"You want me to teach music QUIETLY?" I said in disbelief. "Is that even possible?"
It was testing season and I was fortunate to have my schedule only moderately rearranged. The problem? I had to teach music as quietly as possible. I laugh thinking about how dumbfounded I was at the very idea. Now with quite a few testing seasons under my belt I have a few suggestions for how to teach musical lesson in quiet ways. Read on, but shhhh! Let's keep it down.
One of my favorite quiet activities for teaching pitch is to use my bottle cap staff sheets. I have them laminated and use them for a variety of lesson. For this lesson I pass out the sheets and a hand full of bottle caps. I will say a word that can be spelled on the staff and students "write" it by putting their bottle caps in order. In the picture, we just spelled "cafe".Although the staff sheets are easy enough to make, I have a whole set of the staves and word cards in my store that you maybe interested in: Bottle Cap Staff
There are many ways to work on rhythm quietly. Consider using chopsticks instead of rhythm sticks to play on the back of chairs or even on the floor. The sound is light and intriguing for even 6th graders.
Another great quiet drumming activity (I know...quiet drumming?) is to use drum sticks on foam garden kneeling pads. I found purple and blue ones at Dollar Tree and LOVE that kids can really beat on them, but they sound delightfully muted. :-)
Rhythmic dictation is a pretty quiet activity too. I use dry erase boards or lap packs (staff paper or blank paper stuffed into a page protector) and dry erase markers. You might consider using craft sticks, rhythm cards, mini erasers (matching the syllables in the name of the eraser to the number of sounds in the rhythm) and more. Clap or tap the rhythms on an instrument, students echo and then write it down. It is a great assessment and requires great listening skills.
Instead of writing the rhythms down, you might consider having students listen to the rhythm that you play and then circling the correct notation from a few examples. I have an entire set of "What Do You Hear" worksheets that ask students to do just that. They vary in complexity so you can use the set with multiple grade levels. Click HERE to learn more.
If you are able to show videos, I highly recommend the Composer Series of movies about the lives of famous composers. (not an affiliate link) You probably already have these in your classroom.
In addition to showing composer videos, you might consider planning time for your students to just listen to, read about and color pictures of popular composers. I've talked about this kind of thing in a previous blog post: Coloring Composers. You can get the set that I use HERE.
I also LOVE Jena Hudson's composer flip books. You can find them in her store, Sew Much Music on TpT, or follow this link to try the American Composers Set for free!
Another quiet, creative activity is listening and responding. Choose a piece of music that inspires a story or vivid mental images. Have students listen the first time. For wiggly classes you may want to have them lightly tap the beat or follow you as you tap the beat in various ways.
Next, have students lie down (if possible), close their eyes and imagine what kind of story the composer wanted them to "see" in the music.
Pass out blank pieces of paper and have them illustrate what they have heard. For K-2, I often use THIS set of writing prompts that already have a few words written and blank writing lines.
A few of my favorite pieces to use are:
"Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven (Be prepared! This one sometimes brings pictures of pets that have passed away!)
"Bugler's Holiday" by Anderson
"Stars and Stripes Forever" by Sousa (Shh! You might want to turn this one down a little!)
"Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks" by Mussorgsky
"Funeral March of a Marionette" by Gounod
"Minute Waltz" by Chopin
"Hungarian Dance No. 5" by Brahms
Instruments of the Orchestra
If you are able to show videos, I highly recommend the Instrumental Classmates set of videos to introduce the instrument families. I found my set on Amazon. Quaver also has a great series of videos about instruments that your students will enjoy.
If you are unable to show a video, your students might enjoy putting together a book of instruments. Students can color the instruments, copy their name or add information about the instrument (with the add-on sheets included). Click the picture above to get the full set of instrument families or click HERE to get the sampler for free. Although this takes some time to make all of the copies you'll need, it is a great activity for a quiet day in music.
Another great quiet day activity is to read the book "The Remarkable Farkle McBride". My 5th graders enjoy this story, so I can use this lesson with all of my classes. At the end of the story, we will review instrument families and I'll pass out these simple coloring sheets. While students are coloring we will listen to my classical music playlist for some quiet background music.
Quiet games are not usually favorites in my classroom, but over the years I've come up with a few that students will give a reluctant thumbs up. They would much rather be drumming and dancing and singing, but quiet days don't always allow for that.
Telephone - This traditional game is played by having students sit in a circle and whispering a message to each other until it makes it all the way around the circle. Hilarity ensues when the message at the end sounds nothing like the message that started. The same idea can work with rhythms. Have students tap a 4 beat measure on the back of the person next to them and then pass that around the group. Students can usually master this in a couple of tries so then we make it a bit more difficult. Instead of sending one rhythm around in one direction, start two rhythms. One goes to the left and the other to the right and they all end up back at the same person. Tricky!
Roll and Cover is a game for small groups. Students take turns rolling the dice. The key on each page says a note or rest name. Students then find that symbol in the picture and color one piece of the picture. Taking turns, play goes around the circle until someone has every piece colored. It is a nice way to review notes and clefs. You can find Roll and Cover sets in my store. Any normal die will work, but I always try to get the large foam dice to use because they are so much more fun!
I hope that you are never asked to teach music quietly, but if you are I hope that some of these ideas will prove helpful. Like these ideas? PIN THEM for later.