Monday, July 6, 2015

Off to a Great Start

It’s the middle of the summer, but the first day of school will be here soon and it’s never too early to plan. What should my students do in music on the first day? It’s important to consider objectives prior to formulating a plan. My first day objectives are for the students to get excited about music and learn basic procedures that will make the class run smoothly for the rest of the year.

A typical first day in my K-3 classroom has the following activities: (I swap out a few activities in my 4-6 classes, but still incorporate some name games.)

1. Welcome students

I greet classes at the door and instruct students where they need to be seated. I generally have them enter single-file and make a semi-circle on the edge of the carpet. This is not the time to discuss discipline, unless there are issues that need to be addressed.

2. Get moving

After a brief welcome and introduction, perform a simple song that incorporates some type of movement. A call and response song with motions is a good idea, so students can participate immediately.

3. Assign Seats

Assigned seating makes it easier to learn/remember names and it reduces behavior issues. I alphabetize students by first name, because it helps me remember their names better. I always reserve the right to reassign seats, if discipline issues arise.

4. Play a Name Game

Incorporate instruments when appropriate. You may view my previous post, “Getting to Know You”, for some of my favorite name games.

5. Know Your Place!

Play a memory game for younger grades to help them remember where they sit. Discuss quick guidelines for moving (Demonstrate how to move – show good and bad choices and discuss boundaries, safety, space-bubble, etc.) 
  • Move around carpet to steady beat while music plays
  • Freeze when keyboard stops (at this point, continue movement activity or end by playing "tip-toe" music)
  • Tiptoe back to seat at special melody (I play a certain melody in a high range - always the same song)

6. Be a Star Student

Discuss positive behavior expectations for the classroom. If discipline problems arise, this may need to happen earlier. If the class runs smoothly, go over the first few rules and complete the list in the following class for younger grades. In older grades that have been in my classroom, I typically go over the expectations quicker. Each expectation has a gesture, and we do the movement and say them all in order together. For a list of my expectations, free visuals, and a video of the movements, see my previous post, “Star Students”.

7. Sound Cues

Introduce the cues to K, and review for older students Specific pitch intervals are sung or played and students respond with the appropriate movement. When introducing each cue, words are sung that instruct the students what to do. Later, they will be able to following cues without the words.  
  • Stand up (sol- high do) (g1-c2)
  • Turn around (all high do-re-do) (c2-d2-c2)
  • Jump up (high do- high so) (c2-g2) 
  • Lie down (do- low sol) (c1-g) 
  • Later, add Sit up (low sol-do) (g-c1), but it can be easily confused with “stand up”, since they are the same interval in different octaves. 

8. Line Up

Discuss proper way to line up, exit, etc.

If time allows, another song or activity can be added to the lesson plan.

Next week

The following week, I take pictures of each student with my iPad to enter into the app, TeacherKit. It is a great tool that allows you to put photos of students and place them in a seating chart to assist with names. It can also be used for tracking progress on objectives. You can learn more about it in my previous post, “4 Apps 4 Teachers”.

I hope this helps get your creative juices flowing with ideas for getting music off to a great start. Enjoy the rest of your summer!


  1. These are all great ideas! I'm very intrigued by what looks like a race track on your bulletin board! Is it your behavior chart for classes? Please do share!

    1. The heading says, "Get Moving with Music!" I have used it as a behavior incentive for music classes. Small pieces of velcro were stapled around a felt track (in two lanes), and pit stops were labeled for each homeroom teacher. My son used to collect race cars, and he let me borrow some. The numbered cars made it easy to identify a class car. At the end of class the car would move 0, 1, or 2 spots around the track, depending on behavior. The class would discuss how many spots they felt they had earned, and they would take turns getting to move the car. My students have assigned seats, so the job simply moved around the semi-circle. When the car made it back to the pit stop for the teacher, the class got to pick a favorite music activity to do.

    2. I love this idea! Do you happen to have a visual? Thank you! :)

    3. Thanks, Mindy. Tell me what you'd like a visual for, and I'll see what I have.

  2. These are great ideas, but I especially love the Sound Cues! I'm going to try those out this year!

    1. Thank you. I hope they work well for your classes!

  3. Hi! The above mentioned behavior incentive chart "Get Moving with Music".., I believe it's pictured on the left but is challenging to see. Thank you!

    1. Hi, Mindy. I do not have a visual for the bulletin board. I created the track out of a piece of felt. I actually printed the letters and cut them out by hand. The font was free and is still available here: I created pit stops for each homeroom that included the teacher's name and the number of the car. You could print up some cars, rather than using actual cars.

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