11 Music Lesson Plans For Elementary
Are you looking for some help with lesson planning?
Do you want some practical lessons to use right away AND some discussion on the art of planning a lesson?
When I mentor student teachers and pre-service teachers, the first thing I want them to learn is how to build more effective lessons.
But for those who aren’t into teaching general music, the whole idea of lesson planning for the younger grades may be overwhelming.
This is why I decided to write these 11 music lesson plans for elementary to share with you.
Music lesson plans for the elementary need to be focused on a goal, use good quality materials, and paced out for maximum engagement. Lesson plans cover music concepts and areas such as:
- Steady beat
- Classical music
Check out the lesson plans for elementary music and a quick guide of lesson planning below.
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Table of Contents
What’s In Elementary Music Lesson Plans?
Before we delve into the actual lesson plans (skip ahead if that’s what you want to see), we would talk about what makes up good lesson plans.
Lesson plans are one of the things I see newer and older teachers forget.
With inexperienced teachers, this consistently affects their teaching negatively.
For experienced, I see a streamlined lesson planning process as they have habitualized many of the best parts of lesson planning.
Still, it’s good to review the basics.
Teaching for the sake of teaching doesn’t make much sense to me, but some find ways to do it that way.
Some music teachers teach what they “feel like” teaching that day.
But think the vast majority of people would agree:
If we let specific goals guide our lesson plans , they reach new levels of effectiveness.
If you’re a Kodaly-inspired teacher (click to learn more about the Kodaly Method ), you may base your goals on what rhythmic or melodic concept is next in your sequence.
Then, you pick your materials and lesson activities based on this.
If you’re an Orff-Schulwerk teacher, you may base a lesson on what music elements you want the students to explore/improvise and move to.
Is one better than the other? No way.
Both are two sides of the same coin.
However, at the start of your lesson plan, I strongly encourage you to put your goals out there from the get-go.
Telling the students the goals also improves their learning according to relevant research.
- What big goals are my students working on in this lesson?
- What specific tasks do I want my students to accomplish on their path toward this goal?
It’s essential to next draw from quality music materials to teach these goals.
Higher quality songs, dances, and pieces are essential for effective learning.
Learn more about the importance of folk songs in education for more details on why this is true.
Briefly, here’s why most music teachers and I prefer high-quality materials to pull from:
- It’s a piece of your students’ musical heritage.
- Quality songs have more “sticking” power.
- Older songs have lasted the test of time.
- Composed songs or low-quality songs accidentally convey a feeling of cheapness to music.
- These songs flow naturally with language and communicate rhythmic elements more effectively.
- They connect melodic elements and expressiveness in a way other pieces don’t.
Finding Good Songs
How do you know what a quality song is? There’s no hard and fast rule.
For the most part, you need to trust what other music teachers have compiled over the years or use your expertise.
Here is a standard 3-question test some music teachers apply:
- Is the song/piece over 70 years old and still prevalent?
- Can you sing the song/piece 100 times and not hate it?
- Does the song/piece authentic to the culture it represents?
This last one has risen in importance in recent years.
There are several enjoyable songs written in the style of or adapted from specific cultures.
This is insensitive to the cultures that have great quality music in their own right. It’d be much better to find music directly from cultural sources.
In recent years, another question has also begun to pop up.
- Does the song’s origin/lyrics have meaning that maligns a specific group of people or potentially inappropriate lyrics?
There are many old songs music teachers used in the past with questionable origins.
Modern times are encouraging teachers to avoid using these songs.
There is no hard and fast list of inappropriate songs, so take care to do a little research into the origin of songs you want to share.
If there is a potential for offensiveness on songs we put on Dynamic Music Room, we’ll put a disclaimer on the notation.
If there is a song we haven’t done the disclaimer on, please email dynamicmusicroomATgmailDOTcom to let us know.
I’d personally rather someone find the song with a disclaimer than remove it entirely and let someone else find it and have no idea.
One part of lesson planning that separates the newbies’ experience is how well the pacing of a lesson is structured.
Experienced and inexperienced teachers alike know that students can only pay attention for short periods.
They may also know that the chunks of the lessons should alter between high and low energy.
Check out more on this topic in my guide on teaching music in the elementary .
But when it comes to execution?
The best place to build these into your lessons comes in the lesson plans themselves.
In general, the rule is to make each chunk no longer than the number of years the students have been alive, give or take one.
So a 6-year-old does well with 5-7 minutes chunks of activity.
I’d also add another rule for older kids, go no higher than 10 minutes without switching something up.
11 Music Lessons Plans For Elementary
This section covers some of my favorite lesson plan ideas for specific and common musical concepts.
