3-5, Elementary Music, K-2, Lessons

Music Lesson Ideas: Jazz

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If you cannot tell from other posts, I love to teach students about different kinds of music. I think that music teachers have a unique job in that we can show the students the similarities and differences between different cultures. Music is a great way to integrate different cultures. I spent some time teaching my students about jazz this year, and am sharing some of those lessons—along with some other ideas—with you.

If you want to incorporate different kinds of music, jazz is a good starting place. It is different enough from what most students listen to that it is new, but close enough to popular music that they don’t think it is totally weird.

Here are just a few ideas for how to incorporate jazz music into your music class!

PS—These are great for Black History Month, but you should know that April is Jazz month! And of course, you can just do it anytime.

And if you want to incorporate other styles, here are some ideas for opera!

Music Lesson Ideas: Jazz. Free music lessons to help teach jazz in elementary music. Great for Black History Month or Jazz month. Becca's Music Room.


Jazz is all about the back beat. Practice keeping the steady backbeat first by using movements, then with instruments. I found that tambourines provide a similar sound to the cymbal on the drum set.

By the way– I just got these tambourines in my classroom (from Donor’s Choose!). They are super cute– they are the ones in the pictures above.


There are a few ways to do this.

With younger students, I used the song “Blue Skies”. They kept the backbeat with the tambourines. About half way through, we talked about improvising, and I allowed them to try it. We talked about trying to make it sound cool instead of just making tons of noise.

With older students, you could start there, and then go further. On xylophones, you can do question and answer improvising—you improvise for eight beats with the music, then they improvise for 8 beats. Don’t forget to make the xylophones pentatonic.

You can also practice scatting! Have students listen to a song that has scatting in it. Talk about what scatting is. Decide on a syllable and note, and have students come up with their own rhythms. (For example, you can have students use the syllable “do” on middle C. This way they only have to come up with the rhythms.) Once they have that down, you can open it up to different syllables. (Don’t forget to model for them.)

Also read: Free K-2 Music Lesson: Five Little Monkeys (with Math and Reading!)

Instrument study

Jazz songs are great for instruments, because the instruments often take turns improvising! Talk about the types of instruments that you hear in jazz music, and show them pictures (if you can bring some in, even better!). Show them how to play the instruments.

While listening to the music, have the students pretend to play each of the instruments they hear.

Bonus: for an assessment, you could have students hold up cards that say what each of the instruments are.


Scarf movements with melody

I did this with the Blue Skies song too. Teach the students the chorus, and have them move their scarves up when the melody does up and down when the melody goes down.

For the verses, you can have them follow you with movements or make up their own!

Read more above listening lessons with scarves here and get YOUR scarves here!


Music Lesson Ideas: Jazz. Free music lessons to help teach jazz in elementary music. Great for Black History Month or Jazz month. Becca's Music Room.

A Train

This song is about directions to get to Harlem. Have the students listen to the song, and tell what directions are said (take the A train). Have students come up with their own directions on how to get to Harlem, and draw a map that shows it. The more ridiculous, the more fun! My favorite one said that we had to go over the Great Wall of China.


What a Wonderful World

Talk to students about Louis Armstrong, and how he was a really important jazz composer. Tell them a little bit about his life. Have them listen to the song What a Wonderful World. Have students make up actions for the song—you could have one group make up actions for the first verse, another group for the second, so on and so forth.

Ask students what you think a wonderful world would look like. Have them draw a picture and write a few sentences about their own wonderful world.

Also read: Phrases for Classroom Management in the Music Room

Books about Jazz

Books are always a really great way to teach about music– and include reading lessons as well.

Miles the Crocodile is a really cute book about jazz. Here are two books about jazz you can read to the kids. Click on the pictures to see them.

So there are some ideas for Jazz music! How do you incorporate jazz music? And how what styles of music do you like to incorporate?

Happy Teaching!

Music Lesson Ideas: Jazz. Free music lessons to help teach jazz in elementary music. Great for Black History Month or Jazz month. Becca's Music Room.

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