Use one manipulative for ta and two on a beat for titi. Mini erasers are usually a huge hit for this activity. Or you could use popsicle sticks like I talk about in this lesson to make stick notation ta and titi. I have also seen people use straws for this activity, although I have not used them.
7. Make the melody! Cut out the words to the song. Put two lines on the ground with tape. Have students put the words onto the two line staff. Then you could have everyone practice that by themselves with bingo chips or mini erasers on a personal two line staff.
A clock race: Have students get into teams. One student runs up and changes the clock to a particular time, rushes back and the next student goes.
Rhythm clock: Have students work in groups to make a rhythm clock. They have to make a rhythm for each hour that adds up to the hour. This is more fun with older students who know a bunch of rhythms with different beats, but it can still be fun with the littles.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!)
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.
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.
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!
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?
Like I said, there are many different types of games for this song. I know of at least three different versions.
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.)
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).
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.
Are you looking for a new way to practice the treble clef? I was too. I am always looking for new ways to practice, preferably with little to no set up. This treble clef dice activity checked all of those boxes, and the students loved it.
If you have been reading my blog, then you may have noticed that I am getting more and more into differentiation. Music teachers differentiate all of the time (read about that here), but I am trying to do even better. This was one of the EASIEST ways to differentiate. Ever. Like, so easy.
I have seen a ton of classroom activities where students could roll a die to practice a skill, and I really wanted to do one as well. So I downloaded some dice clip art and made a few different worksheets so that it can be differentiated.
In my product, there are 6 pages. One is just lines. One is just spaces. One has lines and spaces. One has words that students can spell (like ace, bag, etc). One allows students to make their own words with the letters from A-G. The last one is blank.
For this lesson, I gave a really quick pretest the week before. This allowed me to separate students into groups. You can get a FREE treble clef quiz in my free resource library. If you have not signed up for access to the library, then you can sign up here.
Once I had graded the quizzes, I split the class into categories. I do this very simply. Just put an X, a -, and a check mark. I usually just do this on a scrap of paper or an extra long sticky note like these.
Split the number of questions into the number of groups you are making. For this lesson I did students who got all 10 correct, 6-9 correct, and 1-5 correct. Yes, I know this isn’t even, but I wanted to give something different to kids who had 100%.
It seems like a lot of work, but once the pretest is graded it only takes a few seconds to split them up.
Then we did our dice activity. In these activities, the students roll a die. Each number coordinates with a letter on their recording sheet. On the sheet, they will record answers. They write the letter on the line and then put a whole note or solid dot on the treble clef.
I used three different recording sheets to differentiate. You could just use two, but I went with three. What did they get?
X got the sheet with both lines and spaces but only one letter.
— got the sheet with words for them to find on the treble clef. They had to practice putting the notes in the right order, which was a bit of a struggle for some of them.
Students who got 100% on the pretest got a worksheet where they had to come up with words using the letters A-G and then put notes on the treble clef to correspond with them.
Once they were finished, students turned in the sheets and went to get their recorder.
So that’s it! It is really not complicated when you try to explain it. I hope that you found the piece on differentiation helpful. I feel like it is one of those things that sounds intimidating, but it’s really not– it’s all about giving kids what they need to succeed.
To help you, you can get a FREE treble clef quiz in my free resource library. If you have not signed up for access to the free resource library, then you Sign up here.
You’ll get the password to the resource library, plus I will send updates once every other week.
Ah, Christmas. So many songs, so little time. Every year I feel like I cannot narrow down how many songs I want to do. How do you get to them all? Anyway, my fourth and fifth graders are in the middle of a huge recorder unit, and I did not want to put that on pause to do a bunch of Christmas music (we’re doing the Link Up curriculum, and we are on a deadline!). So I only picked a few songs for my 4-5 graders, and the 12 Days of Christmas was our main song.
This song is so much fun, and so easy because it is cumulative.