I’ll also link to other detailed articles in each area for even more lesson ideas and examples.
These aren’t spelled out lessons to cover a 45-minute class, but these ideas are useful for plugging in and adapting to your lesson plans to fulfill what time requirements you have.
Steady Beat Lesson Plans For Elementary Music
Steady vs. unsteady game: .
Students are split into teams for this game, or they’ll be on one group versus the teacher.
The teacher plays either a steady beat or an unsteady beat on an instrument or multiple instruments.
Students mark down or show their answers on a whiteboard. They may also create signs on their own to show steady vs. unsteady.
Groups compete to see who can get the most right and/or beat the teacher who tries to trick them.
Level up this game by playing songs with steady vs. unsteady beats to make it more difficult.
Make Your Own Beat Shapes:
We always show steady beats with shapes that are the same size and spacing apart.
Help students take ownership of the beat by having them write, color, and/or cut out their steady beat shapes.
Then, sing some of your favorite songs while tapping the steady beat shapes they made.
I did this with my kids virtually during the fall of 2020, and the kids kept drawing more shapes and showing them to me week after week.
It was awesome!
Found Sound Scavenger Hunt:
This activity also works great with timbre.
Have students hunt around the room for non-instrument things to play a steady beat on.
To make it a scavenger hunt, I encourage kids to find and write down (if possible or show me) the following kinds of sounds:
- Metal sound
Then, they need to do them with a steady beat.
Other steady beat resources on this site include:
- Popular songs with a steady beat
- Beat Vs. Rhythm Worksheet And Activities
- How to teach music to 3-year-olds
Rhythm Lesson Plan Ideas
This one works great because it grows with the class’s ability.
If you have one class that struggles, they won’t get as far.
If you have a genius class, they can do amazing things.
It allows for a certain level of differentiation.
I have Gifted and Talented classes along with ‘Normal” classes. I love this for accommodating the quicker learning class.
To start, create a 16 beat rhythm (12 or 24 in ¾).
Use rhythmic values the kids know well.
Then, go through these canon challenge steps:
Note: S stands for students. T stands for the teacher.
- S say rhythm while T does in canon behind.
- T goes first while S start second.
- Class split into two groups.
- Class is divided into three groups.
- Four group canon with students.
- S say rhythm forward while T says rhythm backward.
- Two groups, one forward and one backward.
- Four groups, two forward and two backward.
- S say rhythm forward twice while T says rhythm at half time.
- Split class and do in canon with two groups.
- Do in canon with four groups, two normal and two at augmented rhythm with both in canon with one another.
- Continue on in complicated ways.
Rhythm puzzles are fun, and my kids seem to have a blast with them.
Pick a song (the longer, the better) and write the rhythms down.
Cut the rhythms apart by measure and mix them up.
Tell the students to put the song back together.
For a level up challenge, don’t tell them what song it is.
King Of The Mountain
For this game, you’ll need flashcards with rhythms your students know on them.
Students stand in a line with one at the front as the King or Queen.
The student behind steps up to challenge them.
At your count-off, they have to say the rhythm correctly and to the beat.
If one messes up, hesitates, or loses the beat, they go sit down.
Whoever wins becomes or remains the King or Queen.
Continue until everyone has had a chance to challenge and play.
I find my older students have no problems with this game and do the rhythms easily, so I have to raise the challenge.
I’ll raise the tempo or only show them the rhythm two beats before they need to say it.
Check out these articles for more rhythm ideas:
- Ultimate Guide To Counting Rhythm And Rhythm Syllables
- Takadimi Games + 8 Fun Games To Learn Rhythm
Solfege Elementary Music Lesson Plans
Human solfege rings.
For this game, I spread out different colored hula-hoops around my room.
I use as many colors as pitches I want them to practice.
So, if we’re using a pentatonic scale, I’ll have 5 different colors out there.
Students sing a well-known song and move around the room.
At the end of the song, they have to find a hoop and stand with one foot in it.
Each hoop is given a pitch.
The students in that hoop only sing that pitch.
I’ll sing a solfege pattern, and the students have to echo it while only singing the pitch matching the hoop they’re in.
For example, if:
- Yellow = mi
If I sing sol-la-sol-mi, the hoops sing back blue-green-blue-yellow.
Level up this game by singing on a neutral syllable and making them hear, figure out the pattern, and sing it back at the right time.
For this one, a large hopscotch-like set of squares on the floor.
The squares are labeled with different solfege appropriate to the grade level.
As the students hop through the squares they need to sing the pitches.
Just like with regular hopscotch, students toss an object on a square.
