Children begin middle school at age 11 as pre-teens, with the curiosity of a child. By the time they finish middle school at age 13 they are full-blown teenagers. In some cases they are already on the educational path that will lead to their future career. For this reason, middle school is the best time to embed a love of music in your students.
As a teacher, you can set them up for life by nurturing their creativity at this crucial age. One of the best ways to do this is with fun music games for middle school.
Remember when you became a teenager? I bet you think back to the bands you loved, with posters on your bedroom wall. Listening to that music now is sure to bring back strong memories. Music is such an important part of growing up. As a music teacher, you can ensure that your students also have music with them as they grow.
In this article we present three music activities for middle school. The goal is to make your music lessons more creative. This is a great way to help young people through the transition from child to teenager.
1. Describe what You Hear
This activity teaches students to describe music and to be creative with language. It is a great way to help them listen and concentrate, skills which will be valuable in all parts of their lives. This activity is best for older students, who have some knowledge of reading music.
Open the Solfeg.io app and prepare three or four songs. We recommend using contrasting songs, such as Marilyn Manson’s Sweet Dreams, Eminem’s Lose Yourself, and Rolling in the Deep by Adele. If your students’ favorite songs are on Solfeg.io then include one of them. Place some whiteboard pens where students can access them.
Play a song on Solfeg.io without showing students the screen. They mustn’t see the name of the song or the notation. The students must use single words to describe what they hear. Rather than calling the words out they must come up and write them on the board. This is a popular game because most students love that they can get up any time they want to write a word on the board.
By the end of the song you should have lots of descriptive words on the board. Then work as a whole class and group the words into categories. Identify words that relate to the rhythm, the melody, the tempo, the instrumentation, and so on. At this point, play the song again, showing the screen to your students. Encourage them to identify visual elements in the music notation that they already noticed by listening.
Once this is complete, clean the board and play the next recording. By the end of the lesson, the students will be able to listen carefully and describe music creatively.
2. Compose a Rap
Composition is one of the most creative musical activities. It isn’t restricted to students who already know how to read and write music. With some adjustments, you can use composition in your music classes with most age groups. Many middle school aged children do not know how to read and write music. For this reason, rap is a great genre for a creative composition activity.
Split students into pairs or small groups depending on class size. You can either choose the rap topics or allow students to come up with their own. One suggestion is to write a list of four or five topics on the board that students can choose from.
The students’ rap compositions must follow some kind of rhyming scheme. Give them some examples. Simple schemes include ABBA and AABB. They can use a different scheme but they must be consistent and the rhyming pattern must be obvious.
Give the students time to work in their pairs or groups and compose a rap. Tell them how long they will have to work on this and encourage them to try to finish their rap within the given time. Once the time is up, set up the classroom for performance. Prepare a rap backing track on YouTube. Each group must come to the front of the class and perform their rap with the backing track.
In this composition activity students create a composition without having to read music. They will enjoy listening to each other’s raps.
3. Create a “Stomp” Rhythm Performance
This is another creative composition activity which is great for middle school. Unlike the rap activity, in this game students cannot use their voices. They must create their own instruments and make a performance using them.
Search for Stomp Live on YouTube. Play students examples of the wonderful percussive performances by this group. The Stomp ensemble uses items such as brooms and dustbin lids, playing them as musical instruments to create performances. Your students will be amazed by their rhythmic and captivating show.
Split the class into groups of around five or six students. They must first find objects that can be used as percussion instruments. If your school has a garden or other outside space, it is a good idea to let students go out and search for objects.
You will need to tell them that, of course, they cannot take any objects that belong to other people. Give them 10 minutes to collect objects. Once back in the classroom they must work in their groups to create a percussive composition, inspired by Stomp. Give them a clear time limit for this. When they have finished preparing their pieces, have them perform to the rest of the class.
These three music games for middle school all encourage creativity from your students. Teaching them to describe music, to compose a rap, and to make music from everyday objects are all great middle school activities. Music games like these help to make music a part of your students’ lives as they grow into teenagers.