Classroom Music Activities
- To foster musical development in all children
- To create activities that activate
all parts of the brain.
- To teach the elements of music
- To meet the state and national standards for music
Planning Musical Learning
Activities that Activate the Whole Brain
- Auditory learners: Use activities and promote experiences that develop
auditory discrimination. Auditory learners tune in to the sounds of
music. They hear and imitate rhythms and melodies. They
can discriminate between different types of sound (environmental, noise,
and musical), pitches (high and low), and timbre (wood, metallic).
- Visual learners: Visual learners
recognize visual cues, musical notation,
watching a performance, and looking at instruments as they are played.
- Kinesthetic learners: Most students excel through
kinesthetic means: touching, feeling, experiencing something with hands-on
activities. Kinesthetic learners will enjoy playing instruments,
singing songs, and moving to music.
Music and the Brain
Activation with Different Stimulation and Levels of Activity
music makes neural connections between various parts of the brain.
Auditory and motor activities take place through playing an instrument.
Rhythm and melody instruments require motor coordination. Reading music
involves visual activity. Singing songs and recalling or reading lyrics
activate language processing areas of the brain. Dancing or moving to the
rhythm of music stimulates the brain's motor areas. Music is processed differently for different people
depending on kind of music and musical background.
- Familiar music activates Broca's area (left hemisphere)
- Rhythm notes are activated in Broca's area and the cerebellum
- Harmony activates the left side of the brain more than the right in the inferior temporal cortex.
Timbre activated the right
hemisphere (the only musical element that did)
Pitch activated an area on the left back of the brain -
Melody activated both sides of the brain
Composite listening -
Left and Right Hemisphere - Auditory
Understanding lyrics -
Teaching the Elements of
Rhythm and Tempo Activities
- Steady Beat - Find the beat, march the beat, tap the
- Conduct the beat using traditional conducting patterns.
- Clap the rhythm of syllables in names, words, phrases,
- Long vs. short and fast vs. slow
- Locate the accents in words.
- Rhythm Echos with Words, Jump Rope Rhymes, phrases,
- Raps and Rhymes
- Keep a steady beat with lap,
clap, tap or drums, tambourine, etc.
- Find a recording or MIDI file
of a drum beat and rap over a drumbeat.
- Rhythm Echos - See the rhythm chapter and powerpoint presentations.
- Aural (listening) echos -
Play a regular rhythmic pattern and have the child echo. See the
rhythm echoes powerpoint
presentations. Generally you will want to be consistent with your
patterns. Use a 4/4 Common time signature. Make each pattern
4 beats long and stick with a walking tempo. Use rhythms with
quarter notes and eighth notes in the beginning. You can begin to
introduce syncopation as the children become more tuned in. Put the
rhythm in your hands, your feet, or play a rhythm instrument.
- Introduce rhythm notation See
the rhythm chapter and powerpoint
- Whole Note - Eagle - Glide 2
- Half Note - Penguin - Slide 2
- Quarter Note - Bear - Walk walk walk walk
- Eighth Note - Squirrel - Run run run run Run run run run
- Clap rhythms of well-known songs or nursery rhymes and
try to recognize the rhythm.
- Use the Indian Gathering Drum to play rhythm
echoes. Make it a relay game and line the students up. As you
play a 4-beat rhythm, each child echoes and hands off the beater to the
- Draw a musical timeline and create symbols for long,
- Count how many beats as you play or sing tones - or
watch the second hand on the clock.
- Introduce rests - timed silence.
- Introduce time signatures and count beats in measures.
- Explore duple and triple meters. 4/4 vs. 3/4
- Use a metronome to explore the beats per minute with
- Use musical terminology for tempos - accelerando, rallentando, etc.
- For older students
- Fractions and rhythmic
- Rhythm Math
- Sing! Begin with simple repetitive songs with choruses.
- Melody echos - What is your name? etc.
- Use Solfege - do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do
- Sing solfege echos.
- Help children discriminate between lows and highs,
melodies that go up, down or stay the same.
- Use body signals from solfege
- or create your own using hands to show the rise and fall of the melody.
