3-5, Elementary Music, Lessons

Best End of Year Music Lessons for Upper Grades

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It’s here, it’s here! It’s finally here! Well…. Almost. It’s almost the end of the school year… so how do you keep kids engaged right now?! The upper grades (third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade) can be even more difficult to make music lesson plans for, because they are older and sometimes think they are too cool for school by the end of the year. In this blog post, we’re talking about end of the year music lessons for upper grades 3-5. 

These lesson focus on activities that are fun and engaging, but also either:

1. Get the wiggles our or 

2. Are really easy for you or 

3. Both

Because when it comes to end of the year music lessons for upper grades, my goal is to make life as easy as possible for me while keeping it interesting for them. Especially with the older kids, because they can be extra difficult this time of year. 

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Movie Music

First off, movie music! When it comes to engaging end of the year music lessons for upper grades, movie music is at the top of my list. Because the students recognize it, it feels much more exciting. 

We use movie music for movement activities, identifying instruments, rhythm play alongs, and more. That being said, my favorite end of the year music lesson for upper grades that involves movie music is the movie music bracket. 

This is a free (yes, FREE!) activity that you can grab by clicking here. 

To play, put it up on the board. Have students listen to the two adjacent pieces, then vote for their favorite one. That one moves up the bracket. The one that makes it to the middle is the winner!

This typically takes us about 45 minutes, and we don’t listen to the whole thing.

There’s also a printable if you want kids to fill out their own preferences. 

Another fun movie music activity is movie music Kahoots. There are a few (that are free) that have a video you listen to and then students pick the movie it comes from. 

You can also use this as an excuse to talk about John Williams– the king of movie composers. I like to use the Google Slides lesson in my TPT shop and discuss the different themes. 

Cup Routine

Another favorite for upper grades (especially 5th grade) is the cup routine. Students can do the cup routine with different songs. I like to use it with the song Turn the Glasses Over first. Then we do a “challenge day” where students do the cup routine along with different songs at different tempos. (Bonus points if you use movie music!) 

Then I have students make their own cup routine using this lesson. I let them come up with a routine, then we all try to play it. 

I use this lesson to help me out!

Independent or Group Work

Group work and independent work have changed my upper grades lesson planning forever. This year, we have leaned heavily into group work and independent work. My fourth and fifth graders love it, and we have been learning a lot. 

It is especially good for end of the year music lessons for upper grades because students are more in charge of their learning.

There are a million different things that you can do for independent or group work, but here’s a few:

  • Give students rhythm or melody manipulatives and have them figure out the rhythm or melody of the song you’ve been working on. 
  • Give students the rhythm and melody and have them figure out how to play the song on an instrument
  • Have students create movements along with a song you’ve been working on
  • Kaboom: This rhythm or melody reading game allows kids to be in a group and read music! Click here to learn more. 
  • Have students create their own rhythm, melody, or chant
  • Research: Learn about a style of music or music career by doing their own research 
  • Playing patterns: Give students a stack of flashcards and have them play them on instruments
  • Task cards: There are tons of task cards that your students can use for independent work. I like using these for solfege. 

You can do basically anything in a group or solo, so as you’re working, get creative.

Note: It helps if you demonstrate or do an activity in a whole group first, then in a small group. So if we’re composing, we’ll do an example together on the board, so that I can show them my thinking before they go for it on their own. 

Composition project

One thing students like even better than just working in groups is composing their own music. This is especially great for end of the year music lessons for upper grades since they are engaged in creating, and it takes a while. 

You can use composition to work on anything that you’ve been learning about– any rhythm or melody. 

I like to do composition activities that span a few days– maybe have the kids write the words first, then add the rhythms, then add a melody, and so on. 

I’ve also found that a lot of kids love to play their compositions for the class, so I’ve been trying to give more opportunities to play in front of the class. 

End of the year music lessons for upper grades on Becca's Music Room

Board Games + Centers Games

Next up is games! Games are always a hit, and games students can play in small groups are a double win– especially for end of the year music lessons for upper grades. 

Here are a few of my favorites. You can make them yourself or click on the links to purchase ready-made ones from my TPT shop.

