Category Archives: NGSSS

Lego Rhythms

I was so excited to see this blog post from a music teacher who uses Legos as building blocks for rhythm!

Use these Smartboard files to compose rhythm patterns with students using Lego blocks! The number of beats each block is worth corresponds with the length of the lego block. For example, a quarter note uses a "one-lump" block, while a half note uses a "two-lump" block, and so on. Templates are made in 2/4, 3/4 and 4/4.

Each Lego has a different symbol. She even created pages of downloads with different meters that you can download at her site (it appears to be free).  She has them broken down with suggested grades and meters! It’s all done on with a smartboard.

Amazing!  This is  a wonderful way to give your students practice with notation and composition!


Music Match

This is a great idea for a game of memory in your classroom! Here is a link to the blogger who has this idea:  It’s a great blog!

GREAT IDEA! match the solfege to the staff!

I think my students will love this game!

Rhythm and Rules Lesson Plan Ideas

Yesterday I posted the following picture which includes rules and rhythms that our Treasurer  learned in her Level I course with Gretchen and Sandy.

Today, I’d like to share some possibilities for using these in your classroom.  These are jumping off points for lesson plans.  Below the ideas, you can see possible NGSSS that might work with.

  • Arrange the rules in different orders and practice speaking them expressively.
  • Allow students to clap the rhythm of the rules (1 level of body percussion).
  • Allow students to use 2 levels of body percussion to perform the rules, changing with each rule/card, or within, depending on the level of your class.
  • Challenge students to use three levels of body percussion.
  • Take out the words and allow students to perform the rhythms using body percussion only, try in a different order.
  • Allow a student (or small group) to “perform” the rules for the class and the other classmates have to figure out which order they put the rules in.
  • Transfer all of the above activities to instruments.
  • Arrange your own class composition using the rhythm of the rules as the guideline.

MU.K.C.1.4              Identify singing, speaking, and whispering voices.

MU.K.S.3.4              Imitate simple rhythm patterns played by the teacher or a peer.

MU.K.O.1.1             Respond to beat, rhythm, and melodic line through imitation.

MU.K.O.1.2             Identify similarities and differences in melodic phrases and/or rhythm patterns.

MU.1.S.1.2              Create short melodic and rhythmic patterns based on teacher-established guidelines.

MU.1.S.3.4              Match simple aural rhythm patterns in duple meter with written patterns.

MU.2.C.1.3              Classify unpitched instruments into metals, membranes, shakers, and wooden categories.

MU.2.S.3.4              Compare aural melodic patterns with written patterns to determine whether they are the same or different.

MU.2.F.3.1              Collaborate with others in a music presentation and discuss what was successful and what could be improved.

MU.3.S.3.4              Match simple aural rhythm patterns in duple and triple meter with written patterns.

MU.3.S.3.5              Notate simple rhythmic and melodic patterns using traditional notation.

MU.3.O.2.1             Rearrange melodic or rhythmic patterns to generate new phrases.

MU.4.S.1.3              Arrange a familiar song for voices or instruments by manipulating form.

MU.4.S.3.5              Notate simple rhythmic phrases and extended pentatonic melodies using traditional notation.

MU.4.F.1.1              Create new interpretations of melodic or rhythmic pieces by varying or adding dynamics, timbre, tempo, lyrics, and/or movement.

MU.5.S.3.2              Play melodies and accompaniments, using proper instrumental technique, on pitched and unpitched instruments.

MU.5.S.3.5              Notate rhythmic phrases and simple diatonic melodies using traditional notation.

Can you think of other ways to use rhythms and rules as a lesson in your class? Please share in the comments section!

Creating a Musical Story: Integration

Creating a Musical Story: Integration

 Arts Integration has become an almost clichéd term in education.  There are quite a few forms of arts integration.  The Kennedy Center defines Arts Integration as an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process which connects and art form and another subject area and meets evolving objectives in both.


MU.3.S.3.5             Notate simple rhythmic and melodic patterns using traditional notation.

