11 Music Lesson Plans For Elementary

Music Lesson Plans For Elementary

Are you looking for some help with lesson planning? 

Do you want some practical lessons to use right away AND some discussion on the art of planning a lesson? 

When I mentor student teachers and pre-service teachers, the first thing I want them to learn is how to build more effective lessons. 

But for those who aren’t into teaching general music, the whole idea of lesson planning for the younger grades may be overwhelming. 

This is why I decided to write these 11 music lesson plans for elementary to share with you. 

Music lesson plans for the elementary need to be focused on a goal, use good quality materials, and paced out for maximum engagement. Lesson plans cover music concepts and areas such as: 

  • Steady beat
  • Rhythm
  • Solfege
  • Folk dance
  • Classical music

Check out the lesson plans for elementary music and a quick guide of lesson planning below. 

What’s In Elementary Music Lesson Plans?

Before we delve into the actual lesson plans (skip ahead if that’s what you want to see), we would talk about what makes up good lesson plans

Lesson plans are one of the things I see newer and older teachers forget. 

With inexperienced teachers, this consistently affects their teaching negatively. 

For experienced, I see a streamlined lesson planning process as they have habitualized many of the best parts of lesson planning. 

Still, it’s good to review the basics. 

Hey!

You may also want to check out my 9 weeks of online music lessons survival pack (on sale for a limited time).

Goals

Teaching for the sake of teaching doesn’t make much sense to me, but some find ways to do it that way. 

Some music teachers teach what they “feel like” teaching that day. 

But think the vast majority of people would agree:

If we let specific goals guide our lesson plans, they reach new levels of effectiveness. 

If you’re a Kodaly-inspired teacher (click to learn more about the Kodaly Method), you may base your goals on what rhythmic or melodic concept is next in your sequence. 

Then, you pick your materials and lesson activities based on this. 

If you’re an Orff-Schulwerk teacher, you may base a lesson on what music elements you want the students to explore/improvise and move to. 

Is one better than the other? No way. 

Both are two sides of the same coin. 

However, at the start of your lesson plan, I strongly encourage you to put your goals out there from the get-go. 

Telling the students the goals also improves their learning according to relevant research. 

Ask yourself:

  • What big goals are my students working on in this lesson?
  • What specific tasks do I want my students to accomplish on their path toward this goal?

Quality Materials

It’s essential to next draw from quality music materials to teach these goals. 

Higher quality songs, dances, and pieces are essential for effective learning. 

Learn more about the importance of folk songs in education for more details on why this is true.

Briefly, here’s why most music teachers and I prefer high-quality materials to pull from:

  • It’s a piece of your students’ musical heritage. 
  • Quality songs have more “sticking” power. 
  • Older songs have lasted the test of time. 
  • Composed songs or low-quality songs accidentally convey a feeling of cheapness to music. 
  • These songs flow naturally with language and communicate rhythmic elements more effectively. 
  • They connect melodic elements and expressiveness in a way other pieces don’t. 

Finding Good Songs

How do you know what a quality song is? There’s no hard and fast rule. 

For the most part, you need to trust what other music teachers have compiled over the years or use your expertise. 

Here is a standard 3-question test some music teachers apply:

  • Is the song/piece over 70 years old and still prevalent?
  • Can you sing the song/piece 100 times and not hate it?
  • Does the song/piece authentic to the culture it represents? 

This last one has risen in importance in recent years. 

There are several enjoyable songs written in the style of or adapted from specific cultures. 

This is insensitive to the cultures that have great quality music in their own right. It’d be much better to find music directly from cultural sources.

Inappropriate Material 

In recent years, another question has also begun to pop up. 

  • Does the song’s origin/lyrics have meaning that maligns a specific group of people or potentially inappropriate lyrics?

There are many old songs music teachers used in the past with questionable origins. 

Modern times are encouraging teachers to avoid using these songs. 

There is no hard and fast list of inappropriate songs, so take care to do a little research into the origin of songs you want to share. 

If there is a potential for offensiveness on songs we put on Dynamic Music Room, we’ll put a disclaimer on the notation. 

If there is a song we haven’t done the disclaimer on, please email dynamicmusicroomATgmailDOTcom to let us know. 

I’d personally rather someone find the song with a disclaimer than remove it entirely and let someone else find it and have no idea. 

Chunks/Pacing

One part of lesson planning that separates the newbies’ experience is how well the pacing of a lesson is structured. 

