Back from FMEA

Happy Monday!

I am back from conference.  It was so great to catch up with other musicians and friends from all over the state.  It was great to see so many of you there!  I had a booth at the Elementary Curriculum Fair.  I’m posting a copy of my handout for today.  If you have questions email me!  I hope this makes sense. You can’t see the display baord so you may have questions.

Ear Training, It’s Elementary!

Michelle Berra,

FMEA Curriculum Fair 2010

Ear training at the elementary level is rewarding to both teachers and students.  It encourages independence, awareness of surroundings, and LISTENING.

You frequently hear me tell my students,

             “Hearing + Paying Attention = LISTENING!”

Good musicians must be good listeners.  Here are a few jumping off points to get you started with ear training at the elementary level.  I’ve created some tools that can be used across all grade levels.  After I explain the tool you will see modifications for different grade levels, AND substitute lesson plans! These tools are so versatile that there is no way that I can describe every possibly way they can be used in the classroom. Please send me an email if you find another creative way to use these tools.

Music Mail:

What is it? 

Music Mail is a class set of envelopes.  In each envelope are index cards with different rhythms written in different colors. 

In each envelope there are 5 cards:

Red: ta, ta, ta, ta.                    Purple: ti-ti, ta, ta, ta

Blue: ti-ti, ta, ti-ti, ta               Green: ta, ti-ti, ta, ta

Orange: ta, ta, ti-ti, ta

(I’ve created a set that uses half notes, and another set in triple meter)

I use the common “rhythmic building bricks” from Gunild Keetman’s, Elementaria.

How you use it:

We use music mail in many different ways in the classroom.  After we read each card as a class and I am certain that the children can identify the rhythms we play a game.  The level we play at depends on the class.  For my primary classes and special needs classes we often play level 1 and level 2.  My older students and more advanced classes can go through all levels.  Once students are familiar with the game they can play as a class without the teacher.  I use this for substitute plans when I must be out.

Level 1:

  • Teacher says, “I am going to say one of the cards.  You will hear me say it 3 times. After 3 times I will tell you to ‘please choose the card I said.’ You will show me the card that I read (no talking).  When I see all students have raised a card I will tell you which color I read and you can check your answers.  Remember, don’t pick up the card before I ask you so that everyone can have a fair chance to listen.”


For instance:

T: “ta, ta, ta, ta.  I repeat, ta, ta, ta, ta,  one more time, ta, ta, ta, ta.  Please hold up the card I said.  (students pick up the red card and show the teacher in the air).  If you are holding up the red card you are correct.  Let’s try another!”

Level II:                       Teacher chains together 2 or more cards.

Level III:                     Teacher claps a card and student shows the answer.

Level IV:                     Teacher chains together more cards with clapping.

Level V/VI:                Teacher uses a rhythm instrument.

Level VI/VII:              Teacher uses voice or recorder.

You can modify this for a student led activity by choosing a trusted student to do level I. The student chooses a classmate who answered correctly to come and be the next “teacher.”  This is the format that works well for substitute teachers.

Music Mats:

 A music mat is a felt rectangle with a pocket.  On the felt are sewn lines that represent the lines of the staff.  The mat has a pocket that has a “do” clef and eight to ten note heads (no stems). (A template is attached).  Instead of felt you can use a laminated paper and pass out a Ziploc Baggie with the “do clef” and the note heads.

I have the students put the “do” clef around the G line so they get used to seeing a visual reminder of where G is located.  Of course, these mats are easily used for note naming games, etc… but they can also be used for ear training activities.

For primary students who are learning, “sol and mi” I tell them that the third space is sol, and the second space is mi.  We practice putting the notes in the correct places.  After I am confident they know where the notes belong I will sing sol mi and different patterns and allow them to place the notes in the correct space.  An easy start is to put 4 note heads on sol.  The teacher will then sing a pattern that uses three sols and one mi.  The students only have to move one note head to the correct space.  Be sure to change it up and start on mi sometimes too!

My sequence (in order of introduction):

  • Sol, mi; la; re, do; fa, ti.


Modify by singing, playing the pitches on the recorder, or using pitched percussion

Singing Games that encourage inner hearing and basic ear training:

  • “Who has the penny”  Students close eyes and hold out a hand, Teacher walks around and places a penny in one students hand. Teacher sings, “who has the penny” (sol, mi, la, sol, mi) and student with the penny replies, “I do.” Classmates guess who sang the words. 
  • You can also use “cukoo where are you?” and student answers “cukoo here I am!”

One response to “Back from FMEA

  1. Great, Michelle.
    Thank you for these games.

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