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Sunday, January 2, 2022

Lesson Ideas to Start the New Year

Somehow we've managed to land ourselves in another highly unpredictable and stressful situation with the latest surge in the pandemic coming in the midst of shifting guidance for protocols. With all of this swirling around right now I know it's hard to think about concrete lesson plans! Here are a few ideas that don't require too much prep or mental energy to implement but will still help reinforce learning in fun and engaging ways and can be shifted to virtual learning if needed.

1. New Year Rhythm Review

These Lunar New Year- themed play-alongs from Ready GO Music are available in 5 levels all the way from steady beat to sixteenth notes. Start off the lesson in every grade with the play-along that fits their level- if in person, students will love getting to play an instrument, but if you don't have enough for everyone and want to avoid sharing, I've found drumming on chairs is a fun way to mix it up too. Distance learners love finding something around their house to use as an "instrument", and if this is any student's first time being online this is a great way to show them that learning from home can be fun too :)

2. New Year Celebrations Discussion

Students need time to reconnect and just share. The rhythm play-along is a great jumping off point to give students a chance to share what they did to recognize the new year (including doing nothing at all!), and do a quick comparison discussion of Lunar vs Solar calendars and new year's traditions around the world. FYI this year the Lunar New Year kicks off on February 1st, and it will be the year of the tiger. It is celebrated in many countries, not just China, including South Korea, Vietnam, Tibet, Indonesia, and many others. This doesn't need to be a long discussion but it's an easy way to give students who want to share something from break a way to do so and also talk about some of the different ways the "new year" is celebrated.

3a. Upper Grades: Pitch Review

After a low-intensity rhythm review with the play-along, upper grades who are learning treble or bass clef letter names can have fun reviewing the letter names. Start off with one of my favorite videos of all time: 7/4 Cabbage Metal by Andrew Huang. Briefly review the letter names of the notes in whatever clef they're working on. Then (if you're in person) split the class up into small groups and give each group a dry erase staff board (or have them draw 5 lines on a piece of paper and have them use small pieces of sticky notes to place as "notes"). First have them try writing the word "cabbage" on the staff. Then give each group a few minutes to come up with a list of words that can be spelled using only the letters from the musical alphabet, and take turns having one group yell out a word and the others race to write it on the staff. If online, have students suggest words in a private chat to you, then you write the word on the staff and have students race to tell you what word you spelled.

There are plenty more fun ways to review pitch letter names in person or online here and here!

3b. Lower Grades: Expressive Elements

This could actually be used with all grades if you don't want to jump into pitch letter names: pick a super short fun song and review expressive elements (and any vocabulary that grade has learned) with it! My top pick for this right now is Chicken Wing Chicken Wing (it was big on TikTok not too long ago if you aren't familiar). Tell students to listen to the song while keeping the steady beat, then come up with dance moves for each line together as a class and practice singing and dancing it together. Once everyone can sing the song, review dynamics/ tempo/ other expressive element vocabulary they know and sing the song in each of those ways together. If there's time, you can also have students take turns "conducting" and have the class follow their gestures to sing louder and softer/ faster and slower, or put the vocabulary words they know on the board (or screen if virtual) and have them sing it to match whatever word you (or a student) point to. You can obviously do this with any song students love- it's a great way to get everyone singing and laughing.

More Ideas

That's a basic outline of how I'm running my first lesson back for every grade I teach, just to make it easier for me to keep track of what I'm doing with so much else on my mind while keeping it age-appropriate and fun for every grade. For more ideas to use beyond the first day, here are lots more ideas from some of my previous posts that would be perfect for this time of year. My lessons for the entire month of January K-6, with all the accompanying materials, are also available here.


I hope this helps as you head back to school one way or another! If you have more ideas you can share with others, or questions about what I'm doing, please leave a comment below. Happy New Year!

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