5 Off the Bench Activities for Music Concepts
In my music room, we use many different modalities to learn about music—we sing, dance, play, create, etc. My students can be very rambunctious, so I always include movement in my lessons. It helps the students to stay engaged and focused, plus it is a lot of fun for them to learn these music concepts. So we do movement activities in every lesson-- you heard me, every lesson.
Today I am going to share a few of my favorite movement activities with you! These are all very quick, very easy, but also kid tested and approved.
Stick Figure Poses
Stick figure poses is one of my favorite really simple movement activities. You draw (or have the kids draw!) stick figures on pieces of paper, one per page. (Or you can get them in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!) Hold the stick figures up and have students match the pose with their bodies. Switch the pose every few beats (I usually do 4, 8, or 16) and students switch their pose as well.
You can do this activity to teach many different things. You can switch the pictures every 4 or 8 beats to help students feel the downbeat, or you can do this along with music to feel the phrases, or you can change the tempo to teach about accelerando and ritardando.
It can be adapted in many different ways to change the difficulty and music concentration.
There are more movement activities with stick figures in this post!
Forte vs Piano
For this activity, you will need some sort of instrument (I love my djembe, but you could use the piano). Tell the students that you are going to play your drum two different ways. If you play the drum piano, then they need to tiptoe with the steady beat in their feet. If you play forte, then they can either stomp or jump. Play 8 beats, with the first beat forte and the rest piano.
This game sounds simple, but it is fun-- I have used it all the way through fifth grade! You can also speed the tempo up or slow it down to incorporate accelerando and ritardando.
Flashcard Walk for Note Reading
Take your flashcards and spread them out on the ground. You can put them in a shape, but I usually just throw them all over the place. Sing or play a short song. (Alternatively, you could play a certain number of beats on a drum or a piano.) While the song is on, students walk around the room. When the song stops, they go to the nearest flashcard and read it. This helps students to practice note reading AND get all their wiggles out, so they will actually be able to sit down and concentrate on their piano music. This post has more flashcard activities available.
Form (with Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks)
With young students (K-2nd grade), it is best to stick with easy form activities. Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks by Mussorgsky has the form AABA. Have students put their hands behind their backs (bonus points if you cut out some chicken pictures for them to hold!). Have students take one hand out when they hear A and the other when they hear B. You can have them move the hand around like a chick doing ballet, or to match the contour of the music (move up when the music goes up, down when it goes down).
You may have to model this the first time for the really little students-- especially when A comes the second time. That one is tricky.
Want more movement in these movement activities? Have students walk or dance "ballet" (notice the quotations!) during A and freeze on the B section.
Contour with O Mio Babbino Caro
High and low is a surprising hard concept for little students to grasp. Help them learn about contour in music with a classic Pucchini aria, O Mio Babbino Caro.
Give students a scarf or a piece of ribbon (or if you are really desperate, some tissue paper). Have them move the scarf to match the contour of the piece-- when the singer's voice goes up, their scarf goes up, and when the singer's voice goes down, their scarf goes down.
You could use any piece of music, but I particularly like using O Mio Babbino Caro for this activity, because there are really dramatic octave jumps, so it is easy for students to hear the upward and downward motion.
So there you have it! Five really simple movement activities. Each one can be done as a five minute brain break to get the wiggles out, but also help to reinforce musical concepts. And kids LOVE them.