Elementary Music

How To Teach Elementary Music On The First Day Of School

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Annnnd…. We’re back! It’s a new school year, and you are ready to teach elementary music. Except…. What do you do on the first day of school in music class? What lessons do you do on the first day? By the end of this article, you’ll have a simple yet effective plan to get you ready for this upcoming school year. 

I’ll never forget my first week of teaching elementary music. I had a few lessons I wanted to do, a few ideas… then I sat down to write my first lesson.

And… I had nothing.

No ideas.

Because I knew what to do in the middle of the year, but what do I teach on the first day of school? And the second? That’s the mystery I will demystify today.

In this article, we’re going to talk about the basics for the first day of school, do’s and don’ts, and a few lessons.

In the next few blog posts, we’ll talk about my favorite back to school lessons by grade level, so make sure you join the email list to be notified when those blog posts go out. Plus, by joining, you’ll get access to the free resource library, which includes many different activities and resources to use with your elementary music students– including some we’ll talk about today!

Click here to join the email list and get access to the free resource library.

What should I teach on the first day of school in music class?

In your first day elementary music class, you will want to teach a few things. 

  • Routines + procedures
  • Rules
  • Names
  • Make it fun!

Music Room Routines and Procedures

First, you need to establish routines and procedures. This is especially important if you are new to the school– the students need to know what to do!

There are a lot of routines you have in your classroom! You have routines for everything from asking questions to gathering supplies to what to do when the phone rings. You don’t have to talk about everything on the first day. In fact– you shouldn’t! Only talk about the procedures that are necessary or that are immediately relevant. 

Here’s what I cover on day 1:

  • Where to sit: New year means new seating chart! Where do we sit? In what formation? (And if you haven’t already, definitely make a seating chart!)
  • How to sit and stand properly: I cannot stand it when students lay down in my room, or are messing with things. I always teach them how we sit in music so that I know they are paying attention. 
  • Fire drills: Legally, you need to cover this one.
  • Bathroom: Are they allowed to use the restroom? When is a good time? Do they sign out? Do they ask? These are questions that need answers. 
  • Asking a question: How do we do this? If it’s raising a hand, have them practice CORRECT hand raising procedures. 
  • Rules of the classroom
  • How to line up

With all of these procedures, I try to cover them when they occur. For example, we practice lining up at the end of class, right before we line up. 

For more general music room procedures, I’ll alternate between doing an activity and talking about procedures like fire drills.

When you cover a procedure, you should explain it, show it, and have a student show it. Make a HUGE deal of students who are following or not following the procedures. You qant to start training the students to do it correctly on day one. 

This is especially important if you are new, because the students are looking at you and testing you to see if you mean what you say. Make sure you mean what you say, or they will learn it, and will not listen to you the rest of the year. 

Also read: Routines you Need in the Music Room

Music Room Rules

My jungle themed music room rules board sits in the front of my room. Get them in my TPT shop here.

On the first day, I don’t like to get super in depth into the rules, but it is important to go over them. After all, how can we make sure we are doing the right thing if we don’t know what it is? Plus, it gives you language to address students who are not doing the right thing. 

That being said, it can be boring, especially when we need to learn how to stand and sit and line up and everything else. So go over them quickly. I have rhythms attached to all of my rules, so I clap and say them, and the students repeat. Then on the second class, we get more in depth into what they all mean. For now, I just want us to know what I expect. Then when someone calls out, we can say, “We’re being respectful, and the respectful thing to do is to raise your hand.”

You can download my rules posters for free when you join the free resource library here. 

Learning Names on the First Day of School in Music Class

This year, I started at a new school, and I forgot how difficult it is to learn all of the names! But you have to learn the students’ names. So on the first day, we always do a name game in which the students can say their names, and I can learn them. 

Here are a few of my favorite name games:

  • Name, Name
  • Jump In, Jump Out
  • Up the Ladder

Have Fun on the First Day of Music

Finally, the missing ingredient is FUN. If your class is fun, the students will WANT to come back. They will want to see you. They will want to behave so they can do things. 

Not every class is going to be tons of fun (I mean, I try, but still), but it’s important that on the first day of music, we are having fun. You want to establish that music is fun. 

Graphic that says how to teach music on the 1st day of school featuring a picture of an elementary music teacher holding boomwhackers from Becca's Music Room

What does the first day of music look like?

So here’s what the first day of music will look like in my elementary music classroom:

  • Find seats
  • How to sit, how to stand up
  • Easy movement activity
  • Raise hands to speak, what to do if there is a fire drill
  • Name game
  • Rules
  • Easy singing game

Depending on your timing, you may need to add or subtract things, but this is how i like to start. 