They need to hop over the square (and not sing that pitch) and pick the object up.
On the way back, they sing all the pitches.
I give students a staff mat and bingo chips.
Students start by matching the patterns I sing and write on the board.
Then, they match the pattern I sing (with syllables).
After this, they need to translate my pattern as I sing it on a neutral syllable.
Once we’ve got this down, I make it a game.
Students can work in small groups to earn points, etc.
Other articles with help on solfege include:
- Chromatic Solfege
- Green Grass Grows All Around Solfege And Activity
- Solfege to 7 Popular Songs
- How does solfege work?
Folk Dancing Lesson Plans
Folk dancing is an amazing way to feel beat and form while building social skills.
Listing games with all their moves here would take a lot of time and space.
If you want examples, check out these articles:
- Folk Dances For Elementary: Grade by Grade
- 4 Simple Folk Dances For Kindergarten
- 4 Easy Folk Dances To Teach
Classical Music Connections
I love connecting my students with classical music.
It’s not the only good type of music, but the majority of people never get a chance to enjoy it.
Why? It’s too hard for them to understand.
This isn’t an insult; classical music is often more complex and longer than the music they hear on the radio.
Our brains need to be able to organize the information to some degree in order to understand it.
This is why popular music uses the same form almost exclusively.
As music teachers, we need to help our students better understand and engage with classical music to increase appreciation.
Check out these posts for specific lesson ideas with classical music:
- 9 Classical Songs To Teach Dynamics
- 3 Carmina Burana Lessons
Favorite Resources To Help With Lesson Plans For Elementary Music
If you’re looking for more lesson plan ideas, these are some of my favorites.
Some contain specific lesson plans, while others have helpful resources.
Dynamic Music Room Songs And Lessons – Yes, these are from this website.
But they’re free!
I include notation and activities where applicable, so spend some time exploring and finding new ideas.
First Steps In Music – First Steps and Conversational Solfege for older students was created by Dr. Feierabend to be “how America would do Kodaly.”
The songs are always fun, and he structures the lessons so well.
This is worth checking out.
Gameplan Music Curriculum – I don’t actively follow Gameplan as my one and only curriculum, but I do enjoy pulling from it.
It uses Orff-style teaching and activities built around a Kodaly learning sequence. Some say it’s the best of both worlds.
In my opinion, the greatest strength it has are the specific lessons it puts out.
You could, if you wanted, follow the lessons class by class and have a successful program.
The Music Effect Books I and II – Full disclaimer, the author was one of my Kodaly instructors when I went through my levels.
Still, I find this book so useful and filled with specific lessons for Kindergarten.
I only wish she would make books for the rest of the grade levels.
Flowkey – Many music teachers, even in the elementary, have keyboards and some sort of keyboard curriculum.
Flowkey is awesome with engaging lessons, learning tools, and a ton of songs all separated by ability level.
Maestro Classic – Classical music is a must for any elementary music lesson plan.
Engaging resources and lesson materials abound with Maestro Classics.
I’ve enjoyed using these resources ever since I stumbled on them.
I hope these 8 music lesson plans for elementary were helpful to you.
There is an unlimited number of lessons out there to do with your kids.
Check out the resources listed above for more ideas too.
Take it step by step.
Start with goals, use good materials, and pace out the lessons. You and your students will have a great time.
Check out more music activities for elementary students .
Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher in Michigan with 12 years of experience. He's the President of the Michigan Kodaly Educators and founder of the Dynamic Music Room.
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Bluebird Music Lessons
A directory of music lessons plans, free sheet music, and music theory worksheets for elementary music teachers and students
10 Music Lesson Plans for Rhythm (K-6)
Reading music is like reading a book in another language. It has its own characters and sounds. The following collection of music lesson plans for the elementary music classroom will help music teachers share the language of music in fun, active, and effective ways.
What is Rhythm?
According to the dictionary, rhythm is the arrangement of a variety of sound durations as they move through time. Children are born with a strong sense of rhythm, and this skill strengthens even more before they even learn to talk, walk, or sit. However, to be fully and understood, developed, and appreciated, it should be nurtured in young students.
Why Should We Teach Rhythm?
We all engage with music. Because it’s such an important part of our culture it should also be a necessary part of a child’s lessons. However, one could also justify it’s value based on it’s potential for physical and mental development. The study of rhythm engages our higher order thinking skills, such as analysis and evaluation, as we strive to reproduce each rhythmic value accurately. In fact, the only brain more active that a musicians brain while performing music, is the brain of a person in the midst of the electrical storm that gives rise to an epileptic seizure. In other words, it requires the involvement of the whole child to perform music, and a fully invested child is a rewarded child.
