Monday, October 11, 2021

Ideas for Upper Elementary

 Upper elementary music classes can be challenging. Fourth and fifth grade students can be tough!  They may see some music activities as too childish and think themselves "too cool for school music."  They are more self conscious about everything, particularly singing, and fearful of being judged by others.  If you are in your first five years of teaching, trial and error is your best friend. Once activities are found that engage these age levels, build upon those activities to continue challenging them while achieving content and curricular goals. 
On Sunday, October 17, I am having a special guest for an Upper Elementary Chat on my Patreon site - hope you can join us or watch the video after!  Click the picture for more info! 

Upper Elementary Tips:

Invite, don't enforce. 
Establish trust, build relationships.
Play (instruments, singing games, be playful).
Build a culture of singing.
Use songs they know and enjoy.
Make it fun.
Friendly competition and challenges.

Here are a few successes.

Bucket Drumming

Choose a tongue twister, play the rhythm on the top of the bucket. Play the rhythm with rim hits only.  Play the rhythm by tapping sticks together only, etc. 
Determine on what words to add rim hits, side of bucket, tap sticks together, etc.  
Ask students to tell you the "most memorable" part of the speech or other words from the text - create a 4-beat rhythm ostinato. I have found ostinato's with rests are more pleasant than constant audible beats (think- We Will Rock You's ostinato of ta ta ta rest.). Decide how to play - rim shots, top, etc. Half the class performs the text,  half performs ostinato. 
Add another ostinato, one third of class performs text, one third performs Ostinato 1, one third performs Ostinato 2. 
Decide Form: Determine repeats, play Ostinato 1 and 2 only together, play text only, speak text only, whisper text only, etc.

Turkish March Remix
For a ready-made drumming activity my students performed in front of a Kindergarten through High School seniors event (and those high school kids went BANANAS!!) check out the post, music, and video link below (click on picture) using a trap remix:


Singing games and clapping games are still engaging and fun with this age, but up the level of complexity- take the clapping game and make it more challenging as in Four White Horses where partners stand across from each other in a group of four and change when and how the clapping pattern is performed. This is from my Hands to Hands Hand Clapping Songs and Games from Around the World Book.

Or clapping games like these: 

Pass the Beat

One thing I have found that works well for these ages is a "challenge". Gameify it with a "Level 1", "Level 2" and so on, and they rise to the challenge and love it!  When we start Pass the Beat in Grade 2, we play it a few times, then play it again in third grade, adding Level 2. In fourth grade we add Level 3 - same as below, replace "room" with a pat.  In fifth grade add Level 4 - replace "pass" with snap. 


Popular Music 

Pop Music can still be elemental, sometimes it's the rhythm, the form, or the melody. In fact these songs use pentatonic scales in the melody (the pentatonic melodies may be a partial hook or phrase and not the entire melody or melodies):
Atlantis, by Shinee (for full lesson click on picture)

Let it Be, by the Beatles
Wake Me Up, by Avicii
Home, by Phillip Phillips
Glad You Came, by the Wanted 

They still want to have fun and are still ready to play!  Lots of things from Artie Almeida's Parachutes, Ribbons, and Scarves book with parachutes work beautifully for these ages. And, they are ready for more sophisticated and complicated rhythms and forms.

Hope you enjoy these and hope to see you soon! 

Friday, October 8, 2021

Musical Monster Fun!

 I enjoy the costumes, trick or treating, and the silly, playful fun of Halloween. I have leaned more towards monsters in the past several years as they aren't really Halloween and can be use any time of year. 

On my Patreon site there are SEVERAL posts using children's lit, songs, games, speech pieces, solo singing activities, etc. This is one recent massive post, with 3 embedded videos!  Here is a pic of some of the things from that one post: 

Past Posts:

Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Hispanic Heritage Month Part 2

 There are so many wonderful songs to sing, books to read, and music to listen, dance, and play along with! 

This is a fabulous video made by Nickelodeon about well-known icons, artists, musicians, and heroes! 

Check out this post from 2020! Lots of great resources including children's literature!

Here is Part 1! 

Here are a few more favorites:

El juego chirimbolo - sheet music from Beth's Notes here.

Dos y dos son cuatro from the Holy Names University site.

Por aqui paso un caballo from my Hands to Hands book. The first version is more traditional and played with a partner. Version 2 is for a group of four.

Try this version for a *little* more fun! 

En le calle ventricuatro from Hands to Hands.

This lesson on Tito Puente, complete with moveable building blocks using elemental forms is a Patreon exclusive - for less than the cost of your monthly coffee - resources, webinars, children's literature resources, videos, etc. More and more is added every month - come join the community! 
Hope you enjoy all of these! Happy Hispanic and LatinX Heritage Month!

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Hispanic Heritage Month

So many lovely songs to sing, books to read, and games to play!  I always struggle this time of year to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, starting September 15, the Chinese holiday Mid-Autumn Moon Festival September 21st, fall, and Halloween. 

So let's start with Hispanic Heritage Month! My next post will be about Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.

Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15-October 15


 Click this link to make a copy of the Google Slides with 8 songs. 

Sol solecito - check it out here at my Patreon community. This is a member exclusive. 

Children's Literature 

The ADL (Anti-Defamation League) has an article of their "must-reads" for this month. Click the picture to go to their site and read a short description and age range for each book on the list. 

I created an activity to go with the beautiful Tito Puente book and it's another Patreon exclusive. Check it out here! 

Several other books I love for this month:

Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Come Chat!

 Music Teacher Friends and Fam:
Come and chat about anything to do with music education. Need ideas, we will all share some. Bring a lesson you are working on or an idea for a lesson, or a question. Bring yourself and a beverage. Let's chat.
I hope to see you there! 😊

Sunday, September 5, 2021


 Hello, friends - first, an exciting announcement! I have a new community full of music educators who are trying to simplify their planning and grow professionally. I welcome you to come join for exclusive video lessons, print lessons, workshops, and one on one mentoring opportunities. We are going to have so much fun learning and growing with each other. If you are seeking lessons, they are there and will continually be added. Lessons from my books are added and children's literature lessons are there. If you are looking for ideas for assessment - well, there is a 45 minute video chat with a group of music teachers just like you with a BUNCH of ideas, tricks, and tips. 

Join here!

In terms of fall planning, don't forget Diwali is coming soon- November 7. I posted some ideas and activities on instagram @Aimee_ofortunaorff last year and with all the chaos with school and Covid did not post here. So here we go! 

What is Diwali? 

Diwali is a religious holiday and festival originating in India. People often think of Diwali as a Hindu festival, but it is also celebrated by Sikhs and Jains. The celebration lasts for five days and marks the start of the Hindu New Year. The exact dates change each year and are determined by the position of the moon but usually fall between October and November. 

Diwali (or Deepavali as it’s sometimes called) means “row of lights” in Sanskrit. During this festival, people decorate their homes with lights and oil lamps, called diyas.  The lights and lamps are said to help the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, find her way into peoples’ homes, bringing prosperity in the year to come. It is also a celebration of good triumphing evil.

Check out the Nat Geo page for more interesting facts. 

I began last year by talking with some of my families who are Indian. I had some wonderful moms come in and teach me some Dandiya (stick) dances and we created a very simple one for our young students. There is some footwork involved in Dandiya dances, but the most important thing was for us to get the feeling of the holiday and to perform the stick dance correctly. I also talked with a few of my students privately, asking if they wanted to speak or tell us during class about how they celebrated, or if I knew any of them were performing classical Indian dance or song (I have a first grader who takes classical Indian singing lessons!) I invited them to perform. 

Book to Begin

Diwali, Diwali Song

Then we learned Manju Durairaj's Diwali, Diwali song and sang the chorus together. 

Dandiya (Stick) Dance

We created a simple Dandiya dance on the chorus of the song.  All movements are to the beat. Facing a partner tap right sticks together, tap left sticks together, tap own sticks to the right, tap own sticks to the left. Step back with one foot and tap sticks behind back, step same foot forward and both stick face right (like windshield wipers) and tap both partners sticks making a # hashtag, then trade places while turning around in a circle. Of course this can be modified but this is what the Moms at school and I came up with.

I would highly recommend wooden sticks - aluminum ones are available from Amazon but my experience is they break far too easily. Rhythm Sticks or dowels could also be used as long as they are the longer ones (12" or so).

Here is a video of Dandiya Dancing.

And an excellent teaching video to show you the footwork and sticking. The first one is just right for beginners and children.

Concert with Indian Instruments, Songs

This is an excellent 30 minute concert made for children from Lincoln Center featuring Grammy nominated artist Falu. I like beginning at 7:47 and end at 15:00 if I am pressed for time as they talk about traditional solfege, then Indian solfege, then sing a song incorporating the solfege.

Sitar and Tabla - played by KIDS!

A fun little video about sitar made for children:

Garba Dancing

My students love to see both the women and the men dancing here - and they love the music!

More Books Featuring India and Indian Characters

The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh - this is a google slide presentation featuring a video of the book, rhythms created from colors, along with discussion points for students about tone color. The end features several Bhangra dance videos.

The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk is sung to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus and is a great introduction to India.

Festival of Colors is just one of the most beautiful books and is about the Indian festival of Holi.

A Gift for Amma follows a girl as she goes through the vibrant rainbow colors of the market trying to find a gift for her mother.

10 Gulab Jamuns is the story of two brothers discovering a sweet treat from India.

Hope you enjoy all of these and Happy Diwali (in November)!

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Magical Yet book and Lesson

Many thanks to my friend Jeaneau Julian for sharing this lovely lesson she created! 

Don't forget to check out my new Patreon community of music teachers for exclusive content, workshops, and mentoring opportunities.

Click here to download the Google Slides and make a copy. 

There are a couple "pathways" you can use for this- the composed song below or the one from the Volumes (see lesson idea below).  Either way you go, this is a MUST READ book for every child- and adult, too!