- Help children hear intervals - the distance between the
pitches of the melody may be steps from one note to an adjacent note, or
skips where pitches leap from one to another skipping a tone or tones.
- Use the colored bells to introduce the scale of 8 tones
from low to high.
- Sing Do Re Mi from the Sound of Music and ring the
bells as you sing the scale.
- Teach children how to ring the bells
- Discuss the similarities between high do and low do.
- Sing words or phrases and point out the natural melody
in comparison to the spoken word or phrase.
- Sing a story! Make up opera recitatives and
- Read songs from the colored bell powerpoint collection.
- Bells - Have children learn to echo your
playing or singing using the step bells on tone bars from the glockenspiel
- Demonstrate low and high pitches in relationship to the
size of the bars on the bells.
- Teach breathing and phrasing as you sing with
children. Take deep breaths and let the air out slowly - singing
through the phrase. Use vowel sounds to help children use their
- Teach enunciation of words and the difference between
vowels and consonants.
- Play the piano and demonstrate the treble clef and bass
clef sections of the keyboard.
- Create pentatonic (5-tone) melodies using just the
black keys on the piano.
- Try the question and answer phrasing with just the
black tone bars of your glockenspiel, tone bars, etc. Count 2
measures for and improvise a "musical
question" with the black keys or bars. Have the child improvise
an "answer" on the other tone bars. Typically one person
can use the 5 lowest black bars and the other can use the higher 5 black
- Use an electronic keyboard. Preferably use a MIDI
keyboard that you can connect to the computer.
- Teach children to listen and imitate melodies on the
Harmony and Form
Harmony is formed either by
sounds that are played or song at the same time (homophonic) or by sounds that
are created with simultaneous melodies (like a round or canon). Form
is the design of music,
incorporating repetition, contrast, unity, and variety. The organization of music, its shape or structure.
- Play chords on a guitar, piano, or autoharp as you sing
- Electronic keyboards frequently have chord progressions
and musical styles.
- Demonstrate chords using the colored bells.
Discuss which tones sound good together (consonant) and which tones seem
to clash (dissonant).
- Demonstrate the I chord, V
chord, and IV chord. Example - La Bamba
- Sing Rounds or Canons.
- Create an "Ostinato"
- or repeated patterns that continue beneath a melody. (Example: Ding Ding Dong repeated through out "Are You
- Listen to polyphonic music, rounds, canons, fugues as
the melodies combine at different times. Good examples might be
- Look for repeated patterns. Try the colored bell
songs in the powerpoint
presentation. The colors clearly show that some phrases are
identical and others are different. Look for repetitions in notation
- rhythm, melody, chord patterns, etc.
- Explore song forms - verse/chorus,
ABA, AABA, ABC, etc. Repeated patterns unify the song
- Make up repeated choruses and patterns in raps and
The Expressive Elements of Music - Add Variety and Contrast to Music
Timbre - The distinctive quality of tone of a sound.
- Listen to sounds around you.
- Using rhythm instruments - divide into 3 groups and
instruct different groups to echo.
- Wood - woodblock, guiro,
- Metal - triangle, cowbell,
tambourine, cymbals, etc.
- Skins - drums (some
tambourines have both skin and metal)
- Create sound effects for stories.
- Listen for high, middle, low, loud, soft, long, short.
- Use additional adjectives for descriptions - shrill,
thump, rumble, crash, clunk, etc.
- Create your own instruments.
- Listen to musical instruments and identify instrument
- Listen to different timbres in voices. (Hide
students and have them try to recognize voices of classmates, teachers,
- Learn the voice ranges by sung example or by families
of instruments (recorders, saxophones, etc)
- Look inside a piano
- See how the hammers hit the
- Examine the long/low and
- Watch the vibration of the
- Demonstrate the concept of vibration
- Examine guitar strings, frets,
and harmonic proportions as you divide the string into half, fourths,
- Use bells to discuss vibration
by letting them ring and then stopping the vibration with the mallet (or
resting the mallet on the tone bar in order to not allow vibration.
