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When all of this distance learning stuff began, I was STRUGGLING to figure out what to do with my students on Zoom music lessons. How can I teach elementary music on Zoom? The sound lag made it impossible to sing or play rhythms together. Fortunately for you, I have now figured out a couple of fun things to do.
Over the course of the fourth marking period, (because I am currently in Summer mode! Yay!) I was required to teach 15 Zoom music lessons each week. Fifteen. Every week.
Crazy. I know.
Now, to be fair, some of these are repeats. For example, I taught four 1-3 grade Zoom music lessons each week. So those four lessons had the same lesson, just different students (and sometimes the same students, because even though I told them we were having the same lesson, some students decided to stay and do the same lesson multiple times in the week).
This is a list of the most fun things that I have found for teaching elementary music via Zoom or Google Meets (which is what I am using!)
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1. Read some books!
I know– reading books is not the most ORIGINAL idea, but it is a lot of fun. Throughout the marking period, we read A LOT of books. Here are a few that we read during Zoom music lessons:
There are, of course, tons more, but these are a few that I happened to grab before we left for Spring Break– or that I ordered on Amazon because… I needed them….
2. Listen and Draw
This is an activity that I do often in school– especially when I travel to teachers’ classrooms during testing.
Basically, I just play a song, and students draw a picture of what they think it sounds like, or what it reminds them of.
This can be used to teach different musical concepts like tone, instrumentation, genres, composer study, and even form.
To use this to teach form, have students divide their paper into however many boxes they will need. (For example, if it is AB form, they need two boxes. If it is ABA form, they will need three boxes.) Play the first section and stop. Allow students to finish their drawing. Then play the next section and stop.
When we were doing Zoom music lessons, I used this strategy to teach all about John Williams. We made four boxes with our paper, and listened to four different pieces– one from each of the following movies: Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Jaws. I didn’t tell them what the songs were until we listened to all of them– we just talked about the mood of the pieces.
After we listened to all four of the pieces and made our drawings, I told them they were all written by the same composer– John Williams. I showed them this Google Slides presentation all about John Williams, which included the movies that he composed music for. They loved talking about how the mood of the piece matched the movies!
We did an instruments of the orchestra unit, and I found wanted something at the end of the unit to wrap it up. I decided to go with hangman.
I was originally going to draw hangman on my small white board that I brought home from school, but I found a website that lets you do it online. It was much easier for kids to see (once I shared my screen). It even lets you add in your own words! I put in 7 different instrument names, and it was a lot of fun.
4. Musical Science Experiments
Being at home provides you with different props then you have at school. One way that you can take advantage of that is to do some musical science experiments.
In the video, I show my favorite string family based science experiment using a string or a rubber band.
You could also do other science experiments, like filling up cups with water and comparing the sound that it makes, finding differently shaped objects and comparing their sounds when you hit them, and more.
5. Percussion Scavenger Hunt
Like I mentioned, we did an instruments of the orchestra unit during our Zoom music lesson adventures in Spring of 2020. When we got to percussion, we did a percussion scavenger hunt!
Now, I did not come up with this– I got it from Ms. Wonderly Makes Music over on Instagram. She is a rockstar, and she has been making 30 minute long live music lessons that are awesome. You can check out her new website here.
Anyway, for a percussion scavenger hunt, all you have to do is have students find an object that you can hit, one that you can scrape, and one that you can shake.
Once you find all of the “instruments”, you can play along with a song!
6. Learn a new dance
I wanted to teach my students about Salsa music, and you cannot teach salsa without teaching dance! Admittedly, I was a bit apprehensive to teach salsa dancing, because most of the students who have been showing up to my lessons were boys. I was worried they would think it was silly.
It was so. much. fun.
We watched a video from Musical Explorers and learned the dance from the video. Then we played the song and danced! They loved it.
PS- If you want more, you can watch Musical Explorer’s Klezmar video. You may recognize someone from it (cough– me– cough).
7. Musical Pictionary
Pick a catagory, and have students play pictionary!
All you have to do is pick a category (like instruments), and have one student draw a picture of it. Whoever guesses the correct answer gets a point– and gets to go next!
Pro tip: Have students type their answers in the chat, because then you can see clearly who got the answer first.
8. Name the song
That’s a creative name, right?
Either way, this is one of the most fun things that we did on our Zoom music lessons. All you have to do is play a song, and students guess what it is.
I love a theme– so we did Disney songs. iTunes has playlists full of Disney songs– just put it on shuffle. I would play a song, and the students typed the name of the movie it was from in the chat. This way, I could see who got the answer first.
9. Steady beat practice
Does this need any explanation?
10. Sing the next line
Another really great name.
Put everyone on mute. Pick a song you have done throughout the school year, and sing the first line. have kids give a thumbs up or raise a hand if they think they know the next line. Un-mute someone and allow them to sing the next line.
This is a great way to get the students singing, assess singing voice, and review the year.
11. Virtual Field Trips
Have virtual field trips always been a thing? I don’t think that I had ever heard it until now.
Virtual field trips are basically “taking” your students somewhere virtually. This could be a museum, a zoo, an aquarium, a country, and more.
A few of our favorite virtual field trips include:
Jazz museum (every time we found a display about a musician, I played a YouTube video with that person playing/singing)
Disney World (use Google Earth to “walk” through the park, then YouTube videos for the rides)
That’s all I’ve got! Teaching Zoom music lessons was quite an experience, and I REALLY hope that I never have to do it again.
What have you done to teach Zoom music lessons? Let us know in the comments!