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I may be a choir nerd who never played a sport (except grudgingly in gym class), but I love the Olympics. Maybe it’s because I secretly wanted to be an ice skater (quite a feat living in the desert as a kid), but nonetheless, I love both the summer and winter Olympics. So when the Winter Olympics rolled around this year, I wanted to incorporate them into my elementary music room. Here are some of the greatest Winter Olympics music lessons I have found!
PS I made most of these into a Virtual Field Trip, so you can do the activities listed below in an easy to follow, active lesson that teaches sixteenth notes! I’ve been using it to practice sixteenth notes with my 4th grades, and it has been a huge hit.
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First thing’s first….
First off, if you’re doing Winter Olympics music lessons, you need to teach about the Olympics!
I was shocked how many of my fourth and fifth graders did not know what the Olympics were– especially since this school year, we’ve had 2! So to teach Winter Olympics music lessons, you’ll also need to teach about the Winter Olympics..
We kept this brief, with a brief description: The Olympics are athletic competitions where countries send their best athletes to compete against each other. They are held in different places each year. The Winter Olympics happens every 4 fours in the Winter.
Then we watched this video which talks about a lot of the different sports in the Winter olympics
Afterward, we talked about the sports that we saw. Then we used the rhythm identification section of the Winter Games Virtual Field Trip to sort the different sports and Olympic themed activities by their rhythm, which provided another way to review the different sports in the Olympics.
Sock skating is something that we have done in music for years, so of course it was a natural addition into Winter Olympics music lessons!
If you have laminate floor, students can actually “skate” in their socks. I typically bring a bag of clean old socks for anyone not wearing socks to borrow. If you have carpet, you can use paper plates or laminated paper (it would be really cute if you laminated pictures of ice skates or snowflakes) to “skate”. Then you just slide around!
I typically use this with the littles, but decided to use it with fourth grade and they loved it! To make it more difficult, I put different rhythms on the board, and they had to skate to the rhythm on the board. I changed them so that they practiced skating to quarter notes, eighth notes, half notes, sixteenth notes, etc.
You can use the Olympic theme or use Vivaldi’s Winter (movement 1) to skate.
In the virtual field trip, there is a premade video for skating to Winter that changes the rhythms. There is also a Winter rhythm play along for after they’ve gotten tired out!
Winter olympics Composing
Next up, let’s take all of those different sports and do some composing!
You can print out pictures of different winter sports and have students create their own rhythms. They can do this alone or with partners, and they can add instruments too!
If you don’t want to find all of the pictures, you can purchase and print the Winter Olympics composition cards in my TPT shop (shop here). Then just print and go.
There are a few ways I like to do this activity:
- First, have students create different patterns and play them on instruments.
- Then have students use the ones with the rhythms on them. Once they’ve made a rhythm, they can write it on a paper or white board to practice writing (this is a WONDERFUL center because if they forget how to write it, it’s right there on the card)
- Finally, create a rhythm with the cards that don’t have rhythms on them. Then have them match the correct rhythm underneath. (So if they do skii-ice skating-skii-snowboard, then they would take rhythm cards and put quarter, sixteenth, quarter, eighth underneath)
There’s so many fun things that you can do with these, and it’s a very accessible way to compose. Your kiddos will love it!
Click here to grab my Winter Games Rhythm Manipulatives (comes in regular notation, stick notation, no notation, and color and black and white).
Bobsled Rhythm Game
This Winter Olympics music lesson is a bit of a stretch, but bear with me.
For this game, students get into bobsled teams. They sit in a row, with the first person in each row at the same spot.
Then, I scatter the Winter Olympics rhythm cards (included in the VFT, but any rhythm cards will do) around the room.
I call out a rhythm, and the LAST person in the bobsled has to go find it.
Whoever finds it first wins the round and goes to the front of the bobsled, therefore moving the bobsled forward.
The winning team is whoever reaches the finish line first!
The Virtual Field Trip has this version, plus all digital versions as well.
Olympics Fanfare and Theme Winter Olympics Music Lessons
Of course, when it comes Winter Olympics music lessons, you have to discuss the Olympic theme.
The Olympic theme was composed by John Williams in 1984 for the Los Angeles games.
There’s a few activities I like to do with this one:
- Instrument identification: First off, let’s talk instruments! What do you hear? What is in the theme? Watching a video of the orchestra always helps with this one.
- Timpani + trumpet: I also take this opportunity to discuss the two main instruments that we hear in this piece. We also sometimes discuss the whole brass family!
- Analysis: Have older students analyze WHY this piece is good for the Olympics. Why did he pick these instruments? These dynamics? Etc. You could also compare it to Bugler’s Dream by Leo Arnaud, which was the main piece played in the Olympics prior to Williams’ piece and is still often heard on telecasts.
- Make your own! Have students create their own Olympic theme in groups! They can pick the instruments that would go along with their piece as well as the rhythm and melodies.
- Learn about John Williams: Williams has written a ton of popular classical pieces that your students have actually heard– Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, etc. This makes him interesting and accessible.
- Coloring sheets: And lastly, I like to add in some Olympic Theme coloring sheets– especially for the littles and especially where you have to color the picture according to what you hear.
You can do all of these activities with my Olympic Fanfare and Theme printable activity sheets in my TPT store. Click here to purchase!
Rhythm Curling for Winter Olympics Music Lessons
Does anyone know how to curl? Curling is one of those things that seems very specific to the Winter Olympics (at least for this Georgian), so I had to include it in my Winter Olympics music lessons.
In real curling, teams throw granite stones across ice to try to score points. They score points by where they land on the target area (AKA the house). The sweepers on the team use brooms or brushes to help manipulate where the stone goes.
For the rhythm version of curling, we are going to put rhythm cards in the “house”. You can make a “house” (the concentric circles that show your points), or just have them in a set area.
Then, have students use bean bags or similar items to slide across the floor (if you have carpet, you can set down paper to help with the sliding) towards the rhythm card. Let the next team slide their bean bag. Whoever is closest wins that round and gets the rhythm. They write that rhythm on their score sheet.
When one team has filled their score sheet, they are the winners– and they now have a rhythm that they can play on instruments or share with the group!
Alternate version: Have students slide their bean bags towards different rhythms (quarter note, eighth notes, half notes, etc). Each rhythm goes into a measure. Whoever finished their measure first with the correct amount of beats is the winner.
Both version of the game are included in the Virtual Field Trip, with the latter being a completely digital option.
Winter Olympics Virtual Field Trip
And finally, I’m sure you guessed that my favorite Winter Olympics music lessons are all included in the Winter Games Virtual Field Trip– that’s why I made it!
This Virtual Field Trip is a Google Slides lesson that includes 5 different components:
- Learning about the Winter Games, including info about where it is being held (which will be updated over the years)
- Rhythm sort: Students sort the Winter Olympics themed words by their rhythm
- Skating: Students skate to different rhythms to Vivaldi’s Winter. Includes a skating version and a rhythm play along version (both embedded videos).
- Bobsled: The activity outlined above, plus a set of rhythm cards that students can play to move the bobsled forward for an all digital version.
- Curling: The above game, plus a digital version where students fill up their measures with different rhythms (can be played alone or with a partner).
It also comes with a set of Winter Games printable rhythm cards to use with the games or just to use in your classroom!
You can also purchase the Winter Games bundle, which includes the virtual field trip, the Olympic Fanfare and Theme printables, and the Winter Games composition activity– plus you get a discount!
How do you use the Winter games in your music lessons? Shoot me a message on Instagram (@beccasmusicroom) and let me know!