How to Keep Kids Musically Engaged at the End of the School Year
Updated: Jun 14
At the end of the year, exhaustion and frustration can hit pretty hard. And not just on you! We're humans, it happens. But you can still make the end of the year fun and filled with learning in your music classroom. From hands-on activities to movement to books, your final weeks in school will be not just manageable but memorable, too.
P.S. Did you know I have a YouTube channel where I do music teacher toolbox chats about topics just like this? Make sure you subscribe to learn more meaningful elementary music strategies!
Here's another helpful video on the same topic, but this blog post has a bunch of DIFFERENT ideas, so keep reading!
It happens every year with me, and probably with you too.
When the countdown has begun, I can never believe the end of the year is actually approaching. Where did the time go? When warmer weather is here to stay, my brain begins to shift into summer mode. And I think a lot of the kids feel it too.
But even with a month to go, often times I do some of the most fun stuff I've done all year with my kids!
Here's a few of the things I've been doing with my K-4 music classes that have gotten us moving, laughing, and learning:
This has not just saved me so many times with this grade this year, but has taught me so many ways to engage kids-especially grades K and 1- without being able to sing. This New York state-based music educator is so much fun! He does original move-alongs, additive songs, song stories, and seasonal content. My students LOVE him- their eyes are glued every time. Some of my kids' favorites include:
The Construction Worker - a move-along to The Anvil Chorus
One Little Bud - a song about flowers. We've been able to sing distanced,
but even if you're still not able to, this song has motions and is great to
add scarves to.
Turkey on a Hill - a fun and catchy song with some sign language.
Definitely useable after November!
One of These is Not Like the Other - a listening game! Just don't do it two
days in a row. A bunch of my littles remembered the answers before
hearing the examples!
What Goes Up - a catchy and silly echo song
If your first graders learned quarter and eighth notes this year, decoding secret picture patterns into their rhythms is a fantastic way to keep practicing in a hands-on and super engaging way! I call them Secret Rhythms.
For each slide, there are 4 graphics that students will need to decode into a quarter and eighth note pattern using popsicle sticks (or pencil/paper/white boards).
Here's "sun, sun, ice cream, ice cream."
Give them a little time to build it using popsicle sticks... and then reveal the answer!
(Or they can write it by hand)
You can make slides using your own pictures, but I've got a whole bunch of themes perfect for the end of the year, like Secret Summer and Beach Rhythms, which include the graphics above plus 16 more examples using 6 different summer pictures (each theme has 17 secret rhythms to decode!).
P.S. I used one of these during an observation once, and my principal loved the connection to syllables and ELA!
We've had SO much fun free dancing with scarves, but also doing some scarf routines where they follow along with me. Some great music for scarf dancing we've used is:
Robert Schumann - Of Foreign Lands and People
Zequinha de Abreu - Tico Tico No Fubá
Leroy Anderson - The Syncopated Clock
Alessandra Celletti - Da una piccola donna
Johannes Brahms - Hungarian Dance No. 5
9 to 5 - Dolly Parton
Little Bitty Pretty One - Bobby Day
Second grade is my last class of the day this year. They're tired. Or antsy. Or a combination of both. Books have been a great way to get them to calm their bodies and engage their minds. Recent go-tos have been:
Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse - by Laura Sassi,
illustrated by Rebecca Gerlings (I got to use my stuffy diva voice- so
Drum Dream Girl - by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López
Rhythm Rescue - by Vicky Weber, illustrated by Geneviève Viel-
The Composer is Dead - by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Carson
Grade 3 and 4
Cups and buckets.
I am a HUGE advocate of putting noise-makers into kids' hands... with proper preparation. But that's another post for another time.
I bought mini and regular sized solo cups to use for cup routines. There are whole lessons you can do with these on beat, rhythm, form, and more. By May, we're focused on form, listening, and performance. I recently did a cup routine that I translated to buckets. The cup routine was inspired by Mrs. Main's Music instagram video of her Ks and 1s performing to Rockin' Robin. I love that song because it has many different parts, but they're all very recognizable, so older students can listen and map the form as a preliminary activity. Then I assigned motions to each part, and we performed it!
For buckets, we do similar routines but they are more focused on rhythm patterns rather than motions to a steady beat. Again, preparation is KEY. Kids needs to know your expectations before you hand them buckets and drum sticks.
Some GREAT cup/bucket routine songs we've done before are:
A Hard Day's Night - The Beatles
Hit Me With Your Best Shot - Pat Benatar
Funky Town - The Dance Queen Group
Better When I'm Dancin' - Meghan Trainor
I'm a Believer - The Monkees
Firework - Katy Perry
Trepak - Peter Tchaikovsky
I'm Walkin - Fats Domino
Don't Go Breakin' My Heart - Elton John and Kiki Dee
The Addams Family - TV theme
Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) - Shakira, Freshlyground
Meaningful music education can sound rowdy
Kids might be moving, laughing, and making noise... and that's okay. I emphasize that time and time again with them. As long as we can regain control quickly, it's all good. For example, I use physical and aural signals to cue the students to lower their volume, stop moving, or put drumsticks down. But musical learning has a certain sound, and even if it's not always beautiful or in sync, we should embrace it!
Joy is important, too
Some kids will simply not demonstrate the skills we practice during class, or not to a proficient level. This is why we repeat things- to give them the chance to try again. Until then, they are practicing. And sometimes more importantly, they are feeding their heart, mind, and soul. Sometimes, music or art or library is what the students are most connected to that day. What a privilege for us to be those teachers!
Model, model, model
Model the behaviors and skills you want to see. Be explicit about what you want and what you DON'T want. Have a few students model with you, or for the class. Point out students who are making good choices (use that exact phrase- all kids are good, so don't simply say they're "being good"; they are making good choices). Then, be consistent about your rules. Even at the end of May. Keep that bar high and let kids rise to it!
I hope these tips and resources can help you make May great!
I’m all about meaningful and joyful elementary music education! Connect with me below :)
And if the idea of specific music teacher toolbox strategies and resources is something that excites you, you’d get a lot out of joining the ADM community whereI help educators like you teach meaningfully and joyfully- but beyond the music- in your classrooms.