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If you want your students to be engaged, you need to have movement activities in your classroom. Movement allows students to feel things in their bodies, get the wiggles out, and be actively engaged in the lesson. In this post, we’re talking about 10 of my favorite lower grade movement activities.
This is certainly not all of them, but it’s a few to get you started.
Hickory Dickory Dock
Hickory Dickory Dock is one of our favorite Kindergarten and first grade movement activities! We simply add movements to the nursery rhyme. I typically have them choose what time it will be, which makes it extra fun.
Here are the movements:
- Hickory dickory dock: keep the steady beat
- Mouse ran up: move hands like a mouse going up
- Clock struck_____: Make your hands look like the hands of a clock
- Mouse ran down: move hands like a mouse going down
- Hickory dickory dock: keep the steady beat
Here’s a video of the actions.
Side note: I sent this video to our second grade team when they were working on telling time. They had the kids look at a clock on the screen, tell what time it was, and then add that time to the song. They said the kids loved it!
It’s also included in my Virtual Field Trip to the Forest to learn about Piano and Forte, which is what this video is from.
In the virtual field trip, we use bear and mice songs to learn all about forte and piano. It includes Grizzly Bear, Mouse Mousie, etc. Click here to learn more!
Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks Form
What is a weird thing that you love to teach? For me, that’s form.
There are almost endless possibilities of activities that you can do for form, including Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks by Modest Mussorgsky.
The form of this piece is AABA, which means that movement activities are super simple.
I like to start small and get bigger. Kids put their hands behind their back. They pull out one on the A section, and then have it go away and bring out the second one for B. We pretend they are little chicks and have them move their hands all around. (You could also have them use cards that say A and B or have shapes on them to show the form.)
Next, we stand up and move like chicks around the room on A. On B, everyone freezes. Then on A, they go back to moving around. Sometimes I’ll have one person be the adult chicken, and they are the only one allowed to move on B. this makes it last a long time because everyone wants to have a turn. (But let’s be real– they don’t all get a turn!)
Parachute Movement Lessons for Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks
If you have a parachute or scarves in your classroom, bust them out! You can have students do any two moves you want for this lesson– just assign one to A and one to B. I like to have them do “little shakes” on A and walk in a circle on B (if they can’t handle that– you can have them hold it still.)
I have a whole lesson pack on Teachers Pay Teachers that goes along with Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks, complete with a lesson plan, a slideshow to introduce form and teach the piece, manipulatives to figure out the form, worksheets, and more!
1,2, Buckle My Shoe
If you’re looking for simple but fun, this is the lower grades movement activities for you.
For the nursery rhyme 1,2, Buckle My Shoe, we basically just hold up the number of fingers to match the number and then act out each of the different verses.
Then we move it to the instruments!
I like to use this when talking about beat v. rhythm. We will tap the beat of the numbers on a drum or xylophone, then clap the rhythm to the verse on our hands (or click the sticks if you have xylophones.)
Scarves for Lower Grade Movement Activities
Scarves are basically my favorite things in the world. You can add scarves to literally ANYTHING– we use them for beat, high and low, form, forte and piano, matching music, and more.
One of my favorite lessons, though, is the Bizet scarf routine. This routine goes with the orchestral suite of Les Toreadores from Carmen. The form is AABACA.
Here is the pattern:
- A-March with scarf in hands
- A-March and move scarf up and down like a baton in a marching band
- B-Move scarf back and forth above head for 8 beats, then at feet for 8 beats. For the trills, shake the scarf quickly and high
- C-Get low (all the way to the ground!) and move scarf in a sideways figure 8 motion. Every 16 beats of the melody, get a little bit higher. The music will also get a little bit louder. This will happen four times, so don’t get too tall too fast!
- End-Shake the scarf really high above your head and freeze at the end
Side note: I think that I have used this with every grade from K-5 at this point, and it’s always a hit. With the littles, it is most of a lesson by itself. With the upper grades, we have used it as a warm up.
Where the Wild Things Are
I love to incorporate books into my elementary music classroom, but I was stuck with ideas for Where the Wild Things Are. I picked it up at Marshall’s (the mothership), and had it for over a year doing nothing.
Finally, I figured out some activities to go along with it!
We used it to practice rhythm, but as a warm up, I created a movement activity to go along with Where the Wild Things Are. I found a piece of music that includes a lot of drums and is upbeat, and I made a guided movement activity with it. All of the movements are inspired by the book– either part of the book, or just something that seemed kind of wild.
You can use the Youtube video for free, and you can get the whole lesson pack in my Teachers Pay Teachers store by clicking here.
It includes rhythms to go along with each page of the book, a wild rumpus this or that (I promise it’s calmer than it sounds!), rhythmic composition activities, sorting rhythms, and more! Plus, it comes in two rhythm levels, so you can use it with K-3!
Need the book? Click here!
Walk and Stop
This is one of my favorite beginning of the year activities because it’s so simple, but so effective.
Basically, you just follow the lyrics of the song– you walk, and then you stop.
Then, change walk to another action– spin, dance, hop, pat, clap, snap, etc. It’s extra fun when you let the kids choose the actions!
I sing the song in the video at the top of this page, or you can click here for the sheet music.
Bear Hunt Lower Grades Movement
Next on our list is We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is a really cute book (click here to check it out), but the movement activity is even better.
In this lower grades movement activity, students will echo the words to the song after you. You’ll keep the beat on the “regular” parts, and then you act out each of the obstacles in your path.
This is also included in my Virtual Field Trip to the Forest to learn about Piano and Forte. All of the activities in there are bear or mouse themed (bear for forte, mouse for piano!). It also includes Grizzly Bear, Mouse Mousie, animal sorts, listening selections, and more!
London Bridge is an oldie but a goodie– and you’d be surprised how many of your kiddos have never played it! We actually played it in Children’s Church the other day because my kids had never played. We have grades K-5, and they all loved it.
Although I definitely don’t suggest trying this with a room full of fifth graders.
Two people hold hands to make a “bridge”. Typically, I do myself and one student for this so that I can control the bridge. The other students walk in a circle going under the bridge. On “my fair lady”, the bridge “falls” and your arms go around the student under the bridge.
I like to use the verse that says “Shake them up with pepper and salt”, and I will GENTLY move the kid in the middle back and forth– hence why I make sure I’m the one on the bridge. Alternatively, you could have the bridge move their arms back and forth and not move the child.
Fair warning– this does get a little rowdy, so make sure you plan a cool down afterwards! (Click here to find a post all about it!)
Last on our list is Tick Tock. Tick Tock is a little known folk song, but it is so much fun!
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 cuckoo
Then have the kiddos get into pairs. One is the clock. The other is the Cuckoo bird. Then they will do the movements locomotor.
- Cuckoo walks around the clock
- Cuckoo picks up the arms of the clock
- Cuckoo bends sideways for each “cuckoo”
What are your favorite lower grade movement activities? There’s tons of K-1 movement lessons to choose from! Come talk to me on Instagram (@beccasmusicroom) and let me know!
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