  • Kaboom: Students sit in a circle and pull out a card. Each card has a rhythm or melody or term on it. Students read the rhythm (or whatever it is!). If they get it right, they keep it. If they get it wrong, they put it back. If they get a Kaboom!, they put it all back. Click here to purchase ready made sets, or you can make your own!
  • Go Fish: Students get 7 cards. They ask the other students if they have (insert rhythm or melody here). If the other student has it, they give it to them. If not, they say “Go fish” and the student has to get one from the middle. Click here to purchase ready made sets.
  • Treble Clef battleship: This is a DIY. Each student has 2 treble clefs inside of a folder. They pick 3 notes on the staff to be their “battleships”. Then the other students try to guess which ones they are. Once they sink all of the battleships, they are done. (Click here to see more details and instructions)
  • I Have Who Has: This works best whole group, but students each get a card. One person starts by reading what they have and the who has. Whoever has the second rhythm (or melody or term) then reads their card until it gets all the way around the room. Click here to purchase ready made sets.
  • Who am I?: If you’re working on musical instruments or terms, this is the one for you. Students hold a card up to their forehead (without looking!) and the other students have to use clues to get the card-holding student to guess what they are. This means the other students have to know what it is and be able to explain it. 

There are plenty of other ones, but these will get you started!

Parachute

If you want upper grade students engaged at the end of the year, you’ve got to make it fun. And what’s more fun than the parachute?

I only bring out the parachute at Christmas and the end of the year, but they still love it. I love anything from Artie Almieda’s book (get it here), but you can learn any type of form with the parachute– just assign each section a movement. 

My favorite it to do Star Wars at the end of the year because– again– movie music. 

If don’t have a parachute, you can get them off of Amazon here.

Play along videos

Play along videos are great for practicing reading, and they are easy on you. Just throw them on the board and go for it. 

Here are a few of my favorite channels: 

Instrument focus

At the end of the year, I like to pull out an instrument to focus on. This year Jan-Mar has been pianos, and I’m hoping that April and May will be ukuleles. 

This gives you a clear and direct path in which to teach, and it helps the students learn more. 

Plus, if it’s an instrument they don’t typically use, then they will be excited to use something new. 

This of course involves having instruments, but you can always write a grant or get instruments through Donor’s Choose. 

Drum circle

Drum circles are a fun way to try out all of your percussion instruments in an exciting way. 

I have students sit in a circle. They get to pick out a percussion instrument. We learn a few call and response phrases, so every time I say something, they play a certain rhythm. 

We alternate with reading rhythms, call and response, playing along with songs, and improvising. 

For improvisation, I usually have the largest drums keep an ostinato, and the other instruments come on top. Then, we’ll take turns for anyone who wants to try by themselves– they’ll get 8 beats to improvise whatever they want, and then we all go back to playing. 

End of the year music lessons for upper grades on Becca's Music Room

Kahoot

If you have devices in your room (or students have them in their pockets), then you can do Kahoots!

Kahoot and Quiz.iz are both interactive quizzes that have students try to be the first person to answer the question. 

There are plenty of music ones– just do a quick search on the website! (You may even find a few that I’ve made….)

And you can also make your own if you don’t see what you want!

Assessment

This is maybe not as exciting, but at the end of the year, I always try to do a post assessment to see where we are. 

Usually, this will have 1-2 questions for rhythm, 1-2 for melody, 1-2 for terms, etc. I keep it short, because you just want to see what they’ve learned. I also add a few questions about their favorite and least favorite things about music at the end so that I know what we should do next year. 

Pictures!

This is something I just started, but it’s showing the pictures. I’ve now had all of my kids since kindergarten, so I have pictures and videos of them from over the year in my phone. 

Last year, I sorted them into albums in Google Photos, and then we had a walk down memory lane at the end of the year. It was so much fun to see them literally grow up before your eyes. The students also thought that it was fun, and it was a nice way to end this chapter of their music career. 

Review day

Review day is when you have students take a walk down memory lane and play games from different grades. So start with your favorite fifth grade game, then a fourth grade, then a third grade, etc. Or just have them pick a few of the games that they loved this year! The idea is to have students going out on a good, fun note.

End of the year music lessons for upper grades on Becca's Music Room

Alright friends, there are a few end of the year music lessons for upper grade to help you make it all the way to the end of the year. 

What are your favorite end of the year activities? Let me know by sending me a message on Instagram (@beccasmusicroom) and letting me know!

Happy teaching!

Becca

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