MU.3.F.1.1             Enhance the meaning of a story or poem by creating a musical interpretation using voices, instruments, movement, and/or found sounds.

MU.3.F.3.1             Collaborate with others to create a musical presentation and acknowledge individual contributions as an integral part of the whole.

LA.              The student will write narratives based on real or imagined events or observations that include characters, setting, plot, sensory details, and a logical sequence of events; and

LA.              The student will write a variety of expressive forms (e.g., chapter books, short stories, poetry, skits, song lyrics) that may employ, but not be limited to, figurative language (e.g., simile, onomatopoeia), rhythm, dialogue, characterization, plot, and appropriate format.

Allow students to choose characters for a story (I use finger puppets)

 Allow students to play “add a sentence” in which the teacher begins a story using one of the characters chosen. Each student around the circle is allowed to contribute the next sentence.

 Make Sure:

  • The story has a beginning, middle, and end.
  • All of the characters chosen have a role.
  • Each child is allowed to contribute.

Give the rough draft to the classroom teacher (or you can do this step) and edit to make the story clean and concise.

On the next day, review the notes of the recorder that you would like to use.

Review the story and ask children to think about “themes” for each character.

Notate the themes on the board.

 Allow students to add other sound effects, as needed.

 Perform the final story.

Improvisation Poem

Many of our NGSSS involve improvising.  I know that when I started teaching, and before I took a levels course, I didn’t know how to teach improvisation.  I was also scared of improvisation (I can thank my traumatic stint in the HS jazz band for that).  Little did I know how easy it is to teach improvisation early.  You can find most of the improvisation benchmarks in the MU.S.1…. area of any NGSSS grade.

I saw this poem on a handout that a teacher copied for me.  I don’t have it anymore and I’m not sure where they got it from.  If you know the author, please let me know!

Improvise, Improvise, everybody improvise!
Make it up, as you play, it’s your turn now play away!
There are a few lessons you can use with this poem based on your comfort level and the grade level you are teaching.  I’m going to present some options below.
Option 1:
Teach the poem by rote, talk about what it means to improvise.
Have students sit in a circle, say the poem as a class, teacher improvise a 4 beat body percussion pattern, and students echo the pattern.
Once the students are familiar with the form, allow different students to be the leader, let the class echo.
Use simple 4 beat patterns with only one or two body percussion levels at the beginning.  Make it more difficult as students get more proficient.
Take volunteers first and don’t force a child to “do whatever” until they are comfortable.  That may take a time or two.
When it’s time to move on and each child needs to participate you can create a few “safe” patterns that are on the board.  If you get to a child and they don’t know what to do, forgot what they planned, or need more guidance, they can select a pattern from the board.
I like to  do this in a circle with a carpet square or special place designed as the “improvisation station.” We walk around the circle saying the poem and when it gets to the end, we stop.  Whoever is “parked in the station” gets a turn to improvise and the class echos.
Option 2:
Put a drum or other NPP at the improvisation station, use instruments rather than body percussion.
Option 3: Make more improvisation stations around the circle, allowing multiple students a turn at the same time.
Do you have an easy way to introduce your students to improvisation? Please comment with your idea!

Guided Listening

       We all know that asking young children to listen to an entire orchestral work is very difficult.  Not to mention the fact that they don’t really get anything out of it.  When listening to musical examples, students need to focus on something.  They need guidance for what to pay attention to. 

Today’s post is designed to teach you how to create your own guided listening experience for  your students.  Enjoy!

Choose a piece of music that you love!

       Listen to the piece, one time, and write the top three things that jump out at you (instruments you hear, volume/dynamics, pattern/form, mood, etc…)

       Listen to the piece once or twice day for a couple of weeks.  Have it as background music, in the car, or sometimes more focused listening.  The more the music “gets in your head” the more ideas will come to you to share with the students.  I call that “putting it in the crockpot and setting it to simmer.”

       Determine the most important elements you want the students to listen for, and share them with the students.  Allow them to listen and demonstrate through movement or sign language, which they hear and understand.