Browse Free Music Lesson Plans
Here’s a collection of 10 music lesson plans for rhythm that can be used in the elementary music classroom. Each one offers instructions for a fully-scripted lesson which teachers who are just starting out may find very helpful as they can simply try doing the lessons the way they are written.
Battle of the Bands | Music Lesson Plan – Rhythms Let the ‘Battle of the Bands’ begin! Students work in cooperative groups (bands) to perform the rhythms of a rhyme/speech piece on non-pitched percussion instruments. The winning band is awarded a ‘Battle of the Bands’ certificate.
Monsters in My Closet | Music Lesson Plan Drumming/Grade K-3 This drumming lesson plan for the elementary music classroom teaches students drumming technique, and helps them to hear and repeat simple rhythms.
John Kanaka | Music Lesson Plan – Reading Music/Rhythms Grade 2-4 Students will learn basic rhythms including the quarter note, quarter rest and eighth note as they participate in this joy-filled song and dance for South Sea Islands kids song, John Kanaka.
I Caught a Fish Alive | Music Lesson Plan – Reading Music/Rhythms Grade K-2 Students learn a Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme and learn to play a quarter/eighth note rhythm pattern on percussion instruments while reciting rhyme.
I’m as Free a Little Bird | Music Lesson Plan – Reading Music/Syncopation Grade 2-3 I’m as Free a Little Bird is a fun and active lesson that provides an easy introduction to syncopation. It’s always a big hit with 2nd and 3rd grade music students.
Mystery Message Game | Music Lesson Plan – Rhythm and Pitch Grade 2-6 Mystery Message Game is “Hangman” with a twist. Music students compare and contrast rhythm/pitch sets and decode a secret message in a race to win the game. It’s a game I love to play before a holiday, as students are always super motivated to participate.
Run From The Farmer | Music Lesson Plan – Syncopation Thanksgiving/Grade 2-3 Run From the Farmer is a wacky Thanksgiving song told from the perspective of the turkey. Music students love this lesson. There’s singing, dancing, and a chance to play Orff instuments. It’s got it all!
Slap Happy Music Math | Music Lesson Plan – Rhythmic Values Grade 2-6 Slap Happy Music Math is a wacky review game for reinforcing rhythm values. Students will learn and drill basic rhythmic values including the whole note, half note, and quarter note.
Tic-Tac-Toe | Music Lesson Plan – Reading and Performing Rhythms Grade 2-6 Students clap simple rhythms to win tie-tac-toe squares in this wacky twist on the traditional game.
Who Has the Candy in Their Pocket | Music Lesson Plan – Rhythms and Rests Grade 2-4 Students perform three basic rhythm symbols (quarter note, quarter rest , eighth note), while they speak a chant and try to guess which student has the candy in their pocket. If they guess correctly they win the candy!
Browse Related Music Lesson Plan Posts
Pick a Bale of Cotton | Free Music Lesson Plan for Teaching Tempo Monsters in My Closet | Drumming/Music Lesson Plan – K-3rd 8 Free Music Lesson Plans for the Elementary Music Classroom 5 Free Music Lesson Plans for Steady Beat
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Lesson Plans for Elementary Music: 10 Crucial Things You’ve Been Forgetting
- February 4, 2023
Hey, music teachers – let’s talk about lesson plans for elementary music. Lesson plans are something we all have to do. But for many it can be a struggle. If your music lesson plans are contributing to anxiety in your life, then you have come to the right place! This blog post is here to change that.
Do you dread planning your next lesson? Are you constantly feeling at a loss for what to plan next?
Or maybe you are finding that your lessons in music class are falling flat and you aren’t sure why.
Do you struggle to explain the point of your lessons to your administrators?
If any of these is the case for you, please read on. This blog post is all about helping YOU make your lessons engaging, purposeful and balanced .
How would you like to see lessons where students take ownership of their own learning, in activities that feel fun and effortless? Or be excited to have an administrator come into your room so you could explain to them exactly what your students are learning, how they are learning it, and why. Or even better – have the students explain themselves!
If this sounds like the kind of classroom you would like to have, then let’s get started!
What Makes a Good Lesson Plan for Music?
So what makes a successful lesson in music class? There are 10 key elements that we will talk about in the post that will help elevate your lesson plans. Some are elements to try and include in every (or nearly every) lesson you teach. Others will be things that you should make sure to include, but not in every lesson. It’s more a list of things not to neglect. I would recommend trying to get them in once per quarter (depending on how often you see your students).
