Teaching Music Dynamics To Preschoolers: 4 Simple Activities

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Do you want to try teaching about loud and soft with your preschool students but you have no idea where to start? 

Are you looking for some fun new ways to teach dynamics with your youngest grades? 

I’ve always loved teaching about dynamics and loud versus soft with my preschool and kindergarten kiddos. 

But when it came to those activities, I needed some help. I did some research and training and compiled this short list of 4 activities for teaching music dynamics to preschoolers.  

Helping preschoolers learn about dynamics isn’t hard. It helps if you use a variety of songs and activities that reach different learning styles such as kinesthetic, visual, and creative. 

Look ahead for some simple activities to use when teaching dynamics.

Should You Teach Dynamics In Preschool? 

Some music teachers make the argument that dynamics don’t need to be taught in preschool, and they’re right to a certain degree.  

I believe the most important goals in preschool are: 

  • get students singing and head voice
  • help understand steady beat
  • move to show the emotional part of music
  • have a positive musical experience

But this doesn’t mean that you can’t teach about dynamics. 

You probably don’t want to use the actual music terms such as forte, mezzo forte, or piano, but it’s perfectly fine to teach about contrasting loud versus soft and to use the word dynamics itself. 

The earlier you can introduce students to music vocabulary, the better.

4 Simple Activities For Teaching Music Dynamics To Preschoolers

In this section, I’ll go over a few of my favorite activities to use when teaching dynamics in preschool. 

Where a specific song or musical piece is required, I’ll link to the music or insert the notation. Most of the time, the activities can be done with whatever songs you are using in the classroom.

Where Do We Hear Dynamics? Sorting Activity 

This activity works well with younger grades such as preschool or even older ones such as kindergarten or first grade. 

With this activity, you need pictures that you can move and sort into different dynamic categories. The pictures are examples of things in life that are loud or soft. 

The students help you sort these images into loud and soft, and then you follow up by singing a song they know well while pointing at the pictures that show the different dynamics. 

Students can also be asked to think of other things they’ve heard in life that are loud and soft and add them to the categories. 

My preschoolers always love it when I try, emphasize on try, to draw their object in the appropriate category.

Follow The Conductor

I’ve done this activity two different ways, and I’ll describe both of them for you quickly. 

The first way involves a leader who has a long pointer stick. The students’ job is to sing a song they know well and watch the conductor as they point up and down. (Check out these vocal warmups for kids.)

When they point up, the students must sing louder without yelling, and when the connector points down, the students must sing softer without whispering. 

I’ll model this activity as the leader first, and then I’ll let other students be the leaders. With a short and simple song, letting all of your preschool class take a turn usually only takes about 3 to 4 minutes. 

The other way I’ve done a follow the conductor activity is to draw a great big crescendo on the whiteboard. 

The crescendo marking is actually a great visual for how dynamics work. It starts closed off and together to symbolize quiet and then grows to a larger space which clearly symbolizes loud. 

The leader takes the pointing stick and points at a spot on the crescendo, and the students have to match that dynamic level. 

I really like doing this with the crescendo on the board because it allows for more control and dynamics, and it presents a visual they may see later on in life. 

I never really teach the preschoolers that the symbol is called a crescendo; it’s not really necessary to get the dynamic practice in.

Hungarian Dance No. 5 By Brahms

This piece is one of my favorites to use with any grade but especially younger grades. 

The piece is well-known, has a variety of style and tempo, and also has clearly contrasting dynamics. 

With preschoolers, I usually take this piece and use it in two ways. 

One way is a simple movement game I call the computer game or the working game. Check out the directions for this variation in my article, Fun Music Activities For Kindergarten

When using this song just for reinforcing dynamics, I’ll ask the students to show me movement in one of two ways: 

  • For loud parts of the music, students must move like a giant
  • For quiet parts of the music, students must create like a mouse

Create Their Own Images

At some point and if there’s time, I’ll have the preschoolers take a note card and some crayons. 

On one side of the note card they must draw something that, to them, symbolizes loud dynamics. On the other side, they must draw something that symbolizes soft dynamics. 

Then I’ll sing or play a song either clearly loud or soft, and the students must hold up the side of the card showing loud or soft dynamic. 

This is also a great way to assess if the students understand what dynamics mean. 

Pro-tip: Never use the words “high” or “low” in relation to dynamics. 

You may catch your students doing this, but we all know this results in confusion with pitch. 

Gently correct your students and yourself if you find someone doing this. The words “high” and “low” belong with pitch, and the words “strong” and “soft” or “loud” and “quiet” belong with dynamics.

Conclusion 

I hope this gives you some good ideas to use in your room when teaching music dynamics to preschoolers. 

I love these activities and use them every year, even with my Kindergarten kids. 

What are your favorite dynamic activities with the younger grades? 

Learn more about music by connecting singing with classical music.

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Zach VanderGraaff

Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher with Bay City Public Schools in Michigan. He's a Past-President of the Michigan Kodaly Educators and Executive Secretary of the Midwest Kodaly Music Educators Association.

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