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! 

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