Movement in music can be more than a stress reliever, a brain break, a way to experience another culture, or other very worthy objectives. It can also be a way to empower ALL kids through positive interaction with the teacher.
I was scrolling social media and saw this quote.
“Go and love someone exactly as they are. And then watch how quickly they transform into the greatest, truest version of themselves. When one feels seen and appreciated in their own essence, one is instantly empowered.”
It reminded me of a technique I learned as a teacher that provided deep and meaningful connections to my students.
Let them know what you notice!
I wanted kinders and first graders to move (step, skip, float) to changing music examples.
Are you looking for the classics taught with ACTIVE music-making?
This resource with lots of movement teaches students to play and sing (new Spring lyrics) the main theme to Vivaldi’s Spring Concerto with Orff barred instrument ostinati, AND a recreation of the thunderstorm using instruments.
Successful parachute songs, games, and activities teach musical and movement concepts, let students explore through creativity and improvisation, and provide a physical activity for fitness, a brain break, and a social-emotional learning (SEL) outlet.
Breaking down a classroom activity by procedures will make your lesson more effective. When activities fail, many times it’s because a classroom routine or process is missing. I spent twice as much planning time on HOW to teach than WHAT to teach.
You need to have several “tricks” to pull out of your back pocket when kids need to have a break, to expend some energy, to divert attention from something else going on in the room (a potential meltdown for ex.), to prepare them for a high-concentration activity, or when you the teacher need to have a mental break yourself.
And so, the Jumping Game was born!
Stand in a circle
Play a song with a good beat (see Spotify playlist below)
T stands on the outside of the circle and taps a child on the shoulder.
That child goes into the middle and begins to jump
Prepare kids for the jumping game by talking about how they can be creative by using feet together, feet apart, 1 and 2-foot jumping/hopping, use of arms, bending knees, turning as you jump, etc.
Everyone in the circle imitates the leader in the middle
T occasionally comments about some of the fine points of the jumper. “Ooh, did you see how they alternated bending their elbows as they jumped?”
Tap the next child in the circle after about 10 seconds, continuing to make your way around the circle.
In a class of 25, this gave the class about 4 minutes of jumping.
Chinese Tea Dance ORFF Lesson Activities (Movement, Instrumental Arrangement)
With its call and response form, this is the perfect barred instrument activity for December! PLUS, movement ideas using partners and the whole class with and without props! Ribbon sticks/wands, scarves, partner parachutes, and a classroom parachute!
Tea Dance Video
Cultural Stereotypes in the Nutcracker
Each performance of the Nutcracker uses an artistic director who helps determine the costuming, dancing, makeup, and scenery for the ballet. The ballet dates back to a time when ethnic caricatures were standard practice in the performances. This is particularly true in Act II with the dances related to the Chinese, Arabian, Russian, and Spanish dances.
As music specialists, this is important to take into consideration if we choose to use videos in our teaching. Read more.
Here’s an excellent interview on NPR about “Rethinking Cultural Stereotypes in The Nutcracker.”
At this school, students were asked to bring in a family Nutcracker and were put into this fun Nutcracker Museum display! (Remember to have the student’s name and room clearly labeled.)
Add this to your end-of-year evaluation Danielson (or similar) Domain 1b: Teacher-designed opportunities for families to share their heritages.
Unit of Study (in progress)
K-1 Read a book about ballet and a book about The Nutcracker
Pull out this versatile echo song for primary students that’s about appreciation, thanksgiving, and thankfulness in November or for other celebrations throughout the year. A simple Orff arrangement, one-chord C ukulele part, scarf activities, and movement will make this a great concert piece or SEL activity in the classroom.
Give Thanks is available as a single resource or part of this Thanksgiving Bundle!
You want your beginning-of-the-year music activities to be that perfect combination of fun and learning. Here you’ll find some name games and activities that will have your students interacting on the very first day in music class.
On this page…
Beginning of the year music activities should let the teacher and students hear and interact with student names. Here are some fun lessons for all grade levels.
Name Name, What’s the Name?
The Never-Ending Name Game
This lesson plan is best spread out over multiple days.
Lesson 1: Introduction
Sitting in a circle works best
T speaks every student’s first name and students echo
T speaks and claps student’s first name and all students echo
Ss clap and speak their own name and class echoes
Ss clap and speak their own name and NO echoes, just right around the circle.
Same as K-2 above.
Go around circle and Ss only clap their name, no speaking.
Go around circle and class claps and speaks every student’s name.
Go around circle and class claps, no speaking, everyone’s name.