All of these elements are also listed out in detail in my FREE workbook, The Music Lesson Plan Checklist . It also includes action steps and workbook pages to help you create your best lessons ever.
What Should Be Included In a Lesson Plan?
Things to include in every elementary music lesson plan.
Movement is one of the main ways the children learn music. Especially rhythm and beat. Try and include at least one movement activity in every lesson. This is especially critical with younger students. Students who have to sit too long are going to lose focus. Get those wiggles out in a way that is productive (teaches beat, exposes them to a new song, etc).
Variety of Meters and Tonalities
If you want students to understand different meters and tonalities, they need to be familiar with them. Also, students learn what things are by learning what they are NOT. If you want your students to have a deep and rich understanding of major tonality, for example, they need to have a reference point of other scales as well so they will recognize the major when they hear it.
Don’t forget, once you teach a skill, you aren’t done with it. Students will need chances to practice that skill throughout the year so they can build on it. Otherwise you will find yourself doing way more reteaching than you probably want to do.
For example, if you teach quarters and paired eighths to your students in the fall, add some activities where they could read those rhythms in other parts of the year, so they are ready to learn about half notes down the road.
Do you find yourself singing along with your students to each song, for example? Ask yourself WHY. Make sure to plan lessons so that you are slowly taken out of the equation. 90% of the music making done in your classroom should be done by your students. Take the training wheels off and let your students reach their full potential. They will become better musicians and you will be free to help coach them more when you aren’t trying to take on all the roles.
This goes for other skills too. If you feel like you always have to redefine the vocabulary words you are learning or have students echo instead of reading the music themselves, you aren’t actually letting them learn. You are doing the work FOR them. Step back, and realize that there may be some struggle. That is part of learning and growing. Be there to support.
Other Important Elements to Include in Your Elementary Music Lesson Plans
Individual student response.
You will never really know how students are doing at skills such as singing unless you hear them alone. And more importantly, students won’t have a good concept of how THEY are doing unless they can hear themself alone.
Have you ever sung along with your favorite song in the car and thought you were quite the rockstar, but then tried to sing it acapella and discovered maybe you weren’t quite as good as you thought? I rest my case.
And don’t worry. This does need to be high stakes solos. Short call and response phrases in singing games or hello songs are perfect to give kids practice without an intense spotlight.
I think this is the critical piece that often gets missed. We teach the content, but then don’t give students a chance to apply it. Students can’t really take ownership of their learning unless they have applied it. Have students create their own rhythms, melodic songs, movements to steady beat, and improvised phrases. Then and only then will you know that your teaching of the skill has been a success.
And did I mention that kids love to create? This is when they are really set free to let their imagination soar.
Connections to Other Subjects
The more that you can connect to other subjects, the more students will be able to make relevant connections in their brain and understand why they should care about your lesson. And if it connects with them, they are WAY more likely to remember it going forward.
Also let’s get real. Administrators will LOVE seeing cross-curricular connections in your classroom. Mark one in the win column!
A great way to have students take ownership of their own learning is through collaborative learning. Have students work with a partner or small groups to practice new concepts.
This could be centers, partner work, or even working together to figure out how to play a song. It could involve creativity – one of the elements we have already discussed in this post. Or simply practicing skills with their classmates.
Again, this frees you up to help students and puts the effort of learning on the students. It can be an incredibly efficient way to teach. Also students LOVE to be able to talk with their classmates, so this gives them a productive way to meet this social need.
Assessment can often be seen as a dirty word in education. Especially for music teachers. But let me remind you that assessment is for the benefit of your students. You can’t know if they have learned the skill if you don’t actually check.
Assessments can be very simple, and in my room students often don’t even know they are going on. They are simply a measurement tool. What you DO with that measurement – grades, reteaching, just making a mental note – is up to you. They will give you important feedback that can help you improve your lessons in the moment and year after year.
Knowing how one lesson or one skill flows into the next is critical for a smooth and purposeful learning experience. Looking at your music standards, creating goals, and then seeing how each goal/skill will lead into the next gives you and your students a sense of logical flow in the year.
And when your administrator walks in and asks what is going on or how this lesson fits with your larger unit for the year, you will be able to confidently tell them your answer.
Ready to take your lesson planning up a notch?
These are the ten elements that will immediately elevate your lessons in music class. Want some guidance on how to get started? Let me help!
Grab my free workbook, The Music Lesson Plan Checklist, and get started today.
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Hi, I'm Erin!
I am an elementary music teacher, blogger and mom on a mission to make teaching and lesson planning easier for you. When I’m not working, you can find me at home enjoying life with my husband, daughter and two cats.
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