Sample: Symphony No. 4 in G, Surprise Symphony,” Haydn


This song uses two volume (dynamic) levels, soft (piano) and loud (forte).  When you hear the music played softly, use sign language to make a letter p.  When you hear the music played loudly, use sign language to make a letter f.  Show me that you understand.”  Play the music, and watch the students pay attention for longer than you imagined possible!


A beautiful extension of this is to allow the students to create their own guided listening activity for the class.  Select a piece of music that you know the students will like or have heard before (Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons, Anything from Carnival of the Animals, or the Nutcracker Suite).  Allow them to listen and share what jumps out at them and come up with a plan for how they will show that they understand.  They could share it with another class.

Valentines Day- Revisited with NGSSS

Here is one of my favorite Valentine’s Day lessons for elementary children. I posted this back in 2012 as a three-part series. I’ve put it all hear for you today so you can have it for next week.  Although there are many NGSSS met at the K-1 level for this lesson, I’m only including those at Grade 2.  You can find the coordinating standards by swapping the grade levels. Please note, you might only choose to focus on one or two, but these can work with this lesson.

The NGSSS touched upon are:

MU.2.C.1.4 Identify child, adult male, and adult female voices by timbre.

MU.2.S.2.1 Sing or play songs, which may include changes in dynamics, lyrics, and form, from memory.

MU.2.S.3.1 Sing songs in an appropriate range, using head voice and maintaining pitch.

MU.2.S.3.4 Compare aural melodic patterns with written patterns to determine whether they are the same or different.

MU.2.S.3.5 Show visual, gestural, and traditional representation of simple melodic patterns performed by someone else.

MU.2.H.1.1 Perform songs, musical games, dances, and simple instrumental accompaniments from a variety of cultures.

MU.2.H.2.1 Discuss how music is used for celebrations in American and other cultures.

MU.2.H.3.1 Perform and compare patterns, aurally and visually, found in songs, finger plays, or rhymes to gain a foundation for exploring patterns in other contexts.

  I found an old song in a second grade Music and You textbook series. 

The words are:

When you send a valentine, that’s the time for fun! Put it underneath the door, ring the bell and run run run run, ring the bell and run! 

I wasn’t too keen on the melody that was presented with the text, it didn’t suit my curriculum or my needs so I did what all music teachers do- changed it!

The new melody is:

Sol    mi       sol    mi  fa re re,  sol, fa, mi, re, do.         Sol, mi, sol, mi        fa, re, re,  sol, fa, mi, re, do, re

When you send a valentine, that’s the time for fun! Put it underneath the door, ring the bell and run run

Mi, Fa, sol, fa, mi, re, do.

run, ring the bell and run! 

To teach the song from yesterday’s post (See Valentine’s Day) I follow the following process:

  • Warm up singing voices with echo solfege patterns.  Start with Sol, mi, la, patterns.  Add mi, re, do patterns.
  • Sing the pattern, S,F,M,R,D- practice hand signs
  • Teacher sings the song while students listen for the pattern Sol, fa, mi, re, do.
  • Teacher sings again and students must listen to the new song and add the solfege hand signs as they step down the scale.
  • Find the pattern stepping up.
  • Students sing the end of the song, Teacher sings the beginning: repeat as necessary
  • All sing the song together.

After you’ve taught the song You can  play the game! This game is a la “duck duck goose.”

  • Students sit in a circle.
  • Teacher walks on the macro beat around the circle while holding a “Valentine.”  I use a cut out of a heart or sometimes I will use a children’s valentine that they have given to me. This is the mailman part.
  • Students put hands behind their backs as if it were a “mailbox.”
  •  When the song get’s to “door” as in “put it underneath the door” the teacher slips the valentine into a child’s hand and they play a la “duck duck goose.” No matter who “wins” the student who was the chaser gets to be the new mailman.
  • The teacher sits and joins the circle but pats their lap as the mailman starts the delivery. Other students keep hands behind their backs to get a turn.  When a student has already had a turn to be the mailman they pat their lap with the teacher to reinforce beat.

Have you played this game before? Do your students love it as much as mine?