Experienced and inexperienced teachers alike know that students can only pay attention for short periods. 

They may also know that the chunks of the lessons should alter between high and low energy. 

Check out more on this topic in my guide on teaching music in the elementary.

But when it comes to execution? 

The best place to build these into your lessons comes in the lesson plans themselves. 

In general, the rule is to make each chunk no longer than the number of years the students have been alive, give or take one. 

So a 6-year-old does well with 5-7 minutes chunks of activity. 

I’d also add another rule for older kids, go no higher than 10 minutes without switching something up. 

11 Music Lesson Plans For Elementary

11 Music Lessons Plans For Elementary

This section covers some of my favorite lesson plan ideas for specific and common musical concepts. 

I’ll also link to other detailed articles in each area for even more lesson ideas and examples. 

These aren’t spelled out lessons to cover a 45-minute class, but these ideas are useful for plugging in and adapting to your lesson plans to fulfill what time requirements you have. 

Supplement your lesson plans with these awesome (and cool-looking) digital and printable resources from Teaching Children Music.

Steady Beat Lesson Plans For Elementary Music

Steady Vs. Unsteady Game: 

Students are split into teams for this game, or they’ll be on one group versus the teacher. 

The teacher plays either a steady beat or an unsteady beat on an instrument or multiple instruments. 

Students mark down or show their answers on a whiteboard. They may also create signs on their own to show steady vs. unsteady. 

Groups compete to see who can get the most right and/or beat the teacher who tries to trick them. 

Level up this game by playing songs with steady vs. unsteady beats to make it more difficult. 

Make Your Own Beat Shapes:

We always show steady beats with shapes that are the same size and spacing apart. 

Help students take ownership of the beat by having them write, color, and/or cut out their steady beat shapes. 

Then, sing some of your favorite songs while tapping the steady beat shapes they made. 

I did this with my kids virtually during the fall of 2020, and the kids kept drawing more shapes and showing them to me week after week. 

It was awesome!

Found Sound Scavenger Hunt:

This activity also works great with timbre. 

Have students hunt around the room for non-instrument things to play a steady beat on. 

To make it a scavenger hunt, I encourage kids to find and write down (if possible or show me) the following kinds of sounds:

  • Shaking
  • Metal sound
  • Wood
  • Clicking
  • Ringing
  • Scraping

Then, they need to do them with a steady beat. 

Other steady beat resources on this site include:

Rhythm Lesson Plan Ideas

Mega-rhythm Canon

This one works great because it grows with the class’s ability. 

If you have one class that struggles, they won’t get as far. 

If you have a genius class, they can do amazing things. 

It allows for a certain level of differentiation. 

I have Gifted and Talented classes along with ‘Normal” classes. I love this for accommodating the quicker learning class. 

To start, create a 16 beat rhythm (12 or 24 in ¾). 

Use rhythmic values the kids know well. 

Then, go through these canon challenge steps:

Note: S stands for students. T stands for the teacher. 

  1. S say rhythm while T does in canon behind. 
  2. T goes first while S start second.
  3. Class split into two groups.
  4. Class is divided into three groups. 
  5. Four group canon with students. 
  6. S say rhythm forward while T says rhythm backward. 
  7. Reverse. 
  8. Two groups, one forward and one backward. 
  9. Four groups, two forward and two backward. 
  10. S say rhythm forward twice while T says rhythm at half time.
  11. Reverse. 
  12. Split class and do in canon with two groups. 
  13. Do in canon with four groups, two normal and two at augmented rhythm with both in canon with one another.
  14. Continue on in complicated ways. 

Rhythm Puzzles

Rhythm puzzles are fun, and my kids seem to have a blast with them. 

Pick a song (the longer, the better) and write the rhythms down. 

Cut the rhythms apart by measure and mix them up. 

Tell the students to put the song back together. 

For a level up challenge, don’t tell them what song it is.

King Of The Mountain

For this game, you’ll need flashcards with rhythms your students know on them. 

Students stand in a line with one at the front as the King or Queen. 

The student behind steps up to challenge them. 

At your count-off, they have to say the rhythm correctly and to the beat. 

If one messes up, hesitates, or loses the beat, they go sit down. 

Whoever wins becomes or remains the King or Queen. 

Continue until everyone has had a chance to challenge and play. 

I find my older students have no problems with this game and do the rhythms easily, so I have to raise the challenge. 

I’ll raise the tempo or only show them the rhythm two beats before they need to say it. 

