Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Teacher Tuesday: time fillers for elementary music
The other day we had a pre-planned fire drill. The teachers knew it was coming but the students did not. Since it was scheduled to happen 15 minutes before the end of my 4th grade class, I rushed through the last activity and made sure the instruments were all cleaned up in time for the drill. Then nothing happened. For about 7 minutes. Woops.
We all have times when we have extra time to fill in class, whether because the lesson went a lot faster than we thought, or the homeroom teacher is late, or something else unexpected happens. Today I'm sharing some of my favorite time-filler activities that I keep in my back pocket for moments like these.
The Salami (sol-la-mi) Game
I get requests for this one almost every time the class lines up and realizes that the homeroom teacher isn't there yet! I sing a 3-note pattern on solfege with Curwen hand signs, usually using only mi, sol, or la, and the students echo me. But if they hear me sing the notes sol-la-mi (which sounds like the word salami), they don't sing. It is basically like the "Poison Pattern" game, if you've ever heard of that. I've also done a variation called the "Me Dodo" (mi-do-do) Game as well, which is pretty fun too :) This is an easy game to use while waiting in line, but I have also used it to fill time in class by doing different levels of the game- get faster, take away hand signs and/or solfege syllables etc.
Move with Different Music
I know that is a very vague title for an activity, but I don't know how else to describe it. I use this whenever I have extra time while we are still in the classroom, or if it becomes clear that the students need a quick mental break or a chance to get out some wiggles. I have all of the students spread out around the room. They must stay in their spot, they cannot touch any other person or thing, and they cannot make any sound. Then I start playing random snippets of music from my iTunes. The more random and disparate the better. I try to switch between serious classical pieces, pop songs, world music, and everything in between, switching moods, tempi, and genres. I tell the students to show the changes in music with their movements. This is actually a great way to assess student comprehension of a particular musical element- I have used it as part of regular lessons to have students show the changes in tempo with their movements, or instruments, or dynamics, or... you get the idea. It's also a fun way to expose students to a variety of music.
Spell Words with Rhythms
Unless I have something else that needs to be up there, I keep a set of simple 4-beat rhythms up on my lined whiteboard, with each 1-measure pattern labeled with a letter of the alphabet (I usually have A through H). If I have some extra time, I have students first practice clapping each pattern, then we try to spell words by clapping several patterns in a row (like clap rhythm B, then A, then D, for example). The students love coming up with their own words to spell with the given letters, and it is a great way to improve sight reading skills since their eyes have to jump around the board from letter to letter.
SQUILT (Super Quiet UnInterrupted Listening Time)
This is a great one when a class is riled up and I want to calm them down before sending them back to the poor homeroom teacher. I tell students there is no agenda here- just a chance to listen to a new song, in the same way that we might have time to read a book just for the pleasure of reading. If there is time, I invite students to share any thoughts or observations after listening, but in this case I do not pose any particular questions or ask them to listen for anything before starting the piece- I simply tell them to listen and pay attention to the music.
What are your favorite time fillers for the elementary music classroom? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below!