There are about a million things that you can do with this song, but I narrowed it down to a few. I used a PDF version of a PowerPoint that I made, which you can check out on TPT here.
It is also part of my music lessons bundle, which has 6 different Christmas lessons at a discounted price, which you can get here.
You can also check out my free Oh Christmas Tree Music Game (with free lyric sheet and coloring sheet) here.
12 Days of Christmas
First, go over the words to the song the 12 Days of Christmas. It is super easy, so we just read through the words and then I started singing the first verse and by the second verse, they had figured it out.
Next, have the students sing through the song. You can play it on the piano or use a YouTube video to sing along with.
Pick one student to create movements for each gift. So one student will pick and lead movements for a partridge in a pear tree. One will do it for two turtledoves, etc.
Sing through the song and have the students follow the movements that the leaders for each gift choose. Again, you can accompany on the piano or ukulele or you can play a recorder version.
Then, you can create a new version of the 12 Days of Christmas. I project the page from my 12 Days of Christmas product that has the first half of each line and then write the students’ answers on the board. Let the kids pick what they get on each day.
Sing through the song with your kids’ version of the song. This will need to be done a cappella or with the piano or ukulele or guitar. You can’t sing it with the recording because the words will be different.
Have students create individual versions of the 12 Days of Christmas if you need to include more writing in your curriculum!
Last, you can have students color pictures or their 12 Days of Christmas or the original version. There are coloring sheets in my product, if you get that.
So there you go! Movement, writing, singing, and fun. My kids enjoyed this immensely! They thought it was so much fun. And I enjoyed it too!
Want to get access to exclusive content? Sign up to join my FREE RESOURCE LIBRARY. Once you sign up, you can download and use any of the content in the library. New things are being added every few weeks, so make sure you check back for more FREE stuff! Sign up here.
How do you teach 12 Days of Christmas? Let me know in the comments!
Are you looking for some really fun Christmas lessons? I feel like I am always looking for ideas, and I have a hard time narrowing down the amount of songs that are available for the holidays. I was looking for a song that was common enough that I wanted all of my students to know, but different enough that not all of them would know it. Oh Christmas Tree was the perfect combination or common but unknown by my third graders.
And you know what? In the first two classes I have used this song with, I had a total of about 5 students that knew it.
You could use this song to work on low sol (each line goes sol-do) or for teaching dotted eighth note sixteenth note rhythms. But you know that I used this song for? Fun.
And that is ok.
I am using some of my other songs to push concepts we are working on, but for this one we just had fun.
If you don’t want that many ideas, you can check out the links and see the individual products that are in the bundle.
Oh Christmas Tree
So how do I play the game?
First, teach the students the song Oh Christmas Tree. You can see the sheet music in Beth’s Music Notes here or get my free lyric sheets (for projecting or printing) in my resource library here. If you do not have the password to the resource library, you can get it by joining my email list! Then you can get all of the free resources.
Sing the song and focus on the contour. I love to use scarves and have students move the scarf up when the song goes up and down when the song goes down.
Have students get into groups. It really doesn’t matter how many are in each group, but I like to do 2-4 for this game.
Then, have one student stand with their arms straight out. This student is the Christmas tree.
Sing through the song Oh Christmas Tree. During the first verse, have students decorate the Christmas tree in their group. Give them a box with a bunch of (non-pointy or breakable!) Christmas decorations. I went to the Dollar Store and bought garland, tinsel, and some ornaments with strings instead of hooks.
During the next verse, have the students undecorated the Christmas tree.
Then sing the next verse (or the first one again) and have a different student be the tree.
If you have been reading my blog for any amount of time, you will know that I love to teach students about different kind of music. We do tons of listening activities with music from all different places. This is partially because of my personal teaching philosophy, and aided by the program that my students do called Musical Explorers. There are now three of four places that do the Musical Explorers programs. Basically, we learn about six different styles of music and go to two different concerts every year. This year, one of our styles is soul music!
