Teaching music to elementary students can be great fun. Children of this age are usually very responsive to learning music. They are young enough to learn through play, but compared to toddlers, they are already old enough for more complex group activities. There are so many music activities for elementary aged children, and the kids usually love going to music lessons. But you need plenty of energy to teach this age group successfully.
Music is very physical, especially at this age, and the children need to learn through a range of different short activities and games. Here we present six fun and engaging music activities for elementary students that you can try out in your classroom.
What You'll Learn?
1. Get Rhythmic with Syllables
Introduce young children to the simple rhythms found in familiar words. There are many ways to teach this activity. Mark Warner suggests beginning with the words Tea and Coffee.
TASK Split the class into two groups, one for Tea and one for Coff-ee. Each group repeats their word.Tea takes the duration of a quarter note (crotchet) value while Coff-ee represents two eighth notes (quavers). Encourage the groups to say their notes out loud together while listening to the resultant blend.
Further developments include introducing new drinks such as Coca-Cola, which has the same rhythm as Coff-ee Coff-ee, or Cream Soda with the rhythm of Tea Coff-ee. This is also a great way to introduce musical notation, because you can show the students how to read and write rhythms made of quarter notes and eighth notes using the words Tea and Coff-ee.
2. Play or Sing Along with Solfeg.io
Make use of new technology in your music classroom. Open our music teacher's software Solfeg.io and search for Children’s Songs. There are many songs that are ideal for teaching to elementary students.
Choose something seasonal like Witch, Witch for Halloween, or a song related to one of their favorite stories like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
You can listen to the song together before singing or playing along. Better still, you can select elements of the song, such as voice, piano or percussion, to play as a solo. Once your class has learnt the song they can sing along with the backing track as a minus one.
3. Use Flash Cards for Visual Clarity
Flash cards are a great way to introduce visual aspects of music learning to your class. Elementary students respond well to the clear, simple shapes. Download some flashcards for musical notes and simple rhythms or make your own.
TASK Show one flashcard at a time and ask students to clap the rhythm or play it on simple percussion instruments. Once your students are confident, try putting two cards side by side to create a longer rhythm. Taking this a step further, you can use flash cards to reinforce rhythms that you have already taught using the activities above.
4. Practise Conducting
Let students take turns to act as the conductor in this fun activity that teaches good musical communication and dynamics.
Give the students simple instruments and explain that you will make gestures. Tell the students to respond. So if you raise your arms they should make a loud sound, and if you lower your arms they should play quietly.
Teach them signals for starting and stopping. Then you are ready to conduct your class. Encourage the students to pay full attention as you gradually conduct them more quickly and with more stops and starts. Once they are familiar with the activity, allow the students to conduct their classmates.
5. Link Pitch to Movement
This is a physical game that is a great way to burn off energy when your class can’t sit still.
TASK Tell the students to stand up and make sure they have enough space to move around on the spot. Play your instruments (any pitched instrument is fine), and tell them that if you play a high pitch they must reach their arms up high into the air.
If you play a low pitch they must curl up into a ball. And if you play a medium pitch they must stand up with their arms pointing outwards to the sides. Play slowly at first and gradually increase the speed. This game is sure to make your class laugh and teaches them to recognise and respond to different pitches.
6. Music, Movies, Feeling
Musical soundtracks are an important part of every movie. This activity teaches children about the role of music in movies, while also helping them to connect music to feelings. Elementary students will enjoy watching their favorite movies as part of the class.
Assuming you don’t have time to show a whole movie in your lesson, play a selected part of a movie that your students will like. We suggest playing a clip where the musical soundtrack creates an atmosphere and shows a simple feeling such as love, sadness, tension or happiness.
Discuss the movie with your class and encourage them to make the links between what is happening on screen and the soundtrack. Talk further about how music can trigger different feelings. This is a great way to help children to identify their feelings, as well as learning about music in movies.
These six elementary music classroom ideas will liven up your lessons. They each introduce different aspects of musical knowledge through fun games. We have included activities for teaching:
Many of these activities can be adapted to include your students’ favorite songs. As elementary students typically have short attention spans, you may find that using several different activities in one lesson is the best way to keep them focused. Whether you teach using flash cards, apps, movies or movement, you are sure to enjoy using these activities in your classroom.