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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

3 Music Lesson Ideas for When Your Brain Is Fried

Sometimes your brain is just overloaded, and you can't process any more information. And by sometimes I mean music teachers in December. For those days when you don't have any more space left in your brain to think, here are some lesson ideas that require very little mental energy (but are still fun and educationally valuable).

1. Winter Play-Along by Mr. Henry's Music World

OK yes this is a video and yes there are a million play-along videos out there but this one has rapping, singing, steady beat body percussion, movement breaks, and rhythm notation reading (quarter, eighth, and half notes and quarter rests). You might think it would be too corny for the older grades but I have found my students loved it, even up to 4th grade, when I used this last year. Have students do the song/ rap the first time with the body percussion/ motions, then repeat it and have them sing/ rap as well! The song is guaranteed to get stuck in your head too.

2. Instrument Merry Go Round

This is one of my favorite lesson activities to use when I know it will be difficult for students to focus, I know they need a mental break, or we need something to get us back on a positive track after some negative class periods. The best part is you can easily throw in some practice with multiple concepts depending on what you're working on at the time!

Have students sit in a circle and get out one instrument for each person (or let them pick one themselves). Have the instruments sitting on the floor in front of them but tell them not to touch them until you tell them. Show them a gesture to cue them to pick up their instrument quietly without playing it, then tell them to play when your hands are open and stop when you close your fists. Then gesture for them to put the instrument down, and scoot one spot around the circle to the next instrument, and repeat. 

Once they get the hang of it you should be able to keep them moving around pretty quickly without anyone saying a word. You can add in some concept review by doing different gestures to have them play at different dynamic levels or speeds, or tell them to echo the rhythms you clap, or call out groupings of instruments (pitched, unpitched, shakers, woods, etc) or names of specific instruments and only those instruments play. This works with truly any age group, from preschool to adult.

3. Animal Music Composition

Play a couple of examples from Carnival of the Animals and discuss how the music conjures the image of the animal: what instrument timbre, pitch and rhythm elements, and expressive qualities match the animal? Then tell students to either individually or in small groups create a song about an animal using instrument sounds. That's it. Those are the parameters. At the end of class, have students play their composition and ask the class to guess the animal. For older students, have them identify the musical elements they used to try to convey the image of their chosen animal. 

What do you do to keep things going when your brain is fried? This time of year can be overwhelming, for teachers and for students! 

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