I was really excited about the soul music style, because it is really great for beginning of the year, because it is very accessible (more accessible than the music from Mali, which is definitely my favorite for this semester). And what are we talking about at the beginning of the year?
Beat v. rhythm.
Now, I used variations of this lesson with my kids from kindergarten to third grade. Obviously, we didn’t do exactly the same thing with my kindergarteners and my third graders, but we did parts of it. This version of the lesson will focus on what I did with kindergarten and first grade.
We start working on steady beat as soon as the school year starts with my kindergarteners. We don’t name it right away of course. By the time we get to October, they get the concept pretty well (most of my students can keep a decent steady beat the first week!), so we start talking about rhythm.
This lesson is just to prep students for the concept of rhythm. We did not actually learn ta and titi yet, we are just getting used to the idea that the beat is steady and rhythm is not.
Also, in this lesson we use beat charts. I have a free beat chart (in 4/4, 3/4, and 2/4) available in my free resource library. This is a new thing I am rolling out to help you get free stuff! Sign up for my email list and I will send you the password to the library. Once a member, always a member. More things are being added every few weeks, so check back to see what is new. Sign up here.
If you already have the password, then you can click on the picture above or the “free resource library” tag at the top of the page to get it!
Listen to the song, I Feel Good and have students follow you by keeping the steady beat. Switch where you are keeping the steady beat while listening.
Tell the students that this is the beat. Tell them the beat is steady, which means that is stays the same. Another thing that has a steady beat is your heart beat. Have them try to find their heartbeat.
Give them a page with heartbeats on it to track. Students can point to the steady beat while listening. You can get a FREE one in my resource library here!
Show them the Musical Explorer page here. It has the rhythm for the song along with the heartbeat. Have students walk up and point to the steady beat on the board while the others are keeping it at their seats.
Afterwards, ask the kids if the beat changed. (They should say no!) Then ask them to look at the rhythm. I tell my students that rhythm is the long and short notes that do change. Even though I have not showed them ta or titi in kindergarten (although first grade has a handle on this), I will show them the rhythm of the song. Then I ask, “Does the rhythm look the same?” I will point to some of the extra weird looking ones. Then I will say some of the words and have students play the rhythm (one tap for every sound). on their legs.
Then we listened to I Heard it Through the Grapevine. I had students keep the steady beat by holding up their right hand, then their left hand, and back an forth. This prepped us so that we could play tambourines on the backbeat! We love our blue star tambourines, and the kids are excited for any chance to use them.
Usually on the next day or a different day, I will pull in beat and rhythm with a song they have already learned to focus on ta and titi. In this case, I am using 2, 4, 6, 8 Meet Me at the Garden Gate, which you can check out here.
I like to have students use the popsicle sticks to make rhythms almost immediately after showing them what they look like. I talk a lot about popsicle stick rhythms in this post.
Have the students learn the dance to I Heard it Through the Grapevine. It is pretty simple- step out, step across, step out, together. Then you go the other way. With the littles, I just taught it as step, together, step, together until they got it.
Have students draw pictures of grapevines (if you are in GA, parts of a plant is a first grade standard. Bonus points if you have them label their leaves and stems!)
Have students write or draw a picture of something that makes them feel good.
I hope that is helpful! It is really just an introduction to the concept of having beat and having rhythm. I did not use this to introduce rhythm (I saved that for 2, 4, 6, 8) but this helped students realize the difference between the two. Plus, it was fun! I mean, who doesn’t love soul music?
If you liked this post, make sure that you share it so more people can enjoy it too! You can get access to my FREE RESOURCE LIBRARY (which includes the beat charts I talked about here) by signing up for my email list here. I only send out two emails per month, usually announcing some free stuff!
Assessment. This is one of the favorite words in education these days. Principals love assessment, district chairs love assessment…. Do teachers love assessment? Not really. Do kids? No.
But you can change that. At least you can change that in the elementary music room.