- Create a homemade string
instrument with rubber bands
- Play combs with wax paper to
Tempo - The pace at which music moves, based on the speed of the
- Use a metronome to determine fast and slow tempos.
- Count the number of beats per minute
- Discuss the musical terminology for various tempos from
slow to fast to very fast.
- Move, dance, walk, run, etc. according to tempo
- Use musical terminology to give directions to children.
- Conduct tempo changes from
faster - accelerando to slower - rallentando
- Conduct rhythm patterns and insert changes in tempo, rubato (expressive), or fermata (hold)
- Teach children to conduct the class.
- Use children's songs of varied tempos.
- Locate music for classroom transitions according to
tempo, volume, energy, etc.
- Use slower tempos for classroom relaxation activities.
Dynamics - The volume of sound; the loudness or softness of a musical
- Teach volume dynamics and
- Show children markings - f for forte and p for piano.
- Discuss the early name of the piano and one of the
first keyboards to play both loud and soft - the pianoforte.
- Sing, speak, play softly - piano or pianissimo.
- Conduct volume changes by raising arms for crescendo
and lowering arms for decrescendo.
- Create drum rolls
- Show dynamic markings for crescendo and descrescendo.
- Develop sensitivity to loud and soft music in movie
- Discuss the appropriate dynamics for events in a story.
See the Introductory
discussion of the English Language Arts standards and Mathematics standards for
suggestions on how to use music to reinforce learning.
- Find the rhymes in songs
- Sing and rap nursery rhymes, jump rope rhymes
- Listen to and play syllables
- Create word rhythms and accents
- Use vowel sounds in singing
- Enunciate Consonants
- Examine dipthongs in singing
- Vocabulary and Concept Development
- Repetition and Memorization
- Patterns in pitch or tone
- Reading lyrics
- Sing songs that tell stories
- Use stories with music
- Listen and sing songs about characters and events.
(Folk Songs, Opera, Musicals, Cartoons)
- Listen to background "mood" music in a movie
- Sing songs for celebrations - Holidays, Patriotic,
- Learn concepts of print in music notation
- Learn concepts of tone color and timbre
- Practice musical conversations - Questions and Answers
- Play recorders or song flutes
- Sing and play games
- Move and dance to activity songs
- Echo rhythms and patterns
- Create a musical timeline - Understand the
concept of time and units of measurement, beginning, middle, end, etc.
- Play, clap, march to steady beat
- Examine metronome - count ticking of the beat
- Count number of beats in a minute - Watch the
- Count and play word syllables, patterns, phrases
- Count measures in 4/4 or 3/4 or 6/8 time.
- Locate natural strong beats in measures - 1-2-3-4
(odds or evens)
- Examine the equal division of beats by
measures. Most children's music is counted by duples
- twos or fours. (1-2-1-2 or 1-2-3-4).
However, some music is triple, counted by threes or sixes. (1-2-3
or 1-2-3-4-5-6). Children can learn to aurally
discriminate between duple and triple meter as they learn to group notes
in patterns of twos and threes.
- Classify notes by long, short, equal - Length of
- Understand the importance of rests indicating
silence equal to notes of the same value.
- Understand fast and slow tempos.
- Identify, sort, and classify note values in
- Examine the mathematical relationships between
whole, half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth notes.
- Examine musical scale construction - whole and
half step combinations for major and minor scales. Count the 8 tones
of a major scale.
- Analyze the difference between music and noise.
- Recognize the sounds of instruments and voices
- Look at sound waves of different materials in a
computer sound recording program.
- Create chords and triads
- Examine notes and learn the different
multiplication principles of the rhythmic notation -
stems, flags, etc. as they signify doubling of note
- Look at the ratios of note values in the rhythm
- Rhythmic notation is a tangible method of
demonstrating fractions in sound.
- Examine the physics of sound and the overtone
series with a fundamental tone and a natural mathematical ratio of
- Examine tone quality and timbre in terms of
- Use a MIDI sound synthesizer to create drum
beats and musical patterns.
- Digitize sound on the computer.