Check out these articles for more rhythm ideas: 

Solfege Elementary Music Lesson Plans

Human Solfege Rings

For this game, I spread out different colored hula-hoops around my room. 

I use as many colors as pitches I want them to practice. 

So, if we’re using a pentatonic scale, I’ll have 5 different colors out there. 

Students sing a well-known song and move around the room. 

At the end of the song, they have to find a hoop and stand with one foot in it. 

Each hoop is given a pitch. 

The students in that hoop only sing that pitch. 

I’ll sing a solfege pattern, and the students have to echo it while only singing the pitch matching the hoop they’re in. 

For example, if: 

  • Blue = sol
  • Green = la
  • Yellow = mi

If I sing sol-la-sol-mi, the hoops sing back blue-green-blue-yellow. 

Level up this game by singing on a neutral syllable and making them hear, figure out the pattern, and sing it back at the right time. 

Solfege Hopscotch

For this one, a large hopscotch-like set of squares on the floor. 

The squares are labeled with different solfege appropriate to the grade level.

As the students hop through the squares they need to sing the pitches. 

Just like with regular hopscotch, students toss an object on a square. 

They need to hop over the square (and not sing that pitch) and pick the object up. 

On the way back, they sing all the pitches. 

Solfege Translation

I give students a staff mat and bingo chips. 

Students start by matching the patterns I sing and write on the board. 

Then, they match the pattern I sing (with syllables). 

After this, they need to translate my pattern as I sing it on a neutral syllable. 

Once we’ve got this down, I make it a game. 

Students can work in small groups to earn points, etc. 

Other articles with help on solfege include:

Folk Dancing Lesson Plans

Folk dancing is an amazing way to feel beat and form while building social skills. 

Listing games with all their moves here would take a lot of time and space. 

If you want examples, check out these articles:

Classical Music Connections

I love connecting my students with classical music. 

It’s not the only good type of music, but the majority of people never get a chance to enjoy it. 

Why? It’s too hard for them to understand.

This isn’t an insult; classical music is often more complex and longer than the music they hear on the radio. 

Our brains need to be able to organize the information to some degree in order to understand it. 

This is why popular music uses the same form almost exclusively. 

As music teachers, we need to help our students better understand and engage with classical music to increase appreciation. 

Check out these posts for specific lesson ideas with classical music:

Favorite Resources To Help With Lesson Plans For Elementary Music

If you’re looking for more lesson plan ideas, these are some of my favorites. 

Some contain specific lesson plans, while others have helpful resources. 

Dynamic Music Room Songs And Lessons – Yes, these are from this website. 

But they’re free! 

I include notation and activities where applicable, so spend some time exploring and finding new ideas. 

First Steps In Music – First Steps and Conversational Solfege for older students was created by Dr. Feierabend to be “how America would do Kodaly.”

The songs are always fun, and he structures the lessons so well. 

This is worth checking out. 

Gameplan Music Curriculum – I don’t actively follow Gameplan as my one and only curriculum, but I do enjoy pulling from it. 

It uses Orff-style teaching and activities built around a Kodaly learning sequence. Some say it’s the best of both worlds. 

In my opinion, the greatest strength it has are the specific lessons it puts out. 

You could, if you wanted, follow the lessons class by class and have a successful program. 

The Music Effect Books I and II – Full disclaimer, the author was one of my Kodaly instructors when I went through my levels. 

Still, I find this book so useful and filled with specific lessons for Kindergarten. 

I only wish she would make books for the rest of the grade levels. 

My Lesson Planner – This is an online resource for building and tracking your lesson plans. 

It’s not music-specific, but it does a good job of allowing you to adapt the systems for music. 

Plus, the admin understands how it works, so they’ll question you less.

Flowkey – Many music teachers, even in the elementary, have keyboards and some sort of keyboard curriculum. 

Flowkey is awesome with engaging lessons, learning tools, and a ton of songs all separated by ability level. 

Maestro Classic – Classical music is a must for any elementary music lesson plan. 

Engaging resources and lesson materials abound with Maestro Classics. 

I’ve enjoyed using these resources ever since I stumbled on them.  

Final Thoughts

I hope these 8 music lesson plans for elementary were helpful to you. 

There is an unlimited number of lessons out there to do with your kids. 

Check out the resources listed above for more ideas too. 

Take it step by step. 

Start with goals, use good materials, and pace out the lessons. You and your students will have a great time. 

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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