The class claps each student’s name going right around the circle (this is a fun challenge)
Rhythm & Accent
With 3-5, this is a great activity (if you choose) to talk about natural ways of speaking and rhythm. The name “Ellen.” Is it El-len with 2 quarter notes or with an eighth-dotted quarter pattern? You can also talk about anacrusis. The name “Latasha.” Is it a two eighths/quarter pattern with the accent on “La” or two eighths/dotted quarter, with the accent on “ta?”
Lesson 2: Transfer to Instruments
K-5 (Pick and choose from these ideas, although I tried to sequence them from easy to advanced)
Take any part of the above activities and transfer to UPP. Drums are wonderful but you could also use rhythm sticks.
Add a simple refrain to play after every 4 names. “Name game, name game. Let’s play a name game.”
Create a class ostinato using 4 student names. Discuss which order sounds best. See if the class can play it over and over without rushing. Did you use just bass or tone sounds? Maybe add taps to side of drum or other ideas to create some diversity to the tone color if the students are able to remember the patterns.
Lesson 3: Group Work
Now…put students in groups of 4 and have them do the SAME activity and have them create a name ostinato. (It helps if you have the whole room practice several times with you keeping a stick or clave beat. I’d say, “Ok this may sound messy with all of us practicing at once, but concentrate on your group’s ostinato. 1-2-Ready-Go)You are walking around coaching and helping where needed.
Have them play AND speak the names the first time. Each group SHARES their ostinato with the class.
Now tell them they can keep their previous ostinato or change it but this time just playing it and NO speaking.
Try layering in (and out) the group ostinati. FUN!!!
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Sitting in a circle works best.
Teacher claps and speaks each student’s first name and the class echoes
Students clap and speak their own name and the class echoes
Have a discussion about syllables and then ask who has a name with 1 syllable, 2, 3, etc.
As a class, go around the circle clapping and speaking each student’s name. (This is a fun challenge to keep it going with no stops)
As a class, go around the circle clapping (no speaking) each student’s name. (An even bigger challenge!)
The four corners are names with ONE syllable, TWO syllables, THREE syllables, and FOUR or more syllables.
Students choose a corner and T draws a name out of a bowl. (or any method of randomly choosing from the class list)
The number of syllables of that person’s name determines which corner is OUT.
So if the name is Marcus, everyone standing at the 2-syllable corner is out.
Play until there is one winner or you are out of names!
Blast Off Challenge
Sitting in a circle is best. The teacher can stand behind each student to facilitate the flow of the game/rhythms.
Pick a starting point in the circle and then students clap and speak each student’s name FOUR times. Try to get the kids to feel the beats in 4 and move seamlessly from one student to the next.
If they are successful, clap and speak each name THREE times. Their tendency is to pause after the third repeat to make it feel like 4 so that is a great time to talk about 3 vs. 4.
If they are successful, clap and speak each name TWO times.
Then, of course, ONE time and if successful, they earn a BLASTOFF! (see video below)
Don’t pause between rotations but go directly from 4X to 3X, 2X, 1X, and Blastoff!
If the class is quite proficient, try the entire process with clapping and only THINKING the names. Audiation!
Kindergarten and first-grade students usually don’t know everyone’s name or know them well enough to keep within a beat scheme. Put them in groups of four and have them try saying and clapping everyone’s name in their group 4x, then on different days, 3X, 2X, and 1x. Each group can take a turn and share to the class. Check out my Columns and Rows system for quickly making groups of 4!
Beginning of the Year Music Activities
I saw this great beginning-of-the-year activity from an art teacher that was a great way for kids to work together to create something unique. It was called Exquisite Corpse and began with a long piece of paper folded 4 times. The first child would draw something on the first folded area.
The next child would continue the drawing on the adjacent fold, then two more students adding on. When unfolded, it was a tall figure with 4 unique areas that looked kind of zany and very cool.
How to play
I thought, “Why not do it with a descriptive sentence that creates a rhythm?” Using the below columns, run off the words in each column, each on a different color of paper.
Here’s a PDF with the four pages! Just copy and cut out the strips.
The mixed-up sentences will delight your students and get them working together to perform their Madcap Rap!
There are enough for a class of 32 but if you have fewer students, just make sure you hand out equal numbers of each color. If you have a number that isn’t divisible by 4, the teacher may have to step in to help out.
Have the students get in groups of four and say their sentences in your color order. For my example, the order would be red-orange-blue-green. The goal would be to try to say it with a good beat.
You might get “A spoon and fork were hiking in the mountains in the pouring rain. That’s so fire!”
Each group would get a turn “rapping” their sentence. The next step would be to ask all of the reds and blues to find a new group and repeat the above process. Ask the oranges and greens to find a new group for more madcap raps.
Add a fun mp3 loop for the performances!
Body Shapes Movement
Start your year with this best-selling resource that will set a standard for calm and focused beginnings in your music classes. SEL is achieved through music and movement. See and hear a PDF and video preview on TPT.