Most of us see our kids about once a week. My schedule is different this year, so I see one class for 45 minutes a day for a week, and then I do not see them for another five weeks.
Do I want to give up one of those days to stop everything and have kids do a test? No.
And a lot of our skills cannot be assessed from a paper. You cannot use your singing voice by writing on a paper.
So how do we do assessment in the music room without giving up all of our precious time? Here are a few ideas. You may already be doing some—or all—and that is great. You can add your ideas to the comments below. But if you are stumped by assessment in the music room, here are some ideas.
Now, if you follow me on Instagram, you will see that I did give my students a drop-everything-and-take-a-test this year. I did this for a pretest with grades 2-5. And it did take almost the whole class period.
But I will say that it was worth it, because I found out soooo much about my students. The top half was a pretest and the bottom half was an interest survey. I found out what students enjoyed and didn’t enjoy (one of them said “Something I don’t like about music is not chewing gum.”).
It was also interesting, because I thought my students would freak out and be really miserable filling out this paper in music, but they did ok. And some of my worst classes actually behaved better, which I found interesting. If I continue to have issues with the one in particular, I may switch to a totally different teaching format for them.
Anyway. I would not do that for every single unit. I did one at the beginning, and I will do one at the end. Now, for what you came here for…
This is probably the most common and easiest thing to do. You teach an activity and while they are doing it, you just check off who is doing is correctly. I suggest having a seating chart (seriously– you should have a seating chart!) with boxes on it so that you can mark students off.
I don’t do anything fancy when it comes to this. In my room, students either get a check (they are doing it right), a line (almost there), or an x (don’t have it right).
I do this almost every day. Sometimes I walk around during a game and check off who is matching pitch. If we are writing rhythms on white boards, I check off who has the correct amount of beats. We will play a game like Kaboom! and I will check off who is doing the rhythms correctly. If we are doing a form activity like this one, I’ll check off who is switching actions at the appropriate time. If we are keeping the steady beat, then I will check off who is doing that. If we are playing instruments, I will check off who is playing them correctly.
Even if you are not writing this down, you are probably doing it in your head. So just put it down on paper.
The more intentional you are about it, the more things you will find that you can use for this.
And the kids don’t even know they are being assessed.
Assessment during centers
This is also very helpful. If you have read this post about centers, then you know I usually have one group that is with me. And this is the perfect time for assessment. A lot of times I will do things that are very similar to what I would do whole group, but with only a few students it is easier to assess them all.
And if you are wondering, I do differentiate my centers. If you are interested in hearing more about that, let me know in the comments!
I also like to pull out things like writing rhythms on white boards or putting bingo chips on letters on the staff during this time. Those are easy things to assess that go over pretty well.
If you don’t anchor yourself at one center, you could just walk around and listen to students and check them off.
I like to have my station where students get a grade and also include some sort of written assignment where they get a grade. This could be writing a rhythm, writing lyrics, drawing a picture about a song we learned, etc.
I will be honest, this is something I am not good at.
Exit tickets are traditionally quick things students write and hand to you at the end of class. People do this very well, and it is a good way to get quick information about if your students are understanding a particular concept.
The reason I do not do well with these is because my students sit on the floor. In order to write anything, we have to pass out paper, pencils, and clipboards. By the time that is passed out or collected, we have now spend 20 minutes on it, and it is no longer an exit ticket. This is a bit too much when we are also trying to line up (and with some classes, that itself is a struggle).
I am experimenting with some exit ticket designs that do not require a lot of stuff. Here is my first attempt, which you can get on TPT.
And if you know of something, please let me know in the comments.
This is something I have not explored very well either. I have, on occasion, filmed a whole class working on a dance or instruments or something like that and then gone back later to watch it and assess students. This can be done while students are already doing their stuff and it doesn’t take extra class time.
I have heard of people having students use the SeeSaw app on iPads to have students record themselves. I plan to try this once my iPads are up and running!