Easy Movement Ideas for the First Day of School

Below are a few of my favorite easy movement ideas for the first day of school. With any movement activity, but especially on the first day of music, I always go over how we follow directions, be respectful, be responsible, and be a participant while we are moving.

I also start every movement activity in our spots first, then move around the room if we are doing that. 

As far as easy movement ideas go, one of my favorites is forte piano stomps.

Forte piano stomps

I play the drum. Students walk to the beat. If it’s loud, they stomp. If it’s quiet, they tip toe. If I stop, they stop. 

This is easy but it’s surprisingly fun– even with the older students. 

I typically do 8 beats of one, 8 of another. On the first day with the littles, we stay in our assigned spots. With the older students we’ll start in our seats, and maybe let them move around the room.

I like having something with a stop option so I can pause it at any time and correct people.

Stick Figure Movement

For the older students, one of my favorite first day of music activities is stick figure movement. Draw stick figure poses, or download my set from Teachers Pay Teachers for a ready to go version, and hold them up. Have students match the poses. I usually hold each one for 4 beats. You can add music to make it more interesting. 

Click here to download the ready to go stick figures.

A few of the stick figures in my printable set

Name Games for the First Day of School

You can see a bunch of my favorite names games in the video below.

My favorites for the littles is just a chant Name, Name. It’s simple. We typically do it once where students say their names, then a second time where they do an action with their names that we copy. I have done this with every grade (it’s great for upper grades if you want something quick), but it’s especially great for the younger students. 

Jump In, Jump Out

If you’re looking for a longer, more extensive name game, Jump In, Jump Out is for you. I like htis one with the older students, and it dubles as a movement activity.

First Day of School Music Games

At the end of class, it’s time for a game! I like to pick easy games so that students can join in quickly. Here’s a few of my favorites, and more are located in blog posts coming out soon detailing each of the favorite activities by grade level.

Click here to be notified when they are live. 

Zoo 

This is not technically a music game, but it works well with any of your songs with animals in it.

Here’s how to play the game:

  • Put 4-8 animals on the board
  • Come up with an action for each animal (practice these!)
  • The Zookeeper stands in the front.
  • Students sing a song (or just count down from 3)
  • At the end of the song, everyone does one of the actions. 
  • If a student matches the Zookeeper, that student is out.
  • Last person standing becomes the Zookeeper

I do this with an ocean theme with Ickle Ockle, or with a jungle theme with Rumble in the Jungle– if there’s a song that talks about a place or an animal, you can use this one!

Graphic that says music class on the 1st day of school from Becca's Music Room

Poison

This is a go to for my students. I typically play Poison Rhythm, but you could also do Poison Solfege. Here’s how to play:

  • Pick a rhythm to be the poison.
  • Teacher claps a rhythm and students repeat.
  • If they clap the poison, then they are out.

You can add instruments, change it to Poison Melody, and more! So many options.

This is great for a review game and you can even look at some of the notation and use flashcards.

Charlie Over the Ocean

Charlie Over the Ocean sheet music from Becca's Music Room in a blog post about ocean folk songs and lesson ideas for elementary music class

If you’re looking for a singing game, this is a great one. It’s call and response, so they kids don’t have to learn anything immediate. 

This game is played like Duck Duck Goose, but with the song. At the end of the song, tap or drop something (I use a fish stuffed animal) on someone, and that person chases the person who is it around the circle. The it person tries to get to the other students’ spot without getting tagged. 

We use Nemo to play this game

How to Get Ready for the First Day of School

Trying to get ready for the first day of school for elementary music? It can be a lot, but here’s a few things that help:

  1. Pick out your first day activities
  2. Make a seating chart. You’ll thank me later. 
  3. Get support 

You might get support from friends, teachers in the building, or other music teachers, but you need someone to talk to and get help from!

If you want more help with getting ready, join the Back to School Bootcamp! This is a mini course that includes information, lessons, slides, activities, songs, and more that you’ll want to use to start your year on the right foot. 

You’ll get ready to go slides, activities, printables, and videos to help you conquer the first day of school.

Click here to learn more about the Back to School Bootcamp!

And as always, you can send me your questions on Instagram @beccasmusicroom 

Happy teaching!

Becca

Graphic that says how to teach music on the 1st day of school featuring a picture of an elementary music teacher holding a fish puppet from Becca's Music Room
Graphic that says Music Lessons for the 1st Day of School with a photo of a movement activity with stick figures from Becca's Music Room
Graphic that says 1st day of school in music class with an elementary music teacher holding boomwhackers from Becca's Music Room
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